Last night, for my friend Max’s 22nd birthday, I went to the gay bar on Capitol Hill titled,
“R Place”. Needless to say, it was a…cultural experience. The expected crowd showed up: men with intense make-up, old men making-out, shirtless, young men in their underwear, men dressed in skirts, and a whole list of other gender “transgressors”. Here is the twist, there were lots and lots of people whom we might consider “normal”, that is to say heterosexuals who dress and act according to societal, gender stereotypes. What I found at “R Place” was a place of total acceptance. Of course, “R Place” did not promote tolerance. A large sign in the front room informed everyone that rudeness, bigotry, homophobia, and a whole list of other inconsiderate behavior would not be tolerated. I wore red suspenders that read, “I Heart Jesus,” and ignorantly, I feared being belittled. Nothing of the sort ever happened, and as I danced, I could not help but think of the person named on my suspenders.
Jesus once said, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of G-d ahead of you” (Matthew 21.31). While I find the term “prostitute” rather derogatory, what women (or men) involved in prostitution, both in the first century and today, represent are people living outside the dominant, societal sexual norm. This verse applies particularly well to recent events in which people repeatedly discussed the “rapture”, a time when the true believers will enter G-d’s kingdom. However, according to this verse, if anyone were to be raptured, it would be the people at “R Place”, people outside the strict sexual codes of the dominant, patriarchal society.
When we left the sweaty confines of the dance floor, we meandered outside onto the slippery sidewalk being coated in drizzle. While waiting for our friends to come out, I saw a group of people dressed in outrageous costumes. They wore white face paint, sparkling veils, and shimmery dresses. They also were all “males”. Each one wore a name tag. Curious as to who they were (I saw them all over the place in the club), I approached one and asked who they were. This person explained that they are the Sisters (as in nuns) of Perpetual Indulgence. Hedonism and potential blasphemy aside, this person told me they go about teaching people that they are who they are, they are fine the way they are, and they should not feel like there is something wrong with themselves. I would not be stretching to say that the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence believed everyone is capable of being loved simply for being themselves. As this person explained to me what they stood for and who they were, I nearly broke into tears. I gave each Sister a great big hug.
In the Kingdom of G-d, everyone is loved for who they are, not for who they are not. These people were exactly what Jesus meant by what he said in Matthew’s Gospel. After all the hate speech about who would get raptured and who would be left behind in tribulation and suffering, I realized that these sexual “transgressors” were racing into the Kingdom. Yes, they were the Raptured, for they, like Jesus, chose to love no matter what. In “R Place”, people are loved. Despite all the sexual dysfunction (dysfunction that occurs in churches nearly as much as gay bars!), the people of “R Place” showed love to those we in the Church find it nearly impossible to love. They loved people for who they are. They acted like they lived in G-d’s Kingdom, a place of acceptance and love. After I finished talking to those Sisters, I realized I too experienced the rapture, if only for a short time. I entered an environment where I held no fear of myself, no fear of what I wore, and no fear of how I moved. It was moving, beautiful, and I truly I tell you, “I was raptured this weekend…at a gay bar.”