Today’s post comes from Steph Rogers, at She Said What?. Steph has had a big year with lots of changes, which she touches on in this post about her situation and children’s education. She is brave, courageous, stands up for what she believes in and still maintains a sense of humor despite it all. Welcome, Steph ~
I live in the outer suburbs of Sydney, Australia. I am gay, and my children attend the local Catholic school. This is not an easy position to be in, and it has thrown up many challenges, mainly ideological. But let me explain how we got here…
I can’t preface this by saying “I haven’t always been gay” because I believe that to be untrue. I believe I was born gay. More accurate would be the statement that I haven’t always known I was gay. When my children started at the Catholic school I had moved them from the local public school due to terrible bullying that was crushing my daughter’s soul. At the time I was married, had two children and was pregnant with my third, and was a practicing Catholic. My children are all baptized. The school seemed a good fit for us.
Then the realisation that I was gay crept in on me like a thief in the night, coming to steal my perfect life. My marriage broke down, and my ex-husband moved out. I am now in the somewhat ideologically opposed position of being a single gay parent with children at a Catholic school. But it still works for us. Let me tell you why.
All the things about the school that I loved before have not changed. The Principal is an amazing man and I am grateful that my children have him to look up to. The teachers are wonderful. The culture at the school is modeled on the motto “love one another” and they really live true to it. There have been no problems with bullying at this school, and all the children are so accepting and loving of one another that my children have felt nothing but loved and supported throughout this difficult time in their young lives. I also really do like the moral aspect of the Australian Catholic Education system. I like that my children are taught and asked to think about theology (and they are taught about other faiths too as part of the religious education curriculum). I like that the school requires and helps them to develop empathy, to show sympathy and to help others in need. I like that the very fact that they are receiving an education that requires them to think about deeper social, moral and emotional issues. I feel this gives them a depth and breadth of experience and helps develop a deeper moral character.
I have needed to address some ideological issues with my children. They asked me if I was going to hell because I am gay. I told them no. I explained the difference between “the Church” as an institution and “faith”. They understood. Children are amazingly capable if you give them a chance. I told them that I believe that as long as I am a good person and I live my life the best way I know how, with the body, mind and heart that God has given me, I will not be going to hell. Note that God gave me a gay body, mind and heart. I have to live my best life within that framework.
On a personal level I am unsure as to whether I still believe in my faith. I think I have lost most of it with recent realisations that who I am makes me somehow unworthy. It is difficult knowing that I am (as far as I am aware) the only gay parent at the school. It is hard to cope with the stares and judgement of others. But I hold my head high. As I said, I must live the best life I know how. I will keep you updated as to how I resolve my own questions of faith. I have yet to work through that crisis completely.
I do make sure to balance my children’s religious education with a more rounded view of society. I point out that there are other religions. That different people believe different things and that’s OK. That some people are even atheist and don’t believe in any life after death, and that’s OK too. I tell them that when they are older they must make their own choices about what to believe according to what sits best with them and in their own lives.
But for now all I can say is that when I was growing up I always found great comfort in my faith during hard times. I am seeing the same thing in my children now. They will “talk to God” about their problems when they can’t sleep at night, which is effectively like a ‘dear diary’ but without the pen. I always did the same. It is now that they need continuity in their lives. They have had enough change. I may very well have made a different decision about their schooling if I had known then what I know now, but I didn’t I don’t regret my decision to send them to that school. As I said they have been wonderfully well supported through what for them has been quite a traumatic time. So they will stay at their Catholic school, and I will try to balance their education with a broader view of society. I will lead by example and show my children that it’s OK to question your faith. But for now, this is the best school for my children, and I plan on leaving them there for the immediate foreseeable future, because although it’s hard on me on a personal level, I have to put their needs first. That’s what parents do, and despite everything else I will always be their mother.
Just keep doing the best you can, Steph. I hope you understand that I admire your story.
I didn’t mention my own denomination of faith– I’m LDS (Mormon). I think that’s why I got fiery flak about Proposition 8. *sigh* It wasn’t even in my home state, but I checked– it was no sin not to support it. When Referendum 74 came to Washington state (to reverse Gov. Greigoire’s legislation), I voted no. That’s how I roll, bay-bee. The Pacific Northwest is known to be laid back, and I’d like to hold to that ideal. Not worth getting knickers in a twist/panties in a bunch over.
Thank you. No I didn’t know your denomination, it’s good that you have such an open mind. Unfortunately not everyone does.
