By Ian L. Haddock, Executive Director of The Normal Anomaly Initiative
For a long time, I found it as hard to say I was Christian in LGBTQIA+ spaces as I did to say I was Gay in Christian spaces. Two different kinds of fear, but all sparking from the same trauma. When you are considered “othered” there is a fear of further “other-ing” yourself while trying to control your narrative and be uniquely you. So, for me, being a Gay Christian was a double-edged anomaly amongst my peers.
That was until I realized that it didn’t take church as an edifice to say that I was connected to some of the most powerful and prolific healers and spiritual warriors the world had ever seen. See, the community I was engulfed within has withstood and overcame some of the highest levels of oppression and disparity the modern world has ever seen with dignity, valor and resiliency. In that, there is no greater personification of a Christ follower and what His message in the Bible stood for. Indeed, the last has become the first.
Still, for a large group of the LGBTQIA+ community, we still stand in the shadows and chains of oppression of religious dogma and practices. For this, a great majority of millennials-42% percent—have left the church and 37% of them give some credit of this massive departure of the suppression of oppressed folx. Then, as you start layering on health, social and racial disparities, it makes more folx began to question the existence of God.
Even with all this, there is still a great number of folx who sit under leadership that will never accept their “lifestyle” nor give them the minimal level of humanity that promotes true and unconditional love. Those were the people that our hearts went out to; they were trying to find the love so freely given to them from Christ by people who gave mandates to how to attain that love. For this reason, The Normal Anomaly Initiative began the creation of the Outcry Project.
Outcry is a multi-level project focused on changing the narrative between Black folx living with HIV and/or identifying as LGBTQIA+ and the Black Christian Church. To date, through funding from AIDS United, we have created Outcry the Mini Documentary that looks at conversations between family members, HIV+ Support Groups, political figures and churches around sexuality and HIV. It has been shown at Saving Ourselves Symposium, at the National HIV Prevention Conference, as a Faith SYNC Session at the Synchronicity Conference and at the Reel Pride Pride Houston Film Festival where it received the Critic’s Choice Award. It is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video and is a part of the All Voices Film Festival.
As a follow-up, we are currently filming the 5-part Outcry the Docu-Series. This is through funding from AIDS United, Gilead Compass Initiative, and University of Texas at Austin Department of Kinesiology and Health Education. This series will look at HIV, substance use, rape, transitioning, general mental health and healing for LGBTQIA+ and/or folx living with HIV in the church. This series can be used within organizations to help build capacity, focus on culture awareness, and spark discussions.
Our reception to this project has been phenomenal for a grassroots organization and growing exponentially by the day. This is life changing work we are attempting to do that we believe will move the needle on the traumas that our communities have faced for generations after us. We believe in our slogan: “We are more alike than different,” and use it in our daily work because we recognize that showing the humanity in humans is the first step in changing the world’s approach.
In closing, we are who we’ve always been waiting for. Use your gifts, do your work, be the change you wish to see.