I never get tired of telling people that Catholic parents of LGBT people are among the most dedicated and consistently strong advocates for equality in the church. As people who have strong attachments to both their children and their faith, parents serve as natural “bridges” between the LGBT community and the institutional church, a job that is extremely important in the work of reconciliation between these two groups.
Today is Mother’s Day, so it is appropriate to reflect on the role that mothers have played in the Catholic LGBT movement. I was reminded of their influence this week when I read a story about a Canadian mother in Edmonton, Alberta, who has filed a complaint to the local Catholic school board there because her seven-year old transgender daughter was not allowed to use the girls’ restroom.
GlobalNews.ca quoted the mom’s concern:
“It’s not just for my daughter. It’s for every transgender child out there. These children have double the stressors in their life that a [cis]gender child would have. I’m trying to eliminate any type of roadblocks for them.” [Editor’s note: “Cisgender” is the term used to describe people whose internal gender corresponds with their anatomical features. “Cis-” is a Latin prefix meaning “on the same side as.” It’s another way of saying “non-transgender.”]
The mother’s response reminded me of an attitude that I have seen demonstrated by many mothers, including my own, my peers who are mothers, and the many moms of LGBT people I have met in my ministry. Moms don’t see themselves as just mothers of their own children, but in some way, of all children they encounter.
How many of you have ever seen mothers in a park or playground supervising other children for the youngsters’ safety, sometimes children they do not even know? How many times have you seen a mother cry real tears when they see news on television of a child who has been hurt or harmed in some way? Mothers all seem to have an innate sense of responsibility and love for all children, not just those who are in their family.
And the same is true of mothers of Catholic LGBT people. Long after these moms have raised their children into independent adults, they still take on the responsibility, exercised with love, for making the path easier for other LGBT people. It’s not uncommon for such mothers to work to make their parishes and schools LGBT-friendly even when their own offspring have moved out of the neighborhood and perhaps belong to other parishes or attend other schools.
I have met hundreds of mothers of LGBT people in my 21 years with New Ways Ministry. I cannot think of a single case where a mother did not tell me that when she first learned of her child’s identity, her first reaction was fear–fear that her child may be harmed physically, emotionally, spiritually by narrow-minded and prejudiced people. A mom’s natural instinct is to protect.
A traditional medieval theological axiom says that “Grace builds upon nature.” I’ve seen that proven real time and again when I see a mother’s natural love for her LGBT child be extended to all LGBT children and other oppressed groups.
It is often said that God did not make a mistake in creating LGBT people. Their natural attractions and senses of identity are, in fact, just that: natural. But for me, that naturalness is not the only sure sign of God’s love and positive intentions for LGBT people.
An equally important sign of God’s love is the natural love that mothers show for their LGBT children. That’s the best sign of divine love for sexual and gender minorities which should be emulated by all members of our church, especially our leaders. We would have a very, very different church if Pope Francis would call a synod of mothers to advise him on marriage and family life than by having a synod of bishops do so.
On this Mother’s Day, I pray that mothers will lead our Church on the issue of LGBT equality and inclusion. I pray in particular to Mary, the mother whose natural love for her Child Jesus, surely taught him many of the practical and human realities that inspired His preaching. And I pray in gratitude for all mothers–lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual, transgender–whose love educates and forms their children to work for a better world for all.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry