Thursday, April 21, 2011

Open Letter to OCC Alumni

Open letter to OCC Alumni who use Facebook to express their disapproval of homosexuality

A note on Facebook by Erica Chu, posted on Thursday, April 21, 2011 at 10:54pm

Truth: This is my life.  I have not made my choices lightly.  I said this in a recent comment, but let me say it again: I honor the Lord with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind. I am also not straight. I am also not cisgendered. I am also not ashamed.

Though you say you love, though you say you appreciate, though you may even end with “we should agree to disagree,” you often treat this subject like a theoretical conversation that has no real consequences.  I am a person.  I exist.  I have beliefs that are contrary to your own.  And I can’t believe it’s necessary for me to have to say this, but THESE THINGS HAPPEN, and they do not threaten you.

There are times when close friendships, mentorships, and spiritual advising relationships require one person to tell another, “I think you’re making some wrong decisions here.”  Such conversations must take place with great care, prayer, forethought, and love.  If I haven’t had any communication with you in the past few years, that’s a cue to you that your judgmental proclamations about my personal choices are unwelcome and inappropriate.  If you are making such comments in a public forum, speaking without giving it much thought, or attempting to “correct” me without having sought guidance from others who are concerned for my spiritual well-being, these are signs you are taking a wrong approach.  And when I say “wrong” here, I mean ineffective as well as morally reprehensible.

Your passion for God's truth ought to be matched by your passion for God's love, God's people, and God's investment in placing the last first and the first last.  If you take out your Bibles and turn to the gospels, you’ll find that you look a lot more like the Pharisees, and I look a lot more like the people Jesus went to the cross for.

You have objections to what I believe.  I get that.  And if you’re looking for a place to vent your concerns, might I recommend the Facebook group, OCC Talks, where the forum is one of debate on issues—not personal attacks on my views and life.

In case you haven’t gotten the message, LGBTQ people face a lot of problems—and not just because they live what you’d probably call sinful lives.  1.6% of the general population has attempted suicide at least once over the course of their lifetime.  For gays and lesbians, the percentage is twice as high, and an astounding 41% of transgendered people have attempted suicide.  You may say sin has caused this problem.  I (and a whole lot of other people) say the ignorance, rejection, and judgment of others has caused this problem.  You may think bullies are just muscle-y boys with anger problems, but they’re also housewives, church deacons, and Sunday school teachers who misuse their Christian witness.  Whatever the reason, LGBTQs face oppression and suffering.  And more to the point in this particular circumstance, I face oppression and suffering.  Like it or not, a lot of what I suffer from stems from the rejection you embody.

Instead of love, instead of respect, instead of even critical questions to help you understand my position in this world (a world that harms me, and makes me susceptible to violence, death, isolation, and despair)--instead of all this, I just receive assertions of your beliefs, your condemnation, your rejection.

God accepts me, and calls me beloved.  God blesses my sexuality and romantic relationship.  If somehow I am wrong, let God judge.  Let God condemn.  Let God be God.  If you are a Christian, you are his hands and feet—not his gavel.  And as such, you should not be off-handedly dismissing the choices I have so carefully, prayerfully, and solemnly made.  You should be out preaching the gospel, feeding the hungry, taking care of the sick, and comforting those who are suffering.  Which incidentally includes a lot of people like me.



P.S.  As pathetic as the following requests may sound, please do them as a show of support to me, who is often discouraged by the homophobia that exists among Christians.  Do them also as a sign to others who will see this and also need the encouragement.

- Whether you think homosexuality is a sin or a blessing, if you want to comfort LGBTQs because they have a rough time, please “like” this post.  

- If you want to “come out” as a supporter of LGBTQs because you believe God likes heterosexuality as much as any other kind of sexuality, respond with the word “Yes” followed by any comment you want.

- If you have a problem with this post, write whatever you like.

Religion and Sexuality: A Reflection

Keeping It Queer
By Erica Chu

Religion and Sexuality: A Reflection

When I was 8 I asked Jesus to be my savior. When I was 14, I dedicated my life to the Lord. When I was 20, I told God, “I’ll go wherever you send me.” When I was 24, I came out as queer.

You could say I was a late bloomer in large part because of the sexual repression I had experienced and the limiting cultural and religious environment in which I’d been entrenched. Some people hear my story and immediately understand that religion has done me wrong. That’s at least part of the story anyway. If I had not been surrounded by such a restrictive environment, my life would definitely have been easier, been less filled with shame, loneliness, and at times despair.

The rest of the story, however, is that my life was full of a lot of good. Though many religious arguments ultimately did damage to me, the religious people that surrounded me were full of love and light. They were also filled with some ignorance, bigotry, and misunderstanding, but my life was richer because I knew them. I know everyone can’t say the same thing. In some cases, religious people have been full of hatred, and they’ve used their God and love as weapons, but in my particular case, the damage was not so severe.

