Why it’s important to be visibly “out” at church

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As Calgary Pride Week is on right now, I thought I’d share a story about why it’s really good to be visibly out as an LGBTQ person in church.

But first, the backstory.

When I was figuring out what “gay” was back in the early ‘80s, and not even knowing what words to use for it myself, I ended up in a gay bar with my best guy friend. That bar was the Parkside Continental. And we went there nearly every weekend to dance and have fun.

There were all sorts of baby dykes, twinks, older gay men, and drag queens there, but one person who really stuck out was this cool, quiet mullet-topped leather dyke in her 40s. I remember thinking at the time, “She’s a bit old to be hanging out with this crowd.” But when you’re 20, everyone over 30 looks old to you – especially in a gay bar.

Fast forward to the summer of 2004.

I lived in Toronto for 14 years, and attended the Metropolitan Community Church for part of that time. I was seeking a similar spiritual community in Calgary – one that was not just gay positive, but one that allowed LGBTQ members to be completely out, and flourish within the church. I was looking for unconditional love and acceptance. Plus, I was single, and it was a perfect time to join a church.

It’s hard to tell your gay friends that you are a Christian. Mostly because a lot of Christians publicly say they hate gays. In fact, to this day, I’m still quite closeted about it, so it took me a long time to find a church. I heard a rumour that Knox was gay friendly and I was looking for a church that would accept me as I am.

I had been hurt by a few “love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin” churches and their members, so I was very cautious. I had also been raised in one of those churches. I didn’t know a thing about the United Church. And this big old cathedral seemed very traditional from the outside.

One Sunday morning I slipped into Knox on the left side near the back – heart pounding so hard I was sure people could hear it.

Then I saw her walk in. It was the gal with the white mullet from the Parkside club, who I hadn’t seen in 30 years. And she still had the same hairstyle!

Inside, I cried with joy.

I started to look around a bit more, and saw other gays and lesbians in the church.

I was in the right place!

When they passed the collection plate, the usher had a t-shirt that said “Provincetown Bears”.

I nearly choked on my peppermint!

Here I am 11 years later, and that gal with the white mullet, Lois, has become one of my good friends.

I’m so happy that Lois didn’t change her style too much. Her visibility was a clear message that Knox was a safe place for me.

As it happens, Lois is a Calgary gay icon – a founding member of Club Carousel in 1968. Club Carousel was one of Calgary’s, and Canada’s, first gay clubs. You can read more about Club Carousel, and the Calgary Gay History Walk, in this Metro News article.

Maybe one day Knox will be a stop along the Gay History Walk too!

Happy Pride Week!

March with Knox in the Pride Parade on Sunday, or wave to us from the sidelines. And give your Knox LGBTQ friends an extra hug this week.

By Marlene (I can’t put my last name here, because sadly there are still parts of my life where I can’t be fully out)

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