LGBTQIA+ and Faith Communities

The Pride in Action Network aims to recognise and celebrate LGBTQIA+ people with spiritual and religious beliefs and practices, and listen to their experiences.

We share stories, explore opportunities for action, and provide support groups contact details for LGBTQIA+ people of various faiths. Our own committee member, Michelle McNamara, shares her Buddhist perspective as an older white Western convert; we hear from a young Catholic student; from a young Muslim queer woman; and from UMSU representatives on how the union supports LGBTQIA+ people of faith by providing a space to seek friendship and support.

The Pride in Action Network Committee recognises faith is a contentious area for many LGBTQIA+ people. Our two editors for this newsletter share their experiences.

Square design reading: Being religious and identifying as LGBTQIA+ are not mutually exclusive
Michelle McNamara (PiAN Staff Co-Representative)

My strong motivation in preparing this newsletter is to change the widely held belief in some LGBTQIA+ circles that LGBTQIA+ people are not for religion and religion is not for LGBTQIA+ people. That is not to say that there is not a solid foundation for this belief.

At great personal cost and in violation of their human rights, LGBTQIA+ people of faith are often forced to choose between essential parts of their identity. They face varying degrees of exclusion, rejection and ignorance from both LGBTQIA+ and faith-based communities of identity. This can be amplified for people of colour and other culturally and linguistically diverse LGBTQIA+ people who suffer from multiple intersectionalities including their faith.

This belief has come out of a history of some hostility by faith communities to LGBTQIA+ people. We hope this newsletter will help you see that this is changing for the better. There are now many faith communities that are supportive of LGBTQIA+ people and many LGBTQIA+ who derive support from their faith communities, which we explore in this newsletter.


Caitlyn Pryse, (PiAN Student Co-Chair)

I’d like to begin with a recognition of the suffering that many LGBTQIA+ people have experienced from religious people and institutions and with respect for the choices of many, myself included, to leave those spaces.

At the same time, it’s very important to recognise that leaving faith is not the experience of every LGBTQIA+ person. LGBTQIA+ people of different faiths are often made invisible by both religious and LGBTQIA+ communities. With this newsletter, we want to recognise and celebrate LGBTQIA+ people with spiritual and religious beliefs and practices and listen to their experiences. If you are a LGBTQIA+ student and person of faith, there is a collective that provides peer support. Please contact UMSU Queer for more information.

Celebrating religious LGBTQIA+ people does not mean celebrating religious practices that pathologise LGBTQIA+ identities or try to 'correct' someone’s identity. LGBTQIA+ people of faith in Australia have helped to construct the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Change Efforts Survivor Statement (SOGICE) to protest a wide range of 'conversion practices' and to recommend policy changes.

I have signed the SOGICE statement as a survivor of conversion practices. In 2013, I paid for the services of a qualified but unregistered counsellor who tried to show me that I was heterosexual, based on the assumption that homosexuality was a trauma-induced psychological abnormality. With a growing industry providing mental health services in Australia, there is also a growing need to protect the quality of this care and prevent further harm to LGBTQIA+ people. Read more about the SOGICE statement below and please consider affirming it yourself.

Personal Stories from LGBTQIA+ people of faith

Michelle McNamara (She/Her) – Transgender people, LGBTQIA+ and Buddhism

"I have been a Buddhist for a lot longer than I have been out as transgender.  In fact, I feel my Buddhist practices contributed to my coming out – they certainly supported me during the transformation from presenting to the world as a man to the woman I am today."

Andie Moore (They/Them) – UMSU’s Queer People of Faith collective

"Over the past year, I’ve been involved in UMSU’s Queer People of Faith collective, which has given me so much confidence and comfort as Queer Anglican, that my faith, gender and sexuality are not only compatible, but co-dependent."

Rida Khan (She/Her) – On being a queer Muslim woman

"There are good days and bad days [being a queer person of faith]. On good days you are celebrating Ramadan Iftaars with AGMC (Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council), Victorian Parliament and Ambulance Victoria, or celebrating Eid and Nowruz with Muslim and non-Muslim friends. On bad days, you feel excluded at work by Muslim colleagues."

