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Meet Eliel Cruz, RNS’s new LGBT blogger

RNS' new blogger, Eliel Cruz, on what he plans to bring to the blog "Faithfully LGBT"

As a bisexual Christian who’s not ashamed of who I am, I’m often the person in the room making every other Christian uncomfortable — either because I look really good in metallic leggings, or because I’m not afraid to point out when the Church has done something to hurt my community. I’m thankful and hopeful though that at RNS, I’ll be challenging people with my writing, instead of making them uncomfortable with my presence.

I never thought I would be writing about the intersections of religion, sexuality, and gender. After gaining one too many scars from the Church’s treatment of LGBT people, I had reconciled my faith and sexuality and was ready to leave the war zone that is the “Christian vs. LGBT” debate. As someone who is part of both communities, that war zone can produce a lot of friendly fire. But God had a different plan for me.

I grew up in the Seventh-day Adventist church and have only attended Seventh-day Adventist educational institutions. I went to Church every Sabbath (Saturday for those of you who worship on Sunday), attended prayer meetings, and participated in various Church gatherings 2-3 times a week. At my Academy I was on different sports teams, I was part of the choir and band, regularly sang for Church services, and was a part of every religious activity I could be. I was a vital part of that community; I belonged. But that all quickly changed when I came out. I was no longer the teenager who had been singing for Church since he was 3 years old; I was the “homosexual”, a “sinner” in their midst, I no longer belonged.

Coming out is an important part of the LGBT experience because we live in a community that assumes heterosexuality is the norm. It reminds the Church of the grey, a place the Church rarely ventures out to for fear of getting physically and spiritually “lost.”

I had a pastor look at my outstretched hand for a handshake and walk away, I was dismissed from spiritual communities I was once a leader in, I was shunned from the house of God. All for being honest about my sexual orientation. But while my experiences tested my relationship with God, in the end, it only strengthened it. I learned to rely solely on God instead of man-made organizations. I understood that my beliefs didn’t just stem from my childhood upbringing but that I truly believed in scripture and in God. I was able to come to the understanding that the actions of the Church in which hundreds of thousands of LGBT people have been ostracized and marginalized is not God’s will. No, those actions come from being afraid of the grey.

In college, I realize that God was calling me to advocate for the LGBT community in my Church. At first I ignored the call, having barely healed from previous encounters with religious homophobia. But God is persistent and kept putting opportunities to be a voice in this conversation in my path.

I started an unofficial gay-straight alliance at my conservative Christian college, Andrews University. I wrote a proposal to get LGBT people in the discrimination/harassment portions of my student handbook (which before was completely silent on the LGBT community). A few months after, I co-founded the Intercollegiate Adventist GSA Coalition; a student run 501 (c) 3 that works in creating unofficial gay-straight alliances on Seventh-day Adventist campuses nationwide. Our mission is to create safe spaces for all LGBT individuals — celibate, in relationships, and those who just aren’t sure where they stand yet– who struggle with the Church’s response to their sexuality. In retrospect, I found the spiritual community I had once lost when I came out.

When RNS asked me to become their first LGBT blogger, I’ll admit I was surprised. Mainstream Christian platforms have typically discussed only the most controversial LGBT happenings in the Church and usually from a heterosexual perspective. They wanted a queer perspective to discuss LGBT topics on a regular basis. RNS was asking me to guide readers into the grey.

I’ll be posting on Faithfully LGBT two-three times a week on LGBT topics in the Church. I’ll be covering conferences on this topic as well as curating editorial pieces that will help educate readers to the different parts of the LGBT community, and especially, the LGBT community of faith.  I’ll be highlighting the communities that don’t get much air time (for example the bisexual, transgender/gender queer, asexual communities) and working on showing the diversity of the LGBT community in faith traditions, racial and gender identities, and experiences.

My hope is to inspire conversations that will continue outside of the blogosphere, creating change in religious spaces to welcome the voices of the LGBT members that sit quietly in the pews.

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