Many good people live and work at the intersections, and I occasionally invite someone to tell a story from where they stand. Today’s piece comes from Brittany Spaulding, a Chicagoan who will graduate from Illinois College this May. Brittany looks forward to starting work on her MFA in Poetry at Columbia College Chicago in the fall. She is a Chihuahua enthusiast. When she’s not writing poetry, Brittany spends her free time volunteering at a local animal shelter. I travelled with Brittany and several other Illinois College students to the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference a few weeks ago (which I wrote about here), and asked Brittany to read this poem as the opening for my workshop on responding to religious homophobia.
On Being Black and Queer at a Black Baptist Church
Today’s sermon is about keeping faith,
but somehow my pastor masterfully weaves in
Leviticus 18:22, I Corinthians 6:9-11, I Corinthians 7:2,
Romans 1:26-27, Jude 1:7, Leviticus 20:13,
I Timothy 1:10, Mark 10:6-9.
God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steveis a part of his creed.
He believes the puzzles of sexuality
can only be solved the way
he has been taught
to solve them.
This system allows for one answer,
no crookedness, no unstraightness,
although there are queers.
And he thinks he knows
exactly where to look
during this sermon:
at the choir director,
the flamboyant little boy
my grandmother gossips about,
at me out in the audience.
He noticed my mouth did not utter
an Amen with the rest of the congregation.
Their hearts: hardened like the stones
the Pharisees did not have the audacity
I remember being in the closet
afraid of what church folk thought of me
so I never was myself, fully.
They say only God is omniscient;
can be in more than one place,
can be more than one being
Well, so am I.
I have been in the closet
and at the church, simultaneously.
Closets are the best hiding place,
especially when the monsters thrive
in congregation pews,
waiting to devour you.
I, too, have been
the abandoned piece of gum
stuck to the underside of a pew:
there, but forgotten.
I, too, have been
the cold marble floor:
lying still while they rejoiced
and trampled on my existence.
like a church marble floor.