Dontea'u Jae'El

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I had my first queer attraction two weeks after I preached my initial sermon at my family’s Holiness church. It occurred during gym class when Jorden–the most popular boy in the sixth grade–was playing basketball and kicked his sandals off. I felt a mixture of emotions, yet the overwhelming sensation of the experience was of how normal the experience felt.

See, I was born and raised in an ultra-conservative, deeply devote Bible-literalist culture where it had been instilled in me from an early age that little boys liked little girls. I recall being stirred towards “appropriate” boy things as early as age five. It was okay for me to play with hot wheels, it was not okay, however, for me to play with an easy-bake oven. So when the church discovered I had a “crush” on the pastor’s daughters a collective sigh of relief was breathed.

I had a “crush” on FJ for ten years, yet for most of those years our cat and mouse relationship was merely a cover up. But seeing Jorden run and play in that gym was different those feelings weren’t coaxed. I knew instantly those feelings were genuine, authentic. Natural.

Growing up, I don’t recall LGBTQ+ subjects ever being preached in my primitive years, however there was definitely an understanding that anything queer was shameful. Being gay in my community was equivalent to carrying the plague. Regardless of what you did, or how outstanding of a person you were, you would never measure up in the eyes of the church, community, or your family.

I remember discovering my queerness in relation to my gender identity much earlier in life than my orientations. I knew I was different than other “boys” my age, I liked hot wheels and long hair, and I loved high-heeled shoes. On more than one occasion I was bullied, berated, and physically assaulted because I was caught wearing a female family member’s shoes.

However the most devastating day was when my grandmother plopped her wig on my head and said, “You would make an ugly girl”. When she said that, my sister laughed, and they walked out the room, but I sat there starring in the mirror–that was the moment I began hating myself.

I now believe in Love’s belief in me.

It’s been almost twenty years since the abuse stopped, and it’s taken about that long to come to terms with not only who I am, but who I want to be and who I was born to be. If you ask any kid who was raised in or around the church who they are, they will most likely say, “a child of God”. It’s the churchiest answer and it really works when trying to abruptly conclude a conversation, because few people will rebut that answer. However, as someone who was raised by legal guardians instead of their birth parents, the fact that I am “a child of God” doesn’t really excite me.

The part that excites me is that I wasn’t merely made, but I was created. I don’t just have a Heavenly Father/Mother, but I have a Creator who implanted a piece of themselves in me. I now hold close to Genesis 1: 26, 31. The understanding that not only was I created Good (and have been affirmed, worthy, beautiful, deserving, and qualified from the beginning), but that I am hold the image, spirit, and likeness of the Love that is GOD revolutionized my faith.

Community has proven to be my greatest asset on this journey. From finding camaraderie with Q Christian Fellowship to finding family in the Unity Fellowship Church Movement and The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, my life was saved and secured by the people who have walked this road with me.

When I came out, I prayed and asked God for covering and mentorship, and God gave me Bishop Tonyia Rawls as a pastor, and Bishop Dr. Yvette Flunder as a mentor. The first words I ever heard come out of Bishop Rawl’s mouth were “I am free, praise the Lord, I’m free…” I knew immediately she was called to be my covering.

A year later, I listened to Bishop Flunder as she preached “Not a Down Low Message”, expounding upon Liberation Theology and how, when we know that we know what we know, it is our duty to stand up and speak back to those who would seek to run us away, exactly what the Unchanged Movement is doing so beautifully. Both women’s works and the works of countless others Liberation Theologians are available online.

A couple years ago, I discovered my purpose, which Marianne Williamson wrote about in A Return to Love: “We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us… And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I am living a liberated and liberator life. The fear of death, hell, shame, unworthiness, etc., have been swallowed up and flushed out by the divine Love that is God. Every day I grow deeper in my understanding of myself as a Creation of Love, Child of Africa, a Queer Person of faith with Agender and Eunuch energy and experience, as a Divine Soul, and equally as important as a Human.

I no longer feel a need to walk with my head bowed, eyes lowered. I stand proud in my stride understanding that my Creator is cheering on their creation. I stay lit because I reflect the light of the queerest energy of all: Pure Love, and as I live I testify to that Love.