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Queer Joy, Saint Francis, and Skipping Church


Queer Joy, Saint Francis, and Skipping Church

Caitlin Stout

by Caitlin Stout

I want to write about joy. I want it to be profound and eloquent and make us all feel better.

I also wanted to skip church yesterday, but apparently I can’t figure out how to do either.

I wanted to skip church because I was tired and frustrated and angry. I’ve been angry for the past couple weeks. I’ve been angry at homophobic blog comments. I’ve been angry at the dude who rolled down his car window as he drove by just to call me a dyke. I’ve been angry at myself for letting that Eugene Peterson interview make me feel better. I’ve been angry at myself for being surprised and hurt when he took it all back. I’ve been angry about all the chances I’ve given Evangelicals, all the grace I’ve shown, and all the bitterness I’ve still managed to feel. I’ve been angry at myself for being angry.

So I thought that one Sunday off might do me some good. Because, guys…I don’t want to be angry at anyone anymore. I want to sleep in and I want to write about joy. But I don’t know how…

It has become a running joke among some of my friends to justify ridiculous life choices with the phrase “Queer joy is resistance.” It doesn’t matter if I’m getting Chipotle for the third time in one week, sticking birthday candles in my pancakes, drinking a La Croix in the shower, or ditching class for a Tuesday road trip to Chicago. The personal is political. Queer joy is resistance. Let me live.

Although I’m usually just making fun of misguided activism and my own propensity for hi-jinks, I’ve been using this phrase a little more earnestly as of late. Joy hasn’t felt natural. Joy has been an active and difficult series of decisions. And in a society where queer people are still expected to hate themselves, there’s something to the idea that being publicly, unapologetically gay and happy is kind of a radical thing to do. So last week I took lots of walks. I bought myself flowers. I went to a drag show. I took more selfies than usual. I danced to Beyoncé in my apartment. I ate a really good donut. Because queer joy is resistance. It really probably is, I think.


But damn. Is joy supposed to be this exhausting? Because as much as I love the idea of resisting, I’m getting a little tired of my “joy” being a giant middle finger. I don’t want to be joyful just because society tells me not to be. I don’t want to baptize my rage in glitter and call it happiness. But sometimes that’s what we do. Sometimes queer anger and queer joy look a lot alike. Sometimes we burn our anger like gasoline and then dance around the fire. It’s good and it’s important and it’s beautiful. But I don’t think I can do it forever.

I wanted to skip church yesterday. I wanted to once again sarcastically claim my queer joy by sleeping in and eating waffles. But I couldn’t sleep in, and I ran out of waffles, and yeah, ok God,  I also really needed to go to church.

During liturgy, I sat next to a stained glass window of St. Francis of Assisi, and I remembered his prayer that I prayed every day last summer as a closeted evangelical camp counselor…

Lord, grant that I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console,

to be understood as to understand,

to be loved as to love.

I prayed the prayer again. I thought about some of my blog comments. I thought about the guy who yelled at me from his car. I thought about Eugene Peterson and the people who share his “biblical views of everything.” I thought about queer joy and wondered where on earth it was supposed to come from. I repented of the belief that it comes from people like Eugene Peterson.

Sure, queer joy is resistance. But I don’t know if it can exist without queer love, queer peace, queer patience, queer kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness…

For it is in giving that we receive,

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.