It's that time of year again. The beginning of summer marks the time of year when every major city hosts its LGBT Pride Parade. The cities will explode in a Molotov cocktail explosion of pink confetti, diva music, and piñatas filled with condoms. Or so I've heard.
For the first time I will be participating in the festivities. Not because for the first time in my life I'm gay, but for the first time in my life, I'm verging on something adjacent to pride when it comes to my sexuality.
For the longest time, I didn't know what that meant. How could someone be proud of their sexuality? Did straight people walk around proud of the fact that they wanted to have heterosexual intercourse? Unlikely.
But really what was there to be proud of when it came to sexuality at all? It is an uncontrollable fact bestowed upon each of us. It's like celebrating my red hair or freckles. Those don't bring me a sense of pride. They're just facts. I'm proud of accomplishments. My graduation from college, my job, the relationships I've built with those around me, my dedication to watch all of season 2 of True Detective no matter how bad it got. Those required work.
My gayness didn't require work. It required being born.
But then I thought again.
I grew up in a traditional, Irish-Catholic family in Boston. My mom is the principal of a Catholic school. My grandparents traveled over directly from Ireland. I've only ever missed two Sunday masses since I was eight. That's the level we're talking.
A few years ago, when I decided to finally come out as gay -- though my attendance at the last three Taylor Swift tours should've already been an indicator to anyone who breathes -- I went to Church first to talk about it with God.
In the Catholic faith, there is a practice called adoration. Growing up I didn't understand what it was. I just thought that's where my mom would go on Friday nights when she didn't feel like drinking. But as I grew older I understood why she went.
Catholics believe that at the last supper Jesus said, "Take this bread and eat. For this is my body given up to you." When we receive the Eucharist, a consecrated piece of unleavened bread, we are not remembering the last supper or reenacting it. We believe we are actually receiving and consuming God and all the peace he brings.
In adoration, we do not consume it, but we adore it silently. We believe God is present in that room.
Everyone I've ever tried explaining this to gets a weird, bugged-out look in their eye. Like "Oh crap, I thought he was normal." It's like revealing you're a Scientologist at a dinner party while everyone backs away slowly hoping it's not contagious.
I used to think it was crazy too, but the more I went to it, the more peace I felt and the more I felt like I was having a direct conversation with God in that quiet.
I went to adoration when I decided to embark on Operation: Find a Man. I feared God would be angry, but instead I distinctly felt God encouraging me.
The next day I got a call from my mom at work. She said she'd gone to Church that morning and felt there was something troubling me that I hadn't told her about. I struggled to hold the phone. I've never felt so assured that God was in the Eucharist.
As I came out to family and friends over the course of the next year and a half, the response was varied -- from unconditional love, to those who feared for my soul because now I was going to hell to blatant rejection. Many kept asking: "Why?"
That was a few years ago and I have developed a new life and new friends. Now their resounding question is: Why? Why are you still Catholic?
I understand that the Church deems my gayness "same-sex attraction disorder," which as an acronym spells "SAD" -- the exact opposite of gay. I am clear that I can never get married in a Catholic church -- even while I go to mass every weekend and most Catholics who get married in churches are the Christmas-Easter types.
I would like to think the Catholic Church will one day change its mind, but it's almost irrelevant because the Catholic Church has been wrong about a great many things. I grew up in a time when Boston was littered with sexual abuse victim stories daily. I know the Catholic Church would rather people in Africa die of AIDS than give them contraception. I know the Church is still incredibly and shamefully sexist in almost every regard.
But that is the Church. And to be honest, I hate the Catholic Church as much as anyone. Catholicism has not lasted for 2,000 years because of priests or the institution. In fact it has lasted in spite of both. Its longevity stems from millions of people across the world who still connect to the beliefs of forgiveness, do unto others what you want done, and the self-sacrificing love of our creator.
When I was younger, I didn't come out because I thought I had to choose between my faith and my sexuality. I had no models of gay individuals who embraced their faith. People always chose one or the other.
When I came out, God reached out to me to say you can be both.
That is why I'm proud: I reached back. I have incorporated my sexuality into my whole being. It does not define me. I am proud to be gay and Catholic. That is not simply a fact. It is an accomplishment. In spite of my surroundings, I proclaimed that I want to find happiness with a man. In spite of the world, I maintained my faith. I did that, and I am proud.