Religion and Queer Theory

High School ・Sociology ・MLA


Queer theory is characterized as a collection of interconnected beliefs and ideas, which do not define or decide the identities of the individuals (Vasvari 8). Therefore, the theory implies that it is incorrect to use generalizations to assess individual behaviour. The identities that describe people appear to have a variety of components, such that generalized assumptions are not right. Theory notes that people appear, in unexpected or diverse ways, to question all types of notion of a fixed identity. The theory emerged in the 1990s as a result of queer studies that emerged in the field of sociology and it encompasses both written as well visual theorizations that are queer in their own respect (Smith 51).

Origins of the Theory

The theory was initially influenced by the works of Leo Bersani, Judith Butler, Lee Edelman, David Halperin, Eve Kosofsky and Lauren Bertlant among others. The theory is situated around feminist challenges that argue on the basis that gender forms part of the essential self and the gay/lesbian studies that closely examine the constructed nature of sexual activities as well as identity. The theory broadens its focus so as to include any form of sexual act or identity that forms part of either deviant or normative categories. The focus of queer theory can thus be attributed to mismatches that exist between gender, sex and desire (Schippert 69). It is an analytic topic that is not limited to lesbianism, gay and bisexual areas but it also considers other areas such as intersex, gender ambiguity, gender corrective surgeries and cross-dressing.

Queer Theory and Religion

There is a close relationship between religion and queer theory since one must clearly understand the role played by each school of thought. In order to develop a clear understanding of the two concepts, it is important to gain an insight into the world of queer theology. So to understand the two approaches, one needs to adopt the study of religion in a queer manner. This means the application of the theoretical approaches in the queer theory to the study of religion. The topics that forms the queer theory tend to change based on the cultural, geographic and political conditions. In order to make queer theory more relevant, scholars of religious studies have opted to move away from the queer terminologies since the discipline had become more implicated in the normative or the identity based approaches (Schippert 73). 

Queer theology is the aspect of theology that incorporates Foucaldian as well as the Butlerian understanding of the free-floating co-existence between sex and gender. This aims at showing a reflection towards theology and religion. According to Kathy Rudy who based her approach on Christianity, queer theory seeks to explain why Christianity in itself is a queer theory. The only means of identity for Christians is the Church and the understanding of the existence of the deity. Among Christians, no identity can precede the understanding of the church hence within that context gender cannot be viewed as the determining factor when establishing the form of sex that is exhibiting moral standards (Smith 57). Christianity regards baptism by water as a means of becoming part of the religion and not based on gender.

The Christian religion focuses on portraying sex as a means of procreation and unity in marriage which calls for blurring as well as transcending of the various boundaries that exist in the self-identification approaches. In Christianity, sexual love is regarded as part of the process that assists in the creation of a united community of believers. The procreative aspect as adopted by Christianity aims at ensuring that the unitive view of each and every sexual relationship is made open to all members of the church with emphasis being made on marriage as a holy means of ushering people into sexual unity. Both Protestants and the Roman Catholics are shifting towards the theory of complementarity by adopting a common approach that the aspect of procreation should not be entirely identified with the aspect of reproduction. The theory lacks an ecclesial dimension since it is entirely gendered hence in conflict with the conservative Christianity. The theory further seems to marginalize the single people, gay, lesbian and the celibate (Schippert 76). Mutuality cannot be regarded as the best criteria for establishing moral sex as argued by the theologians of lesbianism.

The queer theory has been subjected to a number of criticisms in regard to its roles in religion. The theory seems to replicate various challenges that are found in other feminist or poststructuralist theoretical views to religion. The theory is far much withdrawn from praxis and being extremely biased as well as secular in nature. In some sections, the adoption of the terminology that seems to show deviant forms of sexuality and gender discourse is absurd and should not be applied at the center of the analytical approaches. For the people in the field of religion and religious studies, an interesting starting point is seen when the queer theory insists on showing resistance towards the generation of the normal (Hall, Mary, and Marshall 100).

