Monday, 10 February 2014

'Practicing' vs 'Expert' Homosexuals in the Church - Response to Church Times Survey

At what point does one become an expert in something? If memory serves the journalist & ex-table tenis player Matthew Syed suggests about 16000 hours. 16000 hours in order to become a top quality basketball player or kick-butt artist.

Such a calculation is always questionable, but – in this very brief blog post (no time today) – I feel moved to respond to data in a recent Church Times survey about attitudes towards ordaining ‘practicing homosexuals’. When I read these results I asked, via tweet, how those of us who are fully-trained or expert ‘homosexuals’ (when I say that word I forever say it in an RP/1950s whispery voice emphasising the 'homo' bit) are seen. 

Ok, it’s an old joke and it’s a joke grounded in a deliberate misreading of the word ‘practicing’. But as dear old Jacques Derrida reminds us it is often in jokes and puns and ‘mis-hearings’ of our systems of writing that the problems and aporias in our language are revealed. The very notion of ‘practicing’ or ‘non-practicing’ gay folk reveals the attitudes and prejudices implicit in church discourse about people like me.

I don’t blame The Church Times as such. I am very fond of it and it has been incredibly supportive towards my writing. I take that as a token of its breadth. Yet when we talk about practicing or non-practicing LGBT* people we have already decided how being queer is seen. It has been trapped in terms of an expressive/non-expressive account of gender and sexual being. Once again –and I’m rather sick of pointing this out – it places identity in a category of lifestyle choice. And it will not do.


  1. But surely only if desire and activity are inseparable intertwined?

    1. But then why is sexual activity (as defined by straight people) considered the epitome of 'practicing'? I am a queer person who is not having sex with anyone, but is fully engaged in queer culture. Why does that make me a non-practicing queer person, but the closeted gay man with a wife and kids on the side (who has casual sex with other men but no other engagement with queer culture) is a practicing gay man? What about asexual people? The idea that asexual people are not real scary queer people because they don't have sex and don't want to is absurd, when that's what makes them queer!

      The problem is that it's a definition of being LGBT*/queer (the two overlap but aren't the same) that's decided by straight people. Queer sex is not as easy to define, for a start! It also excludes and erases non-sexually-active queer people from the discussion which they have every right to be a part of, because frankly as far as straight people are concerned queer = having weird sex.