LGBTQ communities in Faith, Cultures and Traditions

Faith House and Ottawa Network for Spiritual Progressives at Pride 2014

Faith House and Ottawa Network for Spiritual Progressives at Pride 2014

The Ottawa Network of Spiritual Progressives Dialogue series discussed LGBTQ communities in faith, cultures, and traditions this Thursday, October 16, 2014. Following are some notes taken during the discussion.

We began by recounting the latest events in Egypt, through Shahla from Universalist Muslims. About two weeks ago a gay wedding took place on a yacht. Eight people were arrested related to this after. There have been over 80 arrests in the past year in Egypt. For many human rights defenders, feminists, and LGBTQI in Egypt it has been sheer hell. Extreme degradation. Men who even appear feminine are in trouble. There is a demonstration by Universalist Muslims and friends infront of the Egyptian Embassy on Saturday October 18, 2014. They were invited by LGBTQI activists in Egypt who are fed up with how the government is treating people there.

Proceeding, we explored the terms used to describe LGBTQI. A new term MOGAI is being introduced. It stands for Marginalized orientations and gender identities. Has everyone heard the pronouns They and Their? People generally don’t mind the word Queer, though this generally sounds offensive to the older generation. It’s tough to find the right term among all these complexities.

Fighting for freedom of choice and sexual and gender expression is what we are fighting for.

Religion becomes instrumental for oppression. It is used to attack vulnerable communities. Oppression and fear lead to violence.

East vs West.

Cultures clash when people come here and are told they are ‘Gay’. They don’t identify as that. Feminists in the East don’t identify as feminists. What do we mean when we use these words??

Hijra communities in India have flourished for many centuries. Prophet Muhammad did not persecute anybody. His wives are said to have been guarded by gay men.

Does it help to protect and advocate? Shouldn’t the solutions come from within?  Someone said that they have to speak out against this injustice if only to maintain their own humanity if nothing else.

People there who are arrested and mistreated are saying that it definitely helps when the internatiomal community speaks out. Even the prison guards start treating you better if Amnesty or the media mentions you. It is too dangerous to give out the names of the people arrested in Egypt. It would compromise their family, etc.

Comes down to – Are we going to accept people as they are? Or are we going to change them?

Being told you have to believe this to be a good Muslim. Wahhabism and ISIS have a rather similar ideology though they are warring right now.

In Shia Islam every muslim has to follow a scholar’s teaching. What is Ali-Al-Sistani’s view on this issue?

It was mentioned that even plastic surgery is not ok to some as it is changing what God created.

Is there such a thing as true Islam? So many sects believe they have the answer. In Islam new authorities are created and dissolved everyday. Look what happened to Osama Bin Laden.

Druze are typically non-religious and do not look to religious authority for guidance. Yet, there is the same amount of homophobia in their communities.

Problem isn’t the Islam authorities. It is the mindset of the people – Your loyal to your village. Change isn’t theological, it has to be socio-political.

Does civil society even  have a chance when there are outside economic interests? Colonial influences. There are economic situations that influence religion. Dictatorships allow for an authoritative view.

Collective identity issues – There is a painful tearing away from society when someone takes off the Hijab, when someone comes out, etc

For some here, it has been brutal to suffer through Christian and Muslim fundamentalism. These religions are mostly other-worldish and do not address the needs of people and their lives.

Religion has always been dictated by men. They don’t know how women feel or think at all. They have NO CLUE. Then imagine if you were queer and in a hetero-normative society? Are your views and feelings ever known at all?

In the West, when someone is getting married, it is all about buying stuff. If it were communal you wouldn’t have to buy that much stuff. Back in the day, farming and passing down knowledge was what you did.

Should religious authority exist?? Person in the United Church said that she is just not used to religious authority and does not believe in the trinity. However, a church now is using the trinity concept to explain LGBTQ, which is rather cool.

On a personal note, what stood out to me the most was the East versus West ideals (As it usually does). What does the solution look like to us? In the West, individuality is valued. Things have to be open and accepted. To be open and accepted, one has to be understood.

In the East, individuality is not as much valued. One is taught to look up to teachers, history and traditions. A life of servitude is indeed a life well lived. It was also mentioned by someone that here in the West if family rejects you, you can go live with your cats. This is not an option in the East. In the east you might be the one (Stuck?) having to live with and take care of the elderly in the family. Frightening thought here to some, but generally accepted as a valuable life and even one to aspire to in the East.

So, what does the solution look like in the East? You can observe communities like the Hijras co-exit (now relatively) peacefully in India. Peoples are not sought to be understood, but allowed their mystery. Eastern cultures have potentially already waged these battles for acceptance and have already come up with solutions. Which, in the dawn of this new era of global citizenship are being re-written and challenged.

Perhaps the solution in the East will not be open, accepted, or understood, but radical, mysterious, and revered as before. Or perhaps, the melding of cultures will give rise to new solutions.

Thanks to everyone who came and contributed to a lively night of community in Faith House. In solidarity with all LGBTQ peoples.

by Caroline John

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