As gay Catholics, we have often found ourselves double outsiders. As a sexual minority in a world where heterosexuality is routinely taken for granted, and even suffered ridicule, discrimination, violence or worse, we have often felt excluded, left out - or even invisible. Typically, we have felt even more rejected in the churches than in the secular world, with widespread condemnation of the ’sin’ of homosexuality. This hostility from the religious establishhment has led to a counter-reaction from many in the LGBT community, who see religion as the architect and driving force behind our ‘oppression’, and consequently refuse to have any truck with organised religion. The result for gay Catholics is too often, exclusion by both camps. I have often heard the observation from my gay Catholic friends, that it can be as difficult to be out as Catholic in the gay community, as it is to be out as gay in the world at large.
However, in the secular world at least, things have changed. Ever since Stonewall, many of us have discovered the power of coming out publicly. At a personal level, affirming, not hiding, our identities has been personally liberating for our mental and even physical health; at a public level, the increasing visiblity of persons of diverging sexual identities has played a big part in breaking down stereotypes, prejudice, and increasingly, discriminaiton. For young (and not so young) people who are beginning for the first time to face the idea that they do not fit inside the sexual roles their social conditioning has led them to expect, this increased visibility of public role models also makes it easier for our coming out, than it was for earlier generations.
This increased visibilty has not yet significantly reached our parishes, cloisters, or ecclesiastical parishes, partly because so many of those who are most comfortable identifying as gay, refuse to identify as churchgoers. But in parallel with the secular world, the more we are indeed out in the church, the easier it will be for us, and for those who follow.
So, to all you who are gay Catholics or lapsed Catholics, a plea and invitation: come in and come out. If you have lapsed, come back in to the Church, and help to make a difference. If you remain a regular churchgoer, come in deeper – take on more active ministry. Let there be no doubt of your credentials as Catholic. Then, cautiously and gradually, come out as gay. If you can not trust your parish to be accepting, find one which will (welcoming communities do exist). This site will help you to find one.) Or, if you prefer, seek out a special Mass for an LGBT congregation. These too exist in many bigger cities, even if not on every Sunday. For most people, coming out in the secular world was not easy. You probably needed help and support from LGBT friends, and may have deliberately sought out explicitly gay public venues as much for affirmation as for the objective services offered (I know I did. Why else pay higher prices for a pint in Soho than in your neighbourhood local?)
Coming out in the church will be more difficult, so you will need even more support. I hope that this site will help you to find a suitable support network for face to face contact and discussion. But the virtual society of the blogosphere can also represent support of a kind – and that, we definitely aim to provide.
(For more, see my regular blog Queering The Church)