I share my story of hope as an Indigenous gay, Two spirit man to inspire others caught up in the shackles of religious dogma. There is a healthy spirituality beyond the confines of our colonized system of spiritual control.
I speak out for our next generations who deserve a world that celebrates their uniqueness, their gifts and welcomes them as they are. May we embrace our beautiful diversity that is our strength.
I grew up in a super conservative, fundamentalist church community in rural Alaska. The church started out as a missionary outpost to convert and minister to Native people. The preachers there taught that people who were LGBTQ2S were going to hell unless they repented, turned from their ‘sin.’
This created deep conflict within me. To imagine that the loving Creator that I felt so connected with would punish me for just being me. It was a soul-crusher that caused mental, emotional trauma. I later found out as I studied the Bible more deeply, that Jesus never once mentioned any issue with LGBTQ2S peoples in his teachings. He did, however, speak a lot about loving each other and practicing loving kindness.
During my undergraduate studies at a conservative Christian university, where the same beliefs were espoused, I started to meet others who, like me, were caught up in the challenge of trying to fit in. They were hoping to become something that they weren’t by nature with the hopes of salvation, acceptance by their community.
Some were married in a heterosexual relationship because they were taught that that was part of the ‘cure.’
It was difficult to watch the closeted behavior created by a community not coming to grip with the normal human spectrum of sexuality and relationships. I began to study biology and understood how gender and sexuality are complex and naturally diverse.
Unfortunately, the religion that I was caught up in was out of touch with the science of our Creator. Of course, I did meet many who were more accepting; however, if they were found out by church leadership, they would be punished by being excluded (at least in the churches I was involved in.)
I felt like I was caught up in a cult with such extreme beliefs, perpetuated by deep inner circles of power. Feeling trapped but unable to stay in such an unhealthy community, I finally left when I was in my early 20s. It was one of the most freeing moments of my life.
It wasn’t easy though, and I went through the dark night of my soul that required lots of counseling therapy to extricate myself from such limiting beliefs.
Thanks to Creator, I’ve not ‘thrown the baby out with the bathwater’ —finding myself still on my spiritual journey. I deeply honor everyone’s diverse connection to spirituality, Creator.
The challenge is when beliefs run counter to people’s well-being and health. Then it becomes toxic.
I’m thankful to discover how many of us in our Indigenous communities come from traditions that were accepting and even celebrating our LGBTQ+ diversity and how some tribes had multiple gender pronouns, not just he/she, and where everyone has a role, and gifts to share in their community.
The Christianity that so many currently practice is based on a tribal religion from the middle east. Why would the spiritual connection with our Creator that our Indigenous ancestors celebrated be any different or considered even less than that religion?
I would much rather be involved in belief systems that are more aligned with a loving God that accepts all people as they are and welcomes everyone to the table. That’s actually the Jesus that I know and follow.
I especially appreciate spiritual leaders like the Dalai Lama who speak wisdom, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” As I celebrate diversity in this month of #pride, I also understand that the fight for allowing people to be who they are is still being waged.
I stand with those who have fought hard to create freedom from discrimination in many of our communities. There is so much more to do in helping our next generations grow up in a more accepting and kind world.
A world where they are free to celebrate their gifts and not worry about being discriminated against for how our loving Creator made them.
Dr. Gary Ferguson BS, ND