Queer Christianity: Finding Acceptance in a Conservative America

I am an American. I am a lifelong, believing Christian. And this September, I came out as pansexual.

The three of these identifiers do not often mix well, and I find myself often facing crossroads—do I stay in the closet around my Christian friends? Do I hide my religious identity around my queer friends?

More often than not, I just stay quiet—which is pretty sad, truth be told. But, in the current political climate of America, who wants to out themselves?

When I finally came to terms with my sexuality, I was at “the world’s largest Christian university” in Virginia. I was surrounded by southern, conservative peers who would sneer that the “homosexuals” are going to hell.

That’s when the panic set in. How do you justify your sexuality with your religion, if everyone says your religion hates queer people? I knew I was still a Christian, and I could never stop believing in God and Jesus, but I felt lost.

“If God hates queer people”, I wondered, “why would He make me like this? God doesn’t make mistakes, does He?”

This fear and confusion is, unfortunately, not unique to my experience. Alex Burchnell, who runs the Twitter @AlexChrisQCFV (Queer Christian Family Values) with his husband, Chris, in the American south, has experienced similar feelings in his Christian walk.

“I never questioned my identity in Christ until I came out in my first year of college,” Alex said. “I saw how the church turned on those in the LGBTQ community and started questioning if I would believe in a God who would allow this.”

Like Alex, I was also angry and confused. I had a hard time separating the behaviour of Christians from the God they worshipped.

“It wasn’t until I met other Christians who showed me that there were people who weren’t bigoted and still believed strongly in Christ,” Alex said. “I started reading more about the life of Jesus and learning for myself rather than relying on what others told me.”

This was an important step in my own reconciliation of sexuality—inputting Bible verses into different translations, crying on the shoulders of my Christian friends who embraced me wholeheartedly, and remembering what it was about God that made me love Him in the first place.

When I came out to friends, I had a mostly positive reaction (after all, I chose good friends) but my family found themselves angry and hurt. When the reactions aren’t as positive as a queer Christian would hope for, Chris has advice for them.

“It doesn’t matter what you do or who you are attracted to, God is love, and His love is infinite,”  said Chris. “Even if you have to hide it for a while, there is no reason you can’t be a queer Christian. There are others out there, so you’re not alone. God isn’t the issue, it’s the people who claim to follow Him. God is acceptance. People are conditional.”

Ultimately, your religion can go hand-in-hand with your sexuality. There is no way to “pray away” your feelings (trust me, most of us have tried). No amount of hellfire-and-brimstone sermons will spook your queerness out of your soul.

God loves us. We are fearfully and wonderfully made in His image, and He doesn’t make mistakes.

If you’re a queer Christian looking for support, I recommend the #FaithfullyLGBT tag on Twitter to link up with queer theologians, pastors and believers who can share their advice.

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How to Combat Holiday Homesickness

Ah, the holiday season. A wonderful time to indulge in mulled wine, eat a bit too many sweets and pies, and spend time with family.

But what do you do if you’re away from your family for the holidays?

Not all of us have the money to travel home for the winter holiday break—international students like me know this feeling all too well—or even have a good family to go home to. So what do you do when the holiday homesickness strikes?

  1. Reach out to friends and loved ones

Your family doesn’t have an embargo on holiday celebrations. London is a vibrant city, full of diverse people celebrating all the winter holidays. Talk to  your friends, co-workers or anyone else that you enjoy spending time with and ask them to attend a holiday celebration happening in the city with you.

Saving money this holiday? Even just inviting them over for some homemade mulled wine (this recipe looks pretty simple) and board games can help beat away the blues.

  1. Take a solo trip

It seems counter-productive, but taking a trip on your own can be helpful to battle homesickness. Since you can’t be home, travel to somewhere you’ve always wanted to go! You’ll create new memories and will be so focused on travelling, you won’t have time to mope. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to meet others in similar situations—and there’s never a wrong time to make new friends.

  1. Make a new holiday tradition

Sure, nothing can beat those Christmas morning cinnamon pecan rolls that only your mom can make—wait, is that just me?—but you have the freedom make your own traditions. Check out one of the Christmas markets around London and enjoy some hot chocolate with friends, or have a Christmas Eve sleepover.

Maybe your parents make the perfect latkes, but making them with friends can become a fun new tradition for Hanukkah. It won’t be what you’ve always had, but you’ll make heartwarming memories that can bloom into new—maybe even better—traditions.

  1. Remember that you’re not alone

It can be disheartening to see Instagram stories full of families laughing and Christmas presents being opened, but remember that you’re far from being the only person in your situation. There are lots of reasons why people can’t go home for the holidays, and there’s nothing shameful about it. Take this time to relax, indulge in some tasty food, and be renewed for 2019.

Are you staying in Kingston for the holiday break? Share your plans in the comments!

A Carer’s Perspective on Mental Health

Mental health: there’s been a lot talk, from celebs sharing their battle with depression to an endless selection of self-care books available on Amazon.

The message of mental wellbeing is widespread, and it seems that almost everyone has a story to share. But, the most common ones we come across are generally first-hand accounts.

With stats showing that 72% of family members, friends or loved ones are acting as carers for those with mental health problems in the UK has suffered mental ill health as a result, the question arises: what about those who struggle supporting someone with mental health issues – where’s the discussion on this?

Lauren* is just one of many who feel unable to speak up about their second-hand experience with mental health.

“Psychotic episode, schizophrenia, bipolar–these were just some of the diagnoses she was receiving, but I didn’t know how I could be there for her and be strong for myself,” explained Lauren.

