Radio Series Explores LGBT Issues from a Range of Religious Traditions

A unique and comprehensive series on a public radio program is exploring LGBT issues from a variety of faith traditions.

Interfaith Voiceshosted by Loretto Sister Maureen Fiedler, is offering “Gay in the Eyes of God:  How 12 Traditions View Gay and Lesbian People,”  a 12-part look at theology, spirituality, and lived reality of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and issues.

Sister Fiedler describes the program on a National Catholic Reporter  blog:

Sister Maureen Fiedler

“Public opinion about homosexuality is changing rapidly, and civil law is not far behind. Gays and lesbians are increasingly open about their relationships and accepted. In some states, they now can marry legally and adopt children.

“But among those who are people of faith — with a few exceptions — gay men and lesbians wrestle with how to be faithful to their religious traditions while living fully the human reality in which they discover themselves. . . .

“This series offers much more than scriptural or theological conversations, although those are included. We hear the often poignant stories of gay and lesbian people struggling with who they are as they try to stay faithful to their respective traditions.”

Catholics are represented by four different people and perspectives:

Celestine and Hilary Ranney-Howes

“When we deal with Catholicism, we hear the story of Hilary and Celestine Ranney-Howes. This couple was heterosexually married — one man and one woman. . .  [Hilary, who married as a man, came to understand her] true identity was female, and she became a transsexual woman. Normally, such a change would lead to divorce, but Hilary’s wife, Celestine, realized she loved the person, not the gender, so they stayed together as a lesbian couple. Today, they worship in an “intentional eucharistic community” in the Washington, D.C., area where they feel accepted. [Hilary and Celestine led a focus session at New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium in Baltimore this past March; some of their interview was conducted at that conference.]

Sister Jeannine Gramick
Eve Tushnet

“For our Catholic segment, I also interviewed Loretto Sr. Jeannine Gramick, a founder of New Ways Ministry, and Eve Tushnet, a young lesbian who believes she must remain celibate to be a faithful Catholic. Gramick explained the range of Catholic theological views on this subject, including the official view, and Tushnet said that she turned to works of Catholic mysticism for support in her lifestyle. Gramick noted that change is possible in Catholicism, but she does not expect it any time soon.”

The series also includes segments on evangelicalism (airing this week), the Black Church,Islam, Judaism, origins of the LGBT religious movement, Eastern religions, and other topics.

The series, which was made possible by a grant from the Arcus Foundation, began earlier this summer.  Each installment can be listened to on the radio show’s website.  Additional installments will be added to the archive as the series progresses.

Interfaith Voices is heard on 62 public radio stations across the nation, so check your local listings for when the program airs in your area.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

DignityUSA President Offers Latino/a Culture Insights at Congressional Briefing

Lourdes Rodriguez-Nogues

Lourdes Rodriguez-Nogues, president of DignityUSA, a national organization of LGBT Catholic and supporters, recently was a panelist at a U.S. Congressional briefing on Latino/a support of LGBT issues.  The panel, organized by La Raza, a national Latino/a advocacy organization, and sponsored by U.S. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, focused on a newly released research study, LGBT Acceptance and Support: The Hispanic Perspective. (Bondings 2.0 reported on this study when it was released in April 2012.)

DignityUSA’s newsletter, Dateline, reports that  David Dutwin, PhD, of Social Science Research Solutions, which published the report

“explained the national study demonstrated that, contrary to public belief, people of Hispanic background are as likely to supportLGBT civil rights, including marriage, as the rest of the population. In fact, 54% of Hispanics currently affirm the right of same-sex couples to marry,very similar to the 53% of the general population who express support. The trend was similar among Hispanic Catholics in the U.S., with 57% supporting same-sex marriage, compared with 56% of all Catholics in the U.S.

The survey was underwritten by the Arcus Foundation. Speaking about why the Foundation felt this research was important, Vice President of Social Justice Programming Tom Kam said it is crucial to understand the complexity of opinions among ethnic populations. He felt it was ‘a unique opportunity to hear the voices of Latino people of faith, voices often overshadowed by the leadership of religious institutions, and voices that may be unheard or misrepresented in the public debate.’ ”

Rodriguez-Nogues provided some cultural context for understanding the report:

“Discussing the implications of the survey data, Lourdes went on to explain that in Hispanic culture, the family and the group, rather than the individual, are the center of society. Therefore, efforts to create division in families, such as has been recently documented to be a tactic of the National Organization for Marriage, could be particularly damaging among Hispanics. She noted that the strength of families, and the breadth of extended family, are reasons to keep creating opportunities and models for LGBT people to come out and make civil rights issues personal.”

She also offered some personal background and insight:

“She reflected on her many years of being ‘out in English, but not in Spanish,’ and on the desire not to introduce a topic of prospective discord into her family as the reason for this. Lourdes said that when she ultimately did decide to come out to her mother, who like in most Hispanic families is both the head and the heart of the family, her mother responded with two questions. ‘She asked me if I was happy, and if I had a relationship with God,’ said Lourdes. ‘Those were the things that mattered to her.’ ”

¡Felicidades y muchas gracias, Lourdes!

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry