Beyond Surviving

Beyond Surviving: From Religious Oppression to Queer Activism

Beyond Surviving: From Religious Oppression to Queer Activism is now on sale.  Joshua’s new book openly discusses how sexuality and religion collide in the lives of students. This internal and external conflict greatly affects the lives of many, yet it is rarely discussed.

Beyond Surviving: From Religious Oppression to Queer Activism vividly brings voice to the stories of Christian students in same-sex relationships as they encountered oppression, adolescence, first-love, and then a passion for social justice. Each of the students had early experiences related to family, religious, and educational socialization, which framed the ways in which they experienced their same-sex relationships as high school and college students.  Although there were many positive outcomes of being in a same-sex relationship as a youth, all of the participants described internal and external conflicts that they had to manage and overcome. These stories are filled with attempts of suicide, physical and verbal abuse, isolation, loneliness, depression, and hospitalizations; moreover, they are also filled with triumph, self-realizations, community building, and the development of powerful queer leaders. These students turned their oppressive experiences into fuel for queer activism. Each student’s story is unique, heart breaking, and charged with unrelenting perseverance. The conflicts described related to seeking family support, having to hide relationships, seeking community acceptance, deconstructing socialization, and doubting the morality of the relationship.

Readers will quickly be captivated by the students’ vulnerability, hope, and passion to help others. Tyler forgiving his mom after she violently attacked him and institutionalized him will bring tears of sadness and hope. Donald’s decision to not take his life in order to be an example for his nephew demonstrates his selfless commitment to serving others. He Jooni’s persistence in finding a church community that does not condemn her will allow readers to understand the complications of finding a religious community. Mark’s story brings light to the challenges people face as they attempt to figure out how their African-American heritage, Christian religion, and sexuality fit in their lives. Eric describes his transition from getting an exorcism, to protesting Christian colleges, and then an Ivy League religious studies program. Readers will close this book with new understandings of the diverse struggles people face resolving how their religion, spirituality, and sexuality fit within their lives. Moreover, readers will be inspired to embrace challenges and fight to change the society they live in rather than change themselves to fit society.

As each student struggled to overcome internal and external conflicts they relied on a variety of institutional and individual resources, which provided support to them as they attempted to resolve challenges with their religious, spiritual, and sexual identities. Some institutional support systems included university lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) campus centers and student organizations, supportive and well-informed counselors, and openly affirming churches. Some of the individual support systems included university student affairs staff members, close friends, wellness and stress management events, and media venues that positively portrayed non-heterosexual people. These students did more than just wait for it to get better or just survive the oppression they faced from families, schools, the LGBT community, and religious institutions; they thrived as community and educational leaders. Through their pain they triumphed to inspire others to overcome obstacles and create change in their communities.

 

Book Reviews

Johnson’s unique approach to examining the areas of Christianity and same-sex relationships fills an important gap, these two areas rarely converge in research.  He broadens the discussion by bringing together discourse on queer identity, mental health, spirituality, physical and emotional abuse.  The narratives alone constitute a powerful testimony of survival and dynamism in our social system.  Beyond Surviving is beautifully written.
Emily Prieto, Ph.D., Director, Latino Resource Center, Northern Illinois University
Johnson’s new book portrays the struggles of students in same-sex relationships in a powerful and moving way through personal stories–exploring students’ internal and external conflicts, vulnerability, pain, self-realization, hope, and, yes, triumph. Educators will better understand the multiple dynamics at play in the conflict between religious and sexual identity as well as the resources necessary to support students. Everyone who reads Beyond Surviving will be inspired to push for their communities to be more welcoming and inclusive for all.
Michael D. Young, Ph.D., Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, University of California, Santa Barbara
For people raised in Christian or other religious traditions who find themselves distancing themselves from this identity as they begin coming out and cultivating intimate relationships, this book provides unique testaments to the struggle and triumph of LGBTQ Christians on our campuses. Beyond Surviving provides hope that we as an LGBTQ community can heal and embrace religion and spirituality as an important aspect of holistic well-being.
Raja Bhattar, Director, LGBT Campus Resource Center, UCLA
This book is filled with stories of healing and reconciliation.  As I reflect on my own journey, it is good to see that everyday we are becoming increasingly aware of the need to heal and reconcile our sexuality and faith at a very young age. May we all embrace continual healing as we read this incredible work.
Rev. Samuel R. Offer, Unity Fellowship Church, Baltimore Vice President, Washington Consulting Group