As an atheist, it’s an interesting challenge to talk about LGBT issues that relate to religion. Often, I feel like I have to wear two different hats when discussing these issues, even though the antagonist never changes. I wrote last month about the invisibility of nonbelievers at Creating Change and throughout the queer movement; the tendency is to try to use religious privilege rather than dismantle it. When discussing LGBT issues, it’s still proper etiquette to respect pander to people’s religious beliefs, acknowledging that even queer people can be religious delusional. It doesn’t matter how absurd the beliefs are nor how anti-gay the religious organization in question is, the movement supports people in their faith is afraid to confront religious organizations with the cold and hard truth of our identities.
So, believe it or not, I actually find myself trying to be tame when these issues come up. I want to be respected as an LGBT activist; in fact, I want to make a living as an advocate, so I walk that fine line. Potential employers and colleagues surely read this site from time to time; how many might think me “unprofessional” because I take the “controversial” perspective that spirituality needs to be challenged instead of reinforced? I wouldn’t say I’ve ever censored myself, but I have definitely bitten my tongue at times (or whatever the comparable blogging metaphor would be). Today, I thought I would offer a peek at how I really think about these issues when they come up.
You might recall the recent story about a Catholic preschool that kicked out a student for having lesbian parents. It caught my attention, especially when Bill O’Reilly was willing to defend the student and challenged the Church. It was easy to reprimand the Church for this decision, and I went out of my way to make it clear my problem is with the Church, not necessarily all Catholics. This is what I said:
Do I hate all people who identify as Catholic? No. In fact, I really try hard not to hate any people.
Do I think all people who identify as Catholic are accountable for the actions of the Church that they support with their membership and tithing? Yes.
You can distinguish yourself and your beliefs from the Church all you want folks, but if you still leave a dollar in the basket at Mass, you are part of the problem. You are responsible for these actions and attitudes.
The question in the back of my mind this whole time though has been: What’s up with those lesbians sending their kid to a Catholic school? Is it the only nearby option or something? Sure, the Church’s actions are reprehensible, but no one’s surprised by that. The scorpion always stings the turtle; it’s its nature. So why did the couple get themselves into this mess? But, like a “good” activist, I didn’t go there; it’s all about respecting people’s own faith, remember?
Well, today the couple has spoken out about the incident, and I’m ready to call them out on their nonsense. You can read the full press release on Towleroad, but I will just be citing some excerpts. They start by telling us a little bit about their rosy little Colorado life.
We are not activists by nature. You have never seen us at protests or marching in parades. Up until this point, we have taken the typical passive approach of voting for candidates that represent our viewpoints and directing our charitable donations to organizations whose missions we support. We live in a liberal community, where we have always felt safe, comfortable, and accepted.
You know what? Not every gay person needs to be a gay activist. In fact, the ideal is a society in which no one has to be a gay activist. But, the people who currently don’t speak out or take action stand on the shoulders of those who do. It’s nice to see a same-sex couple leading a normal comfortable life, but that is not the reality for many people in this country. I don’t pity this family for their “ignorance is bliss” lifestyle. Much as they might like to pretend, they are not immune to all the bigotry in our society, and the crap they’re dealing with should be a wake-up call that they can’t just ignore the troubles of the world. (Spend too long at the Cabaret and you won’t realize the Nazis are taking over.) As we’ll see from the rest of the statement, all they care about is getting pity for their own self-destructive decisions.
We went to enroll our oldest child in kindergarten at Sacred Heart of Jesus School, and were told that our children would not be welcome to continue their education there long term because of our sexual orientation. This came as a shock to us because our children had been attending preschool at Sacred Heart for three years.
You read that right. This couple has already been subjecting their children to Catholic doctrine for years and are eager to continue doing so.
We were told that families and students need to uphold church doctrine in order for children to be admitted. We were also told that our children would feel uncomfortable when taught about the “family unit”, and teachers might feel too intimidated by their presence to teach church beliefs.
Ummm… are you surprised? The Catholic Church only has one answer to the question, and they stick to it and dismiss any challenge to it. It’s clearly narrow-minded, and your family clearly doesn’t abide by it. What did you expect?
Regarding the school’s teaching about the ‘family unit’, we are unconcerned. Our children know that their family is different than most. They are well aware that many families have a mom and a dad, and we discuss different family models openly.
