A gay Catholic writer has shared his story in an appeal for Catholics to “walk in my shoes” so they can understand him and other LGBT people as human beings rather than as abstractions.
Patrick Gothman wrote about his experiences in America, highlighting significant points in his life as if they were scenes in a video game or a movie.
He first described an uncomfortable lunchroom scene in which he was forced to go along with male classmates’ banter about which girls he liked and who he would date. Then there is a scene where he comes out to his parents, the consoling words of a compassionate mother alongside a less understanding father, and a college-age scene where he overhears his mother and grandfather say, “At least he’s not one of those gays.”
Gothman also shared his faith journey, the next progression in this self-analyzing video game he constructed. There is a conversation with an older priest who called Gothman “brave” for choosing “to be faithful to the church.” Gothman questioned whether it is courage or simply a fear of losing public esteem and relationships if he came out. He rejected the priest’s assertion that celibacy was like homosexuality, writing:
“I do not give up. But there is hurt in my voice this time. ‘Gay people aren’t even allowed to donate blood in this country. That’s what most people think of us. Not that we are a little weird. That we are toxic. It’s not that people don’t want us to get married. They say we are not even capable of it. The whole point of your celibacy is that your sexuality is good and you are offering it to the church. The whole point of mine is that I have nothing to offer.'”
The journey continued into an empty chapel where Gotham sat to journal, as he wrote:
“I don’t understand, God. The words write steady but are far from polished. I’ve tried so hard to do this right. How many times have I asked you to take this pain from me? Or to give me the strength to bear it? I don’t feel like I am bearing it. I am drowning. I am alone.
“You see me set down my pen and a teardrop falls on the word alone, smearing it and making it run down the screen.
“Everything in me is dying to fall in love, so how is it that I am only capable of being alone? A woman could never love me. Not the real me. And I am not allowed to love a man. Because it is disordered. As am I—intrinsically. How is that made in your image?”
“The screen fades to black and one final sentence scrawls on the screen. How am I supposed to survive life if I am incapable of love?”
The whole point of these scenes, this video game-type narrative that Gotham imagined, is to help fellow Catholics understand that lesbian and gay people are human beings:
“To be honest, I have theological and philosophical issues with this position [of bearing one’s homosexuality as a suffering in this life that wins heaven]. But more than that, I have an emotional one. For so often I am told this line by my fellow Catholics who know not and care less about the weight of the burden they ask their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to carry. We are an abstraction. Something the Catechism speaks about, not someone they speak with. Known of, though not known.
“As silly as a video game feels, I wish I could break open my life and give my fellow Catholics an immersive look at what it was like to believe I was incapable of romantic love and partnership, unable to raise a child and unfit for a family—how deep that wound cuts your soul and affects every corner of your life.
“Would you care enough to witness it, even if you could not change it? At least then I would no longer be an abstraction. You would know me. You would have the opportunity to care about my struggles and sit with me in my pain.”
Perhaps Gotham hoped that by witnessing his pain and suffering would help gay-negative Catholics understand why he refuses to believe being gay is evil. He concluded the piece:
“You might even hear me tell my story and see it not as an attack on the church but as a deeper embrace of her. . .I wonder what you would feel if you knew me. If you saw what the lives you ask us to lead are actually like. If you got to know the real us, the gay Catholics already all around you.”
It is proven time and again in both in the wider movement for LGBT rights and in the struggle for church inclusion that the key to change is the promotion of understanding through personal sharing and relationships. Gothman’s invitation to “walk in my shoes,” an invitation that has been offered by millions of voices across many decades, is one that should be taken up by many Catholics. Patrick Gothman’s sharing has certainly added to this important work of building bridges.
Gothman is also editor of Reaching Out: LGBT Stories of Faith Lost and Found, a collection on Medium.com of similar sharings from LGBT perspectives. To read more of his writing, click here.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 7, 2018