The Struggle Of Rebirth: A Catholic Coming Out

In reflecting over my ongoing sojourn with faith and sexuality, I realize that who I am and the area I seek to evolve is one that both disturbs and is disturbed, changes and is changed. 

As I look back at my life in an effort to re-remember my re-membering as I wrestle with church teaching, CCD classes, retreats, a home that reinforced what the church expounded, my continuous coming out, and personal beliefs about faith, I am mindful that 12 years ago, if I knew what I knew today I would have condemned myself.  

In searching the hogar within, I realize that growing up I knew that there was something different about me. 

I had a feeling that I did not feel right in my own body, and I was not like other boys or girls. I was confused for a long time and decided not to deal with it. Rather than reconcile my faith and my sexuality, I repressed many feelings that did not fit into the black and white paradigm of gender / sexuality that stemmed from growing up Cuban, conservative, and Catholic.

Twelve years ago, this reflection that critiques the Church’s teaching would not have been written, much less having attended Yale Divinity School, being the director of a LGBT Center, and much, much, much less showing my hairy legs and painted toe nails in a skirt I bought at Lane Bryant. 

In order to survive I unwillingly conformed to the standards imposed on me because I was scared of the ramifications if I did not—I hid behind the smile of the good Catholic boy who was going to be a priest. 

Being Hispanic, Catholic, and queer did not mesh well. 

I feared burning in hell, being beat up, and most tragically being a disgrace to my family and their memory. The world was to be black and white with no room for color or even variations of gray, period, no questions asked.

As I began to venture into the world of sexuality and gender, questions, doubts, and issues with gender binaries and expectations began to rise.  I began to query my history, cultural worlds, family story, church teaching, and society’s dominant narrative. 

When I came out in my early twenties, I said I was gay because it was all I knew at the time and it seemed to fit; it was also slightly safer. I was an oddity in a world of dominating and hierarchical notions of sacred whiteness and holy maleness.

I did not fit the stereotype of gay maleness perpetuated by society and the media due to something more that was evolving, growing, and desiring to be birthed in me and in the world. As I learned about the T of LGBTQ, I had a second coming out to myself and to GOD. 

I was birthed, came into voice, and claimed that I am both/and—I am not an antagonistic dualism. 

As a Catholic, I feel that I am constantly having to prove myself and my Catholicity.  It is a constant struggle of becoming, yet a becoming that is never affirmed, accepted, or celebrated as good enough.

Becoming and existing as a person who is both/and is especially hard in the Catholic world that is still figuring out what to do with G and L, much less attempting to engage BTPPQQ and everything else. It is a place where many are quick to silently judge, label, and dismiss my personhood, causing this little freak in a skirt to go back into the closet out of fear and survival. 

My experience thus in life have helped me realize that the grappling of living into and out of one’s faith and sexuality is ongoing.

I realize that I am not alone—there are those who have paved the way before me through their brave questioning of church teaching.

These include Margaret Farley, Hildegard of Bingen, Gloria Anzaldua, and Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz; and there are those who are paving the way with me like my mother, my beloved, and all I meet along the way of this quirky journey of life.  

My lucha is to bare witness to the Catholic Church and take on her teachings; finding ways to be catholic. Coming into my own publicly through the birthing of this delphic delfín will be a labor of revolutionary resilience where GOD is my midwife birthing and re-birthing truth-telling in me and through me. Amen.

I have been witness to marvels that affect the nature of the mystical body, for we too, gay men that we are, are also members of that same body…and mind by mind, soul by soul, heart by heart, we are building a consensus fidelium that one day will set us free…for such is the promise of our common baptism and the rights we derive from that sacrament. –E. Stoltz 

In all those times of wrestling with tough issues, with Church leaders, with each other, with disease, I have been pinned down and squeezed, touched, massaged, embraced, cuddled, and, yes, pleasured by a challenging and ever-loving GOD.  I have been transformed and reconciled.  No longer frightened or ashamed, I am learning to confide in GOD’s love and the love of my fellow wrestlers.  After the match is over, I look forward to walking humbly with my GOD, even if it is with a limp. –K. J. Calegari

This post is part of the 2014 Queer Theology Sychroblog; Image via flickr user Mike

Comments (1)

Thanks for a lovely, loving testament. Where can I find more KJ Calegari?

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