A University of Melbourne Student – UMSU’s Queer People of Faith collective

"So, for anyone reading this currently dealing with hardship in accepting your sexuality, let this incredible newsletter and the people in it remind you this – you are perfect, you are loved; you are here, and you belong."

A University of Melbourne Student – Gay and Catholic

"My faith helps me when life gets hard. When I first moved to Australia and faced so many challenges from living accommodation, to academic performance; the church was and still is my safe haven... Being a person of faith is not about listening to others telling me what is right and what is wrong. It is about having faith in my religion and being true to myself."

A University of Melbourne Student – Surviving conversion practices and leaving faith

"Leaving the church was initially a very scary process for me and it took years to build up a new social network. I’ve worked through lots of internalised homophobia to be able to have a healthy relationship with someone I love. Decades of mentally associating homosexuality with disaster, tragedy and judgement meant that I had to pass through waves of catastrophic thinking at every new stage in my relationship."

Please find below links to support groups convened by LGBTQIA+ people of various faiths. If you are looking to join a faith community, these support groups can provide assistance to identify particular faith communities that may be suitable. This is especially important as community acceptance can change, for example with new faith leaders.

Buddhism

The Triratna Buddhist community welcomes people of all races, nationalities and those from the LGBTQIA+ community.

Rainbodhi is a Sydney-based support group for LGBTQIA+ buddhists.

Christianity

Brave Network is a peer led support and advocacy group for LGBTIQ people of faith and allies, particularly survivors of conversion practices. Brave hosts monthly meetings in central Melbourne and supports LGBTIQ people of faith to tell their stories in media, churches and public events. If you’re looking for safe communities, contact Brave Network which curates a list of safe and affirming Christian communities.

Equal voices is an alliance of LGBTQIA+ Christians and their allies. It empowers LGBTQIA+ Christians to express their religious identity by advocacy with others and in the public domain.

Uniting Network Australia is the national network for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer people, our families, friends and supporters within the Uniting Church in Australia.

Acceptance Melbourne is committed to supporting LGBTIQ+ Catholics across Victoria, providing a safe and spiritually nurturing space to practice their faith since 1973.

Hinduism

LGBT Hindu Satsang provides spiritual nourishment and safe spaces for LGBTQ+ identified Hindus, and works to educate the broader Hindu community on LGBTQ+ identities and concerns.

Islam

QMs (Queer Muslims in Australia) is a Yahoo!Group based in Australia for and by Muslims who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Questioning, Queer or/and Qurious (LGBTIQ) and wish to engage in a safe space online.

Al-Fitrah Foundation is a faith-based organisation that uses spiritual tools to provide acceptance and healing to the queer Muslim community globally.

Judaism

Aleph Melbourne have supported Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex & Queer people in Melbourne's Jewish community since 1995.

Keshet Australia has worked to build inclusivity for GLBTIQ+ members of the Jewish community in Victoria, Australia since 2012.

Keshet envisions a world in which all LGBTQ Jews and our families can live with full equality, justice, and dignity. The organisation is based in America, but have an extensive online resource library and online events.

The Jewish Lesbian Group of Victoria has worked consistently and successfully to create significant change in Jewish, Lesbian, Feminist and LGBTQI communities around Australia.

Multicultural and multi-faith people

The Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council (AGMC) is the peak body for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, queer individuals and community groups of multicultural and multi-faith backgrounds.

Articles

Research

Books

Inside ex-gay is a series of podcasts featuring survivors of the ex-gay/ex-trans conversion movement, major Australian church leaders and theologians, and straight allies.

In Intersex Human Rights Australia's submission to the NSW One Nation Bill, a proposed amendment to the Religious Discrimination Act, they review the attitudes of some major religions to intersex people. This information can be found in Appendix C of the submission.

Please contact Intersex Peer Support Australia for support if needed.