Posted: 19 Nov. 2020 05 min. read

Reflections on the intersection of LGBTI+ inclusion and faith

Josephine McDonnell Inkpin is a lecturer in church history, a senior tutor at St Francis (Theological) College Brisbane and writes and researches across a broad range of Christian historical and theological issues. As one of our Outstanding 50 LGBTI+ Leaders of 2020 Josephine shares her experience at the intersection of LGBTI+ inclusion and faith, and how we can all learn by giving space to all marginalised communities.

LGBTI+ inclusion and visibility: We need to develop stronger intersectional understandings and commitments to one another—including listening to, and giving space to the more marginalised among us, and refusing to fall into binaries such as 'LGBTI+ people versus people of faith', which not only incites violence to the realities of those who are both, but plays into the hands of those who would use such simplistic divisions to strengthen themselves.

Tokenism—or what great Christian theologians call 'cheap grace' is far too easy.  Organisations make a real difference when they don't just put rainbow or LGBTI+ stickers on their work and developments, but seriously commit to change. They can do this, by making clear and resourced statements of affirmation, enabling education of themselves at every level, and resourcing with time and money. 

How has bringing your whole self to work shaped your career?
Bringing my whole self to work makes me happier, and more capable of fruitfulness and constructive partnerships with others. In the wider faith sphere I inhabit, it does also mean I am now a much greater target for attack. I look forward to the day when, in every walk of life, our identities are not questioned or used as sources of privilege or denigration.

On inclusive leadership:
Being an inclusive leader is about embodying the respect and value that we all deserve, and which will enable us all to grow fully. I seek to recognise my own privileges and not hog the floor; to highlight and engage the contributions of others in what I say, write and do; to make space for others by supporting them in sharing their own voices and building strong advocacy and support structures; and to be open to new insights, relationships, and ways of doing things.

Can you share a story with us that has made the most impact on you during your LGBTI+ journey?
The walls finally came down on my gender identity struggles when, on a long-haul flight, I watched a French film centred on a transgender person emerging into her own authenticity. The film included scenes of death—particularly that of the trans woman's partner and with her laid out in a coffin, tenderly but tragically attended to for her funeral.  ‘What will you make of your life?’, the film screamed within me, and ‘will you only live death-bearing?’

This vital existential, and profoundly spiritual moment drove me out of the narrowing passageway of death in which I was ever more enclosed. It remains real on a wider level for us all: what will we do with 'our one wild life' and how will help others live theirs?

Not everyone has the confidence or support (whether that be from family or colleagues) to be themselves at work – what advice would you give to them? 
Above all, I would encourage someone lacking confidence or support to know they are infinitely loved and loveable, as unique precious gifts to themselves and others. Practically speaking, I would also encourage them to look around for others who they can walk and grow with, or who can point them in the right direction. Ultimately, my faith's main message is repeatedly ‘do not fear for love conquers'. Finding that trust in life can blossom wonderfully, however tough times are now.

Words to describe me:
Passionate, sensitive, creative.

Josephine is one of our Outstanding 50 LGBTI+ Leaders of 2020 – a list that recognises and celebrates the many LGBTI+ role models in business and across our community. For more on our inspirational LGBTI+ leaders, visit our Outstanding 50 webpage.

More about the author

Jade Fosberry

Jade Fosberry

Communications Manager, ICS, MCBD

Jade Fosberry leads communications for Inclusion, Diversity and Wellbeing, within Deloitte’s Corporate Affairs and Communications team. Jade is passionate about storytelling and believes in the power of a compelling story to effect real change.