The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

God in the Gayborhood


A year after a homophobic remark

I ripped a pride flag off my wall a year ago. I wanted the rainbow to come off my walls; to come off my body, to come off my soul.

I went on an upperclassman retreat in February of last year. For the weekend, I had a student leader who was there to support and guide me. On the second day of the retreat, I shared how hard my spiritual journey has been.

Growing up Catholic and gay never created an easy Sunday. After hearing about my pain, heartbreak and collection of homophobic abuse with Catholicism, my leader broke me with an interrogation of my identity. He picked, poked and questioned me into fear. I haven’t been able to unhear when he said without hesitation:

“If you believe in the Catholic Church, you would be celibate.”

These words weren’t unfamiliar. He sounded like the priest I grew up listening to in stained glass shadows. I learned to never act on my “same sex attraction,” and to live a life without love, intimacy or affection. I was programmed to hate myself for the way I loved.

My leader’s words led me to a night of sobbing in a retreat house far from safety. He opened up my repressed childhood memories of homophobia. It retraced my fear of the church, how our own Campus Ministry is falling short in safe spaces.[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#cecece” txt_color=”#000000″]”I will say it so every queer person knows they are sacred. God celebrates our love. God is in the middle of the pride parade, with rainbow glitter all over his skin.”[/mks_pullquote]

Last week, The Hawk published the story of Noel Koenke’s trauma and discrimination as a queer campus minister. The homophobia reaches from the Church, to dorms, to our retreat houses; it all connects at the root.

For years, I have heard all are welcomed then watch the Church doors slam at my feet.

Now a year later, those leader’s words still echo in my head. When I pass the chapel of St. Joseph, it is a whisper. When I sit in a church pew, it screams. On Christmas, I was shaking as my family said the Our Father. I have never felt welcomed in St. Joe’s church since my retreat “leader” said those words to me. When I see my “leader,” I hide; still stuck in a closet out of fear and because of the hatred behind his words.

I lead a space called “Coming Out, Spiritually” for queer students to explore the interdependence of their identity and spirituality. I created this space for the 18-year-old me who was terrified to tell her suitemates about her girlfriend; for the 15-year-old me who felt forced out of the Church.

Each Thursday, a group of LGBTQIA+ students gather in vulnerability. We discuss both the joy and challenges of our spiritual lives, in the safety of a queer space. This is the only hour I don’t hold my breath. It is through Campus Ministry which elevates the complications of our existence. Last week resurfaced the question, “Are we loved here?”

Ministry is empty without acceptance of all students. One of the gentlest ministers in my life taught me to reclaim; to define my spirituality in color, movement and emotion. Ministry holds people’s truth at its core, listening and responding.

Do not say we are welcomed without action. Queer people in belief need greater reassurance, support and community. We’ve been written out of the Bible where we once were. Rewrite us into your faith. That is true ministry.

Queer people belong in belief.

I will say it so every queer person knows they are sacred. God celebrates our love. God is in the middle of the pride parade, with rainbow glitter all over his skin. Dancing with drag queens in the Gayborhood. God is cheering “queer is good” to all of us.

If any part of you doesn’t believe this, I invite you to learn about Jesus: a holy man who held the hands of the marginalized. I know Jesus would have sat with me and cried as the Church doors were closed on me a year ago.

He would have hung my pride flag up after I tore it down saying, “There is such grace in how you love.”

We belong here. There is no less holiness in a queer soul. I am trying to believe this for myself, but a year ago I was triggered into repenting.

But this morning, I wrote a prayer about the holiness in my queerness. I saw God rewrite my words in the sunrise. No one can take this belief from me.

View Comments (1)
Donate to The Hawk News

Your donation will support the student journalists of St. Joseph's University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Hawk News

Comments (1)

All The Hawk News Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • M

    Meghan SackFeb 7, 2020 at 10:56 am

    A wonderfully written and brave article. I hope the author continues to live her truth and be a light for others in the SJU community.