Catholicism: Are You In or Out?

I just left a phenomenal gathering of activists, clergy, social workers, researchers, and other experts sponsored by the Religious Institute to put together a guidebook about how spiritual communities might provide pastoral care to bisexual people (and others who don’t easily fall within a straight/gay binary). At one point, we were asked to write down one sentiment we felt was key for the guide to address. Mine went something like this:

Someone should not have to choose between her sexual identity and her religious tradition.

As a bisexual woman, the issue of choice is a complicated one. It makes people nervous to know that, hypothetically, the world of romantic attraction is so “wide open” to someone like me. (I say hypothetically because, back when I was single, I only fell in love about once every five years — it was so rare that I was thrilled when it showed up, no matter what form it took!) Although this is less an issue with my generation and those after me than for those who came before, there’s still a subtle pressure to “pick a side.” C’mon, which one are you really? Are you gay but you want straight privilege? Are you only willing to come “half” out of the closet? Are you still “figuring things out”?

As a bisexual woman, I don’t want to be pushed into “choosing” whether to deny my attractions to women or to men, when the reality of attraction is much more complex than that. I feel equally uncomfortable when faced with pressure to “choose” whether I’m Catholic or bisexual, Catholic or feminist. Last week, I saw a bumper sticker that declared, “You can’t be pro-choice AND Catholic.”

I wanted to add a sticker that said, “YOU don’t get to decide who is Catholic.”

Unfortunately, I think a lot of progressive Catholics feel this pressure to choose sides: Where do you really stand? Are you pro-choice OR Catholic? Are you gay OR Catholic? And it doesn’t just come from Catholicism, either. It often comes from the political or personal communities we find ourselves in: “If you’re a feminist, why do you continue to align yourself with a religious tradition that oppresses women?”

But just as issues of sexuality, reproductive rights, and women’s equality are complicated and nuanced, so too is the Catholic church, including all the clergy and lay that comprise it now and throughout history. So, too, are each of our relationships to the places we call our spiritual homes. Pressuring anyone to “choose sides” when it comes to core aspects of her identity is a form of spiritual violence, and it’s not okay. So rather than go into intensely personal territory when these different aspects of identity are challenged, sometimes I’d rather just exist quietly in this inbetween space. Perhaps the next time someone asks, “How can you be both x and y,” I’ll simply respond, “Because I am.”

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8 thoughts on “Catholicism: Are You In or Out?

  1. Pingback: Catholicism: Are You In or Out? | LL Word

  2. Pingback: Catholicism: The Basement in My House of Faith « Young Adult Catholics

  3. “As a bisexual woman, I don’t want to be pushed into “choosing” whether to deny my attractions to women or to men” – As you chose to marry a man, I would think it appropriate to be a faithful wife, and not act upon attractions to anyone other than your husband.

    • This isn’t about being faithful, Mandy. When I got married, I chose to be faithful to one person–my husband. I have every intention of honoring that. That doesn’t mean that I “chose” to become straight. I’m still bisexual. In my life, I may still find myself attracted to other women or men, despite being married. Deciding not to act on those attractions is not the same as repressing them or denying that they exist. It’s not any different than a married straight woman who finds herself attracted to men besides her husband. Attraction is something we can’t control. We can control how we respond to it, and many married people respond to it by not acting on it. That’s the choice I make, too.

      I chose to marry someone I fell deeply in love with because of who he is–not because he’s a man–and I will honor him and our relationship by being faithful while not denying the wholeness of who I am.

      • I’m glad that you acknowledge that acting on homosexuality is different from having homosexual(or bi-sexual) inclinations, too many are in denial over this. The Church teaches that the homosexual act is sinful, not the inclination. Just as heterosexual acts outside of marriage are sinful.

      • I do acknowledge the difference between attraction and action, and I know the church’s teaching on this. However, I want to be clear that I disagree with the church that homosexual acts are sinful. Heterosexual and homosexual “acts” can both be sinful if they are exploitative; they can both be loving and sacred, too. I wouldn’t act on attraction to anyone other than my husband because of my promise to be faithful *to him*, not because I think acting on those attractions in any context at all is sinful. There’s a huge difference between not acting on an inclination because it would be wrong in this particular context, and not acting on it because I believe it’s wrong in any context. I know where you stand on this issue. I know where the Church stands on this issue. I know where I stand on this issue. I don’t have any further desire to keep rehashing it.

  4. It is no doubt a heavy cross for those Catholics suffering from same-sex attraction and who desires to follow the Church. The prospect of a future without intimacy, must be daunting indeed. However this does not change the fact that homosexual acts are by their nature exploitative, and sinful. To suggest otherwise is wrong, and not at all helpful to the soul of the the homosexual, who is going through a loneliness, and sense of being different that you and I could only begin to understand.

  5. Pingback: Resources for More Inclusive Faith Communities | Young Adult Catholics

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