Having lived in Memphis, TN for five years (two of those in the Love in Action–[LIA] gay 2 straight gulag) I know Memphians make up a vibrant LGBTQ community. Thanks to the folks at Integrity, Holy Trinity, the Gay and Lesbia n Community Center, BGALA at U of Memphis, and then the amazing Queer Action Coalition that led the 2005 summer protests of LIA, I know that my own identity, art and activism has been shaped. Memphis showed up and did an amazing job of art and activism in February 2008.
Some call Memphis the buckle of the Bible Belt. The intersection (and collision) of faith and sexuality has resulted with folks saying it is the Bible Belt by day and the Garter Belt by night! Sadly lots of people feel the necessity to live in the closet in order to keep their jobs, homes, positions in churches, and even a place a the family table. Memphis has been the scene of some of the most extreme transphobic violence over the past two years. I have also heard from more than one teen who got kicked out of the house because they were too queer for the family.
Memphis has several LARGE churches as well as Christian colleges, parochial schools, private Christian schools and loads of youth groups where many lesbian, bisexual, transgender, gay and queer folks need to live under the radar in order to avoid rejection or worse.
How pleased I was to hear from my friend Micah that he and a friend of his will be doing a tour of the South to connect with LGBTQ people of faith in Christian communities. It is all part of the Sanctuary Collective fall tour which will take them to several cities including Memphis. Micah knows firsthand about the oppression and silencing of LGBTQ folks on Christian college campuses as he spent several weeks with other college-age folks a few years back visiting a variety of Christian campuses to engage in conversation with those communities around LGBTQ concerns. In some cases they found a welcoming place willing to dialog. In other cases they got arrested for stepping their queer feet on the Christian property.
This new initiative is quite different. It is designed to connect one-on-one and in small groups with LGBTQ folks in Christian community to provide support as people seek to live authentically. I am sure there are MANY people in the Memphis community who are quiet about their sexuality and gender identity, but who also want to connect with others in a safe and supportive way that affirms faith as well as LGBTQ identities.
Micah wants to connect with Memphians (or as I like to say Memphibians) and in fact needs your support. Some things he specificly asked me to communicate was the need for:
-a place to sleep
-good ideas for places to meet/work
Here are our goals for this trip:
-recruiting potential participants for our Discipleship Program
-hearing and documenting your stories to share with others on our website
-gathering financial support
-enrolling people to serve on our Support Team
If you are a person of faith who is also LGBTQ and want to connect with this grassroots project (and I strongly encourage you to do it–Micah is coolness on ice!) then do it! If you can help in any way, including just hanging out with Micah when he is in town, make your voice heard. Please contact me via Facebook or else get to Micah directly through Sanctuary Collective web site. He should be pulling into town some time next week.