Elle Dowd (She/Her)
“Why is the Lord bringing us into this land to fall by the sword? ... would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?" So they said to one another, "Let us choose a captain, and go back to Egypt.”
Numbers 14:3a, 4, NIV
From the Israelites wandering in the desert to the temptation of Jesus after his baptism, Lent is a time of wandering in the wilderness - a theme that LGBTQIA+ people know all too well. Often we have left places of repression to seek the freedom to worship God as our true selves, whether that is leaving the closet or leaving home and toxic relationships. Our people are often seeking. We are seeking ourselves, we are seeking acceptance, we are seeking community.
But just like the Israelites in this story, once we leave the places that enslave us, we still have to learn how to be free. Many of us have so deeply internalized harmful narratives about who we are that when we go to begin a new life of freedom, we don’t know where to start. For the Israelites, God had led God’s people out of slavery in Egypt, delivered them out from under the oppressive heel of the Egyptians, and yet, being away from their captors didn’t necessarily make things much easier. The closet is suffocating and oppressive, but in some ways offers a certain level of safety. And while we long from freedom, there is a harshness in being exposed to the elements as we wander to find out what is next for us.
As a bisexual woman married to a man, I often find myself being shoved back into the closet by hetero-sexist ideas about my identity. Every new person, every new space is an opportunity to come out; something both liberating and dangerous. But every time that I do claim my identity publicly, I become a little more powerful and a little more free. I am unlearning the oppressive narratives about bisexual women and I am re-learning, through queer community, a new way of being myself and loving myself.
I no longer yearn for Egypt. I no longer pray to God to make me different, to make me straight. And although bi people and the larger LGTBQIA+ community still face the challenges that wandering free can bring, everyday we journey a little closer to the Promised Land.
God of Love and Liberation, we praise you for your saving work throughout history to make us more free. Grant to all of your children the persistence needed for self exploration so that we might know the joy that comes with self love. Amen