Resilience leads woman to queer Christian community
Marie Raynard searched for a safe space after leaving her conservative home parish behind
November 28, 2016, 3:00 pm ASTLast Updated: November 17, 2016, 1:15 pm AST'
Marie Raynard remembers the first time she thought she might be a lesbian. She vividly recalls making tearful phone calls more than a decade ago to her now ex-boyfriend as she tried to make sense of her romantic feelings toward women.
“Everything felt so fragile. Like I was ruining my whole life,” Raynard, 31, says sadly as she remembers her first years at university.
It’s taken over a decade, but Raynard now says that her sexuality and religious beliefs are not in conflict. She proudly identifies as bisexual and has found acceptance from the queer Christian community in Halifax.
Raynard left her conservative Christian community in Yarmouth in 2003 to study theatre and sociology. At Providence University College, an evangelical Christian school in Otterburne, Man., she decided to enter counseling to address her confused feelings about her sexuality.
With some mirth, Raynard remembers leaving counseling having decided she was not a lesbian and that she would face the challenges of her sexuality as they came.
“Whatever feelings I had, it wasn’t a big deal, because I was able to choose what I was going to do.”
Before and after the counseling sessions, Raynard struggled with her sexuality. In the conservative environment where she had grown up, talking about sexuality was “risky, if not strictly forbidden,” Raynard says.
Her father pastored the patriarchal church the family attended where women had to cover their hair and couldn’t speak publicly. Raynard says the result was men who weren’t gifted speakers spoke often and poorly.
So she daydreamed.
“I used to fantasize that there would be this bright light and I would transform into something awe-inspiringly beautiful and spiral up in the air and everyone would realize how amazing I was.”
Raynard says she thinks this fantasy stems from feeling small, powerless and invisible.
She now says she doesn’t want to quietly go about her life anymore.
“The main reason I want to talk,” Raynard says. “Is because it’s politically significant.”
While most of her family knows she identifies as queer, Raynard has never broached the issue of her sexuality with her father.
Coming out to him may mean ending their relationship forever and she says she’s afraid it won’t be worth it.
Reverend Kevin Cox grew up as a member of the United Church. He says his views, along with those of the church, have evolved over time.
In his youth, he says he thought homosexuality “didn’t seem natural,” an attitude the church supported.
He now says he wishes people would respect same-sex loving relationships.
But the social and political climates have changed. Both Cox and the United Church now welcome LGTBQ people.
Raynard and her partner currently attend a queer Christian community group in Halifax organized by New Direction Ministries.
New Direction formerly operated as an ex-gay ministry that aimed to reorient queer Christians to heterosexuality.
In 2010, the organization adopted the concept of generous space. This involves accepting the entire spectrum of views on homosexuality that exist within Christianity.
Raynard says she struggles with accepting all views. She says she doesn’t always want to understand the opinions of people who hate LGTBQ people.
Raynard says safe space is needed before generous space can exist.
For his part, Cox says meeting queer Christians has convinced him that love is all that counts.
“Everyone should know that they know someone who’s queer.”