Queer, Catholic, and White: My Own Trinitarian Identity

Allison Connelly

Today’s post is from Allison Connelly. Allison is a graduate student at Union Theological Seminary studying liberatory approaches to disability theology. She identifies as queer, disabled, Catholic, and United Church of Christ, and is a co-author of Dear Joan Chittister: Conversations with Women in the Church. To read Allison’s previous writings for Bondings 2.0, click here.

Today, Catholics celebrate Trinity Sunday. We honor the mystery of three persons – Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit – in one God. But it feels challenging, and even irrelevant, to try and “celebrate” as I hold my anger and grief about the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and David McAtee. Today is also the first Sunday in Pride month. We honor the Stonewall uprising, a hallmark of the Pride movement, that was led by trans women of color destroying police property. I cannot overlook the similarities between the Pride movement and the current national uprising, in which activists are burning police precincts and destroying statues of white supremacists in response to centuries of state violence. What an opportune day then to reflect on my own Trinitarian identity as one person who is at once queer, Catholic, and white.

In this reflection, I would prefer to focus on my favorite two “persons” of my Trinitarian identity: my queerness and my Catholicism. I have found that white, queer Catholics (myself included) often focus on our status of “oppressed” – both within and outside the institutional Catholic Church – instead of on our status as “oppressors” of Black and Brown folks, or as a “participators” in the violence of white supremacy. But my whiteness is an undeniable third “person.” I cannot do the lifelong work of unlearning white supremacy without understanding that the legacy of whiteness is a core part of who I am.

My experience of being queer and white is entirely different than the experience of being a person of color – especially a queer or trans person of color – in the United States. As a white queer person, I benefitted in significant ways from the Stonewall uprising: I can marry my fiancée (which I will do next August) because of the actions of queer and trans people of color. And yet, the safety that I have as a white queer person does not extend to queer people of color: in the past week alone Iyanna Dior, a black trans woman, was attacked, and Tony McDade, a black trans man, was murdered by police. It is my job, and the job of all white queer people, to align ourselves in solidarity with the movement for Black lives, because the Black lives that brought us the LGBTQ rights we have are still not safe.

When I turn to today’s readings for wisdom about the present moment, I find they reflect both the best and the worst narratives I’m hearing right now. The first reading offers us a description of God as “slow to anger and rich in kindness.” I have seen these words used in the past few days by moderate liberals, calling for an end to the resistance actions being taken by Black and Brown movement leaders. This current call to be “slow to anger” ignores the centuries of violence committed against people of color in the United States. How much “slower to anger” can we expect anyone to be? The protests, the redistribution of corporate property, and the anger are all understandable responses to systemic oppression. I reject this call to a false sense of “kindness,” which mostly serves to console white people and to extend the privilege of the oppressors.

In the Gospel, we hear a more radical call: the call to eternal life. I’ve gone back and forth about “heaven” – does life after death really exist? But now, as I’m reminded of all the murder and violence in the world, the promise of eternal life sounds both reasonable and urgent. I want life for George Floyd, and I want it in this world, not the next. I want the same for Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and every other Black or Brown person killed by white supremacy. Jesus came not “to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved.” I am ready for the salvation, and the liberation, of all people. We cannot wait any longer for eternal life. We must bring it to bear in the world now, even if that means being quick to anger against injustice.

For salvation to arrive, I must learn to accept the whole of my Trinitarian identity as queer, Catholic, and white because every part informs who I am. My queer ancestors taught me that damaging property and fighting back against the police can start revolutionary change. Black and Brown movement leaders are proving the same thing today. My Catholic ancestors taught me that my faith calls me into a preferential option for the vulnerable. Right now, that option means Black Lives Matter more than the comfort of the privileged. My whiteness means I cannot ignore the ways in which my ancestors enforced racial supremacy that still impacts my response to police violence today.

My queerness, my Catholicism, and my understanding of the Trinity all call me into action in the face of white supremacy. This week, my work towards liberation and eternal life for all people has looked like donating to bail funds and mutual aid efforts in Minneapolis and across the country. I have had difficult conversations with family and friends about undoing our internalized white supremacy. What has your work looked like? What are the parts of your identity that you cling to, and what are the parts you prefer to overlook? How have you allowed yourself to be quick to anger over injustice? As I invite you into these questions and reflect on them myself, my prayer is that I, and other queer, white Catholics, would remain grounded in the traditions that call us into justice work, and that the Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit would inspire us to dismantle white supremacy in every form it takes.

Allison Connelly, June 7, 2020

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