You Can Be Queer and Catholic?
Our recent reading, Queer and Catholic, was kind of a strange event for me to attend. I mean, Catholicism isn’t something I have much familiarity with beyond a pop culture understanding of ritual and what I have often viewed as somewhat antiquated edicts. Yet Christianity, of which Catholicism is large bearing branch of the Christian tree, a metaphor I learned in confirmation, is something with which I am all too familiar.
As a pastor’s daughter, Church, the evangelical Protestant kind with perhaps less ornate stained glass and more contemporary hymns to accompany the just-as-rigid catechism, has been my second home. And so the Christ and the Saints that were recurring problematized and ritualized thematic figures in the portions of the Queer and Catholic anthology we were able to hear in Boston last Friday are at once familial and strange.
Added to this simultaneous familial-arity and stranger-ness, was the identity of Queer, which I’d like to think I know quite a bit about. My own queerness has been a point of contention within my family (to put it politely and perhaps euphemistically), as well as in the broader Christian discourse, as current American electoral politics remind us daily in their effort to use queerness as a cleavage issue to gain party partisanship. As a Gender and Cultural Studies student, queerness is something I study; something that extends beyond sexuality and gender to the deconstruction of binary divisions and linear temporal thinking. Queerness, in short, is something I pat myself on the back for knowing at least a thing or two about.
And yet when I encouraged my friends and colleagues to come to yet another Center for New Words event, the response was, in a somewhat tongue-and-cheek manner, “You can be Queer and Catholic?” The Queerness and Catholicism represented on Friday was not the same for every individual. Mallory Hanora, a young boston-based writer and activist, has a Catholicism rooted in ritual memory that she strings together with melodic prose lines as a way to explain some of her queerness. Scott Pomfrett, another reader who published Since My Last Confession: A Gay Catholic Memoir, finds his queerness with humor as he is one of the only readers who identifies as a practicing Catholic, strongly committed to local churches here in Boston. And other readers talk of Queerness in a language of religion in and of itself.
It’s amazing how two “known” identities combine and create not just a hybrid identity or a new identity, but a new way of knowing all together. I left on Friday night not just feeling a part of a community of queers with Christian roots or identity, however different from my own they may be, but with a new way of understanding identity all together.
Not bad for a Friday night reading at the Center.