‘As Christians, we should be able to welcome everyone in our midst’

Discussion on ‘Gender and Sexuality’ held in Dimapur

 

Morung Express News
Dimapur | October 31

 

Jesus Christ, it is said, was first and foremost a liberator—His ministry was to liberate people from their misery. And to do this, love was enshrined in the Bible as the premise to welcome God, and each other, into community. Love becomes the reason why people fight for dignity.

 

But many churches, in Nagaland and elsewhere, reject people from a spectrum of genders—lesbian, gay, transgender, intersex, queer (LGBTIQ)—who choose to love beyond gender binaries.

 

“This is quite contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Luciano Kovacs, Executive Secretary of the World Student Christian Federation for North America, and its Program Director for Advocacy and Solidarity. Based in New York, Kovacs was visiting Nagaland for a few days.

 

At a discussion on ‘Gender and Sexuality’ held in Dimapur on October 30, Kovacs highlighted why it is important, most of all, for Christians to welcome different genders into the community.

 

“As Christians, we should be able to welcome everyone in our midst,” he said.

 

In a heteronormative world—where the majority believes or assumes that all people are heterosexual, or that heterosexuality is the default or “normal” state of human being—this ‘welcoming’ has been farfetched. ‘Coming out’, a self disclosure of gender identity/sexual orientation, has been an uphill task for people who identify with a range of sexualities.

 

While gender identities, mostly ‘male’ or ‘female’, are assigned to us at birth based on genital patterns, true gender identity is how we ‘feel’ about our sexuality (do you feel masculine, feminine, or both?). Gender ‘expression’ is derived from this identity—it is how we express ourselves to the world.

 

“The spectrum of sexual orientation is very wide (see in box); there is a range of gender identities between heterosexuality and homosexuality,” said Kovacs, explaining the ‘Rainbow’ that the LGBTIQ community identifies with to celebrate diversity.

 

And because the ‘personal is political,’ it is “important that people are able to define themselves,” he noted. But “Many gay people are left asking themselves, why am I hated because I love (a person of, say, the same gender)?”

 

Violence is all-pervasive in the lives of people who do not identify themselves with socio-theological constructions of the ‘male’ or ‘female’. LGBTIQ, or other, community members are discriminated against, beaten, often ostracized from society, finding it near impossible to gain employment, thus reduced to poverty.

 

“Gender and sexuality should be linked with other justice issues,” observed Kovacs, bringing in the much-needed framework of ‘intersectionality’ while approaching justice. Intersectional analysis was introduced through feminist movements—here, critical theories are used to describe the ways in which oppressive institutions are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another. It is an extension of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’ where we are all in an ‘inescapable network of mutuality.’ We cannot liberate ourselves without liberating others from the noose of injustice.

 

The struggle for liberation is political, attempting to change laws, society and the church, all of which can contribute to oppression.

 

It is important to be mindful, for instance, that when a preacher condemns homosexuality from the pulpit, a teen may be pushed to self-harm and suicide.

 

“It is important to deconstruct theology. Here, we start from the liberation perspective,” said Kovacs.

 

The “primary reason” Christ came to earth was love, and love must be extended to all, to protect and liberate all.

 

“The Bible helps us raise questions; how can that inspiration help us find answers in our context? It is through Jesus Christ that we see God, not the other way round,” observed Inbaraj Jayakumar, General Secretary of the Student Christian Movement of India, one of the organizers of the discussion in Dimapur.

 

Often, a “listening ear; a platform to be heard” goes a long way towards liberation, offered Luciano Kovacs for churches struggling with the issue.

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