Becca, 25, grew up in St. Louis, MO, currently attends Yale Divinity School and aspires to do Christian ministry, gay and not raised religious.
Despite what one might think, it is really not at all strange to be a lesbian at a Christian seminary. The divinity school is an extremely welcoming place where there are fairly large numbers of openly gay, lesbian and bisexual students. For most students, Christian ministry is as much concerned with feminism, environmentalism, labor organizing and fair housing as it is about giving a sermon in church. Working for social justice is understood to be a scriptural imperative by most students and faculty here.
As with most any institution of higher learning, however, it’s a privileged bubble where it is relatively easy to put utopian ideals into practice. I have recently begun to worry about the eventual reality of leaving grad school and practicing real world, real life ministry as a gay woman. My denomination recently voted to ordain ministers in committed same-sex relationships and I was ecstatic about it. However, I was talking to my pastor and he mentioned sadly that most churches, even the politically liberal ones, tend to want straight, white, male pastors. Although this seems pretty obvious in terms of who has privilege in the world, it came as I shock to me. I had been so focused on overcoming the institutional restrictions on gay clergy that I hadn’t really thought much about the struggles that a lesbian pastor would face in her ministry. So, that’s a concern. I have been lucky enough to live my whole life in very safe, privileged places where I have felt my queerness to be a positive thing, not a hurdle. When I leave seminary, whether it is to go into parish ministry or some other form of religious leadership, I walk into an unknown territory where my identity can become a political football and a career liability, despite rapidly improving attitudes toward LGBTQ people. The risk seems highest in the parts of the country where out, gay, female clergy might be able to do the most good. Although I am not sure how, I will have to learn to cope with those challenges in a way that allows me to maintain my mental health while enabling whatever work I do to effectively bear witness to the suffering of LGBTQ and other marginalized people. To be perfectly honest, it’s terrifying.