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Queerness and Religion at UWS: The Interviews

By WSU student

What’s your general thought about the queer community and religion? It seems like there is a general push towards atheism.

Sol, pansexual, non-binary, Muslim: Yeah there are a lot of people who don’t respect religion and oversimplify it as inherently negative. And I sort of understand because a lot of the queer community has had bad experiences with religious family or friends growing up. But I think that being religious and lgbtqia isn’t a dichotomy, and a lot of people always ask me to “explain how I could be both pan and religious” in the hopes they could prove me wrong, which I think is ignorant.

Alexander, homosexual, male, agnostic: It does indeed seem that there is a bit of a push in the atheist direction. I personally see it as a result of persistent discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people by the predominant religions in the Western world, those being Christianity in all its forms, Islam and its derivatives, Judaism, and so forth.

Alissa, bisexual, cisgender female, atheist: Personally, I was raised atheist, so that happened before I even realised I was queer. I think it can be an easy option for queers to be atheist as they don’t have to push any religious boundaries, feel unfaithful to their religion or question how their religion views queers. I feel like non-religious queers also look unfavourably at religious queers as they may have suffered from certain religious individuals or groups being homophobic.

Chris, gay, prefers the same sex, cisgender male, atheist: As an atheist, I see the mix between religion and the queer community as problematic, because the ideologies between the two don’t correlate. And the values of many religions are not contemporary with the queer community of today. As much as religion wants to be inclusive with the generation of queer culture, their values which many religions teach do more harm than good to the mental wellbeing of the queer community. But putting my atheistic ideology aside, I do see why people choose to partake in the world of religion

Have you had any bad experiences due to the amount of people with different religious beliefs or because you identify as queer?

Sol: Well yeah. I definitely experienced racism when I wore my headscarf. White people, when they don’t want to be nice to you but they don’t want to be called out on being mean to you, just end up ignoring you when you have the scarf on. But when I don’t have it on and I’m in a predominately white space like in the north shore it’s the other way around – I get stares and looks, from both older and younger people too, like girls looking me up and down in the shops or in the bathroom. I feel like when I’m wearing my scarf, my race is a lot more apparent and so, racism is also more apparent to people around me, which is why racist people choose to actively ignore me in order not to appear racist in public. But for just Asian people, which is what I look like without the scarf on, there’s a misconception that we don’t experience as much racism anymore, so racists are more kind of blatant about it.

Alexander: I have, yes.

Alissa: No, just funny looks for being queer and being over sexualised as a bisexual.

Chris: Only growing up in a Christian household. When my mum found out I was gay, she tried to get the pastor of her church to give me “guidance” (whatever that means), but I have shown her my side of the story and she has become a lot more supportive. I have met many different queer people who are religious, and I have learned to respect that.

What has your experience been with UWS in terms of diversity around queer/cishet people and different religions?

Sol: For queer people I think UWS is quite relaxed compared to other unis. Because there’s so much racial diversity it sort of feels like incorporating respect for different genders and sexualities seemed easier, even though race and gender are different. I guess what I’m saying is the “diversity culture” that UWS has really helps.
Alexander: Well, most of my experience has been localised to the Penrith campus so my experience might be a tad limited. Most queer people that I have had the fortune of interacting with have tended to lean towards atheism, although there have been a few exceptions with queer identifying people on campus who also identify as religious. In terms of cishet people, I have seen an overwhelming amount of cishets who tend towards identifying themselves as Christian or Islamic, but even then Christianity is the definite majority. This, along with the presence of at least eight bible study groups on campus has not given me a very diverse picture of Penrith Campus at UWS.
Alissa: I would say UWS is definitely very open to all religions and even tries to accommodate various ones through prayer rooms and clubs. Obviously you can’t tell if someone is queer by looking at them, but I do feel that the queer community is strong at uni, through groups like the Queer Collective. However, heteronormativity is still a big issue I face, especially as a femme bisexual.

Chris: In a way it has been interesting because I find that being around people who are very well educated about the world and its diversities, are a lot less likely to hate. I find that people who are less educated about the world’s diversities, have more fear of the unknown world of the queer community, and are thus more likely to defend themselves.
At Uni, especially one as culturally, demographically, and psychographically diverse as UWS, there is that blossom of hope for the next generations of queer people. As an atheist, though, I do hope religion takes less and less a stance in my world, especially on the political podium.

As a clarification about my stance on religion, I would like to point out that so far I sound quite contradictory about my respect for religion and that I don’t wish to have religion impede in my world. When I say I have respect for religious people, I mean I don’t mind how they practice it. I don’t mind if they do it out in the open, because it’s sometimes quite enlightening to see. But it’s when they impede my world, where they promote their religion through flyers at the train stations, and through advertising; or through politics, by controlling my way of life, is when I don’t like it.

I have my own reasons for being atheist, and if anyone wants to know them, I will tell them. And that is where religion and I differ, because as a gay man, I just want to do what I want to do. I would like to get married, maybe have children, and definitely fall in love. If I can respect religious people to do what they want, even if it means having outdoor congregations or their own picnic in the park day, then I am sure they can respect what I want to do, even if it means mild PDA’s…

 

IMAGE : Bill Gracey