Monthly letters to help put the work of the catechist of the Good Shepherd into the context of the larger world · from the archives
by Catherine Maresca
by Catherine Maresca
Our context this month is certainly the murders in Orlando on June 12, with the intersecting violence of guns with anti-Gay, anti-Muslim, and anti-Latin@ “isms” in our society. I would like to consider the intersection of the LGBTQ community and our atriums.
This week, a young trans woman shared a compelling article on commondreams.com. Now in high school, she was a student at Christian Family Montessori School for many years. I am proud of her courage and her writing, as well as the CFMS environment that supported her in the years before her transition. I love that she chose the name “Grace.” Here is her invitation to be allies on “the journey to the mountaintop of love and liberation.”
They’re killing us. Help us stop them. They are making laws in this country against us.
I’ve been more excited and then more terrified by this weekend’s rollercoaster of emotions than I ever thought possible.
On Friday, I felt amazingly supported and empowered and valued by President Obama, by my LGBTQ community, by my school and by my family and friends and neighbors as I took part in the first-ever White House Summit for African American LGBTQ Youth. I was so happy.
On Saturday, I was full of joy and pride as I marched during the Pride Parade in our nation’s capitol with the most beautiful, loving wonderful people I’ve ever seen all in one place. Every race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, dancing and singing. We celebrated ourselves, each other, our allies, our joy, our love and our bright futures. We were so beautiful and full of promise. I was so proud to be an afro-latina-anglo transgender teen.
Then Sunday, June 12, 2016. I woke up to find that a homophobic, transphobic hatred-filled assassin, brutally murdered fifty of our young, innocent, beautiful, beloved community, injuring over fifty more. They say he is a US-born Islamic terrorist. But his hatred echoes the headlines I see of right-wing US fundamentalists calling for discrimination and erasure of my rights as a human being. His hatred echoes the oppression and killings and arrests of my black and Latin@ brothers and sisters on the streets, in the schools and in our prisons. His hatred echoes of the rhetoric expressed by Donald Trump when he and his supporters proudly trumpet the sentiment to keep out all Muslims and Latin@s from our country-by force- and to keep LGBTQ people from marrying each other, even to denying us the right to pee in peace.
I’m not trying to be partisan. I’m just observing that President Obama held a summit to tell us how valued we are. Donald Trump and many other conservative lawmakers want to erase us. A culture of fear and bigotry is again taking hold of this country. You do the math.
I’m only fifteen years old but I know what it’s like to have deep love and support and I’ve witnessed and been the object of deep hatred and ignorance. I feel angry and I feel heartbroken by this massacre. I’ve learned that love wins over hate. My generation wants love, we want diversity, we want equity, we want inclusion. We demand our human rights.
We know many of you are allies and we need you. And you need us.
My generation wants to lead. We want to determine our own future. We want you not just to love us, but to support us and to listen to us. If you don’t understand, ask us. Ask us who we are and what we need.
We all need to stop the passing of laws aimed to hurt us and to erase us. Stop supporting a gun culture. Stop supporting politicians who want to exploit and exclude immigrants. Stop expelling and suspending and arresting and incarcerating us. Stop trying to oppress us. It won’t work. We are stronger than you think.
We are Generation Z, we come of age in 2018, and we are here to lead. We need your help. We need your support. The future is majority black and brown and queer. Race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity exist on a spectrum. Don’t be afraid of it. It is beautiful. It is human. It is truth. Terrorists and religious fundamentalists—both home-grown and those overseas—don’t understand. Conservative politicians and voters don’t understand. Some liberals don’t understand. We will help you to understand. Stand with us. Stand against hate. Pass gun control. People pull the triggers. Sometimes 103 times in a small space.
Follow us and we will lead you off the rollercoaster of fear and terror and onto the mountaintop of love and liberation and it is there that I hope you will understand us.
My journey as an ally began when a dear friend came out about 25 years ago. It took some weeks for either of us to say out loud what she knew, and months to process the responses of our community and her family and friends. I knew then that abstract knowledge and thought (regardless of one’s stance) mean nothing in the face of a beloved looking at you as she comes out. It’s very simple, “You are my friend and I love you.”
With a career of serving children ages 3-12 in the atrium at Christian Family Montessori School I did not expect to continue this journey at work. However, it was not long before “two-mom” families joined us. I began to be aware of the possibilities of either undermining or supporting these families with the policies of the school and the words and materials of our atrium. Since then, I have assumed that in every group of children there are one or more who will be among the LGBTQ community. My first resolution was to never say or do anything that would cause children to doubt God’s deep and eternal love for each of them. This would be a betrayal of both God and the child, whose relationship we nurture.
In addition, I began to lead formation courses for catechists around the country. Among them were women from communities led by and/or actively welcoming gay men and lesbians. Their participation did not change our materials or presentations, but they did help me learn to monitor my words carefully, become knowledgeable about the LGBTQ community, and become comfortable with related discussions in both the atrium and the courses. I learned to pronounce “LGBT” and then “LGBTQ.” I learned what all the letters stood for, how to discuss trans men and women, and to use appropriate pronouns. I met Sr. Jeannine Gramick of New Ways Ministry at my gym and picked her brain for both the developing science and theology around LGBTQ issues.
And yet, my experience is limited, my ignorance is deep, and my ability to understand and act seems shallow in the face of the murders in Orlando. For the last nine years I’ve been learning to play the violin, and I now participate in a community orchestra. I love the idea of being part of a group of very talented musicians, but I’m not very good yet, and it’s hard work. The goal of being a community of such varied voices playing beautifully together draws me forward. Being an ally is like this for me. It’s hard work, my missteps are sometimes embarrassing, and I have a long way to go. But the vision – Grace’s vision – draws me forward.