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Essa Flett shares Jesus at the Gay Bar:

Queerness, Pride Flags & Growing Up In the Church...

It’s Pride month. 

My mother texts me a photo of the rainbow flags she’s just finished hanging in the garden.

“We’ve found bunting for the bannister inside, too!” 

The house is, indeed, decorated enthusiastically in queer fabric.

“I love it!” I text back. I do.

I know I’m fortunate, to have a parent like this - and yet, when I tell new friends and acquaintances about my mother’s profession, I see their faces shift as they immediately adjust their expectations of a woman they’ve never personally met. 

My mother is a lay reader for the Church of Scotland. 

For so many queer people, organised religion is still a source of deep trauma. 

For me, it’s a little more complicated than that. 

Looking back on my own childhood, Christianity is a mash-up playlist of best hits and bottom-rack misses. Sweets snuck my way from the choir stall, and reading in the belfry; summer camps where sports were compulsory, and so was saving your heathen friends from hell. Sunday School hang-outs, and volunteering at church weekends; anti-abortion talking points, and that one time I was told not to make a fuss about the issue of homosexuality.

The Christianity of my adolescence felt harmless, heartwarming, the church somewhere I belonged. 

And yet, looking back through my teenage diaries, I now see a great deal of anxiety and stress as my rational mind began to chafe against the ideology which had held my understanding of the world together in such comfortingly neat ways. 

Jesus at the Gay Bar (Jay Hulme) is a poem which takes Mark 5: 25-34 and turns it on its head. Rather than proving Himself radical by curing a common woman of her disease, Jesus proves Himself more radical still by proclaiming to this queer boy that he needs no cure in the first place. He is made in God’s image. He is already whole. 

It is this Jesus that I see in my mother’s Pride flags, hung next to books about feminist divinity and anti-colonial re-imaginings of scripture.

It is this Jesus I see in the Church of Scotland’s 2022 decision to allow its ministers to officiate same-sex marriage, and its recent affirmation last month that “Transgender people are loved by God and welcome in the Church”.

It is this Jesus I see the inclusive ministerial practices of worship leaders such as Reverend Shuna Dicks (Cults Parish Church), and of all ministers who understand that Christianity has always been a religion for those who society deem to be other.

I may not identify as Christian these days, but the radical love of Jesus is a love in which I will always believe. 

Can you see Him? Spinning there still, underneath a disco ball of a thousand dazzling lights?


He sees my mother’s rainbow flags, put up with so much care, and He smiles. 

Some of His children got the message, after all. 


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