By Andrew Wagner
I grew up in an environment where I was not really made aware of queer people. Actually, the only definition of “queer" that I knew was “strange” or “odd.” I remember using it this way at the dinner table once and being fiercely reprimanded and silenced for using that “dirty” word.
I quickly learned what that word meant, and I learned that I should not talk about “homosexuals” apart from the context of Biblical condemnation.
A large population of queer kids grow up facing bullying and violence when people throw words like “gay” or “f*g” in their face at school and at home. This is the visible kind of bullying that is most often addressed on Spirit Day and in the news. What I want to address here though, is the violence of invisibility; not only in conservative circles, but also in more progressive places.
This is a far more insidious kind of “bullying” that happens in everyday life for queer people. There’s this ideology out there that implies that “bullying” is something only pro-active in nature, suggesting you have to do something to bully. There’s also a pervasive belief that “bullying” is something that is mostly done to teenagers in high school.
While those observations hold some truth, a large part of violence (or “adult bullying”) perpetuated against queer people happens every time we disregard them in our heteronormative speech and actions (sins of omission). This is a far more prevalent and insidious type of “bullying” done by society and church.
Several years after that dinner conversation, I left home at 18 and I ended up going to some more progressive churches. Ironically enough, I was facing similar problems of non-representation and heteronormative patterns in these progressive places. While queer people were not condemned, their liberation was often not worked for.