It was not until I was sitting at the table, facing the audience that had made the trek to this nondescript building on M Street that I truly realized how special this opportunity was for me. I was given just that: a place at the table. For so long, though I had shared my story in a newspaper back home in Los Angeles, I felt that it was one in a sea. That, though mine was certainly not a conventional one, there were many other stories like it in that city of millions and on this campus of thousands where I had actually found a community that also shared the space on the intersection of LGBTQ and Catholic identities.
As the conversation commenced, though, and as I found my place in it, sharing the story of my faith journey, I came to realize that this was uniquely me. Yes, others share this space, but I what I was sharing was my own narrative, on my own terms. It was a time and a place in which what was demanded of me was only sincerity. And I gave it. It was me that had, upon arriving on this campus two long summers ago, sat quietly in Dahlgren Chapel and prayed for my time here. It was me that had engaged in heated and at times vitriolic arguments with my roommate about faith and its role in our lives as queer men—the breaking in of my embrace of my two identities, I like to think. It was me that had walked to Healy that day to seek the guidance and eventually find the acceptance of the LGBTQ Catholic Prayer group and all the wonderful people in it. And yes, it was me who had dated the Jewish boy who would teach me much and one day become one of my best friends!
One of the most poignant points I made during the discussion that has stuck with me is the idea of allowing myself to listen. It was while I was in deep prayer and reflection for months all those years ago about how my reversion to the Catholic faith and my queer identities could meet that I had had the most difficult time listening to all the thoughts in my mind. I had forgotten just how hard that process had actually been, the memory of that difficulty having been glossed over and forgotten in dozens of retellings. This is something I feel so many people could benefit so much from. Let ourselves listen. Let us listen to what every part of us wants to say. It is only through this embrace of all parts of ourselves that we can actually grow to be fuller and truer expressions of ourselves as God has made us.
I would be lying if I said that being on this panel was just a great place to share my story, though. Through the masterful moderation of Mr. Chris Geidner, the thoughtful and awe-inspiring commentary from Mr. Chris Stedman, and the perspective offered by Ms. Shiva Subbaraman, whom it is a pleasure to work with, I was able to better discern was this story truly meant for me now.
I came to understand throughout the discussion that the journey that I took to arrive where I am today has placed me at a university and in a community where I can finally take a breath. The discussion that took place that day reminded me of why I am blessed in more ways than I know. It was a humbling experience in more ways than one, and I will always be grateful for being given a place at these tables.