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Synod a setback, but hope not lost for gay Catholics

Pope Francis trying to drag church into modern world

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Catholic, gay news, Washington Blade

Pope Francis (Photo by Jeon Han; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

My parents weren’t religious and I’m not Catholic. Yet, the pope was at the center of some of my most unforgettable childhood memories. When I was 10, my folks visited Rome. Seeing the pope was a highlight of the trip for my Mom, who was often ill. “Pope John [the XXIII] gave me a new life,” she said, describing what it meant to her to stand with many others to receive the Pontiff’s blessing.

In the early 1960s, the spirit of the Second Vatican Council (a.k.a. Vatican II), which Pope John XXIII convened to open up “the windows” of the Catholic Church to the modern world, was everywhere. “It’s about time!” I remember my Dad, who was Jewish, saying when he heard that Vatican II had declared that the Jews hadn’t killed Jesus Christ.

My ears pricked up recently when I heard the news from an assembly of Roman Catholic bishops convened by Pope Francis. On Oct. 13, this Synod, made up of 190 voting bishops and cardinals, issued a preliminary report saying not only that there are “positive aspects of civil unions and cohabitation,” but that gays and lesbians have “gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community.” While confirming the teaching of the Catholic Church on homosexuality and marriage, the 12-page document even said that some same-sex couples give each other “mutual aid to the point of sacrifice” and “precious support in the life of the partners.” The report also offered welcome to divorced Catholics and to straight unmarried couples who live together.

Given that the Catholic Church has long taught that homosexuality is “disordered” and that LGBT people are “living in sin,” to many of us, the spirit of the preliminary report echoed that of Vatican II. We knew it wasn’t a final report and that change in an institution such as the Catholic Church, wouldn’t be easy. But we dared to hope that the church’s windows had begun to be opened.

Not unexpectedly, conservatives at the assembly objected to the preliminary report’s welcoming language toward gays and lesbians and civilly married straight couples. Backtracking, the final report issued at the Synod’s end on Oct. 18, said that gays must be met with “respect and sensitivity,” but nixed the talk of our “gifts” to the “Christian community.”

This backtracking isn’t good news, but it doesn’t mean all hope for LGBT people in the Catholic Church is gone. As with politics, seeing how the sausage is made in religion isn’t pretty. Yet, at the opening of the assembly, Pope Francis signaled that he wanted the sausage making to be out in the open. “Speak clearly,” Francis said, “No one must say, ‘This can’t be said.’”

Mary E. Hunt, a Catholic feminist theologian and her partner are parents of a child, who they adopted. “I’m not part of a traditional family,” Hunt said in a phone interview with the Blade, “I’m part of what the church considers to be a problem.”

The bishops and cardinals at the Synod are celibate, Hunt said. “They don’t make the mature adult decisions that you make when you’re part of a family unit – with spouses and children,” Hunt said.

What’s important in a “tweeting” universe is that the world got to see how the report was crafted at the Synod, she added. “Lots of groups, such as New Ways Ministry, and our group, lobbied the Synod about the future of the church,” said Hunt, co-director of Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual. “No one can say we didn’t hear the experiences of lots of people.”

This report isn’t the last word on these matters. In October 2015, another Synod will again take up these issues.

It would be naive not to realize that change occurs slowly in the Catholic Church. Yet, justice can’t be set back forever.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer, a poet, and Yale Divinity School graduate, is a regular contributor to the Blade.   

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Abe Kennedy

    October 27, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    For 400 years the CC supported slavery citing passages from the bible to 'prove' that slavery was God's will. The CC has never had any moral standing on any issue.

  2. Abe Kennedy

    October 27, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    Moral authority?

    Henk Heithuis died in 1958 in his early twenties, tormented for years by the sexual abuse of Catholic priests. After he tried to expose his abusers, he was castrated in a Catholic hospital by a Catholic doctor under the advice of a Catholic psychiatrist to”cure him of his perverse sexuality.” Der Spiegel,May 4th, 2012

    http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/gesellschaft/missbrauch-katholische-kirche-in-niederlanden-liess-jungen-kastrieren-a-829437.html

    In the Netherlands alone it is estimated that since 1945 between 10,000 and 20,000 children have been sexually abused by Catholic priests enabled by their prelates. Der Spiegel, Dec 17, 2011

    http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/justiz/untersuchungsbericht-zehntausende-missbrauchsfaelle-in-hollands-katholischer-kirche-a-804379.html

  3. Harry Martin

    October 27, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    It is always interesting to make observations of others when one has no experience of their lives. Non-Catholics love to criticize the church. Conservative straight people do the same of those who are LGBT. Also the criticism of the Synod as being unable to make mature adult decisions because they are celibate men expresses a lack of faith in God's Spirit working in souls (male or female, celibate or married). It echoes the criticism many conservatives have for non-traditional families… 'they can't do this..they aren't like us." I suppose it is encouraging we are all so much alike.

