How Catholic Parents Can Better Support Their LGBTQ+ Children
One of the hardest parts of my life was when I realized that my own religion describes my existence as a sin. For many gay teens who come from a religious home, "struggle" is something synonymous amongst them. They struggle with their identity, with themselves, with the religion that gives them a different perspective on life. They struggle to tell friends about who they are and they-most significantly-struggle to tell their religious parents.
As a teen who was still discovering myself and realizing the complications of my identity and how the church describes my act of love, I was often depressed; I searched for books on how to balance both my queerness and religion because to me they were contradicting and exhausting. I cried and kept the secret, my sexuality, to myself to avoid upcoming complications and conversations. I prayed to God to take my queerness away and make me straight; these prayers were influenced by the family I have: a strict Catholic family willing to do anything for their version of Christ.
"The Catechism of the Catholic Church, a text which contains dogmas and teachings of the Church, names 'homosexual acts' as 'intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law,' and names 'homosexual tendencies' as 'objectively disordered,'" explains the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) on their site. While they go on to explain the Church does not consider homosexual orientation to be a sin, they say it is definitely spoken about in a negative way. While some say the Catholic Church is becoming more tolerant of the LGBTQ+ community overall, "the actual experience of LGBTQ parishioners can vary widely across dioceses and parishes," says the HRC.
When I was discovering my sexual identity, I had friends who had come out who I could talk to-unfortunately, we were able to commiserate over our parents' decision to place religious beliefs over their children's needs. But coming out to a religious family doesn't have to be this way, parents can support their kids and maintain their religious practice.
"People assume that queerness and religion are opposites," says Reverend Jarel Robinson-Brown, an associate Chaplain at King's College London, but that's not the case. "In fact, in the history of religions, particularly within Christianity, there have been queer people from the very beginning of the Church's life."
As a religious parent, processing your child's sexual identity might feel like mental gymnastics but unconditional support can make all the difference for your child. As someone who faced this struggle to come out to my parents, here is what I would want other families to know and how I wish mine would have acted when I came out.
Create a Welcoming Environment for Hard Conversations
It is in our nature as human beings to avoid difficult conversations whether we're ready or not. In difficult conversations, we often project our fears, terms, and disapproval. Kids don't always understand this growing up but as a parent, you have the responsibility to teach them to see all conversations as approachable and discussed if not solved. As your children grow and mature, they will be able to understand what are hard and easy conversations. Make them see you as their absolute comforter in times of problems so when they are struggling with their sexuality, they will come to you.
Don't Make It About Yourself
When your child comes out, don't make it about yourself or about what the community will say-that's selfish and love isn't selfish. If you have a problem with gay people, you are telling your child you have a problem with them and their existence. Find a way to accept and love your child without placing your misguided bigotry on them in the name of religion. You will hurt them and lose them if you do.
Give Yourself Time To Come in Terms With This
You were probably not expecting your child to be gay. You assumed they would grow up, love the opposite gender, perhaps get married, have a family and live a heteronormative lifestyle. Of course, they may still experience some of these life events, but they will do so in a different picture now. For your child to have the courage to come out to you, they have trusted you with these life decisions; don't take that for granted. Instead use that opportunity to understand them and their future, even if it's difficult.
Protect Your Child From the Opinions of Others
If your child is gay, you can't change that and neither can the neighbors. People may talk about your business but ignore it. Shield your child from harmful phrases often used in the church like, "Love the sinner, hate the sin," "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve," "The Bible says homosexuality is a sin," or "You are choosing this lifestyle." Not only is queerness not a sin, but many interpretations of the Bible indicate that homosexuality was never mentioned in the Bible until 1946.
Let your child know your affirming words are the only thing they should care about. Remind them that you have their back. And don't be a parent who cares about family name or reputation over your child's needs.
"LGBTQ+ teens have mental health problems, including suicide risk, at significantly higher rates than other teens. Sexual or gender identity is not the reason for higher risk, it is rejection by their families and communities," explains Emily Edlynn, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with children and adolescents. "Parental rejection, even subtle, has been linked to higher rates of suicide attempts in LGBTQ+ youth. Family acceptance, on the other hand, can help buffer the negative mental health effects of social and cultural experiences of rejection, including bullying from peers and adults. When parents speak up against harmful statements from others, they show their teen that they will do their part to support, accept, and protect them."
Be Open To Learning More
There is nothing as satisfying as learning something new or contributing to a conversation in curious ways. It's okay as a religious parent to read and ask questions. It's also okay to visit a therapist to help out with advice on raising your gay child. Try to understand your child by learning about them in unbiased ways. This includes having a better understanding of the people they date and the need to have LGBTQ+ inclusive conversations around sexual health and consensual relationships. Puritanical thinking won't work here.
This also opens opportunities to learn more about your religion and how the LGBTQ+ community fits in. For example, it's interesting to recognize people like the Ethiopian Eunuch of Acts 8, Saint Euphrosyne, and Saint Mary of Egypt in the 4th century-people who lived their queer lives and were canonized by the church.
"In terms of scripture, there is no biblical reason for the exclusion of LGBTQ+ people from the Church," says Rev. Robinson-Brown. "Therefore churches that refuse to embrace queer people are doing so from a place of homophobia not biblical authority."
Conversion Therapy Does Not Work
No amount of prayer can turn a gay child straight; your child has already suffered so much carrying the burden of their sexuality in the name of religion and has possibly been bullied and humiliated for it by peers. Conversion therapy is abusive, nothing good will come out of it.
A Reverend Weighs In
"If you find your children difficult to understand because they have 'come out' or you feel they might be queer, then it is up to the parent to research, read, and understand what that means. I would recommend the book God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines," says Rev. Robinson-Brown. "Parents are to be loving to their children because their children are a gift from God regardless of their sexuality. Love, care, and support should be permanent and not just dependent on your child being the person you want them to be."
This article is not based on Catholic Doctrine. This article was written to influence Catholic parents in conforming to the LGBTQ+ agenda.
Our Catholic doctrine teaches us that as parents we must share our doctrine through mercy and love. I feel for those children who were not approached with mercy and love from their parents. As fathers, we must stand with strength and vigilance against any agenda that takes our children's souls away from our doctrine's (Jesus) true teachings. As fathers, we must be that unmovable lighthouse of Jesus's true teachings prepared to guide our children when they come back to us seeking soul-filling truth that they could not find in these other agendas.
How can Catholic Parents better support their children who are confused with God's natural order? Understand your Cathlic doctrine and surrender yourselves and your parenthood to Jesus with full TRUST. Find out what is Jesus really asking for from you when it comes to Trust and Surrender. Ask Jesus to fill your being with His Mercy and Love so that you can then approach your children with that same mercy and love. Jesus, with the Holy Spirit and God Father, will be your authority, your truth, and your guidance. It is God through you that can help bring back order to your children's lives.
I recommend performing a novena together as Father and Mother. 9 days of a rosary and chaplet of divine mercy seeking Jesus with TRUST and asking for His Mercy and Love. (You must do so while being in a state of grace through confession and communion). With Mercy and Love in your heart, the Holy Spirit can then come in to help you navigate the conversations you need to have with your children. God be with you my brothers and sisters in Christ.Read More