Thursday, August 12, 2010

The "Catholic Answer" to Enduring a Lesbian Family Member

Thanks once again to reader John, for sending me some more blogging material. This bit the forum of the site "Catholic Answers," which has an "Ask An Apologist" feature which, well, it's sort of self-explanatory. Of particular interest to me was the question of what to do if one finds out that one's family member is a lesbian.

Should this lesbian be invited to family gatherings?

What about the lesbian lover?

What about the Christians?

What about the children?!?

Let's read the answer to find out:

"Don't you think it could give your relative mixed signals to tell her that she should remain chaste but that she is free to bring a lesbian date to a family gathering? Not only that, but what about the feelings of family members who may not be able yet to deal with seeing your relative with a 'girlfriend,' or who may be uncomfortable with exposing young children to this relative's 'lifestyle'?"

First off, notice how the Lesbian Family Member's (LFM) experience, and her potential ostracism from her family, is not taken into consideration at all. It's a feminist in-joke that men seemingly always find a way to re-center men in conversations, especially about feminist issues, in this very "That's too bad about rape culture and all, but what about the men?!?!?!" sort of way. Here, the apologist is doing something similar, and is all what about the heterosexuals and their feeeeeeeelings and discomfort about homosexuality?!?! As if anti-gay Christians ever let us think about anything else.

Secondly, notice the abundance of scare quotes encapsulating certain words within this article. Such quotes indicate that the author takes issue with lesbians using words like "girlfriend" and "couple" in reference to our relationships. This is nothing out of the ordinary. Christians devalue and minimize our relationships all the time, believing they possess the moral power to strip some of the most important relationships of our lives of this status. However, also notice how the word "lifestyle" is in quotes. That's sort of funny because many LGBT people would never use the word "lifestyle" in reference to our sexual orientations. Rather, that is the anti-gay Christian thing to do, indicating that the author here is (probably unintentionally) signalling that she takes issue with referring to our sexual orientations as "lifestyles."

The apologist continues:

"If he or she has a 'partner' who otherwise accompanies that person as a social unit, they might be invited to adults-only gatherings when the rest of the family consents. Or, if they can be trusted to act as platonic friends in the presence of minor children, it might be possible to invite them when children are present."

The lawyer in me is currently imagining literal paper do-you-consent-to-being-in-the-presence-of-a-known-homosexual forms here and what such a thing would look like.

Anyhoo, generally, it has been my experience that same-sex couples who seek inclusion in family events go way out of their way not to touch each other or do anything that could be remotely perceived as romantic in the presence of anti-gay family members. While many Christian heterosexual couples are encouraged to be cute, cuddly, and kissy-faced under mistletoes and such, many same-sex couples barely glance at one another in the presence of anti-gay family members whom they have to walk on eggshells not to offend.

Here, with the apologist's little phrase "it might be possible to invite" the lesbian couple, the adviser implies that most same-sex couples simply can't be "trusted" not to start having sex right in plain view of The Children.

The author has obviously mistaken lesbians for certain male Catholic priests

She ends:

"If your relative has a problem with this -- as is very possible -- keep in mind that she is responsible for her own choices and must realize that her choice to engage in a certain 'lifestyle' may mean exclusion from some family events, particularly if she either cannot or will not respect the sensitivities and innocence of others."

Notice here how the adviser absolves the family of responsibility for shutting out a family member. It is the lesbian's "lifestyle," she claims, that "mean[s] exclusion," rather than, say, the family's objection to homosexuality that induces them to exclude the lesbian from family events.

The Catholic family gets off scott-free, convincing themselves that they're certainly not intolerant or anything, the lesbian has just made a bad choice! Phew! Now that that's settled they can keep on being loving, compassionate, and just like Jesus.

But you know what? After reading this article, if this author is any indication of the average Catholic's thought process surrounding lesbians (and that's a big if), being excluded from such family events actually ends up looking like a net positive, reinforcing my belief that if this Heaven and Hell bit happens to be true (and that, too, is a big if), Hell ends up looking like the way better alternative to the dorkwad, mean-spirited, sexually-repressed Christian family reunion that Heaven will surely turn out to be.

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