Let me start by saying that I had a lot of reservations going into it. I might not even have gone if I hadn’t signed up to be one of the student speakers. I knew very few people who were going, I didn’t know how welcome I’d be as a trans person, and I was somewhat afraid the whole thing would devolve into trite, politically correct pedagogy.
What happened instead was one of the most authentic, loving, and spiritually open atmospheres I’ve encountered in a very long time. People weren’t just “tolerant” – they were truly accepting and loving. I know I don’t only speak for myself when I say that many spiritual friendships formed this weekend.
There were several other things about the retreat that really caught my attention.
First of all, the retreat made evident how ludicrous most of the sterotypes are about queer people. No one present really fit the media’s mold of “flamboyant” gay, “butch” lesbian, crazy bisexual, or off-the-wall “tranny.” The religious, political, and social views really ran the gamut; there were traditionalist Catholics and agnostics, democrats and republicans, and people sworn to chastity and others currently in same-sex relationships. I felt perfectly at home as a serious Catholic uncertain about my views on sexuality. In fact, I was amazed at how intelligently and spiritually most people went about reconciling their gender or sexual identity with their faith life. I talked to many people who’s faith was truly the center of their life. I met more than a few fellow fans of the blog Spiritual Friendship.
I and others were also struck by the personal authenticity inspired by the retreat. You’d think that at a college event mostly focused on sexuality, the environment would be incredibly over-sexed. In reality the social dynamics were way more normal than the everyday life of my university. People were real with each other and had fun without the hassle of sexual tension.
At the start of the retreat I was about as repressed as I’ve ever been. Months of mounting grief from various forces in my life left me pretty desolate. I’d had no social life for weeks. It’s amazing how 24 hours of genuine acceptance was able to undo weeks of damage and open my very frightened heart.
I let everyone at the retreat call me ‘Anna’ instead of my masculine name. It’s incredible how euphoric I felt from such a simple recognition. I felt free and alive. So much crushing shame simply evaporated.
I’m very struck by the importance of Catholic LGBT community. This journey is impossible without the support of understanding friends with similar lived experiences. I was blessed with true joy on this retreat, and I can’t help but see this as fruit from a good tree.