What the Church can Learn from Drag Queens

As a student at Princeton Theological Seminary, I have found that some of the best theology I have learned has been centered around “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” This past year, every Monday, a loyal contingent of queer students at PTS gathers in my room to drink wine, chat and hardly pay attention to this show.

It’s one of the places on campus where true familial community is found. The show only runs an hour, but our gatherings end up lasting far longer, as we gab on about the goings on of our campus. It’s in this community that I have learned about myself and what it means to be queer.

First off let me define terms: when I use queer, I am using a reclaimed term. It’s a way of speaking of the LGBTQ+ community that attempts to be inclusive of those who do not identify with one of the identities in our acronym.

When speaking of a queer identity, I speak of something that transcends being gay or bi. I speak of a sense of connection – of family. Queerness means that we connect to each other because what we have in common in our sexual or gender identity is that we are outside the norm.

I was thankful for my RuPaul community this past week, as I stood before my presbytery and spoke about my call to ministry – queerness and all.

This was a moment I had been dreading. I was not sure how this body would respond to me standing before them, proclaiming that queerness, which has continued to be seen as “other” in the church, is my greatest asset in faith.

Before I was “examined for candidacy” (the Presbyterian term for we’ll-ask-you-thoughtful-but-vague-questions-about-faith-and-ministry), I was asked to explain my sense of call.

I took this opportunity to educate my listeners on the importance of queer narratives in scripture. I spoke of feeling called to young adult/college age queer ministry (in whatever way that takes shape). I hit all of the points that I knew they needed to hear. But then I veered off course. I made sure to speak of what I find most important:

The overall narrative in faith communities is that we need to be “welcoming.” We need to draw in LGBT people – to help “them” see that “they” are loved and can have faith.

This is the narrative that needs to be changed. Queer people are already in your churches and in your faith communities.

And you need us.

Queerness offers a new perspective on the gospel, on faith and on community. We have spent so much of our time having to question our identities, and now we can help the church do the same.

And when it comes to showing love and grace, I’ll end with the words of RuPaul. Words which echo those of Christ’s command to love your neighbor as yourself:

“Honey if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love someone else? Can I get an Amen?”

Max Hill is an M.Div student at Princeton Theological School and a candidate for ordination in the Presbytery of Arkansas

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