Reblogged this on She Said What? and commented:
Hi Peeps, I am talking about what it’s like being a gay parent with my kids in a catholic school over on The Mercenary Researcher today. Why not drop by and see what piece of myself I am sending into the world today
This is so thoughtful and so personal, thank you for sharing. Twindaddy isn’t the only Catholic to say that the schooling took him away from the Church. I’m a practicing Catholic and my husband is converting (I have no idea what he’s thinking :). I have high hopes for the Church with Pope Francis. He recently sent out a survey to archdioceses around the globe asking about how they and their parishes are working with gay and divorced families. Happily at my parish, you can be divorced (I’m not getting an annulment so we couldn’t be married in the Church which is BS) or gay or purple and you are welcomed.
Brava Steph and Mercenary!
Thank you. It s really a hard thing to come to this creeping realisation that who you are as a person does not and can never align with your faith. It has been a personal struggle for me, but I can’t change who I am. I have just had to accept that ‘the Church’ as an institution does not align with my faith as a Catholic. I hope that will change someday, but for now I just have to live in the system I have.
Parents are lucky when they find a school that meets the needs of their children, and does it well. And I really think that institution and hierarchy aside, a lot of Catholics find their personal beliefs to be those of general acceptance. I really do think the tide is slowly turning. I have been so incredibly happy with the language of acceptance that has been being preached from the new Pope, but also by many, many parish priests…mine included. And if you find a Catholic school that is truly teaching in the spirit of Jesus, you will find a school that is teaching its students to love all, work for peace, and persecute none.
(P.S. Mercenary, I gave you a little shout out on my blog today!)
Yes, I am so lucky to have found a school that fits for us. I really hope you are right about the changes starting to appear. I think you are. I think a little while ago my children would never have been as accepted. And you are right, the school is teaching love, peace and acceptance. It’s a beautiful message when it’s really adhered to. In it’s purest form it’s just all about love.
It makes me really sad when Christians manipulate Jesus’ teachings to persecute others. Really great post. I appreciate you sharing it, because I think your experience IS proof that things are moving in the right direction.
Thanks! I’m all blushy now ~
It’s good to hear about a place of faith that is more spirit than dogma.
And your kids are lucky to have you.
“more spirit than dogma” – What a wonderful way of phrasing that.
More spirit than dogma is a beautiful phrase. And it is I who am lucky to have them. They make the world a better place just because they’re in it.
My late sister, Beth, was also a devout Catholic and a gay woman who realized it late in life. She left her husband a week before their 25th anniversary. She had suffered mental health issues all her life until she realized she was gay; they started in fact during her engagement. She was happier and more content with herself and her life once she accepted herself.
We are who we are; we must accept who others are. And it sounds like you are raising your children to do that. Good for you.
I am hopeful that Pope Francis will change some of the stupidity/rigidity in the church.
Wow, I’m not the only one! I too have had mental health problems my whole life and am now being treated for something akin to Post Traumatic Stress from being in the wrong relationship for so long (if you know what I mean). It can be hard reaching that point of acceptance sometimes.
I am also hopeful that the tide is turning. Let’s just wait and see.
My experience with the mental health system was NOT a good one, including any discussions regarding orientation. I went against the grain of what they thought was healthy, so I just decided to figure it out on my own. I am a bisexually oriented man, married to a woman of similar orientation. We decided it best to stay committed to each other in the way congruent to the teachings of our faith– yet we admit the aspects of orientation remain. It works for us, somehow. *shrug*
I think that Beth needed to figure out things for herself. Mental health folks were no help as far as I know.
But then they have never been much help to me, a straight woman I think there are those who ARE helped. But I know only a few.
Yes Elyse I have found the mental health system to be a bit of a mixed bag myself.
YMMV, as always. What took me years to learn is that I got out of it what I put into it, and that it was okay to be choosy about who I worked with. Granted, my selection grew short to little living in some areas, especially as my financial situation changed. Community mental health (compared to private practices) has a lot of limitations in the U.S.
I have GI probs, thought 40 years ago to be stress related. I saw a pack of folks in private practice. None was helpful. Partly because they are nuts and partly because the problem was in my butt not my brain.
Your Mileage May Vary.
I should have been able to figure that one out!
And as long as you are happy that’s the main thing I think
They’re lucky. My Catholic school is partially what ruined my faith.
Yes, they are really lucky, and it’s a good school.