Sorry for the late post–I’m going to aim to not make posts that require this much length to finish so that I can post more frequently.
Now we’re finally getting to the meat of things. In my previous two posts, I commented on this video, in which multiple Catholics, some of them gay themselves, explain the church’s stance on homosexuality. There’s a lot wrong with this video:
If that link doesn’t work, try this one (it’s the same video): http://vimeo.com/93079367
Part 1 dealt with the misconceptions about gay people that are presented in this video.
Part 2 discussed the misuse of words and language by Catholics, as they define homosexual acts as “disordered,” and “contrary to natural law” without fully realizing the harsh wording of the first statement, and the fact that the second is devoid of any actual meaning if you use your noggin.
Part 3? Well, here I’m going to talk about the culture of Catholicism, how it actually treats gay people, and the language it uses to describe them due to the fact that Catholics, like many other branches of Christianity, fail to understand how sexuality works, and probably won’t bother to learn unless they leave the church.
It’s not uncommon to hear a Catholic use phrases like “the gay lifestyle.” In fact, the people in this video use it. In my experience I’ve even heard them use the phrase, “the gay agenda,” which is a ridiculous phrase. They also mention “the gay church” in this video, a phrase which suggests that being openly gay is a religion–you know, like Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, etc. The reason they talk like this is that they see everything through a lens of religious belief. Every other way of life has to fall into a category, and they see hierarchies where there aren’t any. As good religious people are supposed to do, they apply their faith to every aspect of their lives, from their basic observations to their thoughts about other people and how they live. Except for one problem–it doesn’t accurately represent reality. There’s nothing religious about being openly gay, so this “gay church” thing? It doesn’t exist. There are gay people in every religion, and gay people with no religion.
There’s also no “gay agenda.” Gay people are as varied in personality and political opinion as any other group of people. What unites them is their struggle for equal rights. (And not all gay people agree with the gay rights movement either. The poor confused people in this video are a perfect example of that.) When it comes to “the gay agenda,” I’ve actually heard a Catholic priest argue that gay people don’t just want to be allowed to marry. They want to be allowed to convince kids to be gay, and then everyone will be gay and we won’t have anybody having kids. This is ridiculous because of the fact that, while a person can experiment with gay behaviors to figure out his or her sexual orientation, the majority of people will still be straight. According to Wikipedia, about 3.8% of people in the US identify as LGBT.
The page acknowleges that some people identified as having same sex attraction but didn’t consider themselves LGBT, which makes it a bit confusing and hard to give an exact number. (Not to mention the fact that when you look at the state-by-state percentage, one starts to wonder if some states simply have a lot of people in the closet), but still, the number of gay people is a small percentage of the population compared to the majority of people, who are straight. Being straight is not going to become less popular just because being gay is becoming less and less frowned upon, because, as many Christians fail to realize, one’s sexual orientation is not a choice. For a person who has zero attraction to the same sex, no amount of public approval of gay people will turn that person gay. The only thing that might make the number of known gay people grow is society treating gay people as human beings so that they feel comfortable being themselves. The number of people who experience one sexual orientation or another in actuality won’t be affected by public acceptance or lack thereof.
I’ve also heard Catholics say that the next goal on “the gay agenda” after marriage is to legalize pedophilia, polygamy, and bestiality. This idea fails to recognize that gay people are still individuals. Yes, they often unite to protest anti-gay laws, and to try to get marriage and other things like adoption made legal for them, but seriously, how would you like it if I said, “the next goal on the Catholic agenda is to ban all sex, not just premarital and gay sex, so that everyone will be a virgin and we’ll all die out!” Seriously, it’s not fun when someone puts words in your mouth, and that’s what they’re doing to an entire group of people. There is no “gay agenda.” There are only gay people, uniting at times to protest injustices and fight for what they believe they have a right to as citizens and human beings.
