by Eliora Rios
When coming to love one’s queerness in the church a terrifying question arises: “How is it possible to love a community that has so often questioned or simply condemned your existence as a human being?” As a queer Catholic, this is a question I have asked myself hundreds of times. I have spent my entire life trying to find an answer to how I can be faithful to all sides of my identity, but the journey has been long and difficult.
Growing up in the rural south, being Catholic was already an isolating factor within many of the communities in which I lived. Our community was always small, conservative and vicious to all outsiders. I can recall a litany of anti-LGBT+ sentiment that spewed from every aspect of that toxic community from the church to the school, hatred flowed. Needless to say, I was hiding my queerness as I found out myself. At first, I turned the question inward towards myself, decrying why I was made in such a way, but over time the hatred turned outward.
As the questions continued to rise within my life more and more frequently, I began doubting my faith. I remember so many times I would feel so lost and abandoned, thinking to myself: “Why? Why was I made this way? Made to be hated.” To actually continue my survival and grasp on to the fragments of false community that I still had, I was forced to hide every imperfect aspect of myself: top of the list being my budding queer identity. I cursed God for making me so imperfect, and the church and every parishioner and townie for enforcing these standards. I felt truly alone, and for a time I could not reconcile my identities.
When I came to DePaul, I wanted nothing to do with my faith. I was already so isolated from my faith. I would pass by CCM and feel a dull numbness; a pang for the faith that I had all but completely forsaken. That was until my friend convinced me to go on the Search retreat. It was there that my eyes were fully opened! There were many other queer people within the faith who asked the same question! Many who found their community here at DePaul. I have found that here I feel accepted, not as a fragmented, half-hidden wretch, but as a whole and complete person! Through them, and through the compassion of the non-LGBT+ members as well, I found God’s true love again in them.
I recognize that the church as a whole has so far to go with our community and I still work constantly to rectify the negativity I still have for those who once condemned me, but I have found my answer to the question I have asked over and over again. How do I bring them together? Through love, compassion, and understanding! We are not condemned to constantly be part of a community, we can leave, build our own, or find the one that fits us perfectly, and mine is here at DePaul.