As a carer for a family member, Lauren had to balance her priorities, being her own person with taking care of someone at the same time.

“It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever gone through”, she says. “I always felt an unconscious conflict between my compassion for her health and the guilt of it all coming down really hard on me.”

A student at the time, Lauren explained how looking after a loved-one really took a toll on her studies and social life, which left her feeling anxious.

“I felt too guilty to find help for my own struggles,” Lauren recalls. “I often thought that my own problems seemed minor and selfish in comparison. She needed me, and I wanted to be there for her, but I felt stuck battling between my own mental wellbeing and being a support system.”

The Carers UK annual survey in 2015 revealed that out of 5,000 carers across the UK, 84% of carers feel more stressed, 78% feel more anxious and 55% reported that they suffered from depression because of their caring role.

“Every day was a learning curve for me as I started recognising the small indications of the emotional support she needed,” Lauren added.

She explains that it wasn’t just the psychological effects that became a struggle, but it was also physical barriers that became difficult.

“I think some people see mental illness as an invisible health problem, but it does take effect on someone’s physical state–there were times she didn’t want to get out of bed and I had to stay nearby to support her daily needs,” Lauren said. “I needed to make sure she ate, that she showered, and I really didn’t mind if it meant it helped–but I did forget what it was like to live my own life.

“It was a commitment and it takes a strong person to see a loved one going through a tough time and while I would never point fingers for the way it all happened – I just wish at the time that I hadn’t neglected my own emotional needs,” Lauren added.

Lauren wants others to know that being there for someone is difficult and it’s OK to admit it: “I know from this experience, I have learnt that it’s perfectly fine to feel the way I did.”

If you are struggling with caring for a friend or family member with any disability, Mind UK have a support network specifically designed to support carers’ mental health and Samaritans are always available to talk.

Editor’s Note: Lauren’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.

5 Miracle Products That Will Save Your Skin on Accutane

If you’ve got severe cystic acne and have tried pretty much everything to get rid of it, chances are your dermatologist will recommend Accutane (or Roaccutane, as it’s called in various countries around Europe).

While this may seem a magic cure to get rid of all your large, and often painful breakouts, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. While it is definitely effective (and is currently the strongest medication available for acne treatments), Accutane is known for having quite severe side effects on your health, including dry mouth, nosebleeds, dry skin and, in rare cases, even serious medical conditions, such as depression and pancreatitis.

But, there’s no need to despair! There are ways to help with what can only be described as the “Sahara desert” side effect, and we’re here to help! Here are five of the best beauty products you can use to pamper your skin and get it back in business.

  1.   THE BODY SHOP CAMOMILE CLEANSING BUTTER – ÂŁ10, THE BODY SHOP

Before getting to the skincare, it’s important to make sure your face is clean from any makeup or residue you might have. While it’s tempting to grab a foaming gel or a scrub and go to town, experts firmly advise against that—it’ll actually make your skin dryer and exacerbate acne by disturbing the skin’s natural pH.

Instead, it’s recommended you use a cleansing balm to make sure your face is clear and ready for a skincare party, and The Body Shop’s Camomile Cleansing Butter is the definitely a go-to for this! With a smooth consistency and a delicate and pleasant smell, it will turn your boring cleansing ritual into a lush experience, while leaving you with soft and fresh skin.

Recommended use: Use a pea-amount of cleanser all over the face, massage the product into the skin to remove makeup and dirt and then remove with a warm, damp washcloth with gentle, circular motions.

  1.     FRESH SUGAR LIP POLISH – ÂŁ19.50, HARRODS

There’s nothing more tempting than to peel off the flaky skin on your lips when you’re on Accutane, even when you know full well you’ll end up with a bleeding lip. Luckily, there’s a better (and tastier) alternative to this: the Fresh Sugar Lip Polish. This jar of sugar goodness will get rid of all the dead skin off your lips, leaving them soft and supple and ready to be kissed!

Recommended use: Use the Lip Polish once every two-three days to avoid over-scrubbing your lips and making them raw.

  1.     NUXE REVE DE MIEL LIP BALM – ÂŁ10, M&S

Lip balm is your saviour when taking acne medication, and Nuxe Reve De Miel is the one to rule them all. This award-willing best-seller brings the power of Acacia honey and Shea butter in your hands, and will rehydrate and soothe your lips to make them luscious once more.

Recommended use: Use generously when needed, especially after using a lip scrub.

  1.   INDEED LABS HYDRATION BOOSTER – ÂŁ16.99, ASOS

When we think of dry skin, we immediately think of slathering on the thickest cream we can find. But, the trick to fighting off dry skin is to layer your moisture products, and the Hydration Booster from Indeed Labs is just the thing for this!

The light-weight serum does exactly what the name says: it absorbs immediately into the skin, giving you immediate relief and a well-deserved hydration shot. A total staple for dry and dehydrated skin, especially caused by the medicine.

Recommended use: Use on cleansed skin on its own or mix with your moisturiser (or both!) and apply generously.

  1.     LA ROCHE POSAY NUTRITIC INTENSE RICHE MOISTURIZER, £16.49, SUPERDRUG

There’s no denying that the French know what they’re doing, especially when it comes to skincare, and La Roche Posay’s Nutritic Intense Riche moisturizer surely proves that. Its paraben-free and hypoallergenic formula is designed to hydrate and soothe even the driest skin and you’ll instantly feel relief and comfort. Bonus perk: it’s non-comedogenic, so there’s no need to worry about making your acne worse!

Recommended use: Use generously on cleansed skin whenever necessary; don’t be afraid to go to town with it!

What’s are some of your “miracle” beauty products? Let us know in the comments below!