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.