It has been established by researchers in the field of religious studies that most of the queer theoretical works applies the Foucault’s skeptical stance in regards to the recent formation of power. They further seek to construct interventions that in other ways may show resistance towards the pervasive influence of aiming towards normalization of operations of various powers. As a result, a number of questions need to be taken into consideration. Such include determination of whether there can be set of ethics that are not implicated in the normativity or the effect domination. There is need to establish if there are some norms of combination of several norms that does not lead to the production or the abjection of others. In attempts to incorporate queer theory in the analysis of religion and sexual morality, Janet Jakobsen and Ann Pellegrini argued that there is need to love and embrace the sinner but hating the sin. In trying to defend their position as that of some Protestant Christian in which the theme of morality is veiled as liberal tolerance as well as secular sexual moral value, they indicated that tolerance is in sharp contrast to democracy and freedom. Their view has raised a number of questions regarding the applicability of their approach towards dealing with those perceived to be sinners. They draw their insights by taking a keen look into the interaction between religion and sexuality in the modern political speeches in the United States (Hall, Mary, and Marshall 94).  

Contention has further been raised in the study of religion in regards to the aspect of poststructuralist resistance towards voluntary agency as well as the critical attitude in relation to the materiality aspect that has been taken for granted. According to Judith Butler, materiality of the body is as a result of the regulatory regimes that arise due to heterosexuality. Sex in her view is a performativity which is initiated meaning hence it is far from being viewed as a natural fact or one of the existing classifications before the coming of cultural gender norms. Butler’s argument is seen as an approach towards new or a different approach to political beliefs even with the existence of various criticisms centered on materiality and identity. Butler makes a suggestion that in order to shift the various conceptions of how bodies are materialized there is need to allow power to operate in constrained manner so as to realize meaningful processes. The materialization of gender emerges not as a voluntary act but as a something that is being compelled by the extremely regulated patterns of behavior that exists within the boundaries of the heterosexual matrix (Smith 61).

Queer theory offers a challenge to people so that they can adopt critical thinking in their approach to religion and religious studies.  It further prompts human beings to develop critical thinking in regards to the existence of natural bodies as well as authentic selves. The selves forms part of the various mediated approaches in the ongoing activities of production as opposed to the specific identities as well as experiences that are as a result of networks of norms. Thus the content of queer theoretical approaches that seem to cause disruption to the various procedures is based on the shape of normative that occurs in given identifications.

One primary difference between the ideologies of the queer theory and religion is that while proponents of the theory do not have any problems with a person’s sexual orientation, Christianity tends to advocate for a particular way of having sex which should be heterosexual. Christians, based on the writing by Vasvari (11), consider the love between man and women to be more suitable and in line with God’s commandments unlike when individuals practice other forms of sexual conduct. Even though Christians do not openly show people who practice other forms of sexual acts that they do not advocate for such conduct, they feel that it would be right if every person practices sexual actions with the opposite sex. Christians believe that God’s sole purpose in creating both genders is to provide a partner for each group, and to allow procreation to take place (Vasvari 13). The Roman Catholic serves as a good example of a denomination which shows how the Church prohibits acts such as homosexual but still tolerates the people who practice such behaviors. The Church in Vatican, for example, realized that a good number of priests practiced homosexuality with even some engaging minors who can hardly protect their selves (Korte 7). The Church, however, did not discontinue the culprits but instead engaged them in a series of talks with the objective of transforming their deeds. The Church in this instance proves that even though it does not advocate for unique sexual behavior, it accepts that some persons have varying sexual desires and the best way to handle such people is to offer guidance that would help them lead a life that does not put them at the risk of encountering criticism or opposition.

A report by Korte (10) reveals that whereas proponents of the queer theory believe that unique sexual acts largely depend on a person’s genetic composition, religious teachings inform that God determines the character of every being. The two groups, nevertheless, share the same ideology that it is possible to overcome a unique sexual act using different means. Intersex scientists and scholars point out that engaging in a series of therapeutic interventions as well as genetic realignment can lead to the attainment of a normal condition (Korte 10). Believers on the other hand, abide to the idea that a person who has unique sexual desires such as lesbianism and being gay may overcome the condition by believing in God, and by developing the attitude that such acts do not conform to societal requirements. Korte (11) concludes by mentioning that even though it is possible to help victims abandon their way of life, there is no guarantee that these people will embrace the normal way of practicing sexual actions.

The queer theory considers victims of HIV/AIDS to be vulnerable, and therefore, advocates for extra care for these people and this is similar to the calling by religious groups. Hall, Mary, and Marshall (105) who offer insight on what proponents of the queer theory think about HIV argue that a common misconception exists that the disease occurs among persons who practice lesbianism or gay. The queer theory based on the findings by Hall, Mary, and Marshall (105) affirm that HIV can occur among other populations including bisexuals, heterosexuals, and transsexual, and that no one can escape from the condition when they expose themselves to the virus. The religious teachings pass a similar message that HIV/AIDS does not select the people who ought to contract the virus and that any person who becomes exposed to the virus will become sick. The groups that promote the queer theory emphasize that HIV victims deserve care and love just like other people, and religious groups share a similar opinion.


