Oxymoron (n) a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction. We grow up hearing oxymorons all the time such as, jumbo shrimp or civil war. What about bitter sweet or one that I am so accustomed to, negative income. But have you ever lived as an oxymoron? What if your very existence was contradictory? What if you, like me, were a gay Catholic?
Now, this blog post is not meant to offend members of my religion nor members of my community. It is simply my experience as a gay Catholic. Hopefully it will help to shed some light on those who struggle with the concept.
I recently had a conversation with my former residence director from my extremely Catholic college about my sexuality and my religion. She said that she believed that some people that she knows do not do a good job loving members of the LGBTQ community and that she, herself felt that she had been poorly catechized. She wanted to know if I still practiced Catholicism after coming out and how.
After a bit of thought, I watched the words, “I was gay before I was catholic” being typed across my screen. Many people may disagree due to the belief that a person can not be born gay. Well, a person can also not be born a religion. When people ask me, “when did you know you were gay”, my response is always the same…”I never knew that I wasn’t”. The same goes for being Catholic. I don’t know what it’s like not to be. And so I make them work.
I would be lying if I said that it was always easy. The words, “abomination” and “hell” haunted me for years. I grew up wanting to be different, praying every year that I would become a Christmas or Easter miracle and wake up on the holiday morning as a “straight” boy. That prayer went unanswered. It took awhile, but I’m ok with that.
A road trip during my senior year in high school introduced me to my extremely Catholic college, Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. It was a Catholic’s dream. There was Mass three times a day, confession at the ready, faith based fraternities and sororities, and nuns popping out of the wazoo! For years, I lied and said that I chose that school because I was following my twin. The truth…I thought it would bring me my Christmas wish. Better late than never, right?
Ironically, my senior year at Franciscan University is when I finally started to accept who I am. I began to realize that God’s answer to my prayer was, “no”. After two failed attempts at other degrees, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in theology! That’s right, I studied God. What do you do with a theology degree? Well, you teach of course. And thus, I began 9 years of teaching the Catholic religion. Not only did I love it, but I was damn…I mean…really good at it. Of course, Leviticus 20:13 would come up about a man lying with a man and blah blah blah but I would argue back with 1 John 4:8, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.“
Throughout the time, my newly accepted sexuality was still quite secretive. In New Orleans, the catholic schools are unisex and I taught religion at an all boy school. I let fear of rumors and scandal fill my head. Homosexuality is often times equated with pedophilia. But it’s hard to argue with stupid people about the difference. So I kept quiet. Now that I no longer teach religion, I have to admit that I miss it.
So here I am, this practicing gay Catholic, writing a blog post about what it means to me. As I reflect back on the words above, I realized that my entire life I had a problem with it, because other people did. I wasn’t accepting, because I wasn’t accepted. So what does this have to do with counseling you may ask.
Well, people whether they are a member of a certain sexual orientation or a religious group, will always tell you the best way that you should live your life. We have to remember that all advice given stems from the thoughts, beliefs, and experience of the person giving the advice. No matter how similar the experience, no one will ever walk in your shoes. Therefore, you have to determine the best way to live your own life. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you should be or believe differently than you choose to. Make your life work for you, no matter how many oxymorons you may be. “And of the greatest of these is love”. I love myself because I learned to love God, who has always loved me.