It’s that time of year again. The beginning of summer marks the time of year when every major city hosts its LGBT Pride Parade. The cities will explode in a malatov cocktail combination of pink confetti, diva music, and pinatas filled with condoms. Or so I’ve heard.
For the first time I will be participating in the festivities. Not because for the first time in my life, I’m gay. (I’ve been gay since I had That’s the Way It Is by Celine Dion on a loop in my cd player in 1999.) But no, instead for the first time in my life, I’m verging on something adjacent to pride when it comes to my sexuality.
For the longest time, I didn’t know what that meant. How could someone be proud of their sexuality? Did straight people walk around proud of the fact that they wanted to have heterosexual intercourse? Unlikely. But if so, I’d like to see what their parade consists of. Instead of molly-infused gay disco raves, possibly the straight floats would have women who talked about their day and painted their nails while their husbands sat alongside them on couches watching sports and sticking their hand down their pants.
It would definitely be a fall event to celebrate football and pumpkin spiced lattes.
But really what was there to be proud of when it came to sexuality at all? It is an uncontrollable fact bestowed upon each of us. It’s like celebrating my red hair or the fact I have freckles. Those don’t bring me a sense of pride. They’re just facts. I’m proud of accomplishments. My graduation from college, my job, the relationships I’ve built with those around me, my dedication to watch all of season 2 of True Detective no matter how bad it got. Those required work.
My gayness didn’t require work. It required being born.
But then I thought again.
I grew up in a traditional Boston, Irish-Catholic family. My mom is the principal of a Catholic school. My grandparents traveled over directly from Ireland. I’ve only ever missed two Sunday masses since I was eight. Once because I was sick and the other time the church secretary gave me the wrong mass times. That’s the level we’re talking.
I’ve loved the faith since I can remember. That’s why a few years ago, in June, when I decided to finally come out as gay—though my attendance at the last three Taylor Swift tours should’ve already been an indicator to anyone who breathes—I went to Church first to talk about it with God.
In the Catholic faith, there is a practice called adoration. Growing up I didn’t understand what it was. I just thought that’s where my mom would go on Friday nights when she didn’t feel like drinking. But as I grew older I understood why she went.
Catholics believe that at the last supper Jesus said, “Take this bread and eat. For this is my body given up to you.” When we receive the Eucharist, a consecrated piece of unleavened bread, we are not remembering the last supper or reenacting it. We believe we are actually receiving and consuming God and all the peace he brings.
In adoration, we can simply sit before the Eucharist and be silent. We do not consume it, but we adore it. We believe God is present in that room.
Everyone I’ve ever tried explaining this to gets a weird, bugged-out look in their eye. Like “Oh crap, I thought he was normal.” It’s like revealing you’re a Scientologist at a dinner party while everyone backs away slowly hoping it’s not contagious.
I used to think it was crazy too, but the more I went to it, the more peace I felt and the more I felt like I was having a direct conversation with God in that silence.
I went to adoration when I decided to come out. I feared God would be angry that I was about to embark on Operation: Find a Man. Instead I distinctly felt God was communicating two things: 1) I made you. 2) Tell your mother soon.
I felt uneasy, unprepared. It was one of the few times I left adoration not feeling peaceful.
I decided to tell my mom that weekend, but before I could, I got a call from her the next day at work.
“Hey, mom, what’s up?”
“Hey, can I ask you something weird?”
“Okay, I went to church this morning before school and I prayed for the family like always, but I kept coming back to you and I couldn’t think of anything else. Is there something that’s going on with you that you haven’t told me?”
Oh shoot. “Umm no.”
“Are you sure there isn’t something you want to tell me?”
“Okay, yeah, sorry to call you at work, but that’s never happened before and I thought it was really weird.”
Really weird is right. I’ve never felt so assured that God was in the Eucharist.
When I did come out to her that weekend and everyone else in my life over the course of the next year and a half, the response was very varied. From unconditional love to those who feared for my soul because now I was going to hell to blatant rejection.
For those who struggled with this revelation, their overarching question was: why? Why are you gay and why do you want to act on it?
That was a few years ago and I have developed a new life and new friends. They are perfectly comfortable with my sexuality, but their resounding question is: why? Why are you still Catholic? Don’t you know how the Church feels about you?
I am abundantly clear. I’m clear that the Church deems my gayness “same-sex attraction disorder”, which as an acronym spells “SAD”—the exact opposite of gay, for the record. I am clear that I can never get married in a Catholic church—even while I go to mass every weekend and most Catholics who get married in churches are the Christmas-Easter types. I am clear that the Church has openly opposed the Supreme Court ruling to offer equality under the law for same-sex couples.
I am aware of all of this. But that is the Catholic Church. I would like to think Catholic church will one day change it’s mind, but it’s almost irrelevant because the Catholic church has been wrong about a great many things. I grew up in a time when Boston was littered on every street corner with news of another Catholic sexual abuse victim coming out of the woodwork. I know the Catholic Church has been responsible for millions of deaths and multiple wars. I know the Catholic Church would rather people in Africa die of AIDS than give them contraception. I know the church killed people who thought the earth was not the center of the universe. I know Catholics shame women as they go into Planned Parenthood as they have the worst day of their lives. I know Catholic priests can be lazy bastards and molesters while they live off the contributions of low-income families in their parish. I know the Church is still incredibly and shamefully sexist in almost every regard. I know all this and I hate the Church for it and many of the individuals who comprise and tarnish Jesus’ teachings. I know the day is coming I will be compelled to stand up mid-mass to defend myself when a priest rails against the sinfulness of homosexuality.
But that is the Church. And to be honest, I hate the Catholic Church as much as anyone. But I love the faith. I love God and I love Jesus and when I needed him/her/them/it, God was guiding me to embrace myself. They were encouraging me.
The Church has not lasted for 2000 years because of priests or the institution. In fact it has lasted in spite of both. Its longevity stems from millions of people across the world who still connect to the beliefs: forgiveness, do unto others what you want done, and the self-sacrificing love of our creator. That’s what carries the faith on.
When I was younger, I didn’t come out because I thought I had to choose between my faith and my sexuality. I had no models of gay individuals in the media or around me who embraced both sides of themselves. People chose one or the other.
When I came out, God reached out to me to say you can be both.
That is why I’m proud, because I reached back. I have not turned my back on who I was to be gay. I have incorporated it into my whole being. It does not define me. I am proud to be gay and Catholic. That is not simply a fact. It is an accomplishment. In spite of my surroundings, I proclaimed that I want to find happiness with a man. In spite of the world, I maintained my faith. I did that, and I am proud.
(Original article can be found at The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/matt-hawley/gay-catholic-and-proud_b_10322150.html )