Seriously, how blinded by faith do you have to be to condone your kids being taught that their own family is wrong? That’s not the same as being taught about different kinds of families of equal value; that’s being taught values that conflict with the children’s own family structure.
Perhaps our biggest objection to the School’s decision is that we think that it is wrong to punish a child for who the child’s parents are. We do not think that this reflects what Jesus would have done. Jesus said, “bring the children to me.”
Of course he said that. You gotta brainwash the kids before those darn concrete reasoning skills develop! But honestly, I think the parents are just as accountable for this “punishment.” They are the ones forcing their kids to buy into a set of unfounded beliefs that condemn their own moms. That doesn’t confuse a kid: “Hey, hun, you have to fear this God and buy into everything the Church teaches and then he will shower you with love. Oh, but when we die, we’re going to Hell, so even though Catholicism will help you get into Heaven, you’ll never see us again… unless, of course, you turn out to be gay too, because then we can all spend an eternity in Hell together!”
It’s cruelty as far as I’m concerned. That scares a kid.
And it gets worse.
Some have suggested that we enrolled our children at Sacred Heart to make a political point. This could not be further from the truth. We were both born and raised in the Catholic faith. One of us went to Catholic school from preschool through high school, and the other attended a prestigious Catholic University. Our children’s grandmother and aunt were catholic school teachers for many years.
My mom used to say something about if everyone else jumped off a cliff, but here’s the kicker:
Furthermore, our children are Catholics. They have both been baptized, and we take them to church regularly at Sacred Heart. When we were allowed to have our children baptized (as recommended by the 2006 document ‘Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care’), we made a promise to raise our children in the Catholic faith.
No, ladies, they are not. Your children are not Catholics. They are children of Catholic parents. They were baptized without consent, they have been indoctrinated without consent, and they have been labeled without any opportunity to think for themselves or identify themselves. That, as far as I am concerned, is child abuse. Parental rights, my ass. It’s brainwashing and it’s despicable.
Although we do not see eye to eye with the Catholic Church on the issue of gay and lesbian relationships, we value what a Catholic education can offer our children from an academic, religious, and moral standpoint. As parents, our number one priority is and always has been the well-being of our children. We would never intentionally seek to further our own political beliefs at their expense.
I’ve got news for you, ladies. That is exactly what you are doing by forcing Catholicism upon them! You are giving money to an organization that regularly campaigns against your own rights to encourage your children to buy into the same load of homophobic bollocks just because it’s your personal prerogative to have their brainwashing match your own. You’d prefer they contribute to condemning gays and spend their lives fearing Hell. I can’t think of anything more selfish and less considerate for the well-being of your children.
Clearly this is an issue that strikes a nerve for many people. If any good can come out of all of this, perhaps it is getting people thinking and discussing issues of faith and sexual orientation. Our case is not unique. There are many other gay couples who have families and are struggling to reconcile their sexual orientation with their religious beliefs. We do not believe that homosexuality and organized religion need to be mutually exclusive. We have been touched by the outpouring of support from the Sacred Heart community and the community at large. Many of the people who stood up for us publicly did so at some risk to themselves and their families. We are humbled by their courage. We hope that in the future when we witness an injustice, we are brave enough to stand up to it like so many people did for us.
This is exactly what I was talking about at the top of this post. No one in the movement will speak out about this issue by condemning the Church outright, nor will they join me in calling out the lesbian couple at the heart of it. Too much hope is invested in changing the Church from within, regardless of how much damage it does in the meantime. But nooooo, we can’t call the Church out on their absolute bullshit, we just have to recognize that people struggle and support them in their faith. It’s pathetic, and I think it shows just how weak and scared the gay movement continues to be in the face of condemnation by religion. When psychologists condemned us, people lashed out, but religion gets a free ride. It’s wrong.
We never intended consciously for our family to be active gay rights advocates, but by living happy, successful lives it appears that is what we have become. We will continue to raise our children with strong Catholic values and hold faith that through our actions, we are doing our part to create a more loving, inclusive world.
As far as I’m concerned, you ladies are not gay rights advocates. You are spoiled by the comforts you have in your lives and you continue to support an organization both in words and financial contributions that inhibits many of the rest of us from accessing the same privileges. If anything, you are hurting our movement and your own family with your actions. You brought this all upon yourselves by buying into the nonsense of Catholicism and forcing it upon your children.
If anybody else wants to step in and defend this family, go ahead, but they will get no pity or respect from me. They’ve done nothing to deserve it.