Pride: Formally Coming Out as Queer, Catholic, and A Whole Lot Else

Pride: Formally Coming Out as Queer, Catholic, and A Whole Lot Else June 16, 2020

Librarian Witch Bitch Aesthetic

 

This week I formally came out on Facebook and through private messages to my friends, family, and online community as Marie Avers:

I am a cisgender (she/her), demiromantic, and bisexual femme writer who wrestles continually with with mental illness, abused-based trauma, and the deep pain and grief of true, thorough healing. I am an anarcho-socialist who believes in radical mutual aid. I feel like I am physically and spiritually a 94-year-old woman. And I am a Heterodox Queer and Spitefully Catholic Witch.

And I dare anyone to tell me anything different.

Because real talk: I Dare You. Your religion and mine teaches that I am Catholic by right of my Baptism, just as a Jewish person is Jewish by right of their blood. So you may rant and rail and condemn me with much gnashing of teeth, but once again, I dare you: tell me that you do not share your Church’s explicit teaching on my intrinsic, indelible, permanent identity as a Catholic. You may by all means call me a bad catholic, sinful Catholic, dangerous Catholic, and if that makes you happy, have at it. But be prepared for a very angry retinue of my friends to lambast you in turn.

Consider yourself duly wanted.

Now, if you’ve made it past that rage fest, and somehow remained intrigued as to what on earth it means to be a Heterodox Queer and Spitefully Catholic Witch:

To begin, I am definitely not wiccan. I have never dabbled in the occult, and I will never touch a ouija board with a 10 foot poll.

First and foremost, this is a way for me to identify myself with Catholic women and others throughout history who were demeaned and hated for being too loud, too angry, too large, to stubborn, too much. Joan of Arc was burned for witchcraft, for example, for wearing men’s clothes. How many other catholic female, queer, and POC revolutionaries, visionaries, and all purpose badasses were similarly burned for facing down the heresy of patriarchal control and oppression?

I’ll share more on the development of my faith and beliefs in the months to come.

My beloved Grandmother: Catherine Avers Headley

Why have I changed my surname and what is the significance of Avers?

Avers was my maternal grandmother’s maiden name. She only had sisters, and they were all extremely badass, strong, independent, yet deeply loving women. I was very close to her and inherited many of her gifts/personality traits (even her eyes), and she taught me many of the rest. So I wanted to honor her and her sisters by carrying on their name, which died with them. Furthermore, choosing this name felt like the closest I could get to completely avoiding the patriarchal naming system of our Western Civilization women-are-their-husbands’-property culture. And yes, you can point out that my Grandma inherited that surname from her father, but I would respond that he was a very good and loving father and that she adored him. So I am proud to take his name, as well.

 

Now for the real meat and purpose of this Coming Out post:

To all of my friends, both old and new, who have expressed any degree of love for me since I formally came out and owned my queer identity to you this Pride month, I want to express my profound gratitude and love for you.

I never recognized the way that the intense, violently hateful homophobia I grew up immersed within held me prisoner and caused me such deep hurt until this week, as I’ve come out more and more fully to more and more of you.

Perhaps my reaction of severe shock and near disbelief at your acceptance strikes you as irrational or bizarre or even utterly excessive—especially if you have only grown to know me recently, and are thus less aware of the extreme, cult-like, horrifically abusive nature of my upbringing—in which case you are probably thinking, “but Marie! Of course you are valued and loved and worthy of dignity and acceptance, no matter what choices you make, no matter your identity and life journey! That is the very basic tenant of Christ’s teaching and is even officially Catechism of the Catholic Church Moral Theology!

The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

—Catechism of the Catholic Church 2358 

So why on earth are you reacting with such astonishment to our acceptance, genuine love, and persistent friendship?!”

And if that is what you are thinking, trust me, I definitely understand. But if that is the case, or even if it isn’t, please bear with me and understand more fully my existence and experience over the past 25 years of life:

I was raised in the heart of an alt-right sect of Catholicism that verbally crucified any Catholic priest who even suggested it was possible to practice and believe in Catholicism fully and faithfully while still welcoming your queer/gay/trans/contracepting family member to holiday dinners, speaking to them, or *gasp* letting them come into spitting distance of your children. My father and the other ultra fascist Catholic traditionalists and conservatives I was surrounded by would call priests like that heretics, accuse them (without evidence) of breaking their vows of chastity and having affairs, or even being the sort of priest who rapes children (once again, with no evidence), merely because that was the only conceivable reason these men could preach such a “vile, destructive idea.”

