A tension I think we should address early in this discussion (and return to again and again): there is a dilemma between the desire to be formed into whole, integrated, loving humans, and the need to accept ourselves in all our messy, conflicted, embodied selves, just as we are.
The queer community leans (in rhetoric at least) toward the latter of these, but this is probably an understandable reaction against a culture which emphasized a version of the former: against change, assimilation, “norms,” we choose to emphasize difference, individuality, the worth of humans just as they are.
I think these are important to hold together. During my years of ministry, I found again and again that the people most likely to sign up for a class on spiritual formation were those who most needed to chill out and accept themselves, to discover their ultimate, unconditional belonging. The very drive to “growth” is often an expression of a deep discomfort with our humanity, a desperate bid for the control of perfectionism.
But on the other hand, “accepting yourself” should, at it best, include accepting the potentiality that lies within you for virtues (love, joy, peace, patience, etc.) that are not yet developed as they could be. The writer does not “accept herself” in never sitting down to put words to paper; the runner does not “accept himself” in being out of shape; the musician does not “accept themselves” as unable to play scales. They practice. And while this certainly can be done out of self-recrimination, driven by shame, it need not and in fact should not be. Rather, the one who accepts themselves most deeply envisions a future where their capacities develop onward and outward, and their very self-acceptance gives them bravery to risk the failures and missteps along they way.
When we talk about “growth” and “formation” there is a temptation to gravitate toward a set of metaphors: pure/clean/perfect/right against impure/dirty/failed/wrong. I think these are the wrong constellations of images. Rather, formation is about development/self-discovery/flourishing/creativity/love as against stagnation/hiddenness/languishing/withdrawal/shame (with a healthy acknowledgement that this latter set of images may be part of our experience along the way to health, not an enemy to be overcome but ground to tread reverently).
So the first work in formation is to reconsider what it is to be formed. It is not to reject our messy, human, individual selves, but to love those selves so deeply that we believe that deep virtues can take root in the soil of our lives and bear fruit, ten, twenty, a hundredfold.
This all being said, I think that formation needs the queer as much as the queer need formation. For there is a gravitational pull, in any movement that aims to help people develop into integrated healthy flourishing humans, toward perfectionism, external assimilation to norms, and rejection of difference. Observe the history of any spiritual movement gathered around a teacher, guru, or saint, and you will see the progression from enlightenment to outlining a moral code to obeying rigid structures to pantomiming a dead orthodoxy. Part of the reason this happens is that we mistake the external, particular form in which healthy, whole creative life is expressed, for the substance. We think the magic is in the actions, or in the cultural forms, or in the texts, or in the structures, when they were mere containers.
So any attempt at formation needs the presence of the queer — the person for whom those structures or forms do not work, but who is nonetheless unmistakably good and whole. We need those persons who disrupt our image of wholeness with their individual difference.
Somehow these two things — queerness and the aim to form humans into flourishing selves — must be held together.