The government, organizations, and learning institutions should take the initiative to inform members of the community on the essence of staying together regardless of a person’s gender. The government, on its part, should carry out campaigns that inform members of the public about the essence of living together without considering the other’s gender and the features that come along with their identity. The governmental institutions should also put in place policies that restrict the discrimination of a particular community or population with violators getting punishment for their actions. The government, for instance, should place policies that prohibit the prejudice of lesbians or gays because such kinds of segregation result in conflicts that become difficult to control. Non-organizations on the other hand, should offer massive sensitization in the community on the importance of embracing all genders and the features that come along with the traits. Organizations that take control of the awareness programs should inform members of the community that a person’s sexual behavior does not make them any different from others which make it necessary to live in harmony with every person. Learning centers should also pay attention to subjects that inform members of the community the importance of living as one group regardless of one’s gender and sexual orientation. Lastly, instructors should inform that forming divisions based on certain features create disunity which may result in confrontations and disagreements.

Religious organizations should be on the forefront in abolishing the discrimination that exists between persons of different genders and sexual orientations. Religious leaders, for example, should inform believers that God created every person on equal terms and that it is wrong to disregard the other based on the traits that they cannot control. The groups in charge of religious activities should pass the message that individuals should take it upon their selves to help persons who have gender or sexual related problems rather than sidelining and showing them that they are unfit persons who cannot share similar ideologies with other persons who lead a normal life.

Every person should develop a change in the way they view the other to minimize instances where interpersonal conflicts hinder good relationship among members of the community. Schippert (72) asserts that change begins when every person decides to consider the other as being an equal human who deserves fair treatment. A person, according to the report by Schippert (72) can decide to embrace the change by simply deciding not to discriminate people who belong to other genders, and by respecting the sexual behaviors of other groups. Every person should take it upon their selves to acquire information that offer enlightenment on how to relate with other people, and these may include religious writings and scholarly publications on the queer theory.  

It is encouraging that feminists groups now come up with campaigns and programs that benefit fellow women and this creates the impression that women do not want to lag behind anymore in terms of socio-economic issues, as well as in political matters. Smith (54) hails feminist groups which inform women the importance of acquiring education and standing for their rights. Smith (54) further calls on the government to provide support to women’s organizations terming this as one of the ways of strengthening women’s participation in everyday matters. Smith (55) also commends organizations such as the Beyond Ex-Gay International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) which advocate for equality among persons of dissimilar sexual orientations, and call on stakeholders to keep on championing for their rights until members of the community accept them as being equally humans who deserve fair treatment and consideration.


Every person should learn from the queer theory as well as from religious teachings on the suitable ways to relate with others without considering their sexual orientation or the features that form part of their gender. Even though some contradictions exist between the queer theory and religion, they tend to pass a similar teaching that sexual orientation should not serve as a distinguishing factor because such segregation cause conflicts that become difficult to handle. Religious leaders should strive to eradicate the differences that exist between the two institutions (religion and the queer theory) to come up with common ideologies or erase the poor attitude some persons have about the feminine gender and individuals who live with unique sexual behaviors such as gays and lesbians. Finally, the government, non-governmental organizations, learning centers, and religious groups should take the initiative to create a positive image for every person without considering their natural form and behavior. Otherwise, prolonged differences may lead to consequences that have adverse implications on the victims and the entire society.

Works Cited

Hall, John, Neitz Mary, and Battani Marshall. Sociology on Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Korte, Anne-Marie. “Openings: A Genealogical Introduction to Religion and Gender.” Religion and Gender, vol. 1, no. 1, 2011, pp. 1-17.

Schippert, Claudia. “Implications of Queer Theory for the Study of Religion and Gender: Entering the Third Decade.” Religion and Gender, vol. 1, no. 1, 2011, pp. 66-84.

Smith, Andrea. “Queer Theory and Native Studies: The Heteronormativity of Settler Colonialism.” A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, vol. 16, no. 1, 2010, pp. 41-68.

Vasvari, Louise. “Queer Theory and Discourse of Desire.” CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture, vol. 8, no. 1, 2006, pp. 1-13.

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