Like a Prayer
"It seems that all my relationships with men are complicated, and Jesus is no different." - Rugged Fox
Television is exploding with great quality gay content these days, and last week I was absolutely floored by a scene on Grey’s Anatomy that took place between Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) and her father (Hector Elizondo). The scene occurs when Callie’s father unexpectedly shows up at the hospital with a Catholic priest to “pray away her gay.” Long story short, last season her father did not take well to the news she had fallen in love with a gorgeous female pediatrician named after a battleship; so he cut her off. But last Thursday at 20:17 he returned to make peace. Click on the video below to see what happens:
NOTE: This is the point in which this entry takes a more personal and slightly dramatic tone. And P.S. how much do you love “Youtube” for being able to find anything?
After watching this scene for the first time, I felt as if the cork had been popped on a bottle of unresolved issues that had been aging in my psyche for the passed six years. With no other choice but to pour myself a glass and take a sip, it was apparent the bottle was 70% religious, 20% spiritual and 10% sexual. Taking a moment to let the repressed memories decant, I took another sip, lied down on my couch, and started entertaining a painful past I had tried hard to forget. The next day I confronted my demons and went to Church.
Setting my alarm o’clock for morning, I put on my finest Sunday clothes and made the half-hour trek to the nearest Catholic Church I had found on Google Maps. Standing at the bottom of the steps leading up to the big wooden doors, it occurred to me that, other then for funerals or weddings, I hadn’t been inside a Church since I came-out six years ago. Taking a seat on one of the rock hard pews (no pun intended, alright maybe just a small one, but seriously, that wood was stiff!) I was surprised at how fast the ritual of mass came back to me. Like riding a bike, the words to every responsorial psalm rolled off my tongue with no thought or conscious effort to remember. Singing along to the choir, I laughed when the overhead projected the lyrics to “One Bread One Body,” after I had just finished singing Mariah Carey's "Touch My Body" ten minutes before.
Looking around, I took in the familiar symbols of a world that I never thought I would return to: the stained glass, the massive arches, the plastered Stations of the Cross. And then, with a single wail, a crying child near the back shattered the fragile silence of my mind. Flooded by images from my religious past, I flashed back to when I was a child pulling on my mother’s arm five minutes into mass and asking when we got to go home. Fast-forwarding, I saw myself back in high school, braces intact, singing the lyrics to my very first solo during mass choir “you who dwell in the shelter the lord, who abide in His shadow for life…” And then, before I knew it, I was coming out over a mickey of vodka and a pack of Marlboro's to my four best Catholic friends. “Are you planning on pursuing this lifestyle?” asked my friend Marc while Matthew remained silent, Peter expressed his support, and John asked if I thought he was hot.
Overwhelmed, I broke down into tears as the Father stood up to speak. I swear the lady beside me with the Gucci Purse and Dolce glasses must’ve thought I was either crazy or just really touched by the homely. What struck me as fascinating however, not to mention psychologically revealing, was the fact that I was crying not because I was sad, happy or finally at peace; but because I was furious. Feeling the anger rise inside of me, I became enraged at the fact a person could ever think to say “Peace be with you, but not with you.” Inflamed, I felt like standing up and screaming as loud as I could into the heavens, “SCREW YOU GOD FOR TURNING YOUR BACK ON ME WHEN I NEEDED YOU THE MOST.” But instead, I knelt down like everyone else and prayed until I got distracted by the fact that I needed to cut my nails.
"So you think you might be gay?"I remember the day in grade twelve when I went to see my counselor for the first time to tell her I thought I was bisexual. (Missing story detail: my high school was all-boys and Catholic). The second I took the seat across from her, my eyes zeroed in on a pamphlet pinned up against her wall that read “So you think you might be gay?” Relieved by the sight, I felt hope that all my life’s questions might be answered within the three folds of that photo-copied paper. A week later when I arrived for my next appointment the pamphlet was gone. Not able to help myself, I asked her where it went. “Father Director came in the other day and once he flipped through it, decided it did not accord with Catholic principles and took it down.”
Reconciling one’s Catholic identity with their gay identity is more often than not, a losing battle. I mean, you try getting off with another man while thinking about eternal damnation and tell me that you do throw in the towel. But it is in my belief that faith is a dark mystery that one should not be born into, but rather fight their entire lives to shed light upon. Because ultimately, the one thing I had in common with everyone else standing beside me (other than a nice outfit and knack for repression) was that I believed I could be a better person, and hopefully make the world a better place in the process.