Coming Out Stories: The Catholic Shadow
I was raised in a deeply Catholic household, so, as a child, I read the bible and went to church every Sunday, and even participated in the first three of the seven sacraments (which is a lot, if you consider the other four involve either death or marriage or becoming a priest). Therefore coming out, for me, was always a compound factor: I was a skeptic, an atheist, and a lesbian. The religious background made it so that those three were interwoven in a way that whenever I struggled with one, all the questions came up that raised the others.
When I was still a child, the questions were simpler: I couldn’t deal with the fact that God was everywhere, but still we had to go to church to be in touch with him. I couldn’t deal with the fact that nuns would never lead a mass and a woman would never be pope. I couldn’t deal with the definition of sins, because it seemed like everything was a sin. I couldn’t deal with the fact that we had to confess our sins to some man in order to be absolved, when we would just do it all again and if God was seeing it all then wouldn’t He know we meant no harm and forgive us just the same without any need of human intervention?
I can’t remember a single day in that old life when I didn’t question our religion. But I read it all and I heard it all and I kept on trying to make some sense out of it. Until I wasn’t a kid anymore, and I started noticing other girls. Then questions got a little more complicated, and it wasn’t just the religion I was questioning. There was too much wrong going on, too many people being deceived, too many people being told what to do, too many people being told they’d go to hell, and too many people acting on God’s behalf and there was just no way I could have put up with it.
By the time I was twelve, I could no longer bring myself to go to church. By the time I was sixteen, I finally accepted that I didn’t believe there was a God at all, which freed me to exercise my skepticism and to like other girls and to live my life however I wanted to live it without fearing divine punishment.
Ever since that bell rang that I was an atheist and a lesbian, I never made any efforts to pretend I wasn’t – most of my friends actually went “…you just figured that out now? Pfff, we’ve known for ages.” Except…
I could never bring myself to say the words to them. Because their biggest disappointment in me was already my inherent skepticism (which I could never really hide, I was skeptic about my own imaginary friends). They could never accept my need of proof for every one of their affirmations or minor beliefs (mostly woo medicine). I think the sentence I heard the most in my life is “Why don’t you believe more? What kind of life is that where you have doubts about everything?” (A scientist’s life, mom, that’s what it is. It’s a good one, too.)
For everything said and done (and all the chat logs read without permission), I am pretty sure my parents do know. But they’re not the ones to start that conversation, especially when they can argue with themselves that, you know, I’ve had boyfriends and stuff, they’re probably just being paranoid, right? And while there are a lot of reasons why I shouldn’t be afraid of starting it myself – they generally respect gay and trans people, though their opinion about them is somewhat stereotyped, and, huh, they are my parents and they love me and all that – I can’t. I just can’t help it; all I can think of is the God and the religion they hold so dear, and how by their book, I’m a lesser human being who is going to hell. And maybe they wouldn’t care, maybe they would just say they already knew and they love me anyway…
But what if they don’t?
There’s pretty much only three ways this could turn out: they would try to talk me out of it, in the name of God, possibly throw me out of their lives when it didn’t work; they wouldn’t try to change it, but would be extremely disappointed and heartbroken at my defiance of God; or they’d just accept me and love me. And as much as the last one sounds awesome, they already accept me and love me right now, and I grew up seeing what good people turn into because of God and religion. At this point of my life, it’s just too much to lose.
Eventually, of course, I’ll do it. I don’t even think it will take me much longer. Chances are they already know, and they’ll be just the same awesome parents they are now. They have given me enough proof of their love for me over the last nineteen years that I can have just enough hope and confidence to bring out the words. I’ll write down that story when I get to it.
I probably sound a little contradictory in all that. But that is just as clear as I can get.