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Opinions

The future of lesbian bars

Resolve to support our queer spaces in 2022

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lockdown zone, gay news, Washington Blade

This New Year, I hope you wish for more lesbian bars across the country. The story of lesbian bars in the U.S. has been slightly tragic of late: as of January 2021, there were only 15 clubs or bars dedicated to queer women across the country. 

That’s right—only 15. Across all 50 states. 

In Washington, D.C., my hometown, A League of Her Own stands out as the only lesbian bar in the city, dedicated to queer women. Located in Adams Morgan, A League of Her Own, also known as ALOHO, is a small mecca for queer ladies to pass through, socialize, and flirt. ALOHO is a chic gathering point for all queer folk, with posters of softball players dotting the walls and gender neutral signs lying about. 

Several years ago, another lesbian bar called Phase 1 existed in Southeast, where queer women could slam eight balls in pool games and engage in raunchy yet ever-so-hot jello wrestling competitions. 

Unfortunately, Phase 1 shut its doors in 2016. 

So what explains the closure of so many lesbian bars, while bars for gay men continue to flourish? Perhaps many queer women view gay bars as a space for their own as well, whereas gay men view lesbian bars as less of a place for them to socialize. 

Either way, we need to give support to lesbian bars now more than ever. Tokens of support can take many forms. 

For one, make sure to socialize in spaces dedicated to queer ladies. There are three lesbian bars in New York City: Cubbyhole (281 W. 12th St.), Gingers in Brooklyn (363 5th Ave.), and Henrietta Hudson (438 Hudson St.). Next time you visit the Big Apple, make sure to give these three spots some love. Maybe drag your experimenting bi friend to these locations. Or your pansexual roommate. 

Back in D.C., you can buy unisex shirts in A League of Her Own’s merchandise store, available online. 

Proceeds will go toward funding the bar, and making sure it stays afloat, especially during this COVID economy. 

Most of all, I hope you encourage your queer lady friends to keep on frequenting queer lady destinations. After all, there is only one thing that will keep lesbian bars afloat—and that is attendance. 

I, for one, will be frequenting many lesbian destinations this new year.  

Isaac Amend is a Yale graduate and participated in National Geographic’s ‘Gender Revolution’ documentary. He also is a member of the LGBT Democrats of Virginia, and contributes regularly to the Blade. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @isaacamend.

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Breaking barriers as an out trans ‘Jeopardy’ champion

Amy Schneider’s run inspires us all

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Amy Schneider (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Television)

“When was the last time anybody said ‘wow!’” a friend asked me.

I couldn’t remember the last time anyone I know (including me) had any “Wow!” moments. Until I heard about trans woman and software engineering manager Amy Schneider’s 29-game winning streak on “Jeopardy.”

You wouldn’t think anything could dispel our COVID exhaustion and political divisiveness. Yet, news about a champion on “Jeopardy,” a quiz show that has been on TV since 1964, has broken through our gloom.

In our culture, there are few things that everyone loves. But, “Jeopardy” is beloved by many, from theater geeks to 80-year-old sports nuts. A progressive friend was over the moon when his brother was a “Jeopardy” contestant. A buddy, a hetero (non-Trump) Republican, is a “Jeopardy” fanatic and a gay librarian pal is a “Jeopardy” freak.

Many of us daydream about being on “Jeopardy.” But we know that we wouldn’t have a chance on this legendary quiz show with its deceptively simple format: You give the answer to the (often incredibly hard) clues in the form of a question. You have to have a strategic military commander’s and a world-class athlete’s coordination: so you can press the buzzer to answer the clue.

The game’s categories run the gamut from opera to mountain ranges. Most of us, mere mortals, would be lucky to know even one category in the first round of the game. Let alone in the “Double Jeopardy” round or the “Final Jeopardy” clue. I might jump on clues about Katharine Hepburn movies or M&Ms. But that would be it for me.

It’s exciting to watch a “Jeopardy” contestant become a long-running champion. You marvel at the player’s intelligence, endurance, and nerve. It’s thrilling when the contestant on a winning-streak is part of your community.

Many of us LGBTQ “Jeopardy” fans are thrilled by Schneider’s record-setting winning streak. As I write this, Schneider has won more than $1 million in 29 games of “Jeopardy.” She is the fifth millionaire in “Jeopardy” history, and only the fourth player to reach this milestone in the regular season. She has won more than any other female “Jeopardy” contestant.

Schneider, like so many of us, doesn’t want to be defined by her gender identity or sexuality. Schneider’s life is multi-faceted; she has many interests. Schneider lives with her girlfriend Genevieve. They have a cat named Meep.

