Report: "Christianity and Sexual Minorities / Sexual Minorities and Community"

Undergraduate Student

【The article below is the same as the article that appears in the thirteenth issue of the CGS Newsletter.】

On February 16th, 2010, I attended an open lecture on Christianity, Sexual Minorities and Community. The speaker was Rev. Yuri Horie, spokesperson for the Ecumenical Community for Queer Activism (ECQA) and pastor of the United Church of Christ in Japan. She informed us of ECQA's activities such as peer counselling and discussed the situation of sexual minorities in Japanese Christianity with quotes from the Bible.

I had read Rev. Horie's book, Lesbian to iu ikikata- Kirisutokyo no iseiai shugiotou (A ' Lesbian' Way of Living: Questioning the Heterosexism of Christianity) in a CGS book club during the 2009 winter term. At that time I had been
pondering the issue of sexual orientation. One's sexual orientation is not innate; nor is it a personal choice or something that is determined by others. Yet many people, including myself, assume that their sexual orientation is directed towards the "opposite sex" as perceived from their own gender. It is considered "natural" to feel sexual attraction towards a "male" because you are a "female" (and vice versa). But is that sexual orientation really "natural?" The book made me wonder just how I can find out my "true" sexual orientation. In the lecture, Rev. Horie stated that your sexual orientation is something that you must choose and accept yourself, because it is mutable and unfixed. Maybe there is no such a thing as a "true" or "natural" sexual orientation. Although we
tend to simplify any ambiguity by labeling, defining and classifying it, we need to keep it open and accept it in its complexity. Thus, sexual orientation is one aspect of your dynamic self.
Another main topic of the lecture was community. For Rev. Horie, community is a place where people can be themselves, where people construct stories by mutual actions of speaking and listening, and also where opportunities for solidarity, sharing experiences and mutual criticism exist. Yet, at the same time, Horie argues that the situation of sexual minorities in Christianity also gives rise to the impossibility of community. This is caused by various factors, such as the inability of the community to take any concrete actions due to the criticism or attack, as well as the deep-rooted heterosexism and gender dualism of the church and Christianity with its corresponding hermeneutics and institutional power structure.
So, what meaning is there in continuing to remain in this difficult situation and struggling together as a small community? Rev. Horie states that there is hope in despair as a starting point, because we can share our despair and make it known to more and more people. I imagine that the "despair" of which she spoke is deep and multi-layered, because it is the despair borne of rejection from one' s own religion, of the fact that only those who have experienced it can understand and discuss it, and of the impossibility of the community to deal with the despair. I deeply empathised with Rev. Horie's will to communicate and discuss the despair with others within her faith, despite her loneliness and alienation.
In order to survive in severe circumstances, a community must function as a place where people actively engage with others rather than as a place that offers comfort. This lecture made me realize the importance of fighting one's despair in order to live with one's identity, and that the will to connect with others is one of the driving forces that empowers a community to struggle together in times of hardship.