A Logical Family

January 7, 2018

A few years ago my husband and I were at a social gathering when someone commented to me that they thought things were getting better for gay people. I was a bit stunned by his comment, not knowing if to pity him for his ignorance or admire his “the glass is half full” optimism. I have always been a “justice delayed is justice denied” kind of guy, but I am also a realist, understanding that societal and government changes do not happen as rapidly as some of us would like. At the time he made the remark, I was still unable to marry my “partner” after more than a decade of living together.  LGBT individuals in this country could and can still be denied employment and housing based on their sexual orientation, and in other parts of the world gay people were, and are, publically debased and tortured with the sanction of state and religious authority.  And yet in spite of all of this, the white, educated, heterosexual male at the social gathering believed he was right in saying to me “things are getting better.” This man knew of no ostracization from his family for wanting to marry someone of the opposite sex and raising a family, he never lost employment for being straight, he would never know ridicule in this or any other society in the world for being a heterosexual. These are realities that almost every LGBT person and couple has experienced even in the most enlightened of societies. From micro aggressions in an accepting workplace to unfathomable persecution,[1] LGBT individuals struggle to be accepted and loved by their families, their own flesh and blood. Because of this, LGBT individuals are forced to create our own families where we will know acceptance, support, and most of all, love. These are families where we do not have to defend who we are or justify those we have chosen to spend our lives with. These are our adopted or logical families.

In the New Year I have been thinking a lot about family, and wondering about my family and being ostracized and rejected for being and loving who I believe God called me to be and called me to love. This became especially acute following the death of my mother last year. Losing her made me take stock of who my real family was. Most of my immediate biological family members have rejected me for revealing my orientation, leaving the active priesthood, and marrying my husband. One recent attempt to reach out in a rapprochement to a family member brought in return a political diatribe intended to tell me how great things were in America again. Many members of my husband’s own family do not fully know about him or our relationship because his mother, in spite of her immense love for her son, lives in fear of being judged and rejected by other members of their family. These types of reactions and incidents can be repeated by almost every other LGBT person and couple. Therefore LGBT individuals have been forced to create adopted or logical families.

Armistead Maupin, the celebrated bestselling writer and author of the series, Tales of the City, wrote a memoir recently entitled Logical Family: A Memoir.[2] In the work, Maupin chronicles his search for what he terms his “logical family”. Maupin writes: “Sooner or later, we have to venture beyond our biological family to find our logical one, the one that actually makes sense for us.” An outright rejection or lukewarm acceptance by his own family caused Armistead to see family not in terms of blood, but in terms of those who can love us unconditionally.

While perhaps the man who spoke to me at the party is right that “things are getting better”, that axiom holds true only in some areas of life and certainly only in Western societies. Where this is certainly not true is in the Orthodox Church, in the West (diaspora) and in the countries where the Orthodox Church is the dominant faith. Every Orthodox Christian who is LGBT knows this first hand. For many Orthodox Christians who desire to love the fullness of the faith, the local parish is their family. They rejoice at every baptism held in the parish, celebrate every wedding, mourn the passing of every soul, and find love and support, spiritual and temporal, from the priest and the congregation. The parish church should also serve as the logical family for LGBT individuals. But unfortunately, that is not possible. Every official statement from the episcopacy speaks of the incompatibility of being a Christian and being gay and loving someone of the same sex. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, seemingly wanting to end even the discussion of such a topic stated: “To our Lord Jesus Christ…and to His Body, the Orthodox Church, the partnering of the same sex is unknown and condemned.”[3] In other words, if God is against you (gay people) who can be for you? Certainly not the Church! Because LGBT Orthodox are routinely denied the holy mysteries, told to repent of how God created them, shunned from parishes, demeaned from the pulpit, removed from council positions, and told not to volunteer, the Church has made it almost impossible for us to live our lives within a parish community.

To be sure there are small pockets of parish life where an LGBT individual and their spouse can feel minimally safe, where priests ask few questions, and parishioners politely smile and ask even fewer questions. But these places are few and far between, and certainly operate without the approval of the hierarchy. Can a gay man or lesbian who is Orthodox seek shelter and solace in the Church? Even though they have been “baptized; illuminated; anointed, hallowed; and washed clean, in the Name of Father, and of Son, and of Holy Spirit”,[4] for the official Church, this is not enough for gay people. We must also shed the gender identity and sexuality God has given us. Even if we were given a wedding garment by Christ himself,[5] the Church desires to remove it before allowing us entrance into the family. Not very logical, is it?

[1]As an example review the recent horrible attacks and torture upon gay men in the Russian republic of Chechnya, sanctioned and perhaps even orchestrated by the local government.  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/16/victim-chechnya-anti-gay-purge-urges-russia-investigate-maxim-lapunov

Other incidents against LGBT individuals in 2017 can be found here:

https://76crimes.com/2017/12/31/revisiting-horrors-of-2017-in-hopes-of-ending-them/#more-27860

[2] Published in 2017 by Harper Collins.

[3] http://www.aoiusa.org/pat-bartholomew-no-to-homosexual-marriage/

[4] From the services of baptism and chrismation (confirmation) of the Orthodox Church.

[5] Matthew 22:1-14

 

  1. Donald Henderson Said,

    I know the family I’ve chosen and the episcopate which I follow
    Receives me well. My own Baptist Family rejects me and effectively
    Pays me to stay away. It’s difficult to accept; but I know CHRIST loves
    Me just the way I am. Thanks for the good read

  2. andre Said,

    Donald,

    Thank you for your kind comments and support of this website.
    I rejoice that you know Christ loves you – many LGBT do not know this, which is very sad.
    Can you share what episcopate receives you well? They need our prayers.
    I bid you peace,
    Andriy

  3. Maria Said,

    As the Psalm goes, “though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.” God knows us and loves us, as does our family in the Church who have fallen asleep and are with God.
    Thank you for this beautiful reflection, as always. Though you have suffered much to live your life honestly, from your family and from the Church and from society, you use this suffering to support and share God’s love with others. What a tremendous gift and a great blessing. Thank you again.

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