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Queer artist Semler makes waves in Christian music genre

Posted at 7:29 PM, May 31, 2022

While they don’t consider themselves a Christian artist, singer Semler, who identifies as non-binary, made their way to number one on the iTunes Christian music charts.

"I never really talked about my faith," Semler said. "It was something I buried for a long time because I wasn't ready to unpack it."

Their album, titled "Preacher's Kid," is based on their experiences growing up as the queer child of an episcopal priest.

"I was raised and conditioned in a society and church culture that was pretty, I would say vague, or sort of treated LGBTQ people as like this taboo thing that we're not going to talk about," Semler said.

That subtle rejection bleeds through in songs like "Youth Group," which notes "Be kind to yourself. Take care of that kid. You're not what they said about you."

"The music that pours out of me is this expression of belief and doubt and complicated feelings about my upbringing, but also this divine sense of peace that I'm trying to cultivate in my life," Semler said.

While the reception has been good for Semler in some circles, you won’t hear them on contemporary Christian music stations. Online debates have sparked conversation over what actually makes Christian music.

"That's what makes me lose my mind with Christian music," Semler said. "It is so sanitized, and I think having faith is something that's really rich, but it's complicated, it's messy, it's funny."

They say the younger generation demands rawness. Fellow artists like Andy Mineo and Lecrae have taken on topics like mental illness, racism and politics — often to the rejection of some Christian fans. 

In 2016, former Everyday Sunday singer Trey Pearson told fans he was gay. The band broke up shortly after.

According to data comprised by UCLA's Williams Institute, about 40% of LGBT adults ages 18-34 are religious.

The majority of Christian denominations have grown in their acceptance of gay marriage. Black Protestants remain among the lowest along with white Evangelicals, according to a survey from the Public Religion Research Institute.

Disagreements over the LGTBQ community's place inside church leadership has led to splits in denominations.

In May, a schism in the United Methodist Church led to the formation of the Conservative Global Methodist Church.  

Semler says they accept their music isn’t for everyone. 

"I think the 'Preachers Kid' does resonate especially well with other preacher's kids, but I think the notion of being kind to yourself and that you are worthy of love, care and tenderness that perhaps you didn't receive in your childhood is a more universal sentiment," Semler said.

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