Yet, Schneider doesn’t want to hide that she’s trans. On “Jeopardy,” Schneider brilliantly dealt with this dilemma. She didn’t make a big deal about being out. She just wore the trans Pride flag pin.

“It was something that I wanted to get out there and to show my pride in while not making it the focus of what I was doing there,” Schneider told the New York Times. “Because I was just there to answer trivia questions and win money.”

As a cisgender lesbian, I can’t speak to how Schneider’s record-setting “Jeopardy” streak feels to transgender people.

But, as a trans ally, I’m cheering for Schneider. Kudos for her bravery! At a time when many states are passing anti-trans laws, it takes guts to be out on TV and the Internet.

Few things are as mainstream as “Jeopardy.” I bet that many “Jeopardy” viewers who are frightened at the idea of trans people, will become more comfortable with transgender people after watching Schneider on the popular quiz show. Because folks on TV come into our living and bedrooms and we feel as if we know them after watching them for a while.

“Amy looks like everybody else,” my neighbor said when I told her Schneider was trans. “She doesn’t act odd. She’s not strange.”

Transgender people encounter violence and discrimination in everything from housing to health care to employment.

I know Schneider’s “Jeopardy” triumph won’t end transphobia. But her winning streak will go a long way toward jumpstarting a change in hearts and minds.

Kathi Wolfe, a writer and a poet, is a regular contributor to the Blade.

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SCARY: Tucker Carlson now the conscience of GOP

Cruz bows down, kisses ring of Fox host

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Tucker Carlson (Screen capture via Fox on YouTube)

The Republican Party has sunk to a new low, hard to do, when a sleazebag like Tucker Carlson is now their conscience. Seeing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) groveling before him is laughable, disgusting, and frightening all at the same time. 

As reported in Rolling Stone, Cruz said, “We are approaching a solemn anniversary this week. It is an anniversary of a violent terrorist attack on the Capitol where we saw the men and women of law enforcement demonstrate incredible courage, incredible bravery, risk their lives to defend the men and women who serve in this Capitol.” Then “Cruz was lambasted by Tucker Carlson that night, prompting him to hop on Carlson’s show Thursday and beg for forgiveness. “The way I phrased things yesterday, it was sloppy and it was frankly dumb,” Cruz said before Carlson cut him off and said he didn’t believe him. Cruz took it up a notch, stammering through an absurd bit about how he wasn’t talking about the “patriots across the country supporting President Trump,” only those who assaulted police officers, and that he’s always described anyone who assaults a cop as a terrorist.

Carlson has made a career of being a pompous commentator. Interestingly he worked at CNN, PBS, and MSNBC, before finally landing at Fox in 2009. According to his Wikipedia page he went to Trinity College where he earned a bachelor’s degree and Carlson’s Trinity yearbook describes him as a member of the “Dan White Society,” an apparent reference to the American political assassin who murdered San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. After college, Carlson tried to join the CIA, but his application was denied, after which he decided to pursue a career in journalism with the encouragement of his father, who advised him that “they’ll take anybody.” Reading this clearly raised my opinion of the CIA and based on what we see in some media today I agree with Carlson’s father on his view of journalism. 

When you have a moment of silence in the House of Representatives to honor those who lost their lives on Jan. 6 and only two Republicans show up, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and her father Dick Cheney, the former vice president, one understands the influence Carlson has on the GOP. The rest were afraid of being criticized on-air by him or lambasted by Trump. 

Dick Cheney remarked on the GOP, “It’s not a leadership that resembles any of the folks I knew when I was here for 10 years.” He spoke to ABC News saying, “I’m deeply disappointed we don’t have better leadership in the Republican Party to restore the Constitution.” 

There is a leadership void in the Republican Party today. Their so-called leaders are afraid to say what they think if it differs in any way from Trumpism or Carlson’s view of the world, which requires total fealty to Trump. He found a home on Fox where he can lie with impunity and have millions believe his lies. 

President Biden said, in what many think was the best speech of his presidency so far, these people are “holding a dagger to the neck of democracy.” He went on to say, “For the first time in our history, a president not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol.” 

Tucker Carlson and his ilk have never bothered to answer a question the president threw at them, which is how they can accept all their down ballot victories, governors, and members of Congress, which occurred on the same ballots, cast by the same people, on the same day, as those for president. Of course, Carlson has no need to make sense, tell the truth, or speak rationally because of his platform on Fox, which doesn’t require that.

My question is whether Carlson is as dumb as he makes himself sound or is he brilliant and this is all a big act? Either way the acolytes that follow Trump don’t seem to care and are bowing down to Carlson’s big audience. It’s as if he can tell any Republican senator or congressperson, or Republican candidate for those jobs, to just ‘bend over and take it’ and they do. All we can do is mourn for the GOP of Lincoln and Eisenhower. Non-Trumpers will have to work hard and speak out if they ever want to resurrect a GOP that can be respected.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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