Fishes, Loaves, and Rainbows

It’s not often that, as an adult, you have a chance to tell your parents that you’re proud of them. Regardless of whether or not they do admirable things after you’re out of the proverbial nest, it just seems weird to have such a verbal exchange with someone who changed your diapers. But then you get reminders of just how much they do–not for personal gain, but because they want to make a difference.

And I had one such reminder this past Sunday. During our weekly phone conversation, my parents summarized the first meeting of an LGBT support group they helped organize with other progressive members of area parishes. Yes, “parishes.” Contrary to the Vatican’s problematic dogma, and the hate that’s regularly spewed by bishops and other Catholic clergy, there are plenty of tolerant Catholics out there fighting for equality. Even in Alabama.

“Hey, yeah, I’ll let your mother tell you more about it. We may have to move to a larger space for the next one. And we had at least one each of the LGBT.”

I smile. Southerners: we preface everything with “the.” Dad hands the phone to Mom.

“Hey, honey! We had a great turnout. And everyone liked the door prizes.”

Again, I smile.

It’s almost cliche to write that growing up gay is fraught with challenges. But it is, especially when you’re cognizant that your identity–even if you can’t quite yet put a name to it–is seemingly irreconcilable with your religious background. Being gay in a hyper-conservative state is hard. Being gay and Catholic in Alabama is even harder. But my sister and I went through the motions our parents expected of us–you know, living under their roof and all. Still, we preferred mimicking the chorus member, who’d bang on a tambourine at the most inopportune moments during Mass, over paying attention to what was being said.

And as often happens, we left the roost and took our respective positions regarding religion. By now, our parents have accepted our decisions, and don’t push. We respect each other’s beliefs, or the lack thereof, and they use their faith to build bridges rather than walls.

Without any provocation or emphatic suggestions on my part, they each attended a symposium led by a progressive Catholic ministry. There, they learned more about LGBT life and rights in the context of Catholicism. They came back energized and determined to make a difference. And last Friday, they, along with a handful of allies–my sister included–saw the first glimpse of their efforts: 25 to 30 LGBT-identified individuals gathered for their first meeting. Some had been out for years and coupled for decades; some were new to the community. And each of them found a place alongside my family.

While I’ve long since forgotten most of what I learned in CCD, I do recall that excessive pride is sinful. More than that, it’s dangerous.

But in this instance, I think it’s heavenly.

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