Trigger warning: mentions homophobic threat against a child. Marked with: *
“These are the questions I am most often asked by Chicanos, especially students. It’s as if they are hungry to know if it’s possible to have both – your own life and the life of the familia.” (Moraga 3)
My earliest encounter with the word “gay” had been at seven years old. A television network covered a story of a young boy, 15 years old, who was kicked out of his home – beaten by his father and disowned by his mother. The news continued, the boy was gay and his family could not accept that. That day, I learned that being queer meant abandonment. Coming out meant you would be thrown out into the streets and beaten by your family.
I cannot recall my age in the next memory. My uncle had come home and he had not seen his three sons in months because of work. That day, my cousins and I played dress-up. His youngest son loved to wear my dresses, he loved how it looked when he twirled. When his Papa got home, he was told to change. I remember sitting in the balcony, with my uncle speaking to my aunts. *At one point, they talked about my cousins and he said: if any of my boys turn out to be gay, I will hang him from a flagpole until he turns straight.* That day, I learned that the abandonment and violence that was associated with being queer extends to my own family.
Similar to Moraga, my family is largely Catholic. In fact, a large majority of the population in the Philippines practice Catholicism. Stories about the young boy are unfortunately common among queer youth in the Philippines. Often, a parent’s reaction toward their queer sons and daughters are because the religion associates queerness with sin. They are told that it is not right to love someone of the same gender. I was very young when I was placed in these situations so I never questioned their implications, sin was sin and committing any sin meant punishment from God.
Looking back, these experiences revealed the hypocrisy behind most Catholic families. We are taught to love our neighbors as if they were our family, we are taught that family is most important, and we are taught that love and forgiveness conquers all. Yet, these teachings are forgotten when it comes to queer children. Families hurt their own child, threaten their safety, and abandon them – all for what? For committing a sin? Was it not considered a sin to abandon one’s child?
Unfortunately, because of instances like these, it is easy to understand the students’ questions and their implications. Often, I just assume that to have my own life meant that I could not have the family. That choosing to have the family meant giving something up. While I understand that there are exceptions, these situations happen enough that most of us just assume the outcome. It should not be this way, we should be allowed to have both.
3 thoughts on “Family, Religion, and Sexuality”
I’m sorry for your negative experience within your own family, but you’re right when you say that experiences like these are extremely common and queer people just learn to expect hatred or unacceptance from their family members. As someone who also grew up Catholic, I can relate to having the religion brought up in conversations about queer people. Some of my own family members are very homophobic and say that being gay is a sin. It’s upsetting how common this rhetoric is and we definitely need to change that.
I appreciate the way you traced memories associated with queerness. Catholicism was a huge source of homophobia in my childhood. The hypocrisy present in this religion is almost a type of Catch-22. To be a good person of faith, you must believe all of the teachings of the Church, yet the Church preaches hatred and bigotry. My family, much like how you described Catholic families, has internalized this hypocrisy. Luckily, they have made an effort to reject those specific teachings on sexuality. However, they still consider themselves to be devout Catholics. The only way to have my own life and a life of my family, like in the passage you quoted, is to reject that their character is fully formed by Catholicism, that they have a mind outside of the church.
While I didn’t grow up Catholic, my first experience with the term “gay” was through FOX News’ Sean Hannity. Gay people were not like you or I (as I was told); they sought out the destruction of the very fabric of society, marriage. Today, I am not sure all that “destruction of society as we know it” sounds so bad. Yet, those narratives helped awaken a wave of homophobia in my family that became especially troublesome as I began to question my gender identity. In connection with your analysis, I want to recommend reading chapter five of Kath Weston’s “Families We Choose.” In short, Weston looks at how LGBTQ people have established communities, kinship relations, and what that might mean for the ‘families we choose.’ However, in reading that, Weston notes that families may abandon members who are LBGTQ, yet she doesn’t go back and comment on what that might mean for the traditional family unit, like you did. I figure this work might pair well for your existing analysis.
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