Craig-ey, Are You Queer?

Yes, this is a take-off on that classic 80s new wave tune (it’s too poppy to call it punk) by Josie Cotton, ‘Johnny Are You Queer?’ Let’s re-familiarize ourselves with that tune, why don’t we?

Well, it’s there if you’d like to…

Anyway, in researching the reactions to this song[1], I found out some interesting stuff about various reactions to it:

  • One Christian radio network played the song at half-speed and claimed Josie Cotton was a gay man trying to encourage other men to embrace homosexuality (!!);


  • The Advocate accused her of being a homophobe and the The Village Voice posed a question on its cover, ‘Josie, Are You A Bitch?’;


  • It has been claimed that many people were able to come to terms with their sexuality as a result of the song, including at least one self-confessed ‘gay rocker’, Adam Block;


  • Controversy re-ignited when a new version was remixed by a gay rap duo called Elephant – Josie Cotton was invited to New York Pride in 2010, while one of the original songwriters claimed the song was homophobic.


Some things just tend to naturally attract controversy, I guess…


The reason I offer this as prologue is because of a trend I have noticed in Metropolitan Community Churches these days. A notable number of clergy and lay leaders within MCC have been calling for a renewed emphasis on MCC as a ‘queer movement’, with some saying/writing this was an intent of the original movement as begun by the Rev Eder Troy Perry which has not been focused on as it should be in recent times. I have been part of at least one conversation in one of the leadership fora on Facebook for MCC leaders where a leader has asserted that leaders and members of MCC should embrace the label ‘queer’, in some way, as part of their identity. There was a morning Bible study at the most recent MCC General Conference which had as its focus ‘Queering the Bible’. In the congratulations which were offered recently for the latest group of ordinands in MCC, many people felt the need to highlight the importance of these new pastors-to-be as ‘queer clergy’.


And I’ve been thinking, ‘Uh, is there some kind of subtle (or not-so-subtle), unintentional (or not-so-unintentional) message being communicated to non-SGM persons like me?’


Let me make some things clear. I’m not an expert in queer theology, but I am aware of it and of its roots in liberation theology. I have read at least one of the significant works of one of its major thought leaders, the late Marcella Althaus-Reid[2]. I know that queer theology is a challenge to the Christian church to break out of heteronormative restraints and embrace understandings of God, Jesus, the Scriptures, and theological doctrines that come from below, specifically from the experience of sexual and gender minorities. This is the natural outgrowth of any theology which genuinely sets to liberate.

I’m also aware that the word ‘queer’ has definite overtones of sexual identity and/or gender expression in the community we serve. For many from older generations, it still has the sting of an expletive, meant to demean and degrade. For younger persons, it is a word which is being reclaimed as a source of power and strength. Nonetheless, it is a word which is historically based in non-heterosexual, non-cisgender expressions and identities.

I’m also familiar with the notion of the ‘straight queer / queer heterosexual’[3]. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what this means. I find it quite confusing. I can make some claim to being queer because I like to cook? There is some ‘queerness’ in my advocacy for sexual and gender minorities? I have expressed forms of friendly affection with a variety of persons on the sexual orientation and gender spectra – but does this require that I take on the ‘queer’ label?

Why should I have to take on ANY label to sufficiently ‘pass’ within my faith community? The only reason I can think of to do this is if Metropolitan Community Churches is going to make the transition from being a fellowship of Christian churches to being a type of ‘queer movement’, a phrase which I have heard in one form or other recently. It may very well be that MCC will transition into an ‘Association of Metropolitan Communities’. In such a reality, it may very well be that ‘queerness’ will be the identifying feature that binds all members together. But for now, we are still a fellowship of Christian churches. In that context, it’s my baptism which is my ultimate identifier. All other monikers which I may claim for myself, or which others would try to foist on me, are secondary:

As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:27-28)

I’ll do my best to speak for myself, but I believe it’s no more genuine for me to try to embrace the label ‘queer’ any more than it is for me as a white person to be singing in a black Gospel choir[4]. The African-American/black gospel/spiritual experience is rooted in the heritage of slavery and oppression, something which I as a white North American male have NEVER experienced – but it’s a situation which I see (sadly) many black Americans being dragged back into, through a combination of a lack of economic opportunities, police brutality, and an oppressive (in)justice system.

