I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.
Not a Choice—Hasn't That Been What's Been Said All Along?
While some individuals might argue the contrary, being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is not a matter of choice.
Psychologists have been saying for years that one's sexuality and gender is part of each person's individual makeup, and in 2018, in what was a private conversation between Pope Francis and Juan Carlos Cruz, the main whistleblower in the Chilean church's sex abuse and cover-up scandal, it would seem that the Catholic church (or at least His Holiness) is in agreement.
Cruz met with Pope Francis at the Vatican in April 2018, and the two discussed how Chilean priests had used Cruz's sexual orientation as a weapon against him when they were assaulting him. According to NBC News, Cruz said that the Pope told him that "the pope loves you this way. God made you like this, and he loves you.”
While the Vatican routinely refuses to comment on the Pope's private conversations, the remarks are a telling way in which Pope Francis is molding the Catholic Church into the modern era. In 2013, Pope Francis told the press, "Who am I to judge?" when questioned about how he would act as a confessor to a gay person, and according to National Catholic Reporter, he went on to say this:
"I am glad that we are talking about 'homosexual people' because before all else comes the individual person, in his wholeness and dignity. And people should not be defined only by their sexual tendencies: let us not forget that God loves all his creatures and we are destined to receive his infinite love."
I am not a religious person by any stretch, but I nearly jumped out of my chair when I saw Pope Francis' words leap out of my screen. "People should not be defined only by their sexual tendencies..." This is something I've firmly believed for years, which could be why I practically jump at the chance to run a Gay-Straight Alliance at whatever school I might be teaching at.
In October 2020, a documentary premiered in which Pope Francis appeared to endorse civil unions for same-sex couples.
I've long since told my own children that I didn't really care what sexuality or gender they had; if they were good people and treated people decently, I was a happy person. The fact that the Pope has come out (no pun intended) and reportedly said that someone's sexuality was because God made them that way is huge.
There have long been arguments that being a member of the LGBTQ+ community flies in the face of most religious beliefs. While I am not familiar enough with all the many different branches of faith on Earth to really state exactly what one believes over another, it seems to make sense to me that at its core, most religious beliefs would—or at least should—support the idea that everyone should be respected and loved as a fellow human being, regardless of their sexuality or gender.
Perhaps that's a naive supposition on my part. I don't know. What I do believe, though, is that it seems contrary to believe that a god that is supposed to have created all, or a god that is supposed to be worshipped, would be one that would look at his or her worshippers and deem them somehow inferior or "disordered" because of who they love or their gender. There are many thousand members of the LGBTQ+ community who still consider themselves Christian or members of any other faith.
The problem in many cases that has come up is that so many have been estranged from their church because they are part of the LGBTQ+ spectrum, and it would seem that at least for the Catholic Church, those who identify as LGBTQ+ and are Catholic might feel more supported by Pope Francis than they have by any other Catholic Church head in the 20th or 21st centuries.
Put simply, feeling attracted to whomever you're attracted to is not a choice. While you can choose how you react to certain stimuli and how you respond to certain situations, it's hard to control, to a large extent, the attraction you feel for someone. It's hard to control that feeling of the room lighting up when someone walks in or how you feel when that person you're attracted to tells you something sweet or even funny. You can call it science, if you want, or throw any other term at it to have it make sense, but the bottom line is, it's not a choice.
Your gender is not a choice.
While there will doubtless be those who will continue to quote religious doctrine when it comes to members of the LGBTQ+ community, there is no doubt that Pope Francis' reported words will go a long way towards people feeling accepted in the Catholic Church, at the very least.