Leigh Finke is the author of Queerfully and Wonderfully Made. To celebrate the release of Queerfully and Wonderfully Made, and its companion book, Welcoming and Affirming, on August 25, 2020, she shared with us the inspiration behind this affirming and helpful guidebook for queer Christian teens.
What inspired you to write Queerfully and Wonderfully Made?
I wanted to make something for young LGBTQ+ people that took for granted that God loves us and created us to be who we are. Because that’s true, and teaching kids otherwise is extremely harmful. What the church thinks of LGBTQ+ people has consumed so much of the Christian world. But for those of us who actually are queer, it eventually becomes the least important thing. Queer teens are queer teens; it doesn’t matter what anyone’s pastor or parents say about it. I wanted to make a practical and helpful guide that directly addressed life as a queer person of faith, while spending some time, but not too much, on whether or not it is “okay to be gay.” (IT IS!)
Why was it so important for you to write this particular book?
I spent my youth and many years of my adulthood in the closet and in denial of who I am. No one is responsible for that fact; it’s just how it shook out for me. But I can’t help but wonder what would have happened in my life if a book like Queerfully and Wonderfully Made had been available. Something that said: “Hey, you’re okay, it’s going to be okay, and you can continue going forward on this path.”
There was nothing communicating this message in my world as a young person. It’s a different world now and there are lots of spaces that queer Christian teens can be loved and affirmed. Still, when I had the chance to make this book, I took it. I hope every queer Christian teen is hearing a message of affirmation and love; we can never have too many resources providing it.
Who is the audience for Queerfully and Wonderfully Made?
I made this book for specifically for LGBTQ+ teenagers and young adults who are in Christian families and communities of any kind. Whether they go to a conservative church that condemns queerness or a progressive church that celebrates queerness, there are unique and difficult challenges that they face. Those challenges deserved to be addressed by LGBTQ+ people.
But I was also conscious of two other audiences. The first is queer teens who are not in religious spaces but who might have practical questions about coming out or managing relationships. And the other audience is friends and allies who will benefit from this work, both as a source of encouragement for living an authentic life and as an educational resource for how to support the LGBTQ+ people in their lives.
Why did you decide to write the companion book, Welcoming and Affirming?
Initially, the idea was that Queerfully and Wonderfully Made would be a standalone volume for teens. But the more time I spent with the idea, the more I realized that it is not the responsibility of queer people alone to make LGBTQ+ teens feel loved, safe, and accepted. There are so many adults in their lives: pastors, youth leaders, church volunteers, teachers, parents, family, and more. Every single one of those people bears responsibility for affirming the teens around them and making sure the teens have space to live safe and whole lives.
This obvious truth made it equally obvious that a companion book would be needed to help heterosexual cisgender adults learn how to build welcoming and affirming environments for every youth in their church.
What is your hope for this book?
I want every LGBTQ+ teenager to have access to this book, no matter who they are, where they live, or what their faith background is. And that’s honestly a big challenge.
Many teenagers will not be comfortable buying the book. For some, it might even be dangerous to have this book at home. It is incumbent on others to help resource young people honestly and faithfully. My dream is that pastors and churches and schools and libraries and coffee shops, or any space that has access to youth, will regularly have multiple copies available for free, so those who need the book can just walk away with it, no questions asked. No one should assume any young person is comfortable approaching an adult and coming out, no matter what their church teaches.
The importance of queer or questioning youth receiving affirming and loving messages cannot be overstated. In some cases, the difference will be life or death. This book isn’t the answer to all of these problems. But I think it’s a good start for any queer teenager.
For more information on Queerfully and Wonderfully Made, click here.
For more information on Welcoming and Affirming, the companion book for adults in Christian settings, click here.