The question that needs answering is this: Can a person be a practicing Catholic and a member of PFLAG? More exactly, can a person be a practicing Catholic and the head of the PFLAG publicity committee? Or do the two organizations contradict each other’s missions to the point that my head might explode?
I live in a small town that has recently put itself on the map and into the national consciousness for being a place where gay teenagers, bullied beyond endurance, hang themselves in their own backyards. Our rep is that of an unenlightened village of intolerance and despair. And while we do live in an uber-conservative pocket in the mountains of central California, there actually are people here who are horrified by what has happened, and who want to make our community a safer, more loving, more accepting place to raise our kids, both the gay ones and the straight ones.
My daughter came out as a lesbian eight years ago, and headed for more tolerant climes, first the state university in Santa Cruz, where she earned her B.A., and then to Portland, Oregon, where she now lives happily with her partner. She suffered in silence throughout her teenage years. She knows what it’s like to be whispered about, harassed, rejected, and ostracized. But overall, our family reacted well to her coming-out, and she and her partner are loved, accepted, and celebrated.
I wish, in retrospect, that I had realized before a young man killed himself in our midst that the personal is political: that just because our family was all right didn’t mean that we were not called to help other families, with other struggling teens, that mirrored our own. I wish we had mobilized then. We didn’t.
Eight years later, a suicide has jolted us out of complacency. Hence, PFLAG: Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. About ten of us started a discussion in a living room five months ago. We are wading through the paperwork to be able to call ourselves an official PFLAG chapter. PFLAG was founded by a mom in 1973, and supports, advocates, and educates on behalf of the beloved gay and lesbians in our circles of families and friends, and beyond.
Our town is so thirsty for change that we welcomed almost 40 people at our last monthly meeting. We are currently looking for a bigger space: after filling the living room, we have outgrown the Art Center that was generously offered by an organizing member. We are here. We are energetic, dedicated, open-armed. We are nervously considering marching in the parade at the annual Mountain Festival in August. As we gather in the name of love and equality and justice, we are most of all striving to be people of service.
I am the PR person, and I am still a practicing Catholic. At the moment, an uneasy truce rules my heart. The thing is that I am also a practicing mom. Right now, PFLAG is my ministry, even if a secular group would back away from that term. My devout hope is that no child here will ever again conclude that because of his or her sexual orientation, the only way out of this existential misery is through a violent death.
The answer I perceive to my question is yes, or more precisely, yes, yes, and no. Nothing has exploded yet. I suspect that, whenever I fumble for the courage to follow the lead of Christ’s love, I am also practicing Eucharist.