The reason I chose to include this in this post, and not in the language post, is because this kind of conversation directly influences Catholic treatment of gay people because it perpetuates assumptions, and creates a culture of ignorance when it comes to sexuality. Many Catholics truly do not understand how sexuality works. They aren’t aware of how many people are gay because they either have been so sheltered that they haven’t met a gay person, or they have, and that person is in the closet. It’s very easy to believe something is wrong when it doesn’t seem to affect you or anyone you care about. I invite you to think about the musicians in your church. I’ve met many Catholic organists because my mom works in music ministry, and I can tell you right now–many (not all, but many) of them are gay, and some of them are also Catholic. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. And many of them attend every single mass, every Sunday. Do you feel bad for them, having to listen to a homily that speaks against them several times in one day? I do. When I’m at mass and that happens, it’s all I can think about.
Once, on a multiple-day retreat which took place at Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH, I realized just how far Catholic ignorance extended. Having been thrust into deliberation of gay marriage by my own experience having a bisexual best friend (whom I will admit to having a bit of a crush on), I cringed a bit when one of the speakers talked about the immorality of homosexuality. I mentioned it to one of the girls with whom I had traveled to the event, and she said, “Well, all the people here are Catholic, so I mean, nobody here is going to be offended by it. There shouldn’t be any gay people here.” See the aforementioned percentage of the American population that is gay. There were hundreds of teenagers there–maybe even thousands. I really don’t remember the exact number, but it was a very large retreat. The odds of not a single person having even an inkling of homosexual attraction, especially if sexuality, as many believe, is more of a spectrum than a number of clean, exact choices, then there were definitely some gay or otherwise LGBT people there. Being Catholic does not make you any less likely to be gay/bi, etc, than being atheist, or Muslim. There are gay people born into every group, in every country in the world. I explained to her she that she was wrong and she seemed surprised. Then, I don’t know what made me say this, but I asked, “What if I were gay?” I’m not. But in the process of figuring out my opinion on the issue, I figured, why not imagine myself in their shoes? Could I really expect the country to legislate against someone no different from myself? Gay people are people, after all. I’ll never forget her response:
“I don’t think we could be friends. It would be too weird. You might have a crush on me.”
Is it any surprise that I’m completely for gay rights now? It sucks to admit this, but I used to think the way she did. Luckily, at that point, I was starting to understand how sexuality and attraction works. Imagine an experiment where someone decided to survey a large group of straight people, showing them pictures of tons of human beings of various ages and appearances, who happen to be the gender to which they are attracted, and ask how many of those people they find physically attractive. The truth is, even going with just physical attraction, nobody is going to select the whole list. I would even hypothesize that most people won’t select more than a quarter of the photographs as “attractive.” And I bet if they actually knew those people they found physically attractive, more than half of those people they chose for reasons of physical attraction would be eliminated for traits that can’t be noticed from just a picture, like an abrasive personality, or an irritating speaking voice. In the end, only a handful of the options would still be considered “attractive” by any given person, and the people whom one person finds attractive won’t match the ones whom someone else likes. Seriously, who hasn’t told a friend about someone they found attractive, shown them a picture, and found themselves making excuses like “this picture isn’t that good,” or, “the lighting’s bad,” when their friend doesn’t share their attraction or enthusiasm. Facebook has made this an increasingly common occurrence, and it just goes to show you that people are diverse in their attractions, even if they fall under the majority category of sexual attraction. Now imagine doing the same experiment with gay people, or bisexual people. Maybe the bisexual people would have a slightly larger pool of options, but it still would only include a few women and a few men, not the entire list. Heck, maybe some bisexual people would only find a few men attractive, and no women, or a few women and no men, and not because they discriminate by gender, but because none of the photographs from one group happened to fit what they are physically attracted to. That was a long hypothetical explanation, but my point is, there are way more variables than gender when it comes to physical attraction, so to assume that someone will be attracted to you because they can potentially be completely ignores all of those other variables that come in to play. Furthermore, to assume that you can’t be friends with someone because they have the potential to be attracted to you is to assume that if you’re a girl, you can never be just friends with a straight guy, and vise versa, which is just plain ridiculous. But I digress.