I believe Dora Mortimer is onto something when they write:

Queer means lots of things to lots of different people. Its definition defies any meaning that is pinned to it. For many, it is a political persuasion as well as a sexual one…(However), (f)or someone who is homosexual and queer, a straight person identifying as queer can feel like choosing to appropriate the good bits, the cultural and political cache, the clothes and the sound of gay culture, without the laugh riot of gay-bashing, teen shame, adult shame, shame-shame, and the internalized homophobia of lived gay experience.[5]

I am a cisgender, heterosexual man of European heritage, married to a woman. I have also walked down the streets of Wonju (my hometown in South Korea) hand-in-hand with my best Korean friend, another cisgender heterosexual man. In my friendships and my pastoral practice, I regularly share signs of affection with gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, polyamorous, and non-binary/genderfluid persons. What the hell does that make ME?!

I remember reading a review of the movie Boy Meets Girl, where Ricky, a transgender woman in small-town Kentucky, has a romantic encounter with Francesca, an almost stereotypical southern belle engaged to an American Marine on duty in Afghanistan. After their first moment together, Francesca tries to make sense of what this means to her. The review recounts the scene like this:

The sweet crux of the movie can be summed up in one back-and-forth between Francesca and Ricky after their first romantic encounter. Francesca wonders aloud if falling for a woman with a penis means she’s gay. “It has to make me something,” she says. Ricky doesn’t skip a beat: “Human?” she replies.[6]

It would be very easy to fall into a very facile, Tucker Carlson-esque ‘Everybody’s human’ or ‘All lives matter’ schtick. If we’re going to use those expressions, we need to very clear about who we’re including under ‘all lives’, and who is truly ‘human’. Talking about being ‘human’ or to talk about ‘lives that matter’ is worthless unless I’m willing to include the entire length and breadth of humanity. That includes racial diversity, including those of multiple ethnicities; everyone from rich to the poorest of the poor; and the entire rainbow of sexualities, gender identities and expressions, and relationship statuses. Anything less is without meaning.

With this in mind, I still must claim room for my voice, as a cisgender, heterosexual man of European heritage. It is only one voice among many, but it is A voice which still deserves to be heard, especially in a church context where all those who are part of the covenant community are equally important. And just because I express myself in ways which do not fit within a stereotypical ‘macho’ male style, that doesn’t mean I have to take on a label which simply doesn’t feel right to me.

In conclusion, then, to answer the question posed in the title, ‘Craig-ey, are you queer?’ I answer, ‘No, and I don’t need to be. I am a voice among the many voices which make up the rich tapestry of humankind. I know other many other voices, especially those from the margins, need to be listened to, and I am committed to making room for those voices, even if it means I need to be reminded to stand aside for a while. But there are also times when it’s right for me to speak my truth, and I’ll do it when the time and the occasion merit it.’

[1] In Fitzharris, D (2010, August 22) Catching Up With Josie Cotton. In Out [online], retrieved 24 August 2019 from; and Rockwell, ‘Confessions of a Gay Rocker, in Cateforis, T, The Rock History Reader, (New York: Routledge, 2007), pp. 185-92.

[2] Althaus-Reid (2003). The Queer God. London: Routledge.

[3] One expression of this can be found in Smith, C (1997) ‘How I Became A Queer Heterosexual’, a paper presented at “Beyond Boundaries,” An International Conference on Sexuality, University of Amsterdam, July 29-Aug 1, 1997

[4] I have personally witnessed this in at least one case, in Nova Scotia, Canada.

[5] Mortimer, D (2016, 10 February). Can Straight People Be Queer? In Vice [online]. Retrieved 25 June 2019 from

[6] Merry, S (2015, February 12). ‘Boy Meets Girl’ movie review: A small-town transgender love story. The Washington Post [online]. Retrieved 20 February 2017 from



2 thoughts on “Craig-ey, Are You Queer?

  1. You may or may not be aware of this (hope it’s the latter) but your writing comes off as exploitive to the community by using it as a platform to draw attention to your personal identity issues. Hopefully you will think harder about how to ‘take a seat’ as you said, because it seems clear you’re not seeing something that’s glaringly obvious to others.


    • I’m not forcing you to follow what I say, so if you don’t like it, don’t read it. Otherwise, to be honest, I don’t really understand what you’re saying. Are you trying to tell me to ‘shut up’ and stop writing? If so, why? If you’re hoping that’s what’s going to happen, it won’t.


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