CONFESSIONS OF A QUEER CATHOLIC
A GIRL NEVER FORGETS HER FIRST LESBIAN.
I was 19 - a mere months out of high school and many miles from home. She was part of my college I had worked so hard to get into - poured my heart and soul into - standing in the scarred halls with a shaved head and colored lips and piercings and painted eyes. She invited me to sit with a gaggle of other college kids at the table - and me - the shy Catholic girl, cautiously did, feeling the press of my scapular against my breast.
I had never seen a queer person so comfortable and out before that time, not that I picked up on anything at first, or that looks define your liking. All of the information that I know now, came with time, the new group of friends taking a spoon to gently crack the sweet innocent mold that had grown around me in my upbringing. They didn’t laugh at my naïvety, tease me for not knowing the context of shared adult jokes, what masturbation was, the idea of bisexuality, polyamory, lesbianism, gay and trans rights, transitioning, of being queer, the concept of gender, or knowing about causes they felt to support.
That group of college kids placed the cracks in my shell to break into a wider world I had not yet known. And I thank God for knowing them.
I’m not the same person I was at 19. I don’t think anyone is, in retrospect. The ideas and beliefs I held have evolved with me. Being a queer Catholic seems like a contrast of interest, if that’s the case, I’d safely state I’m a walking contradiction. Growing up in the Catholic Church with its nuances has had an impact on the stunted development of my own set of beliefs, instead of the expectations of my elders.
The idea of Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, Holy Communion, Jesus Christ, the Saints, and Holy Mother Mary, live alongside the rights towards all of God’s children. (Yes, even the right to choose.) Things shift in this heart of mine and some things are still learning to make room for the other - but such is the growing pain of growing into your own person and out of the mold of hopeful expectations.
It is no secret that the rights and lifestyles of the LGBTQ+ community have been challenged, disputed, and spat on by faith for years beyond what anyone’s grandfather’s grandmother can remember. Phobia towards the LGBTQ+ community runs rampant in a group of siblings in Christ who are suppose to love and accept each other as they are. What some Catholic’s forget is their own history of drawing half of a fish in the sand, in an effort to seek other Catholics and avoid being persecuted. These symbols are now mainstream and plastered proudly to the back of mini vans and aging Hondas. The risk of being thrown to a pit of lions is gone, but the danger of being thrown to people is still present and pressing. The idea of homelessness, disownment, abuse, and even death towards members in the LGBTQ+ community committed by their own family in faith, make closets seem more comfortable than they really are. Part of me prays that such a misfortune will never happen to me when my family is eventually made aware of my own suffocating closet, but a part of me knows prayer won’t change anything. God’s plan and all that (at least, that’s what I’m told.) Sometimes, when I’m feeling bitter, I wonder if He likes to make things up as he goes along.
Where can a queer Catholic turn to for spiritual support, if not their own community? First, I take inspiration from people before me: the Saints. The idea of someone being on your side, having struggled in life as a mortal person and interceding for your behalf in Heaven, is comforting. Queer icons in saints include people like the well known, ambiguously dressed, Joan of Arc to the arrow strewn Saint Sebastian, who inspired many homoerotic artworks, and is an unofficial gay icon to many people coming from Christian imprinted backgrounds. The second spiritual support I’ve found in life are the trusted people and friends with me here and now. In the years of navigating my faith and sexuality, their love and support for being my real authentic self, has been felt most of all.
Brothers, Sisters, and Siblings in Christ: Saying all of this, I know these thoughts and feelings about faith is not applicable for everyone. You don’t have to have faith in a higher being to be a good person. Actions speak louder than angry “Ask Me Why You’re Burning in Hell” Proclamations and picket signs. The Church (with a capital C) has cut some of its members deeper than any words in prayer can hope to heal and, if this is you, know this: you are not alone in this wide world. I may not know you and your struggles, but I am glad you are here in this world with me today, tomorrow, and in the days to come. There are things to live and fight for together: The greatest of these is Love.