The strongest examples of the way Catholics actually feel about gays don’t come from my experience though–they come from the experiences of the people in the very video they’ve made to promote Catholicism. The video spends several minutes talking about how hard it can be to be Catholic and gay. One man says, “A large part of the alienation I felt was just what homosexuality was in like, widespread Catholic culture. You know, kind of like, mean jokes got said about it. Or not mean, because, you know, ‘nobody we know is actually like that.’…but of course, you know, I’m sitting right there. …There’s this sense that well if I do [speak up/come out] they’re not gonna see me anymore, they’re gonna see this label. They’re gonna identify me with the enemy in some way.”
One woman says, “Sometimes it would be hard sitting there when the subject of ‘those evil homosexuals’ would come up. I would want so badly to just jump up and yell at them, you know, I’m not what you think gay people are. But I couldn’t say anything.”
Another woman adds, “Unfortunately there are a lot of people who’ve had negative experiences. Usually it’s with people who have grasped the law, but who have not grasped the teaching that a homosexual is a person.”
Why is this a teaching though? Isn’t it obvious? When you see a human being standing in front of you, do you really have to ask if he or she is gay to determine whether or not that individual is a PERSON? This brings up the issue of getting one’s morality from religion alone, but that’s a topic for another day.
Then, a priest talks about how the church condemns “unjust descrimination.” I looked up the passage in the catechism, and it’s in paragraph 2358 on this page: http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s2c2a6.htm
It acknowledges that, “the number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible,” yet so many Catholics still act like it is. It’s in their authoritative source, and they still don’t get it, and here’s why: because a few words later in that same paragraph are the words “unjust discrimination.” I am thoroughly frustrated by that phrase because all discrimination is by definition unjust. There is no such thing as just discrimination, but saying it the way they do suggests that there can be. It suggests that maybe it’s just to say that gay people are people but they can’t get married or adopt or have any of the other rights that married couples are handed by the government, but, you know, it’s OK. They’re still allowed to give our church money and come to mass every Sunday. They just have to never have sex.
Another speaker in the video goes so far as to say that the Catholic church and other Christian churches should apologize to gay people for being bigoted. I nearly cheered when I heard that, but of course, not long after, the video ends with spiritual sounding classical music and smiles all around, because gay people are “heroes” for choosing to live celibate lives through the teachings of the Catholic church, and because the Catholic church is “truth.” The giant turn around from Catholics don’t hate gays to, Catholics often mistreat gays, and we’re sorry, and then back to “You (gay people) belong in the Catholic church. And we’re (Catholics are) gonna love you,” makes me wonder whether or not these people hear themselves. You can’t tell a group of people that you love and accept them, but only if they live by your rules, and by the way, they should also ignore the fact that you regularly misrepresent and mistreat them, because you’re awesome and they should join you. Seriously, in whose mind does this make any sense?
Not in mine. You really can’t love and accept gay people without also allowing them to live whatever life they find fulfilling. That may be a celibate life, but in a lot of cases that life may be living with a partner, or spouse if they want to be married. This so called “third way” of taking a sort of halfway stance between being anti gay and actually supporting marriage equality is really heavily leaning towards the former rather than the latter, because while it’s possible to comprehend, the idea that “this behavior is bad but the people who do it aren’t,” is nearly impossible to apply in practice because people’s emotions are a strong part of their sense of morality. You can’t turn off the feelings you automatically get when you find out someone’s done something you find morally objectionable. Your reactions are automatic, and visceral. Understanding intellectually that a person is human and deserves fair treatment is a step better than some, but having a culture that collectively distrusts and misunderstands gay people brainwashes you into having the same reaction one has when finding out someone has murdered a child to finding out that a person is gay. Anger and disgust do not breed a welcoming community, so if you’re gay and looking for a religion, I advise you to steer clear of the Catholic church, no matter how much they tell you they have “truth.” You deserve a real community, not one that hates and distrusts you for being yourself.
Again, sorry for the delayed final post.