Grace Doerfler is a queer Catholic woman who believes deeply in sharing the wholeness of her identity, even as she struggles to find a home in a church that too often fails to acknowledge and welcome its own queer and trans community.
In America, Doerfler writes:
“As someone who identifies as both Catholic and queer, I deeply believe there is a connection between our words and our lives. Through my Catholicism, I have faith that language is a holy space in which we encounter the divine. It was through the Word becoming flesh that God chose to encounter her people; it was with a word that Jesus offered healing and grace; in naming, we commit to relationship with God.
“Similarly, for many L.G.B.T.Q. people, the process of coming out can hold a certain sacramentality. Each disclosure of our identities (for those of us who are able to come out) is a leap of faith. Breaking the silence can allow the inbreaking of the Spirit.”
In her experience, the process of coming to this sacramental understanding of her queer Catholic identity was not always easy, especially due to a lack of representation: Doerfler “did not know more than one or two openly L.G.B.T.Q. people until [she] got to college.” For this reason, she sees the importance in her own story and the stories of those around her:
“[Treating] one another’s stories with compassion invites the possibility of new life and growth. In narrating my own identity and letting it coexist with my faith, I have finally found not a cross but new life. In the process, I have encountered God and found community in new ways. It felt like coming up for air after being trapped underwater.
“Young L.G.B.T.Q. Catholics need stories in which we can see that a future that includes our queerness is possible. Perhaps just as importantly, straight Catholics need these stories, too. We need more scripts in which L.G.B.T.Q. Catholics can see ourselves, more ways of saying aloud all the ways in which people can be images of God.”
Ultimately, Doerfler is honest that some days she is ready to leave for a more inclusive church and other days she wants to stay and make the church a better place. But regardless of the decision of queer Catholics to stay or go, she wants us to know that it is not “wrong to want a better spiritual home as a queer person of faith.”
As a queer Catholic woman currently studying at a Catholic seminary, I resonated deeply with Doerfler’s experience and struggles, with her passion for resurrection and change that she knows is possible and with her exhaustion with going unchosen and unappreciated. Doerfler reminds me that our stories and narratives as queer Catholics carry importance. If not for the institutional church, then for those queer Catholics who come before and after us.
—Barbara Anne Kozee, New Ways Ministry, August 28, 2021