Paul's testimony on Acceptance
Paul's Story (Transcript of Paul's Speech to the St. Joesphs Newtown - Social Justice Conference - May 2007)
Hi; my name is Paul, I’m the eldest of 9 children, I’m Catholic, I grew up in Willoughby, I live in Newtown, I drive a Volkswagen, I have blue eyes, dark brown hair, I love going to the movies, I keep fit by swimming, I’m gay, my favourite colour is blue, my favourite food is Thai, my blood is red .. and so on and so on….
I guess what I am trying to illustrate is that I am a pretty ordinary sort of a guy. I might be your neighbour, we may have passed in the street, I am a member of this parish community.
What makes me slightly different from most of you here today is that I am gay. It is such a small part of who I am, yet society and at times the Church, often makes a significant deal out of it.
I have meet gay catholic people who are afraid to step inside a catholic church let alone receive communion because of the shame and guilt they feel have been imposed on them. I have learnt to become more confident in myself when talking to my gay friends that I enjoy going to Mass and that my catholic faith is very important to me. The gay pubs in Sydney are full of catholic people who have turned away from the church and maybe their faith as well.
But why is this???
I guess sometimes it is easier to reject the messenger when their message becomes confused or loses credibility.
That’s where I was 12 years ago. I’d finally accepted that I was not sexually attracted to women after spending all of my teens and the first half of my 20’s fighting it. I did not just decide to be gay; it was a life long process, full of confusion, denial, self hatred and isolation. Fortunately, I had developed a deep sense of faith. My faith and trust in God really comforted me and kept me going especially during the most difficult times.
So here I was, finally accepting the person that God had created for me. But there was a problem. Part of the struggle of accepting myself as a gay person had to do with what the Church said about me something like “intrinsically disordered and evil”. So why didn’t I just go the way many gay Catholics do and reject the church all together? There was no question in my mind of walking away. This is my tradition. I was brought up Catholic. Went to Catholic schools was heavily involved in Catholic youth groups and my parish, I went to the Catholic University, I couldn’t be more Catholic even if I tried!!
However it is still a choice that I remain Catholic.
Many of my friends, gay and not gay, catholic and not catholic, have asked me how I can still be catholic and go to Mass when the Church often seems to be so critical and aggressive towards homosexuality. For me it is quite simple, I listen to my heart and I listen to God in my heart.
I believe that God has created me just the way he wanted. It took me a long time to accept that though. Jesus’ message is about love. Loving your neighbour, loving God and loving yourself.
I believe that God doesn’t want me to lock myself away to a life of loneliness and unhappiness. Being human is about being able to love and to let others love you in return. And to me that love is towards a man.
The film version of Brokeback Mountain illustrated this clearly. The lives of not just the two central characters were tragically destroyed because of pressures to conform (or not to conform for that matter).
I am grateful I am a young person living in today’s society. The modern world has been transformed in many ways over the past few decades. I am grateful to those who have gone before me who have paved the way which allows me to hold my partners hand as we walk down King St. I am grateful that when we share private moments I won’t be arrested and thrown in gaol. I am grateful for my loving family that welcomes my partner into their home and to their dinner table.
Sadly, this is not the experience shared by many gay and lesbian people. The reality is, once away from the King St Safety Zone, you are back in a hostile society, waiting for the verbal harassment in the street, expecting the fag joke at the office, the condescending stereotype on TV, the fundamentalist so called Christian misquoting scripture condemning homosexuals to death, the church leader denying same sex attracted people the right to be fully human to love the person God created them to be.
God is about love not hate. Sr Janine Grammick who has worked for over 40 years in the US with gay and lesbian people uses an analogy when talking about sexuality saying you don’t give a bird wings and then tell it not to fly.
I guess it is safe to say that in my choosing to identify as being Catholic means a certain level of rejection of some Church doctrines. Maybe it is not a rejection, maybe I understand the theology behind some of these, and I suppose if we lived in a perfect world then it would be achievable.
The Church actually does accept that a certain percentage of people do have a homosexual orientation. However it continues that those same people cannot act on their natural feelings. Giving a bird wings, not allowing it to fly …..
There are lots of things in this world we’d like to change; John Howard saying sorry to the Stolen Generation might be one, the Pope saying “maybe we’ll have a fresh look at sexuality”, another? Id like the church to refresh its thinking on same sex relationships. Because God’s message is not about gender, its about love, and I think love transcends gender.
The church has a long and strong history of Social Justice. I think, however, it can do a lot better in its ministry to gay and lesbian people.
Thank you for inviting me to speak at you Mass today.
Paul May 2007