An LGBT storytelling project recently profiled Rosa Manriquez, a Catholic mother and church justice advocate, as she tells the story about the LGBT people in her family. In the seven-minute video, she discusses the coming out experiences of her former husband and daughter — and how her Catholic faith and Latina identity have shaped the journey.
Manriquez says she refuses to be identified by her sexuality, but says she is a mother and a grandmother foremost. She is also an associate member of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters Community. Raised Catholic, she attended Catholic schools and was planning to enter religious life before meeting her former husband, Enrique. She says of this first relationship:
“Enrique was gay. He never came out of the closet but the signs were all there. Being a good Mexican wife I refused to see those signs. I just figured I could carry the family by doing what I had been taught to do. One morning he came home and told me I can’t do this anymore, and he abandoned the family. And I found things like pictures and love letters and the like. And at that point for me the face of “gay” was Enrique. And I really hated him. And it followed that I hated anyone who was gay. His lovers and anyone else. And I honestly believed that anyone who was gay should go to hell. I was upset because my heart had been broken, I was abandoned with two little daughters, two infants, I had debt all the way through the roof. And it was really a difficult time for me but having my background, my up-raising, being raised Catholic and being devout, I realized that I couldn’t let a lie be the basis of my life, including the lie that he was all bad.”
In the midst of this, Manriquez looked to prayer and the support of others for guidance. Years later, her youngest daughter, Cecilia, came out in high school as a lesbian woman. She says of this moment:
“And she came up to me and she said, ‘Mom, I’ve got something to tell you but don’t get mad…Mom, don’t hate me. I date girls. I like girls. Don’t hate me.’ And that was pretty hard because for me I would do anything for my kids…But she was afraid of me, believing with all her heart that I was going to hate her. We talked. I told her, ‘Mija, I love you now the way I loved you before you told me, the way I’ll love you until I die. You’re my jewel, you’re my gift from God.’ “
The project which shared Manriquez’s story is I’m From Driftwood, which “aims to help LGBTQ people learn more about their community, straight people learn more about their neighbors, and everyone learn more about themselves through the power of storytelling and story sharing.” It was begun by Nathan Manske, inspired by a photo of Harvey Milk, which made Manske realize there are LGBTQ people everywhere in the world. To read more about I’m From Driftwood, click here.
There is no agenda tp the project besides furthering understanding and empathy for LGBTQ people and their allies through storytelling. Manriquez’ final words of her story make clear how important understanding and empathy are:
“I counseled [Cecilia] on love and commitment and trust and having self-respect for herself and all of these things you’re supposed to tell your children, and I think I did okay except for one thing that I told her, and that was, ‘Careful who you tell.’ And I feel badly for telling her ‘Careful who you tell.’ I told her out of fear but there’s something wrong with that, something very wrong. If she had been straight, I never would have told my daughter ‘Careful who you tell.’ And it’s got to change. We can’t be worried that our kids are going to be harmed because of who they love.”
To watch the video in full, see below or click here.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry