Courageous Conversation With Bill Lindsey

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William "Bill" Lindsey

Dealing with a LGBTQIA+ identity within any of the segments of Christianity is rarely, if ever, easy. There are an ever-growing number of writers publically addressing the dissonance many feel within the church and how queerness can affect one's faith journey. This is a part of a series of profiles of those courageous people furthering the conversation.

William "Bill" Lindsey is a theologian "who writes about the interplay of belief and culture." Bill and his husband of forty-four years, Steve, have shared a life celebrating "the amazing grace we find in our journey together and love for each other. We live in hope; we remain on pilgrimage.

Q: Could you describe how your faith journey has been impacted by your LGBTQIA+ identification?

A: I think that when LGBTQIA+ people come to terms with their real identities -- usually, as the result of struggle -- their lives become more real. The life of faith is also in and of itself a constant struggle to live in the world of reality. Accepting one's sexual orientation makes the spiritual journey more real, for those interested in pursuing such a journey.

Q: What would advice would you give to your younger self?

A: Live with eyes wide open.

Q: In what areas do you hope your work will most help others?

A: I'm particularly concerned with the way in which misuse of religious ideas and texts harms LGBTQIA+ young people. I'd like to make a difference for those young people, to make their way easier than it was for many people of my generation.

Q: What were some of the unexpected hurdles you faced in your work?

A: As an openly gay and partnered (now married) theologian, I've found that Christian institutions, and the universities they sponsor, are capable of brutal and immoral treatment towards LGBTQIA+ employees. It's not merely the discrimination and lack of job protection, it is also the willingness to violate the most basic of moral norms -- e.g., speaking the truth -- on the part of leaders in these institutions, when they're dealing with LGBTQIA+ folks. [Which sometimes leads them to] denying our rights, and in many cases lying about us or to us.

Q: What were some of the unexpected benefits you accrued after you started your blog, Bilgrimage?

A: I felt less alone in my life journey, my spiritual journey. I discovered that there are many others on a similar journey, and they're found all over the world.

Q: What would you most like to celebrate, at the end of next year, as your accomplishment?

A: I think we are at a perilous political moment in the U.S. when the scales could easily tip in the direction of an overt fascism that will have horrible consequences for LGBTQIA+. If the 2016 elections do not turn out to be as dismal as I'm anticipating after the Paris attacks and the San Bernadino mass shooting, I'll feel I (and many others) will have accomplished something.

Q: Who is your role model? Why?

A: I'm not sure I can pinpoint a single person. I'm drawn to intelligent, passionate, committed people who use their gifts to reach out to others on the margins. I think of people like Bayard Rustin, for instance. I have long been attracted to his ideal of being an angelic troublemaker in my local community.

Q: Can you describe for me what you achievement you're most proud of?

A: I received little encouragement from my parents to obtain a good education. Part of the problem, I now see looking back, was that my parents were torn regarding questions of my gender "presentation." I was a shy, bookish boy who excelled in school, and they wanted -- my father, in particular, wanted -- a more typical "mannish" son. Encouraging me to obtain a good education worked against the ideal of "making a man" of me, I think. And so I'm particularly proud that, against the odds and without parental support, I won a full-tuition scholarship to college, and received a Ph.D. and M.A. in theology from the University of St. Michael's College, an M.A. in English from Tulane University, and a B.A. in English from Loyola, New Orleans.

Q: Why did you decide to publically proclaim yourself a gay Christian?

A: To be honest, I'm not sure I made that decision. I think in many ways it has been made for me by something beyond my control that traditional faith language would call Spirit. I struggle to be faithful to a vocation handed to me against my will, in many ways.

Q: How do you feel changing technology has impacted your work?

A: The Internet age makes it possible for us to connect instantly to others sharing journeys similar to our own. Technology also levels the playing field for people whose vocation is writing and teaching. The academy has long been skewed in the direction of powerful heterosexual males. They were the ones who got access to secretarial assistance early in their careers. LGBTQIA+ scholars have seldom had access to such privilege and assistance. Having a computer levels the playing field, since it's like having an instant secretary at one's fingertips, as one writes, researches, revises.

Q: What would you recommend to someone just starting on his or her faith journey?

A: Seek the ground. Seek to be true to yourself. Seek to keep your feet on the ground.

Q: Do you have any tips or advice on prayer? If so, what are they?

A: Prayer is hard. I'm not sure that I always I know how to do it. I think the goal of prayer is to be in contact with -- at rest in -- one's deepest self, and then to open the door of that self to the Spirit.

Q: What is the most effective way, in your experience, to help people overcome anti- LGBTQIA+ attitudes?

A: I think that every LGBTQIA+ who lives a "normal," fulfilled, open, unashamed life becomes a living witness to the fact that LGBTQIA+ are human in the very same way everyone else in the world is human.

Q: How has your family been with regards to both your LGBTQIA+ status and your public life?

A: My immediate family has been anything but supportive. I have family members in my wider family circle who are wonderful, loving, accepting and including people. Those are the family ties on which I rely and which I celebrate.

I encourage you to read some of William Lindsey's work on his blog.