While I was in India, one of the first people I met was a big, gay Kiwi named John. John was born and raised Catholic, and was actually on his way to becoming a priest before he became fed up with the Catholic Church and quit. His reasons were that he disliked the preaching of poverty and charity, while the Church wallowed in obscene amounts of wealth. Him being gay didn’t even enter into it, which struck me as surprising.

So we talked a whole bunch about religion and what it means to us, and our sexuality and what it means to us. I asked him about how he maintained his faith in God, considering he was gay and disillusioned with religion. He answered my question with a question of his own. How would I feel if he railed me in the bum right now? I told him that I probably wouldn’t appreciate it. He asked me if I would still be straight after the amazingly homoerotic time that he would surely show me, and I said yes, I was confident that I would still be straight, if a little shaken up. He said to me, same thing with faith. Anything can happen to you, but your faith never leaves you. It is simply a part of you.

This struck me as a very interesting idea despite its… unorthodox delivery, and I thought about it over the rest of the day, long after John and I had parted ways. I decided I didn’t actually agree with him. You can lose faith, and you can also gain it. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to do, but it does happen every now and then (Saul becoming Paul, for one biblical example). However, your sexuality never changes. No matter how many times big, gay John might swab the inside of my rectum, I would always remain straight. This led me to conclude that our sexuality is a stronger part of our identity than our spirituality.

This seemed significant to me, and I thought about it some more and realized something else. Despite the magnitude of importance that your sexuality represents towards your identity, you can repress it. You can fake not being the one, impermeable thing about yourself. Gay people will hide who they are, even marry heterosexually, out of fear of exposure. You can’t do that with faith. Faith needs to be expressed. If you think that maybe this has something to do with the lingering stigma that remains with homosexuality compared to the acceptance of most religions (the extent of that stigma being dependent on your location, obviously), think of the Jews who continued to practice even when facing the horrors of the concentration camps.

This might have something to do with individual versus communal identity; for example, your sexuality is yours and yours alone, whereas your faith is typically part of a larger group. Under duress, groups tend to bond together to face the storm under a unified front. One person alone standing against an oncoming tide is much more likely to find some way to avoid it.

Would a stronger LGBT community help? It’s hard to say. Sexuality isn’t really as communally bonding as faith. If a group got together every week to celebrate their sexuality, there’s really only one genuine way to do that. As an alternative, they might discuss worldly affairs or how to solve the crises that affect them, but that’s closer to activism than it is to community. Another reason I don’t believe that sexuality is as communal as spirituality is because the ultimate goal of the LGBT movement isn’t a gay community, it’s normalcy. Heterosexuals don’t have a community, we just are. Maybe I’m wrong since I am not privy to the meetings, but that is the goal of the LGBT rights movement, not forming a group.

Even if I am wrong, in its current state, the LGBT community does not extend to schools, sports teams, churches, etc. where it would need to in order for those suffering to feel as though they are part of a group, rather than desperately facing off against the world, alone.

Post-script: Obviously in a world where there is no oppression of sexuality or religion, then there would be no need to repress either one. My observation is that in a world where oppression of both exists, it is easier to repress sexuality than it is to repress religion.