My Dad’s Boxes

As I have gotten older I realized how much my dad and I are alike. And how painfully different we are. Through these similarities and differences we have grown and evolved our relationship into something I feel very lucky to have. Not all people have great relationships with their dad, and for LGBT people the tension and strain on the relationship with their fathers can be a lot worse.

It wasn’t always like that for us. My dad converted to from Judaism to Catholicism when I was 8. As time went on his faith grew, and mine began to wither. When I was a teenager he became a deacon. I had pretty much given up on my Catholic roots, but we were able to agree to disagree on topics concerning the church. We knew we weren’t going to change each other’s minds so having debates and discussions stayed interesting and respectful.

When I finally fully came out to myself in the winter of 2009 I was absolutely terrified to tell my parents, especially my dad. He’s an active member of the Church and I didn’t know how he would react to me being a lesbian.

In reality I had nothing to worry about, but when it was time to tell him I had to do it through a full blown panic attack. How could someone so deeply cemented in his faith, a faith that actively preaches against my existence, accept his daughter for who she was?

As a child one of the things that has constantly annoyed me about my dad was that he is able to achieve almost perfect cognitive dissonance. He’s able to hold onto two completely opposing beliefs without having one contradict the other. I couldn’t believe at the time that he would be able to do the same again, putting his daughter in a separate box away from his beliefs?

I realized that the part of my dad that had annoyed me for most of my childhood was one of his most endearing qualities. It’s admirable that he has the ability to love his children the way that they are without it challenging or shaking his faith. In a world where everything feels like an inseparable tangled web he has been able to divide perfectly into his boxes – making sense and order out of chaos.

In his world his faith compliments and strengthens his love for his children, and vice versa. I may never understand how he does it, but I’m lucky to have him.

Finding the Good in Gay

Who is a good person? How do we learn what makes up a good person?

As I was writing last week’s blogI couldn’t help but think about my own Catholic education. I attended Catholic school for 12 years. Now while I’m not a practicing Catholic, there were lessons like “do unto others as you would have done to you…” that have shaped my judgement and ethos. But looking back, all of the role models that were presented to me (i.e. Mother Teresa, St. Francis, etc) were from several hundred years ago and/or very very Catholic.

Which makes sense, I’m aware. Going to a Catholic school would tip the scale in that direction.

But thinking through this, I am finally understanding why I have had a hard time reconciling my lesbian identity with my humanitarian one. I never learned about Harvey Milk or Bayard Rustin. Understanding Stonewall was through own research whilst in college. (I know this history is lacking across the board… but I can only speak to my experience).

My Catholic school experience tended to lean towards gay invisibility instead of prejudice. If no one talked about gays, then gays didn’t have to exist or be dealt with. I know that this policy is definitely a lot better than blatant, constant bullying and homophobic remarks; I wonder what if my the idea of who was good was expanded to LGBT* people?

Would acknowledging gay individuals who reflect Catholic teachings would be detrimental to the church? Why is it so difficult for some people to think that LGBT* and humanitarian identities can coincide?

I know that this isn’t just a Catholic school problem. There are 77 countries in the world that criminalize homosexuality. How can LGBT* feel empowered to do good in their micro and macro communities if there are told that who they are is criminal? How can someone see themselves as good-doer if one of their main identities is ostracized by their government and society?

When coming to terms with my own sexuality, there were times when I tapped into my one latent institutionalized homophobia, doubting that I could make a difference or be a good person because I am attracted to girls. Since I am a lesbian, does that mean even if I do good, being gay cancels it all out?

Obviously no. (Most of my Catholic guilt has been eliminated, thank the universe). But there are many LGBT* people who are told that aren’t good people, and don’t have to support to breakaway from their homophobic surroundings.

Wouldn’t it be great to live in a world where a queer kid could say they wanted to be the next Harvey Milk, Bayard Rustin, Sally Ride, or any of the amazing *LGBT that have shape history?

Wouldn’t it be better to just teach children that being a good person can mean many things, and that they sexuality doesn’t have to influence their moral compass, but it is a part of them that is good?