Pride originated from rebellion, a rebellion launched by transgender women of color. As we begin Pride month, cities in the United States are again experiencing the rebellions of peoples trampled by oppression. The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have reinvigorated the Black Lives Matter movement and its demands for racial justice.
Two noted Catholic LGBTQ advocates have written about this moment in history and its connections to white supremacy in the United States. Today’s post features excerpts from these authors’ words about how Catholics can and should respond to the urgent demand that police and state violence stop killing black people.
Jamie Manson, a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter, writes about being an “oppressed oppressor,” citing the phrase of Rachel Ricketts. Manson is situated as a queer woman, doubly oppressed by her gender and her sexual orientation, and yet she carries the immense privilege of being white in the United States. Of these complex identities and their interplay, and the need for Catholics to demand that Black Lives Matter, she comments:
“There are ways that the struggles of some white people intersect with the sufferings of people of color. For example, being a queer woman gives me some insight into what it is to live in fear. My gender makes me wary of all men at all times, especially when I am alone, and my sexuality makes me afraid to show a public display of affection in many parts of this country and most parts of the world.
“But that pales in comparison to how much I benefit from my white skin. I’m never afraid when a cop car passes by me; if I get pulled over, not only am I unafraid, I even have some confidence I can talk my way out of it. My whiteness gives me the presumption of innocence, the benefit of the doubt and preferential treatment.
“Being a queer woman also helps me understand what it means to be disappointed by the cowardice of religious leaders when it comes to issues of justice and inclusion. Bishops, priests and even some women religious communicate to me and my communities that we simply are not worth the risk and effort. I know what it is to have my church treat me as subhuman. I know what it is to be told that because of my gender and sexual orientation, I do not deserve equality or justice or access to sacraments in my own church. . .
“My own experiences of discrimination break open my heart so that I can see oppression and understand what it feels like, but I’m still a white person and, as such, I carry and carry on the legacy of white supremacy that has been ingrained in me all my life.”
Theologian and activist Fr. Bryan Massingale, an openly gay priest who has prophetically has demanded justice for LGBTQ people in the church also writes in the National Catholic Reporter about racism and the challenge of white supremacy, topics he has examined many times as a preeminent social ethicist. Massingale writes, at one point, “It has never been easy to be black in America. Still, the past few months have pushed me to depths of outrage, pain and despondency that are unmatched in my 63 years of life.” His piece is worth reading in full, in particular for white Catholics, which you can do here.
Pride celebrations will be different this year. Most events have been cancelled or scaled back due to coronavirus. But perhaps this absence will allow a sense of Pride’s rebellious origins to be reclaimed in the service of protecting black and brown lives. LGBTQ people understand, as Manson makes clear, some of what it means to be marginalized and subjected to forms of oppression. Different intersecting identities related to race, class, ability, and migration status can compound oppression and violence. But through a shared faith in Christ, Catholics have the ability to find a unity amid diversity that enables a common pursuit of justice. If LGBTQ Catholics and allies truly seek a church that is “home for all,” in the words of Pope Francis, then our mission for equality must be actively anti-racist, too. We must actively and urgently insist, as Manson and Massingale do, that Black Lives Matter.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 3, 2020