Last week I took a measured step out of my comfort zone and into a semi-traumatic place of my past. I attended Proclaim16, the annual Christian communicators’ conference of the Right Wing organization, National Religious Broadcasters (NRB). Every year they host the event at a Marriott hotel. This year it was received at the Grand Opryland Resort in Nashville. I bought a ticket and I went, just to observe, and to learn, and because I am out as a queer writer and activist (and because I was one of a very few People of Color in an overwhelmingly white space), they found me out. They called me out by name and told me I had to leave.
After the NRB figured out who I was and decided to kick me out of the conference I negotiated with them. Knowing they had no legal standing to just escort me off the property, I told them I would leave if they were willing to refund my ticket. Even after we decided that I would write a letter explaining why I should be refunded, I wasn't 100% certain that they would actually follow through with it. As they escorted me to the business center to write and print said letter I found myself talking to them about my family history in the SDA church, trying to qualify why I was at Proclaim16 in the first place. I even wrote a semi-earnest letter explaining my involvement in the church. It confused me. After the fact I felt like I'd betrayed myself. Was I actually still seeking validation from them?
I've been torn up about that for a couple days and was finally able to release myself from it when I returned to a cheesy Christian blog that I've come to depend on in times like this. The final message reads, "Be blessed to be released into the full rights of your true identity and legitimacy in your Father."
Legitimacy. That's the word I've been yearning for. As queer activists of faith we are constantly cast as the orphan Oliver, looking in through the frosty window at the good ol' wholesome family drinking hot cocoa together around the fire. That scenario leaves us in the cold with holes in our shoes. Yet as we crusade against forces like the NRB and pursue our birthright, we must remember (I must remember) that we have true legitimacy and a place at the table too. Yes, we've come a long way to receive it, but we are due our cup of cocoa and it's going to be steamy as fuck. I'm basking in that hope this morning.