Catholic Church

How A Conservative Catholic Girl Became A Producer On A Gay Web Series

by Kristyne Fetsic

I write this blog with some hesitation because it feels as if I am straddling some sort of battle line and I risk upsetting my comrades on both sides.

That being said, let me tell you my story.

I was born in Cleveland, Ohio to parents who were both wonderfully Catholic and wonderfully Ohioan. Both live no more than a 30-minute car ride away from their childhood homes. I spent 13 years attending Catholic school, 4 years volunteering, and at times running, the Catholic community at my college, and 24 and a half years never missing a Sunday mass.

I was, and to some still am, the good little Midwestern Catholic girl. But to my parents, I lost that title when they learned of my involvement on EastSiders: The Series.

We were a strict, but not suffocating, Catholic family.

Whenever the church said something was one way, that’s the way it was, no questions. But the seeds of a black sheep mentality were planted in me even as early as high school. A lot of my good friends, despite being at a Catholic school, came out as gay. Luckily, the teachers that knew were supportive, as was I.

Secretly though, I still didn’t believe they should get married and I was uncomfortable around them because I believed most of the propaganda against gays. Part of me even thought it was just a phase they were going through. I even once got deeply offended when someone thought my best friend and I were lesbians.

In college, I befriended even more people who identified as gay, and it started to become difficult to justify my traditional Catholic beliefs on the subject to myself. In an effort to try and understand what internal moral battle I was waging, I made a project for my Nonfiction Film Production class discussing the Catholic view of homosexuality and how everyday Catholics and everyday gays felt about it. After that, I felt as if I had no reason to strongly believe anything one way or the other, and I adopted an “agnostic” sensibility when it came to gay issues.

Enter EastSiders.

When I learned about the opportunity to get involved with EastSiders, I was a new member of the film and television industry in Los Angeles looking to get any and all kinds of work I could get my hands on. Kit Williamson was a friend of mine who wanted to collaborate with me and give me a producer credit.

The fact that the story centered on a gay couple put me outside my comfort zone, but it was a great opportunity that I couldn’t turn down—I would be getting my first “producer” credit, which I thought would be the shining gem on my résumé. Even still, I was hesitant to say yes.

My father always encouraged me to stay true to my values no matter what opportunities presented themselves. He has this dream of me changing the raunchy “Sodom and Gomorrah” Hollywood into something society can believe in and trust again—like the good old days. My father’s voice was a constant resident in my thoughts, but I had loosened up a lot from my strict moral mentality since moving to LA a year prior, so I saw little harm in accepting the position.

But I was still in my “don’t ask, don’t tell” phase because I still wasn’t sure how I felt about issues of LGBT equality.

Once EastSiders production started, I was surprised to be shaken out of all my worries. All at once I was finally able to form some sort of opinion on the whole matter. It was during an average, ordinary shoot where I had an epiphany. I had recently gone through a breakup when production of the show began, and it all of a sudden struck me how strongly I related to the story of the show. I specifically remember shooting the conversation between Cal and Kathy in the first episode and thinking “I know exactly how Cal feels.”

It was through the story of EastSiders that I found what I truly believed about the LGBT community: If God is love, and if a person is compelled and inspired to love another person (no matter what genders are involved), then God is working in this world, and it is a beautiful thing.

I tell people that my favorite part about the message of EastSiders is that it normalizes gay relationships without sensationalizing the politics. The relationships just exist without any grandeur or attention to the fact that it’s a gay relationship.

The show depicts a loving relationship, and it just happens to be between two men.

I’m proud this project has received the attention it has because it has been an important part of my career in the entertainment industry. Luckily, once people heard about us, it seemed our story struck a chord with others like it did with me, and we were able to tell our story to a wonderfully supportive audience. Our luck continued when we were picked up for distribution by and received multiple awards and nominations.

Little did I know that in saying yes to produce EastSiders I would become a semi-celebrity in LGBT media. And even though I am very proud of the series and what it represents, I was definitely not prepared for this spotlight.

The truth is that I am afraid of how my friends and family will respond to my involvement with Eastsiders, and I am still figuring it out.

I don’t discuss it with my family because I know they don’t really want to acknowledge my involvement. I know my Catholic/Christian friends would frown at me and think I’m living a life of sin, and I know my more liberal friends would tease me for believing in archaic teachings and practices.

In all honestly, you can call me a “pick and choose” Catholic—there are many teachings I believe in and there are many teachings that I don’t based on my experiences and my will to love everyone—but I know deep down that I am still a Catholic, nothing more or less.

I don’t believe Jesus would treat the LGBT community with the harsh treatment the Church doles out today. I think He would be ashamed of how we make people feel slighted, marginalized, and less than human simply for loving a person the Church doesn’t want them to love. I receive the Eucharist every Sunday, which is the body and blood of Christ, and therefore I am tasked with the responsibility of carrying Jesus into this world.

I think I’m very much fulfilling my dad’s dream of changing Hollywood, just not in the way he expected.

I am proud to be a Catholic producer on a gay web series. I believe in making people feel important, cared for, and loved through my work, and I think EastSiders is a special way for me to do that for the LGBT community of our world.

To support “EastSiders: The Series,” click here.

Adapted from original post on Ms. In The Biz; Photo via Eastsiders: The Series

Comments (3)

Jim Sheil

I am from Cleveland, too.
I am from Cleveland, too. What you wrote is another reason to be proud of being from here. You are articulate, insightful, compassionate, sincere. Thanks for sharing your journey. You have my respect. 6ijrs

Kristyne F.

Thanks for the comment, Jim!
Thanks for the comment, Jim! So glad you could relate to my story. I’m glad my writing it has sparked so much conversation and suport. I would love if you could check out the show! And ps, Cleveland rocks!

melanie rogers

Thank you for sharing your
Thank you for sharing your story. You showed both courage & love by continuing your project in spite of the reactions of people you care about. I agree with your opinion about Jesus, He turned no one away, no matter what their “sin” or circumstances. You are a light in this world and I wish you much success. Thank you for sharing your story & making an old straight woman smile with hope for acceptance for all.

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