“Mom, why did you and Dad get divorced?” I asked for the hundredth time. I was accustomed to hearing her respond, “We just couldn’t live together anymore.” But this time she did not say that. We were on the way to the laundromat, and I can remember exactly where we were when she answered.
“Because your dad is gay.”
“Oh, I know that,” I lied, trying to cover my shock. I didn’t know that. I was 9.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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I didn’t know that.
Although my parents had raised me with a Christian worldview and I knew the Bible well, my world began to shift radically after my father explained why he was sleeping with men. Before long, both my dad’s apartment and our visits began to change. A calendar of mostly nude men appeared in the bathroom, along with some revealing art. It was very uncomfortable to visit, but I tried not to let it bother me.
On the weekends when I visited, Dad and I would head to Castro Street in San Francisco. It was a colorful place, and I quickly found that I had to be careful where I looked, lest I would see more than I bargained for. I learned my way around the neighborhood, knowing which were the gay bars and which were the lesbian bars. I even attended the gay Olympics to cheer on a family member.
I was hip. I was open-minded. I was enlightened.
But I was also torn. When someone in authority, especially someone who is trusted, tells a child something is true, that child will believe them. In fact, that child may build his or her worldview on that foundation. I did. This is why Pride parades, drag queen story hour, and teaching gender as a social construct are so insidious.
Out of loyalty to my father, I would never have shared my instinctive doubts about his lifestyle, but I distinctly remember being unsettled by it. And yet I shrugged off my feelings and ignored my discomfort so that I could be a supportive daughter. As I got older, I became a good social justice warrior at my school. I learned to put condoms on bananas and the importance of safe sex, regardless of whom your partner happened to be. I certainly wouldn’t judge.
My dad died of AIDS when I was 17, on the morning of my senior prom. I watched him suffer his last months without a partner, and I listened to him voice his regrets.
Shortly before my mom remarried, she and I became Catholic. But at our ultra-liberal California parish, there was very little accurate catechesis on what the Catholic Church taught on these issues. However, I certainly embraced what I heard the Church taught on sexuality: open-mindedness, tolerance, acceptance. I was desperate for a way to explain away what the Bible said so clearly, and the progressive wing of the Catholic Church was eager to help me.
My Jesuit university did a fantastic job of not just excusing but celebrating the behavior of my by-then deceased father by wholeheartedly embracing and validating the homosexual lifestyle. In my Theology of Marriage class, rather than have a heterosexual couple speak, the instructor had a gay couple come to talk about the sacredness of their “marriage.” At the time, I said I was so glad that the Church was changing their backward views on homosexuality; however, deep inside, such an idea left me unsettled.
This illusion of the changing Church continues today. In his recent essay at Outreach, Fr. James Martin, S.J., explains why Pride and the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus are not just compatible but complementary. He argues that Our Lord loves everyone, which is certainly true. But his slippery case that Pride Month is something Catholics should celebrate is filled with implied approval for homosexual relationships. First, he says, “Imagine a young LGBTQ person who is not in any sort of sexual relationship but simply wants to be accepted. Where is the sin? Second, it ignores the fact that all of us are sinful. Who among us has not sinned?”
Of course, a chaste person who struggles with same-sex attraction is not sinning. But then Fr. Martin pivots to the argument that we are all sinners. Well, yes. But we are also supposed to try to stop sinning. This sort of you-hate-chaste-LGBTQ-individuals gives way to we-are-all-sinners, and then the reader is able to fill in the blank as he is inclined: but God loves me anyway; or, so the Church is wrong; or maybe, so we should never judge the actions of anyone else.
This type of article is exactly the type of evidence I clung to in my progressive, liberal days when I was trying to justify not just the homosexuality around me but my own sinful choices. While Fr. Martin is correct that we are called to love everyone, sometimes the most loving thing we can do is call others out of mortal sin.
After I had my own children, I was befriended by several traditionally-minded Catholic women who took the time to educate me on the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. What made them so effective was that they shared the truth in the context of our larger relationship. Even though our family did not homeschool, these homeschooling moms welcomed me. We had monthly dinners out and occasional “stump the priest” nights when we could ask questions and discuss the Faith freely. It was through these encounters that we were able to discuss and debate, but only after we shared our favorite recipes and lamented the sleepless nights up with our babies, and before we arranged the next park day for our kids to play together.
These sometimes-heated discussions on homosexuality did not define our friendship. They were just one facet of our relationship, and these women cared about me even when I was a relativist. That we could move on to other topics on which we shared common viewpoints gave me the space to reflect on their words and let down my guard. What I said as we argued was often no longer what I thought to be true. Sometimes, even as I believed what they were telling me, I felt I had to make every argument to the contrary.
Through the influence of my friends and by the grace of God, our family began to conform ourselves to the teaching of the Church. But without their courageous truth-telling, I wonder if I would have changed.
On Rod Dreher’s blog, he recently described the experience of a progressive artist he called “Jane.” One night, in the throes of depression, and in the clutches of transgenderism, she happened to click on a Jordan Peterson video that was in her social media feed. She was shocked to find that she agreed with everything Peterson said. His lone voice amidst the sea of insanity into which she had been swept, just like the courageous voices of my friends, gave her permission to pull herself out. She gave up her art career because she realized that the wokeness it required was not worth it.
Hearing the truth mattered to Jane, and it mattered to me. For those who are in the position of teaching others the truth on homosexuality, marriage, or transgender ideology, please do speak up. Share the beauty of the truth fearlessly because yours may be the only sane voice that your friends and family hear. Know that people may be angry. They might feel attacked. They could be defensive. But in a world where the schools, media, corporations, and even many within the Church (such as Fr. Martin), are teaching half-truths or outright lies, how will anyone find the truth if we do not show them? The fruits of wisdom and counsel are often unseen, but that does not mean that the seed of truth you sow will not grow.
Eventually, I was able to accept that the people who told me the truth and who defended the actual teachings of the Church were the people who cared about me. They were the ones who loved me and who wanted me to know of the plan God has for human sexuality. I did not always react with grace to their correction, and there were many arguments and disagreements, but my friends—my real friends—always patiently met my arguments with the truth, delivered compassionately. They neither backed down nor did they ostracize me when I was in the throes of my ignorance. They spoke the truth in charity and, over time, softened my hardened heart.
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