By Patrick Gordon, Dignity/Twin Cities
Creating Change is perhaps the largest regular gathering of LGBT people in the entire nation. Each year, thousands of people come from all over the country to engage in several days of celebration, education, activism, and love. To paint you a picture of this year’s event: approximately 4000 LGBT professionals from organizations of all kinds come together to hear 4 plenary speakers and attended 390 workshops, training sessions, meetings, and events over 5 days. Attendance at this year’s event was the highest in the organization’s history.
I am a 29 year old gay man who, like many others, is navigating the Catholic Church, my faith, my queer identity, my community, my career, my family. The list goes on. Creating Change was a unique opportunity to authentically engage in the LGBT community with wonderful people from all around the country. It was truly empowering and rejuvenating, and I would strongly recommend it to anybody in our Dignity community. I would like to share two insights that I took away from the conferences. These insights came from attendees of the workshop "Catholic Teaching and LGBT Justice. Good in Bed Together - God's Truth!" as well as the Catholic Caucus which was held the same evening as our session.
- There is no shortage of people, Catholic or not, who are really striving to open the eyes of those Catholics outside of the LGBT community. Given that the session was the only Catholic-specific workshop, we were not sure what to expect. After only 10 minutes into our session, nearly every seat in the room was taken. The crowd enthusiastically engaged in the session which strove to compile specific strategies to target the common "status quo" arguments from other Christians and Catholics who are not allies or advocates. With the session lasting only 90 minutes, it was practically a tease. The level of energy and collaboration that the individual work groups had was fantastic. If only opportunities like that could happen all the time in our individual Dignity communities, it would probably be astounding to see what we could accomplish. I think it further reinforced the need for workshops and professional development opportunities in Dignity and in the LGBT Catholic community.
- Having a presence in Catholic Churches is important for the future. A regular theme that I heard from Catholics at Creating Change was the desire to be in a Catholic Church. While meeting in other churches with Catholic communities has been empowering for many (such as with many Dignity chapters), there is a large population that is longing to be part of Catholic parishes in their neighborhoods. This view had come from both members of Dignity and non-Dignity attendees alike. In particular, one young man from San Antonio had travelled from church to church wearing LGBTQ Pride clothing. He was a visible queer presence at Masses. He was often met with resistance, such as being denied communion by priests. Nevertheless, he was not always denied communion and even received empowerment from other Catholics in those communities because of the injustice that he experienced. With that being said, not everybody can do what this inspiring man did, but there was clearly a light in the eyes of those who heard his story. It makes me wonder: should Dignity strive to have a more active and visible presence back in the communities of canonically recognized Catholic churches? Whether or not we are openly welcomed, the Catholic Church needs to put a face to the issue of LGBT justice, and perhaps Dignity members need to be those positive, compassionate, and humble faces back in Churches. That will certainly be no easy task, but it could be the next challenge that lights a fire for the future of Dignity and the Catholic LGBT community.