HBO’s documentary “We’re Here” focused on an interfaith coalition of leaders fighting homophobia, particularly in the LGBT community.
In the film, the Rev. Tina Turner, an African American pastor, doesn’t shy away from some of the harder truths of homosexuality.
“The LGBTQ community is two centuries old and we’re still learning,” she says in the movie. “We’re just starting to learn who we are, and we need to know that from the inside out. If you’re going to be found, you need to be found by yourself.”
Saying the church “doesn’t understand us,” Turner, who is straight, says she wants to “speak out and say, ‘We are black, black, black. We are Indian, Indian, Indian. We are so many different things in different ways, but we are black.’”
Turner, who is also lesbian, is shown in a scene sitting in a church sanctuary, wearing drag with her husband in a support group. (The movie was executive produced by Jennifer Lopez, who’s also a co-star of Turner’s in the upcoming film “Second Act,” due out in early 2019.)
People are very used to seeing pastors like Turner and others such as the Rev. Jim Garlow and the Rev. Sam Harris wear women’s clothes on stage or in robes as they lead their congregations, and for me, those outfits are very important to the church.
I don’t wear them every Sunday and don’t see their point of view, but I do when I see them worship as women — like the time I went to church and heard Turner preach.
That style of worship fit me in a way that I can identify with their message because I was raised in the South Baptist Church in the 1970s, where women were just appointed to church leadership positions.
It took a while for people to see it, but when they saw it, it felt like they were actually hearing a female pastor as much as a black pastor.
Perhaps that’s because Turner was ordained a priest, and the Episcopal Church didn’t ordain women as priests until 1976. Many Baptist pastors stayed in their jobs only if they left their churches to do the same thing.
Turner told the New York Times that her style of worship does not exist in all Baptist churches.
“I don’t think women who were ordained as priests have that option. Some women have the option of not being ordained. It’s a Catholic thing, too,” she said.
Baptist pastors are called to the pulpit and call the shots and want the congregation to do the same. They get paid $15,000 a year or more, but there’s no opportunity for higher education, as Turner said.
I myself would not have been able to do what Turner did, despite growing up in a place where racism was taken as a given. I have a very different view of it than Turner does because growing up, I didn’t even really see black people as being, well, black.
There was one black person I knew who was a pastor, but he led an all-white church. The “culturally marginalized” were never at the heart of what was going on, and yet they were impacted by it in a way that Turner expressed in the documentary.
And we just aren’t good at processing how “other” other races can be. Our worlds are very narrow and everyone just fits into our boxes.
But when Turner wears that kind of drag, it has a different impact.
She seems different, and that comes across as important to people of other races.