It started during my senior year of high school. My then-best friend Heather was rumored to be dating a junior girl, one of my neighbors who lived on the next block over. She hadn't told me, but one day I saw them holding hands walking down my street.
I didn't say anything to Heather. She clearly hadn't wanted me to know. Finally, while we were hanging out one afternoon, she simply said, "I know you know."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I was afraid. You're just so. . . Catholic." At the time Heather and I were both in the unenviable position of being teenagers, struggling to find our place in the world. Heather was coming to terms with being a lesbian in a world that was changing but still very unwelcoming to the gay population. And for the first time, I was unclear about how I fit into the secular world as a Catholic. For the first time, I was aware that the world was secular, while I was Catholic.
Over the next five years the remedy was simple, as I shunned my Faith when I decided I didn't want to follow its rules. When I reverted to Catholicism I dedicated myself to finally understanding the Church's teachings that before, I just thought of as laws to regulate our behavior.
These efforts left me - leave me - in a limbo. My generation has witnessed greater normalization of homosexuality, but the Catholic Church has never changed positions on the matter: The inclination to be attracted to someone of the same sex itself is not a sin, but to linger on that attraction, to give in to lust in response to that attraction. and certainly to act on that attraction is the sin. Contrary to what has become a popular belief, the average Catholic doesn't condemn homosexuality out of hate, but out of a deep love and desire to see all on this earth united again in Heaven. Certainly, that is my goal. If and when I find myself in Heaven someday, I want everyone that I love to be there too. My drive has grown even stronger since the day I sent my son that way.
The question for me then became a question of how I can lead those around me, especially when I have no idea what I'm doing myself most of the time. When I think of the number of times I've screwed up, I'm reluctant to be bold in the teachings of my Faith. I got divorced, I got knocked up, and I showed up to my second wedding with my six month old daughter. I haven't been exemplary.
Interestingly, it's the divorce that led me to really understand why gay couples want to be married, why they can't be satisfied with civil unions and domestic partnerships. Marriage is different. It is real, and special, and changes the nature of a relationship. If it weren't, the disintegration of my first marriage wouldn't have burned as it did/ If marriage weren't special, I wouldn't have bothered to give it a second chance. Marcos and I lived together, had a baby together, and we could have just kept the status quo but it fell short of capturing what we have. Whether one supports gay marriage or not, support of marriage means recognizing that marriage is not just a piece of paper.
I've also had to wonder how much I can accomplish by telling my gay friends, and I have many, that engaging in homosexuality is a sin. Are they very likely to stop? I'm past an age and station in life when friends will lie to me to avoid the conflict between my Faith and their lifestyle. Friendships just seem to work better when nobody has to pretend like they're something they're not. When Proposition 8 came up on California ballots I put too much effort into lying, leading people to believe that my fully informed conscience would still permit me to vote "no." My Faith called me to vote "yes," ad when I returned to my faith I committed myself to letting my conscience lead me.
I don't pretend to be some free-thinking, cafeteria, pick-n-choose Catholic anymore. Likewise, I don't pretend to be a Catholic who understands how this whole life thing, and the whole eternity thing, actually works. It's all just sort of speculation., trial, and error. My friends know where the Catholic Church stands on homosexuality, and they know I stand with my Church. I make it clear that I bring my daughter to Mass every week. and that I wish for her to have a Catholic education. I want her to know her Faith and I want to lead her to Heaven the best way I know how.
The best I've come up with so far is just to live as I know how, guided by my imperfect understanding of Church teachings, with my eyes ahead and on the prize. I spend a great deal of time praying that when I stand before God, He will know my heart, and that I can honestly say that my heart is pure.
Heather stood by my side as my bridesmaid when I married Ben. but thereafter we drifted apart. It had nothing to do with the fact that she's a great big lezzy, and everything to do with the fact that life just changes and leads us in different directions, and though we live in the same little. big town, the distance from one side of that town to the other makes keeping up certain friendships inconvenient. I still love her, and I still want her to be happy. She recently got engaged. When she met Allison, it was pretty evident that they were both in it for the long haul. She was happy. and that was undeniable, even if the right for her to marry Allison was denied. It's been nearly 20 years since heather first came out as a lesbian and in that time I've watched her struggle to find her place in life. After all this time, I think she's finally found it.