Catholicism is deeply rooted in our culture. According to a study by The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 68% of Hispanics in the U.S. consider themselves Catholic. Clearly the majority, Catholicism is more than just a religion to us. It is deeply connected with our roots and traditions. Our countries have patron saints, we incorporate church into cultural traditions like quinceañeras. As Hispanics, our cultures and identities are tied to the church.
As a culture that has religion strongly tied to us, it can be incredibly difficult to be true to ourselves as members of the LGBT community and still find familial and social acceptance.
So many of us face bigotry. We are not accepted by friends or family. An innumerable amount of us stay hidden in the closet because it feels (and in many cases just is) safer there. According to a blog on www.believeoutloud.com, Catholic Church officials in Ohio and Hawaii are forcing Catholic school teachers to sign a contract stating that marrying or having a civil union with a same sex partner, even attending any kind of pride events can lead to their termination. Talk about living in fear! Our church which is supposed to bring us light, guidance, comfort, and hope is doing quite the opposite.
What are we to do as “out” Latinos and also as Catholics? How do we find a balance? Is there even a balance to be had?
The answer is not one size fits all. For each and every one of us has a different path and a different past. Our family dynamics are different. What works for me may not work for you. We each need to consider our individual circumstances and truly evaluate the situation. Are we safe where we are, or would we possibly need to seek safety elsewhere? Do we have friends and family members who are at least open to listening to us? Do we have any inkling as to how this conversation may go?
We need to be realistic. We need to consider all the pros and cons of each situation, each conversation, each person. We need to enter into these conversations hopeful, but not unprepared. If there is any question or doubt about our safety or otherwise, we need to come up with a plan to ensure the well-being of everyone involved.
We must remember that some friends or family members may struggle or not be receptive to us because of their deep rooted Catholic beliefs. We need to remember that, to consider that, and to respect that. Again, for many people, it is difficult to separate our culture and our faith.
Interestingly enough, though, our current Pope has been rather bold and outspoken. He has been challenging the old ways of the church by working towards a more open and loving mentality. His goal is to bring back the message of love and compassion, not one of hatred and segregation.
Just because we are born as LGBT does not mean we cannot still be Catholic. Our religion tells us that we are made in God’s image; that we are all welcomed by the Holy Trinity. We can still practice our faith and be true to ourselves. Ours is a deity of love. God is compassionate. God wants us to be happy and dutiful. We can absolutely have both of those. We go through the sacraments, we go to confession, we pray our rosaries, we pray the Hail Mary. We follow our faith while also following the call to be open and honest with ourselves and the people around us.
Pope Francis’ stance on the LGBT community gives me tremendous hope. As the leader of our church, he is telling us to accept each other, not judge each other. He is reminding us of Jesus’ true message. He is leading us by example. He is teaching us that the church doors need to be open to everyone.
There is a balance. We can still be out and continue to practice our beliefs and traditions. As long as Pope Francis continues to give us messages of hope and love, we are still welcome in the church and to live our own lives as LGBT Catholic Hispanics.
Live life in your own special way,