Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Telling My Story (Follow-Up to OUTWORDS Interview) 2

As I think about the interview that OUTWORDS did with me on Saturday, it's impossible to disengage what I said in the interview from the attack my relative made on me on my Facebook page a few days before the interview, in which she said to me, "You queers make me sick," and then went on to talk about Jesus and the bible. As embodied beings, we think within a real-world, social context that involves human relationships, and our thinking is shaped by our interactions within that real-world context.

The interview — and my relative's hateful attack on me — leave me with questions: to wit, What, when all is said and done, really is the significance of anything I say here, of my testimony to the grace that I've found in my life as a gay man and in my marital relationship with another man? None of this means anything at all to people like my relative, and those people are to be found in abundance in the world around us — and especially in the churches. The kind of homophobic hate my cousin dumped on my head is in evidence on an everyday basis on Catholic blog and journalism sites, including so-called "liberal" and gay-affirming ones. I do not count for people like my relative or homophobic people haunting Catholic blog sites to pour homophobic venom into Catholic discussions of LGBTQ lives, and I will never count, no matter what I do, say, or accomplish — or give to her, to other family members who choose to behave as she does, or to the Catholic community.

Because I know one cannot "fix" people who choose to hate in this way, and since so-called "liberal" and gay-affirming ones in the context of the churches almost never seem to rise up to silence these folks and tell them that they are absolutely misrepresenting Jesus and the gospels, a big part of me wants to withdraw, live what's left of my life in peace. I'm over the hill, tired, and seem not have made a dent in any of this by speaking out here and elsewhere.

But then there are LGBTQ young people who need to be considered. I ended my OUTWORDS interview talking about them. If I fall silent and other people like me do the same, who's going to be there to offer them the bits and pieces of wisdom those of us who live long sometimes gather along the way?

As I say this, I'm thinking quite specifically of lessons I've learned in my struggle over many years to be true to myself as a gay man, and to my longstanding marital relationship. One of those lessons is that you cannot predict who is going to accept and support you when you come out. You can predict that people like my relative will vent hate against you, because hate is what that relative is, sad to say, all about.

Her homophobic hatred is only the tip of the iceberg. Underneath it lies deep racial hatred, and I incurred her wrath during the 2016 elections by refusing to let her vent that racial hatred on my Facebook page. I've added to my list of sins, in her eyes, by critiquing the reality t.v. star she wanted to place in the White House as a slap in the face to everyone who voted for and supported the nation's first African-American president.

You can predict that some kinds of people will not love you when you come out (though you can also be very wrong about your expectations, and in fairness to others and yourself, you should always leave room for the unexpected as you relate to others). Some people, people you had counted on to support you, will definitely surprise you. I've been been very surprised at the total lack of support I and others like me have received from the liberal-educated wing of the American Catholic church.

By the people with whom I studied theology, many of them priests and religious who have never walked through any struggles at all as they have sought to find and retain jobs in Catholic institutions, people for whom every institutional door has opened, but who cannot seem to find it in their hearts to move from their experiences of privilege to sympathetic solidarity with those of us whose experience of their church has been so very different . . . . One expects people who have been given much to have hearts made larger due to the many perks they've received.

If I have any advice to give young LGBTQ folks struggling to come out, especially against a religious backdrop of any sort, it's to prepare to be surprised. Some people you counted on not to love and accept you will suprise you by embracing you. Others you counted on to care about you will drop you like a hot potato and go on with their lives as if you have ceased to exist — often, in the American Catholic context, with their vocational lives of talking about God's all-embracing love, about the need to build bridges to marginal communities, and about the call of the church to defend human rights and those on the margins of society.

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