The PSR community shares what gives them hope for the new year in this month's Progressive Voices of Faith!
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The Future is Queer: A Reflection by CLGS’s Roland Stringfellow

The title for this article, The Future is Queer, is a quote from David Vásquez-Levy, President of Pacific School of Religion (PSR). As PSR looks towards the future, it looks bright as the school continues to expand its theological education. I have been fortunate to have been affiliated with this institution for the past 20 years — as a student and a staff member. In 2004, during my second semester at PSR as a Master of Divinity student, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom began to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples. As a field education project, I organized a wedding reception for the students and staff at the Graduate Theological Union who tied the knot in San Francisco.  I remember being asked by one of the newlyweds if I had gotten married that day, too.  It had never occurred to me that I would ever get married as a gay man, but the future had just become queer for me.

Later that year, a good number of PSR students traveled “off the hill” to support me as I competed in a contest at Daddy’s Bar in the Castro for the title of “Mr. Daddy’s Leather.”  Although I did not win, I was honored to have queer and straight-identified PSR students stand with me, showing lots of love.  I recall eating lunch in the D’Autremont Dining Hall along with other queer-identified students. We noted how many queer students and staff were at PSR.  It felt like we were at Professor X’s schools for mutants — we possessed special powers and had not been welcomed in our home communities, but we were being trained to become world changers.

When I graduated in 2006, I decided to get a tattoo of the “X-Men” symbol on my arm.  My tattoo was also inspired by a lecture from one of my favorite professors, Dr. Michael Mendola. He taught us never to lean too much in a fundamentalist or liberal/progressive direction but to minister from the center of an X so you could be accessible to as many people as possible. My future looked very queer.

 

One of my proudest moments working at CLGS was in June 2013 when I, as Coordinator of the Coalition of Welcoming Congregations, organized a Faith Leaders Press Conference on the steps of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. When a court decision overturned Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriage in the state, over 70 clergy from various religious traditions publicly supported a queer couple’s right to marry. Later that afternoon, I spoke on the back of a flatbed truck to a crowd of thousands in the Castro, encouraging them that a “shower of blessings had fallen upon us that day!”  Talk about a celebration!  Hearts were lifted that day as our future was indeed queer!

“Queer” is still seen as a negative by many today.  However, the reclaiming of the word and its meaning is a form of resistance.  The “Future is Queer” is an expansive term beyond LGBTQ+ inclusion. It is reflective of a world where everyone is welcomed, and sexism, racism, classism, ableism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia are challenged and eradicated. This equality begins within, as a positive mindset, and is manifested without as good action towards all living beings.

As I conclude my tenure at CLGS as its Managing Director, I am very proud of all that was accomplished under my watch. My heart is full of the wonderful people whose paths I’ve crossed; many are still on the campus, and others are now all over the world. I leave behind my academic and theological works in the form of the Umoja curriculum and film for African-American audiences, Liberating Religious Liberty curriculum, and a copy of my doctoral thesis in the GTU Library.

My time at Pacific School of Religion truly benefited my personal and professional life.  CLGS has enhanced my queer future.

Thank You!

 

Rev. Dr. Roland Stringfellow (MDiv ’06, DMin ’16) is ending his term as Managing Director of the Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion (CLGS) at the end of 2023. Stringfellow has been with the Center since 2008 as the coordinator of the African American Roundtable and host of the Souls A’Fire Conference: A national gathering on Black Queer Theology. He is licensed with the Metropolitan Community Church and currently is the Senior Pastor of Metropolitan Community Church Detroit.

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