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Different from norm, we reflect a God who delights in surprises.

My friend Mary recently "came out" to her parents. She prepared for the momentous event by telling several members of our faith community about her plans, listening to our stories and asking for our prayers.

She told us of her conviction that having this conversation was necessary for her to have a truly loving and honest relationship with her family. Afterward, Mary reflected on the experience.

"I realized I was telling my parents much more than the fact I am a lesbian," said Mary. "I told them what it was like to know who I am for the first time in my life and about how being a lesbian is bringing me closer to God."

In June, more than 1 million gay, lesbian and supportive people gathered in New York, marking the 25th anniversary of the birth of the modern U.S. gay civil rights movement. At one point, more than 300 gay Catholics assembled across the street from St. Patrick's Cathedral. In pouring rain, we read scriptures, sang hymns, remembered friends and lovers who had died of AIDS and spoke of the day when the cathedral would no longer symbolize discrimination and condemnation.

As we prayed, nearly 200 police officers circled the church. They had been hired to protect the cathedral from us, to ensure that we stayed across the street.

The next day, 1,200 of us celebrated Mass in an Episcopal church, unwelcome in our own home, but in church together nonetheless.

As I was completing these reflections at my home in Boston, the phone rang. Mark told me of the unexpected death of Sam, a gay man who lived in St. Louis. Although I met Sam only twice, our shared commitment to Christ and to our church had bonded us so deeply that his friends reached out to bring me into the circle of support they were drawing around Sam. We have become family to one another in a way that transcends time and geography, and we needed to share our grief about Sam and our faith in resurrection.

Each of these incidents reflects a profound reality of the spiritual journey of gay and lesbian people. The process of acknowledging that we are different from the norm, of honoring the validity and goodness in something discounted by everything around us, leads to a new way of understanding and living truth.

When something as essential as our own identity is known only by listening to our own hearts, we instinctively begin to test other supposed absolutes against our inner core. We are forced to question social values and to see just how many false gods have been put before us all.

In the discovery and acknowledgment of our sexual orientation, lesbians and gay men challenge the assumption that all people are created heterosexual. We reflect the wonderful expansiveness of God's creativity in a world where many are more comfortable with a god who is limited in imagination. We directly confront static concepts of God, the sense that anyone can fully understand who God is and how God may choose to act. Instead of the rational, predictable deity of Western imagery, we reflect a god who delights in surprises.

As we explore intimacy with people of the same gender, gay and lesbian people stretch the traditional boundaries of love. We upset conventional categories of maleness and femaleness, masculinity and femininity. Lacking visible role models, we have to establish our own patterns of how to live in mutuality. We dethrone the god that insists upon compliance with rigid law and embrace a god who calls us into relationship.

Every time we meet a new person or enter a new situation, we are conscious of having to make the choice of whether and how to disclose who we are as sexual beings. We must decide what face to present to the world and when to lift the mask of deception.

Each time we say to someone, "I am lesbian," or " ... not my wife, my male partner," we have chosen to open ourselves to possible rejection, misunderstanding, fear and hate. In choosing to be honest, we honor God, who is vulnerable, not impenetrable or inscrutable.

Claiming a homosexual identity automatically sets us out of the mainstream. It gives us the opportunity to align ourselves with other marginalized, forgotten and powerless people. It can lead us into forming community with others with whom we may not have associated were we not also outcasts. It makes us question the ways in which power is used and demonstrates how it is too often abused. We long for the god who prays "that all may be one" instead of one who is on our side against the other.

In many ways, the gay/lesbian spiritual journey is the same one to which every Christian is called: to know and become what God has created us to be and to care for one another in the process. The special charisms of our community -- gifts that spring directly from the experience of challenging homophobia in others and in ourselves -- are honesty, courage, openness and freedom.

Those gifts, and our sexuality, have enriched our lives and are treasures we seek to share with the church.
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Title Annotation:Special Report: Gay Men and Lesbians Describe Spiritual Journeys
Author:Duddy, Marianne
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Sep 2, 1994
Words:867
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