My life is better now. I have made peace with my sexuality and with the sense of sexual ethics I have gained from my relationship with God. I am happy to have come out as queer and to have distanced myself from the limiting cultural environments these religious communities foster, but it’s not easy. I am hurt that I am no longer accepted among those I used to call my spiritual family. I am angry that I’ve worked so hard to make them understand, but it so often seems they are incapable. I am offended that those who say they stand for God’s truth misrepresent the God I know, who is loving, is righteous, is holy, and who accepts a wide variety of sexualities.

Judgments and clashes over religious ideology are common—especially between LGBTQs and traditional conservatives, but it’s also common among LGBTQs. Many of you have faced similar issues with religion—whether Christian or otherwise. Some of you may have left religion behind, and some have renegotiated your relationships to spirituality and to certain religious communities. Others of you may have been nonreligious your whole lives yet can’t avoid interaction with those who represent religious perspectives.

I am a Christian, and I regret none of my former or present zeal. I do regret having at times been unwise, uneducated, and judgmental about sexuality—regrets that extend to mistakes I make about other issues today. Whatever your religious situation and your ultimate choice, be wary of making judgments about what religion means to your fellow LGBTQ. Religion may have been used to do a lot of damage to LGBTQ individuals over the millennia, but in wiser, more educated, and less judgmental hands, religion is also a source of much strength for our community.

Erica Chu is a student at Loyola University Chicago and is seeking a PhD in English with a concentration in Women Studies and Gender Studies. They manage the blog and can be reached at

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Musings on Minority Status and Mental Health

Keeping It Queer
By Erica Chu

Musings on Minority Status and Mental Health

Despite my title for this week, I’m actually really uncomfortable with the way many gay people refer to themselves as minorities, often making inappropriate comparisons as a way of justifying their political goals (i.e. “Gay is the new black”). Systematic oppression has limited the economic opportunities and political power of generations of people on the basis of such things as race and ethnicity. LGBTQA folks face oppression, and often of an economic and political variety, but minority status for one group is not the same kind of oppression another group experiences. Even if they share similarities, the causes are often vastly different—as are the results. The point I want to emphasize, however, is that regardless of type, all minority groups share one thing in common: they face the difficult challenge of existing in a world that expects them to be otherwise.

We who are a part of the LGBQA community understand what it’s like to exist in a world that expects us to be something that we aren’t. Whether we’re kids, young adults, middle-aged, or aging, we face pressure and judgment from a culture that treats heterosexuality as the only “normal” possibility. Somehow, we’ve managed to “come out” and boldly resist the standards others would try to set for us, but the process is often very difficult.

We who are gender variant experience the pressure to be “normal” in even more dramatic ways. To be gay is often considered strange or sinful, but to identify with a gender that doesn’t fit social expectations is considered even more deviant and abnormal. It seems everyone thinks they’re an expert on who has a “normal” gender and who doesn’t, and transpersons and other gender variant folks have to navigate through all these judgments to find what they want and need.

Resisting societal pressure because of minority status is very taxing to our personal strength, but after some initial difficulties many of us make it through with relative ease. Others of us slog through the best we can, snatching up moments of happiness along the way. Still others of us have an even harder time.

The mental health of the LGBTQ population is often discussed in the media—especially in light of all the recent attention given gay teen suicide, but mental health is not necessarily something spoken about in less formal settings. Despite our reluctance to speak about these things, as a community we face increased susceptibility to such mental health-related issues as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and self-harm.

1.6% of the general population has attempted suicide at least once in their lifetime, but according to a 2008 publication from BMC Psychiatry, twice as many gays, lesbians, and bisexuals have attempted suicide. A 2010 joint study released by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force reports that 41% of transgender people have attempted suicide in the last year. As startling as these statistics are, suicide is just one aspect of our community’s relationship to mental health issues, but among friends, colleagues, and neighbors, it’s just not something we talk about.

Admitting to issues with mental health is often unthinkable. Such vulnerability makes us feel weak, incompetent, and crazy, but there should be no shame in being real with ourselves and others. The world does not make life easy for our differences. Just as coming out as gay can encourage others who are struggling with their sexual orientation, acknowledging our mental health struggles can provide hope and support for both our friends and ourselves.

Don’t be afraid to share your experience with mental health issues, and when someone opens up to you, support them as best you can. Even if they don’t take you up on offers of support, an ally is always good to have.

Erica Chu is a student at Loyola University Chicago and is seeking a PhD in English with a concentration in Women Studies and Gender Studies. They manage the blog and can be reached at