I literally expected my remaining Catholic conservative friends (who had not already been run off by me being an excessively loud, angry, unorthodox Catholic feminist) to finally cut the cord. I expected some sort of patronizing “love the sinner, hate the sin” response, with the added promise that they could never let me near their children, since my orientation is, according to their belief, intrinsically perverted, depraved, and diabolical—leaving them unable to trust me not to molest and rape their children the moment they turn their backs.

(This is despite the fact that I myself was molested as a child by my pediatrician, who was a Good Upstanding Catholic Man. But I digress.)

And no matter how extreme or cultish or outlandish or insane that may sound to you, I am not exaggerating. I could call on any number of catholic and ex-catholic friends who grew up in this same environment.

This week I’ve cried more and harder than I’ve cried in nearly a decade—the sort of wracking, convulsing, body-shaking, deepest weeping, which is somehow also the most healing thing I’ve ever experienced.

It feels I’m being reborn.

As a friend this morning so lovingly put it, “It sounds like you are undergoing a metamorphosis… But don’t worry, you can be an owl moth instead of a pink butterfly.”

It is significant to note that I have wept and healed this week more than I have since going on retreat at a convent my senior year of high school.

At that retreat I encountered a huge amount of healing from the chronic, near suicidal OCD (undiagnosed at the time) I’d suffered since I was a small child, which manifested itself as paralyzing, spiraling obtrusive-thought-based scrupulosity and terror of an evil, hateful, truly demonic god catching me unaware and gleefully thrusting me permanently into hell.

I, of course, did not realize that I was already living in a worse hell even than I could imagine in my worst nightmares.

As a good and gentle priest once told me in spiritualdirection, if the god of my father, Dr. Brian Joseph Kopp, D.P.M., were real, he would rather spend eternity in hell.

And indeed, all the fires of Dante’s deepest level of the Inferno would be a utopia compared to the inner hell of my childhood and adolescence.

I am just now fully able, due to your love and life-transforming radical acceptance and love, to articulate why it seems I’ve stepped through a looking glass into an alternate dimension.

This is not at all the world I was raised in. You, my beloved friend, reader, advocate, have welcomed me into a realm of peace and enthusiasm and thriving which I never could have imagined existed. And it all is due to the radical, unflinching, often violent, transgressive activism of the strongest, bravest saints who came before me and helped create this world:

From St. Joan of Arc who burned at the stake for charges of wearing men’s clothing and being a heretic and witch; to Flannery O’Connor and her willingness to present the face of divinity in an intersex person at a carnival; to Dorothy Day, who asked why the Church only canonizes those who clean up the mess, tend to the poor and sick and hated, afterwards—all the while condemning those who dare to resist and burn down and reimagine the intrinsically evil systems of our world, systems of capitalistic slavery, racism, elitism, classism and caste systems, homophobia, transphobia, and patriarchal misogyny.

Among these saints, whom I canonize in defiance of the Church, are:

Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, John F Kennedy, Alexandria Occasio Cortez, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Ruby Bridges, Booker T. Washington, Fr. James Martin, SJ, Pope Francis, Thurgood Marshall, Ralph Ellison, Vladimir Nabokov, Rebecca Bratten Weiss, Toni Morrison, Mary Wollstonecraft, John Paul Sartre, Simone De Beauvoir, Virginia Woolf, Maxwell Anthony Kuzma, Rosa Parks, Lady Gaga, Harvey Milk, MARSHA P. JOHNSON, Mariah Piechowski, Dustin Parker, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Lexi, Tony McDade, the founders of the Black Lives Matter and Black Panther movements, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, Jodie Foster, Michael Dudek, and Elizabeth Vermilyea,

and an endless list of so many others who have sacrificed their reputations, their careers, their friends, their families, their bodies, their emotions, their work, their minds, and their very lives to create a more loving, free, and safe world—

A world that is daily safer for people like me.

~Marie Elizabeth Avers


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