Early on in the now infamous “Can’t Even Go to the Park” fiasco, a very polite young adult, anonymously referred to as “A”, wrote to me to apologize for the nature of some of the responses and to explain why it drew such a response. I post this knowing full well that it is controversial, but controversy is the process by which things can improve – if it is ordered, which the word “process” certainly implies. Disordered controversy creates conflict and nothing improves. There’s plenty of conflict already.
So I want to start an orderly conversation about how we show Christian love to a person, while rejecting sin, not condoning sin, not leading anyone into sin. Personally, I admit that sometimes I focus too much on hating the sin, and not enough on loving the sinner. So imagine pouring a cup of coffee and pulling up a chair with “A”. “A” is trying to communicate so hear “A” out. Since “A” welcomes thoughts, please offer them in the spirit of friendship.
I do want to say to “A” that as a parent of young adults myself, I extend the benefit of the doubt to your parents. Sometimes what parents intend is not what is perceived, and I know the frustration of being misunderstood in that regard. I pray that your relationship with your parents is reconciled. Usually when a parent disagrees with a young adult’s choices, it is because they love their child and are concerned.
“A” it is hard for me to read your story because triggers go off in my “no-that’s-not-right” mind, but you had the tenacity to share it when similar triggers where probably going off in your mind about me, and I’m hopeful that we can begin an authentic public dialogue between people who are interested in doing so. You are a person, I am a person, and anyone who joins us is a person. None of us is perfect. We are still all in this together. Can we at least just talk? Even as I publish this, I’m hesitant, but hopeful.
“Charity in truth, to which Jesus Christ bore witness by his earthly life and especially by his death and resurrection, is the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity.” CARITAS IN VERITATE
First of all, with all the sturm und drang over your recent post “Can’t Even Go to the Park”, I would like to offer my personal apologies for the conduct/language of my compatriots in both the LGBT and freethinker/atheist communities. Obviously I cannot speak in any official capacity, but I feel that several lines were crossed. That being said, I would like to offer a different perspective on why your blog entry drew such a response, partially from my own experience, partially from the stories of many of those I know.
Just to give you some context and background, I was raised a Roman Catholic, and my parents would fall onto the “conservative” side, both politically and ideologically/morally. I went to a Catholic grade school, and was home schooled for three years, from 7.5th grade to my sophomore year in high school, with the curriculum being based mostly on Catholic and/or Christian teaching. While it’s been a while since I studied my Catechism, I’m still the source many of my friends turn to when discussing Catholicism. Also, for just to help establish a timeline if I mention dates, I’m 24.
I’d been struggling with a number of issues since I was very little, but chief among them was the fact that I identified very strongly as a girl, despite being assigned male at birth. For many years I struggled with what’s known as gender dysphoria, which led to depression, anxiety, social awkwardness, among other things. The best way to describe my life was that I was constantly wearing a Halloween costume and mask, one that I was unable to take off, and people related to me as though I WAS the costume. I’m sure you can imagine the distress not being seen for who they truly are would induce in someone. Eventually, it got bad enough that I attempted suicide. At the last second, I put the gun down, because I didn’t want to die, and because I loved my parents and family too much.
At that point I was 19 years old, and just entering college. I came out to my parents, shaking with fear as I did, since they were against anything LGBT related. I knew that Catholic doctrine was to “Love the sinner, hate the sin”, but my parents seem to have missed that message…they hated the sinner, AND the sin. For the next year, I was treated like a prisoner.
My internet and phone access were monitored, my room and mail were searched for “suspect articles and clothing”, and I was sent to Christian psychiatrists in hope of “curing” me. I was reminded that I was a “disgrace”, and was “disgusting”. I apologize for the gratuitous quotes, but I’m quoting my parents directly. All I had done to earn their ire was to be honest with them, and attempt to get help and live my life to the fullest. After a year of this, they finally threw me out of the house.
I landed (metaphorically) in the home of a family friend, and my parents made a concession that since I was not earning enough money to pay rent, they would pay rent for me. They then proceeded to use that as leverage in every discussion we would have, be it me asking for my legal name (which had been changed by court order) to be respected, or them demanding that I not come wearing such horrid things as jeans that were a little tighter than I used to. They would also remind me that I was an abomination to God. While I’ll admit freely that I was a little intemperate during some of those discussions, on the whole, I feel that I was much more respectful to my parents and their wishes than they were of me or mine. Even when I was covering all my expenses, they still insisted on treating me like a second class citizen, and it got to the point that I cut off all contact for a year, since every interaction I had with them ended in me ending the interaction in tears.
On top of all that, Mrs. Trasancos, I was transitioning to being my true self, that of a happy, healthy, social young woman. Even though I have the benefit of both starting young and not looking as masculine as some transgirls, I would inevitably be “read”, and suffered harassment on more than one occasion. The one that will forever stick in my mind, however, was based on religion. My partner and I were having lunch at the local mall, minding our own business, when we were approached by someone giving out religious literature. He offered us some, and we both politely declined, as we’re both non-religious, but he insisted on giving us one and preaching about how we needed to go to church. We asked him to leave, that we had no interest in his church, and while we respected his beliefs, we would like to finish our lunch and get home. At that point, he must have noticed that I was still visibly male in some places, and started loudly proclaiming that he had “found a tranny” and that he was going to “drive the demons” from me, and started asking if anyone had a pair of scissors to cut my hair. While I started to pack up our things, my partner asked him to be quiet, and she told him that he was causing a scene. When my partner put her arms around me as we left because I was close to crying, he realized that we’re a same-sex couple, and he just shouted louder, that we shouldn’t be allowed in public spaces, and that gay people were damned to hell. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but transgendered people are at an extremely high risk for violence and murder.
This is getting a bit rambley, but that, in essence, is why your article was so controversial. So many LGBT people have stories like this, where religion has been used to belittle them, to hurt them, to rationalize violence against them.
I believe a few commenters on both your original article, and it’s follow-up posited that people disagreeing with your opinion are afraid. We are. We’re afraid of children being raised to believe that we’re dangerous, that we’re not worthy of basic human rights. We’re afraid that we’ll have to continue looking over our shoulders when we show affection that heterosexual people take for granted. We’re afraid that one wrong word in the wrong place could cause us physical harm. We’re afraid that families will be destroyed, and that children and young adults will be killed simply for having the courage, and it is courage, to admit who they are. Case in point, it destroyed my relationship with my parents. Even though we’ve begun to slowly reconcile, they still base all their objections on religion.
I’d welcome your thoughts,
(shared with permission)
Ground rules for discussion:
1) Please address comments to “A” directly unless commenting to each other.
2) If commenting to each other about “A” remember that “A” is a real person who is reading.
3) This is an opportunity to have a conversation, no therapy offers.
4) If at any time “A” says to take down the post, that request will be honored immediately.
Here are some resources:
H/T to Anna Williams for the resources.
Related: Hatred of homosexuals betrays Christ by Anthony S. Layne
Thank you Elizabeth Scalia for the inspiration in Echoes, Ghettos & the Chasm of Unknowing.