It makes me sad that so many people in our community walk away from their faith because they feel like there is no other choice for them. It is incredibly isolating and sad to have such a familiar environment turn on the drop of a dime.
I see you and you are valid for any choice you make to handle these types of matters. For so many years, I found myself sneaking into the back of churches for an Ash Wednesday or wondering if anyone would notice if I was gay in a religious crowd. I was terrified that somehow God was watching me commit this “sin” despite how much love was coursing through my veins as I lived my truth in my true identity and eventually in my current marriage to my wife.
From a very early age, I found a strong connection to God. Religion was always a comfort for me, a moral high ground that I used to justify the right from wrong as I navigated my years of growing up. I was baptized a Lutheran because the Catholic Church didn’t consider my parents’ marriage valid because they got married in City Hall and not a church. I was eventually converted to Catholicism in the 5th grade because my dad’s “Catholic guilt” got the better of him. However, my profession to Catholicism only furthered my connection to God and my bonds to family. Coming out brought great conflict in my spirituality. No matter how much I prayed or did the right thing, I was sinful because I found romantic attraction to both men AND women.
I didn’t know how to process the fact that one part of myself would cancel out the other. The idea of putting my true self and my religious convictions felt impossible.
As much as 2020 broke me, it also presented great change. Organized religion had always made me feel dirty and unwanted because I was the big old oxymoron bi-sexual Catholic girl. None of it could ever mesh together, or could it? My first therapist sent me out on the hunt for LGBTQIA+ affirming churches. My homework was to find one that had a mass that I could attend virtually. I wasn’t convinced that this would end well. The only other time I had saw a stroke of religious representation and LGBTQIA+ mesh together was a Pride float in NYC. This float resembled what looked like a club for ostracized Catholics like myself which was comforting but also horrifying at the same time. I began the search with little to no expectations and was blown away by what I found. I came across gaychurch.org which presented an entire database of churches from all faiths that welcomed LGBTQIA+ people. I cautiously searched Catholic and was blown away but what I saw. I found at least a dozen churches in NYC that welcomed our community. I went to every church website for the proverbial proof in the pudding and saw some mention on some sites but nothing that stuck out. It wasn’t until I saw St. Ignatius Loyola that I was sold that religion and my bi-sexuality could mesh together. There was an entire ministry of people made up of people like me and allies in this Catholic church. I was blown away by this and quickly joined their Facebook group and began to watch their interactions from afar. I was painfully shy and wanted to wait before I made myself known. After listening to a few sermons that impressed me and watching the Facebook group, I eventually attended their Zoom meeting and felt like I was home.
The marriage of these parts of my life has given me more comfort than I can explain. For years I felt like I was being tugged in two different directions and felt like I had no choice but to choose. I know that my story isn’t always the happy ending for everyone but I hope to provide some hope for anyone who wants to have a relationship with God in a church setting and still be their truest selves. It is very possible to do if it’s something you want to pursue. It is also perfectly okay to maintain a private spiritual relationship with whatever God you believe in. The choice is yours and whatever you choose is valid and great.