Lutheran Introduction to our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, & Queer Neighbors
(The print version of this resource is available for purchase from our eStore.)
Since 1974, ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation has advocated for the full welcome, inclusion, and equity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Lutherans in all aspects of the life of their Church, congregations, and community. The Reconciling in Christ (RIC) Program of ReconcilingWorks is for congregations, synods, colleges, seminaries, and other Lutheran organizations that publicly welcome LGBTQ people.
As a way to deepen and expand that welcome, we offer this resource as a basic introduction to sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Here are a few helpful tips on how to use this resource:
WHY SHOULD WE SINGLE OUT LGBTQ PEOPLE?
Many LGBTQ people have learned by experience that they are not truly welcome in church, even in churches that state, “All are welcome here!” A general statement of welcome is often heard as meaning “everybody but me,” so it can take a special effort to communicate an authentic welcome to LGBTQ people. The RIC program seeks to make known settings where people of all sexual orientations and gender identities are truly welcomed.
1. PEOPLE OVER DEFINITIONS
If you do not know which identity terms, pronouns or titles to use, ask, or avoid using gendered terms. Remember, all we really need to know about a person to welcome them is their name.
2. CURIOSITY CONTINUUM
This resource is full of continua which help us understand the both/and nature of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. However the curiosity continuum is one of the most important as we seek to extend a welcome to our LGBTQ neighbors.
When getting to know someone, you are sure to have many questions. Before you inquire, you may want to ask yourself: “Why am I asking?” or “Will this question help me build relationships of mutual trust and repect?” Does your question represent “hospitable curiosity” or “lurid curiosity?” The goal of this resource is to dismantle barriers between us, and the perception that LGBTQ people are exotic oddities does not serve that goal.
3. SELF CARE
The SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) spectrum is a place where hopefully all people can find a reflection of themselves. But, if you can’t find your identity, don’t worry. Some folks identify off the spectrum. Make sure to practice good self care when using this resource by yourself or within your community.
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
At the moment someone gives birth, there is a new-born, a doctor, and a question: “Is it a girl or a boy?” The birth certificate has two boxes, and only one can be checked. This is an example of the gender binary system, where there are two, and only two, very distinct options. It is one or the other, male or female. And the way that question is answered has ramifications throughout one’s entire life. Future options, expectations, and opportunities all hinge on which box is checked. And interestingly, notice that the very question – “Is it...?” – withholds personhood until a gender is assigned.
Sex, gender identity, and gender expression can be experienced on a continuum, creating a nearly infinite combination of identities. The binary gender system says that there are only two genders. Here, we can see that gender is truly far more complex this binary system.
SEX is assigned at birth based on external genitalia, reproductive organs, chromosomes, and hormones. People with ambiguous genitalia or other biological complexities (such as an unusual chromosomal pattern or hormonal shifts) may identify as intersex.
GENDER IDENTITY refers to a person’s innate, deeply felt psychological identification as a man, woman or another gender, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned to them at birth. Gender identity is different from the term “gender”, which is typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones.
GENDER EXPRESSION refers to the external characteristics and behaviors that are socially defined as either masculine or feminine, such as dress, grooming, mannerisms, speech patterns and social interactions. These norms vary culturally.
Attracted to Men
Bisexual, Pansexual, Queer
Attracted to Women
SEXUAL ORIENTATION is the term used to describe what gender(s) someone is physically and/or emotionally attracted to. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, queer, and straight are all examples of sexual orientations. A person’s sexual orientation is distinct from a person’s gender identity and expression.
Personal pronouns are the set of pronouns a person wants others to use when talking to or about them.
Ask a person what pronouns they prefer. If someone uses she/her/hers pronouns, it does not automatically mean they identify as a woman. You cannot assume someone’s gender identity based on the person’s pronouns.
Intentional welcome to all people and families matters. As Lutherans, we believe every human being reflects the Divine image. Each of us is a beloved child of God, wonderfully made, just as we are. Our confidence in Christ Jesus calls us to work with all God’s people to transform our communities, so welcome can be a lived experience in our congregations and in the world.
Special thanks to Patrick Weber, Tim Feiertag, Tim Fisher, Aubrey Thonvold and the Building an Inclusive Church toolkit for content and Zac Baker for content and design.