This is a copy of my remarks to the Interfaith Pride Service, organized by the Interfaith Coalition for Fairness of Maryland held at Grace United Methodist Church 5407 North Charles Street Baltimore MD 21212 on Tuesday, July 21, 2015. It was deeply honored to be asked and it was very well received by those assembled.
I’m here tonight representing the Catholic church to bring you a message of welcome and to embrace you as your authentic selves. And to do that you may need to forget everything you thought you knew about the catholic church and forgive the ways you have been personally hurt by catholics and open your heart to the largest organization dedicated to social justice in the world.
The mystery and conflict starts with the meaning of the words Roman Catholic Church. Roman because it is the last vestige of the roman empire and with that it has had the power to stand for 2 millennia but also shares the shame of oppression, patriarchy and violence. Catholic on the other hand means universal and it’s faith tradition is a history of growing from the margins and changing (slowly) as demanded by its people. And then you have to change what you think Church means. When catholics say church we are not talking about a building or the rules or the leaders. We mean the PEOPLE of faith. So let me represent the Ancient heritage of universal people of faith.
So as that I am a logical choice to be the representative. I’m not a nun, priest, or bishop but I am called by my baptism, my discernment, and my community to be a Queer Faith Leader. I am marginalized by my church hierarchy first as a woman, in a same-sex marriage, who is transgender. And from that margin I call my church to embrace people from all the margins. And the people of faith do. Recent polls found more support for same-sex marriage strongest in Catholics of all the mainline american religions. Polls show support for transgender equality highest among american catholics of all christian denominations. Yet the church hierarchy has been visible in their opposition to both central issues of dignity to LGBT people.
You may be by now justifiably confused, mystified, and conflicted by these revelations about the church and that is fantastic. This religion exists in mystery, in evolving revelations of ancient symbols and through individual conscience. Who better to call you into that spiritual question that is Catholicism than someone uniquly blessed by birth to understand incongruence, contrast, ambiguity, quandary, the conundrum of living life as a trans woman.
So let me give you the 2 minute mass with my remaining time to welcome you into this mystery. We look for inspiration to the readings for today and since we celebrate today Marriage Equality as the law of the land now it is miraculous to find that the gospel is
The True Family of Jesus.
While Jesus was speaking to the crowds,
his mother and his brothers appeared outside,
wishing to speak with him.
Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside,
asking to speak with you.”
But he said in reply to the one who told him,
“Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?”
And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father
is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
In my intentional eucharist community we would next have a shared homily where each of us would reflect on the meaning this passage had to our daily lives. We are short on time so let me tell you about our true queer family.
In 1992 I was in the early stages of what would become my transition. I belonged to a support group of transvestites, crossdressers, Drag Queens, Drag Kings, transexuals, and androgynes. In my first San Francisco Pride Parade, I walked with them the length of Market street to cheers of the crowd dressed for one of the first times in the daylight as a woman. Not in the flamboyant way pride parades are known for but more like your mother at the state fair with a visor, sunscreen, shorts, fanny pack and sensible shoes but also a little beard shadow. It was after the parade making my way home that I encountered a group of young gay men who i could overhear had read me as a transvestite and I stiffened myself for the hopefully only verbal assault on my dignity. One of them suddenly, throws up his arms running across the street and shouts “Mom! I didn’t think you were going to make it!”
In our warm and genuine embrace I felt the connection to all of us who had come together to celebrate living as our authentic selves. Back then it was just accepted as likely that coming out queer meant loosing your birth family. This young man used a bit of theater to not only diffuse a possibly painful confrontation but also to sum up what Pride day was really about then, affirmation of each other in the face of a society that rejected us. We built our own families of choice because love makes a family. Our own churches when we couldn’t imagine being accepted by mainstream institutions.
Much has changed in 20 years, Pride is now more about how mainstream organizations empower diversity. We gather to celebrate the advances of law, religion, and society. We express our commitment to each other and with our birth families, our religious traditions and our free society. But our journey is not over yet so let me close with a prayer:
You created balance.
The night to follow the day.
The sea to touch the earth.
All the wonderful animals, fish and birds.
You are the great creator of variety and diversity.
Thank you that you made us all to be unique and reflect your love.
Come draw our family together in all it’s wonder and beauty.
Help us to love and respect each other.
Show us how to support and encourage one another.
Inspire us to work together to become a picture full of your perfect love.
for this may we be blessed,
Creator, Being and Holy Spirit