The following article is part of the Digital Equality Network Kirklees. The DEN Kirklees aims to share equality legislation for all with a specific view to African & Asian descendants as well as minority rights. Find out more at www.kirkleeslocaltv.com/the-den
By Nadeya Hussain and Charlotte Hilton –
The intersectionality of religion and the LGBTQ+ community is interesting as the two communities usually have very contrasting beliefs and ideologies, but in recent years different religions are trending towards becoming more accepting of LGBTQ+ people and communities. But there is still work to be done.
Stonewall, one of the leading charities in the UK for the LGBTQ+ community, states that of 2020, only 32% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people are open about their sexuality with the people in their community of the same faith. The number is even less for those who identify as Transgender, with only 25% open about who they are within their religious communities.
However, even though these percentages are quite small, recent changes to the laws around gay marriage in the UK has changed how many religious people view the LGBTQ+ community.
The Pew Research Centre, and US Think-tank, states that “As support for same-sex marriage has increased, other attitudes have changed as well” with 63% of people in their study stating that “homosexuality should be accepted by society” and 60% of people stating that “the sexual orientation of a gay or lesbian person cannot be changed.”
Islam and the LGBTQ+ Community
The acceptance of a persons sexuality in conjunction with their religious beliefs poses several challenges for many cultures.
In Islam, the belief is that any form of sexuality that is not heterosexual is a sin and punishable by death under the Shariah law. It is forbidden to display any form of homosexuality in many countries, such as Saudi Arabia. An incident occurred where a school was fined 100,000 riyals ($26,650) in Saudi Arabia for displaying a ‘symbol of homosexuality’ on their building.
However, with more than a billion Muslims worldwide, they are one of the largest religious denominations in the world, and there have been many groups of gay and lesbian Muslim activists who are speaking out and preaching an acceptance that is widely rejected within the Muslim community.
In the UK, there are a lot of modern TV shows depicting gay Muslims, such as Ackley Bridge and EastEnders. They demonstrate how British Muslims often deal with balancing their faith and their sexuality.
These days, there are also LGBT+ religion and faith groups that offer support for closeted people despite their religion.
Imaan, founded in London in 1999, is an LGBT+ faith group and charity. It aims to provide a safe space and support network to address issues felt by the LGBT+ Muslim community, and a place where individuals can discuss their concerns.
Despite many frustrations and issues related to homosexuality within the Muslim community, we are encouraged to not judge a person based on their race, colour, or gender, as we are all created equal.
To support this Islamic tradition known as Hadith states that in his final sermon the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H): “There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, or of a non-Arab over an Arab, and no superiority of a white person over a black person or of a black person over a white person, except on the basis of personal piety and righteousness.”
Christianity and the LGBTQ+ Community
There has been lots of controversy between Christianity and the LGBTQ+ community throughout history as the bible often condemns homosexuality. Leviticus 18:22 states: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”
However, as society moves forward and the LGBTQ+ community becomes more and more accepted, things are slowly improving in the Christian faith.
There is now a steadily rising number of LGBTQ+ faith leaders that are fighting for equality in religious communities and to stop discrimination.
Reverend Naomi Washington-Leapheart is one such example. She was an ordained minister at Wisdom’s Table at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Pennsylvania and was the first black minister at the church in 2013-2015. Rev. Washington-Leapheart came out as queer while still being a minister and was fully supported by the congregation. She now works for the National LGBTQ+ Task Force.
This is a good example of how views on the LGBTQ+ community are changing and developing in religious settings as a black, queer woman would definitely not have been as easily accepted even just 10 years ago.
The legalisation of same-sex marriage in the UK in 2014 was a big step for the LGBTQ+ community and while many denominations of the church are still against gay marriage, many churches now allow same-sex couples to get married in a church, such as the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Quakers and the United Reformed Church.
The Methodist Church has recently decided to allow same-sex marriage after a vote with a great number in favour making it the largest religious denomination in Britain to allow gay couples to get married. This shows how things are slowly continuing to improve over the years and gives hope to the many people of faith that may be struggling with their sexuality.
Resources for LGBTQ+ People of Faith
If you belong to the LGBTQ+ community and are a member of a faith group, there are many resources out there to help find a community of people to help you connect your sexuality to your religion in positive ways.
A few examples we recommend include:
- Open Table Network (https://opentable.lgbt)
- Diverse Church (https://diversechurch.website)
- House of Rainbow (HOR) (https://www.houseofrainbow.org)
The crossroads between one’s religion and sexuality continue to be contentious across the world and in many different societies. However, if we continue to strive for real change, it is hoped that we can continue to see people of all backgrounds become more accepted.