It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that the faith which once saved my life has made others want to end theirs.
Barb connected me with a program to help pay for counselling when my anxieties made me suicidal at the age of 19. She drove me to and from church and helped me get involved with a group of Christians my own age, who helped me discern what I wanted to do and then find the courage to move to Fredericton to go to STU a year later.
I remember being invited to her birthday party, and how much Barb fretted about whether or not she should invite all of her friends. She had friends from the LGBTQ community, and friends from a Christian fellowship group at York University where she was a student, and friends from the church we both attended. She was worried about her friends from the fellowship group being unkind or rude to her friends from the LGBTQ community.
Sara was my supervisor for the two wonderful summers I spent working at WindReach Farm. It’s a charity in Ontario which strives to enrich the lives of people with disabilities and other special needs. She taught me more fun facts about cows than I ever thought I would need to know, and swapped her office work for some of the outside stuff I was supposed to do when I broke my foot. Sara helped me learn to direct my questions and conversation to our clients, not their support staff, and taught me quite a lot about finding the humour in everyday life.
One day over lunch, we were talking about coming out and the difficulties of accepting yourself for who you are. Sara told me a story about an essay she had written during university about tomatoes. It was about how it didn’t know if it was a fruit or a vegetable, and how confused and lonely it felt because it wasn’t like the carrots, but it wasn’t like the strawberries either.
More recently, I had a conversation with a young woman who told me about the difficulty of being hated by someone who is supposed to love you unconditionally, and of people wanting you to be happy, but in the way they want.
All three of these women are lesbians. They have all taught me things about myself and about the world, and strengthened my faith in different ways. I admire them for their strength of character and for the deep-rooted compassion I have always understood as being integral to each of them.
The catechism says “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”
I can never claim to understand how hard it is to be gay and in the church, or gay and in the world. All I can do, and what I will be doing much more, is defend the right of my LGBTQ friends to navigate their relationship with God without hindrance caused by cruelty, intended or not, by the Christian community around me.
We are not called to judge them for being homosexual, whether we believe it to be disordered or not (and in this regard, I find myself again at odds with Catholic teaching.) We are called to accept and love them as they are. To make them feel welcome.
I am not leaving the church because of my beliefs about how gay people should be treated. I remain, so by my presence, my actions, and my words it can be made a safer space. And maybe one day, things will change.