This blog reflection is part of an ongoing series, Pride with Mercy, that began during Pride Month 2019. These reflections grew out of the Sisters of Mercy’s Chapter 2017 Declaration challenging each of us to respond to those who suffer from oppressive systems and to “become better educated and to participate in engaged dialogue on issues of gender identity and sexual orientation.” We encourage you to forward these posts to someone who might need to read them. Together, may we grow in our tolerance, acceptance and understanding, and extend a hand of welcome to the LGBTQ+ community.
By Sister Michelle Gorman
As Sisters of Mercy, associates and companions, we continue to envision ways to live more deeply into our Recommitment Statement: Called to a New Consciousness. Given our tradition of solidarity with those relegated to the margins of society, it seems appropriate, in this Pride Month 2020, to consider how we can be an ally to LGBTQ+ persons.
An ally is generally defined as an individual from a dominant group who recognizes that their privilege is unearned and who advocates for those who don’t possess that privilege. Allyship with any marginated group is vital to their being seen and heard in the integrity of their personhood, created and loved by God (First Principle of Catholic Social Teaching). In the case of the LGBTQ+ community, the dominant heterosexual community in whose favor society is arranged—socially, economically and religiously—has the opportunity to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community so that they can more easily live with greater integrity without fear for their physical and psychological lives. There are several steps one can take toward a deep and full allyship:
- Be an ally in your heart.
- Spend some time in quiet prayer, envisioning a day in the life of an LGBTQ+ person as they adjust to the hetero-normative society into which they were born.
- Consider your own feelings about those who are not heterosexual. What experiences might contribute to those feelings? Interactions with LGBTQ+ people? Media? Family? Church? Society? Study? Other?
- What is your deepest prayer/desire regarding LGBTQ+ persons?
- Be an educated ally.
- At our Chapter 2017, we committed to “become better educated and to participate in engaged dialogue on issues of gender identity and sexual orientation.” Becoming better educated strengthens us in our ability to dialogue about scientific learnings as well as the many church writings advocating for the dignity of LGBTQ+ persons.
- Be an active
- Speak out when homophobic or heterosexist comments are made. As a high school teacher, I often witnessed and intervened when certain students were the targets of homophobic remarks. When I was leaving the school, one of those students said, “Sister, who will stick up for me next year?” We have no idea when the power of our words can make or break a life.
- Be an open
- When you have an opportunity, share briefly with your colleagues/acquaintances why you are an ally. This step can take a good amount of moral courage. You may be belittled, or given the silent treatment, or challenged in a way for which you do not feel prepared. There is no need to defend. Your heart is free.
- Be a visible
- Attend LGBTQ+ events and networks. This step requires an intentional, active decision to move out of your own comfort zone to places where you will interact with LGBTQ+ persons. Now, most likely, you will be presumed to be “one of them.” But you will continue to learn how they and their loved ones experience the world.
- Be an engaged
- When you engage with LGBTQ+ persons, perhaps you can be inspired by Catherine McAuley’s quote about the poor:
There are things the [LGBTQ+] prize more highly than gold, though they cost the donor nothing: among these are the kind word, the gentle compassionate look, and the patient hearing of their sorrows.(Familiar instructions, p. 38)
In my teaching days, I engaged with my students on an intellectual level. But when I learned from his journal that one of my students had discovered his mother was a lesbian, I did not know how to engage with him, and therefore did not give a patient hearing to his concerns—one of my regrets.
The attitude and demeanor of an ally to the LGBTQ+ community could be summed up in the words of Cyndi Lauper’s song, True Colors:
I see your true colors shining through.
I see your true colors, and that’s why I love you.
So don’t be afraid to let them show.
Your true colors, true colors, are beautiful—like a rainbow.
In fact, when you can do this, you no longer need to be allied with the LGBTQ+ community; now, you are just one human being relating to another—no privilege, no hierarchy, no judgments, just living with greater integrity of word and deed and bringing closer to reality that Oneness that we all desire.