Aaron Harburg

How to talk to Catholics if you’re LGBTQ

Hopefully you will encounter a Catholic who has read some of my posts or instinctively follows those principles. However, that is highly unlikely. Thus, I’d like to give a few tips when talking to Catholics. You’ll find there are a wide variety of ways Catholics may come at you. I’d like to give you some insight into their psychology so that you can understand some of their baffling behavior.

There is a surprisingly large portion of the population, particularly of young male straight Catholics, who are obsessed with “apologetics.” The ideal behind apologetics is to lead someone rationally to the truths of the Faith. This is almost never actually accomplished by the people attempting to do this. In fact, more often than not, they often feel it is their job to make sure you know you’re wrong. This sort of attitude is frustrating at best. However, you need to understand where this is coming from. I am by no means going to absolve them of this nor am I going to give you the trite “they have good intentions” cop-out. Some in fact do, most however are probably motivated by a form of anxiety and anger. As for the anxiety, this is an immature response to the issue of what they perceive to be evil. There is a teaching in Catholicism about not being complicit in another’s sin. Many of these guys (possibly girls) are probably unconsciously doing everything they can to avoid that. The other is the anger. Many Catholics have a victim mentality. They see themselves as the persecuted minority. The problem is when this is from a place of believing they are entitled to a Christian society that respects Christianity. Thus, anything dealing with gayness is seen as, literally, the work of satan. Thus they feel an anger towards what they feel is you robbing them of their birthright. It is not entirely rational, it isn’t fair to you, but you’ll need to be patient with them for it.

Along those lines, you yourself probably have years of anger and frustration at the heteronormative impositions you’ve been surrounded by. Especially if you believe gay sex and gay marriage are good. Not only good, but essential to your happiness. I get it. Lashing out at them will not help. Either in rage, or disrespect, or with vulgarity to shock, or condescending dismissiveness. Instead they will simply form a prejudice towards gays that will reinforce their anger and anxiety. It is important to recognize that they don’t hate you unless you give them a reason to. Their believing that gay things are bad is, in theory, motivated by a belief in what will truly make you happy. That is the case even if they don’t actually care about your particular happiness, it’s not like you care that much about theirs either.

I would encourage you to keep an attitude of humility towards a lot of Catholics. Even if you’re the only gay person they know, you’re still not that special. Don’t go into it with a mission to show them how fabulous you are as a way of chipping at their beliefs. Just as it is almost impossible for a straight person to really be able to empathize with being gay, it is almost more difficult for a non-religious person to empathize with a religious person. For many Catholics their faith is the most important aspect of their life. It colors everything they think, say, and do. Being open to the good that it brings might actually help you understand them better. Try to see them as people rather than oppressors. It’s very likely they have almost no direct effect on whether or not you are allowed to get married. If you believe gay sex is moral, then don’t blame other people for any shame you feel. Sure, they might reinforce it, but it is likely you will end up experiencing a disproportionate reaction if you haven’t dealt with that shame.

This of course assumes you are dealing with a relatively rational person. If you find yourself dealing with someone who is completely closed off to you, ignore them. What good does it do to allow yourself to get sucked into their childish verbal brandishings? There are probably more closed-minded prejudiced jerks in the world than I think, but that still doesn’t mean I have to descend to their level.   

The biggest topic that is likely a HUGE issue for many gay persons with close conservative friends and families is that of if you elect to get married (in the modern sense). As I said before, it will be difficult for you to understand how someone who claims to support you will decide they cannot go to your wedding. Remember, Catholics cannot be complicit in what they consider to be sin. It will likely cause them more emotional pain than you realize. Don’t take it personally. In fact, if you know someone disagrees with gay marriage, rather than invite them to the marriage, invite them to the reception and openly acknowledge that you know their opposition. It will avoid a lot of tension. Your wedding should not be the place to make a political point.