Let Me Be – David’s Story

I am gay, I am Catholic and I am a primary school teacher in a Catholic school.

david face

 One day I’d like to be a husband and perhaps even a Dad; if I’m lucky enough. For as long as I can remember, however, there have been people putting limitations on me being me. Limiting my capacity to love, to be a teacher in a Catholic school, to be gay, to be a parent, to be a husband. I’m here to ask you to remove those limitations and restrictions once and for all and just let me be me.

 It’s ironic that these days I’m finding it much harder to admit my religious beliefs than my sexual orientation. Saying “I’m gay” comes easy to me and elicits very little reaction from people. Saying “I’m Catholic” however, is a different story. I believe in God and I believe that God, in His wisdom, planned for me to be gay. And thank God He did too. The God that I believe in is wiser and greater than any human mind, than any words we can put on human experience; than any laws, frameworks or structures that we can put on life in our societies. God knows what He is doing in making me gay.  The man-made structures in our society, however, are currently limiting my potential to express and live the love that I have the capacity for. God’s dream for me is not a dream of limitations. His dream for me is to be as fully me as I can be. I’m asking you to vote yes to let me live as fully as everybody else.

Love is God’s greatest gift to us. I trust in God. I trust in the positivity of love. I know I have done things in my life that the church would consider sins but I know in my heart that loving another man is not one of them. I know this because I have been in love once. And it was fantastic! I loved seeing him, I loved being with him, loved holding his hand, loved sharing life with him, loved being in love – he made my world a brighter place. In the end, we grew apart; we needed to say goodbye and go in separate directions in order to move forward on our individual paths. It was a taste of love. Something I pray I get to experience again, something that motivates me, something that I look forward to sharing again one day. I hope. I fail to see how allowing me to love and supporting that love as equally as the love expressed by my straight friends could be damaging or destructive to society. I’m asking you to vote yes and let me love as fully as everybody else.

I know that the church’s position states, broadly speaking, that the male-female unit is the most ideal for the upbringing of kids. It has even been suggested that allowing same-sex couples to marry would attack, damage or even destroy the uniqueness of male-female marriage. I have to disagree. Men and women will continue to procreate. Male-female unions will continue to be in the majority.  Elevating the status of gay relationships to the same as straight relationships in marriage doesn’t diminish that which is special or unique about straight relationships; just as elevating the status of black to that of white hasn’t diminished that which is special about black or white, nor has it said that black is the same as white. The same can be said for women and men. It simply says that black and white, women and men, gay and straight all deserve to be treated equally. In the not so distant past; sections of our society believed that being white was most ideal, that being a man was most ideal. People were conditioned into these beliefs; the beliefs around “ideals” in families are similarly conditioned beliefs. I’m asking you to vote yes and let me feel equal.

I’d like to think I’d make a good Dad. I’d like to think that I’d choose a partner who would also be a good Dad. If we decided to have kids it would be a very informed decision; it wouldn’t happen casually, as can be the case in some straight situations. The significant difference between my relationship and a straight relationship is that we’d need external help to have children; adoption services, surrogacy, egg donors etc. We’d have to jump through hoops. It wouldn’t happen by chance or by accident; it would be considered, planned and fought for. And that child would receive every ounce of love, support, encouragement and care that I could give it.  I want to provide a loving, caring, nurturing environment for a child to grow up in, an environment in which their uniqueness is cherished, an environment which allows them to blossom into the best possible version of themselves. Equality in Marriage would indicate to any children myself and my future partner may have that their Dad’s relationship; although different, is valued and supported and accepted as equally as their classmates’ family situations. I’m asking you to vote yes and let any kids I may have know that their family is not second-class.

 God made me. He did not make the institution of marriage. The institution is a man-made response to the interpreted best needs for society. It was constructed at a time when homosexuality was largely misunderstood, ignored, taboo and in the shadows. We now have a greater understanding of what it means to be human. We have hundreds of years of advances in science, psychology, sociology, psychiatry, medicine etc that inform and influence our current understanding of what it means to be human. Thus our understanding of what it means to be gay has advanced. The man-made institution of marriage needs to grow and evolve with our evolving understanding of what it means to be human and our expanding understanding of what society needs. Church and State now need to incorporate these advances and include all consenting, loving, committed adults who wish to marry, the capacity to do so. It is time for church and state to treat us equally and to be inclusive of our relationships. This referendum does not affect church marriage. I’m asking you to vote yes and let me be supported by the state in marriage. meprof2

 If I do meet someone to add to my life, someone whose life I can add to, someone I want to spend the rest of my life with, someone with similar morals and values to me; I’d like to have the relationship respected by other people of faith. Any potential relationship I may have in the future, however, has been deemed by superiors in the church as less worthy, deviant, morally or intrinsically wrong. It upsets me that two people could commit to one another and that certain others could look at it from the outside and judge it to be wrong. It frustrates me that anyone who passes the church doors from one end of the year to the other without entering into the building can avail of church and state marriage. Yet I can’t. It frustrates me that I’ve given to the church and my local community, that I’ve dedicated time and energy to the church, that I’m a Catechist in my local school and have passionately prepared children for the Sacraments of Penance, Communion and Confirmation and that I cannot avail of the sacraments as equally as everybody else. Voting yes in the upcoming referendum won’t change church marriage but I’m asking you to vote yes to let the hierarchy of the church know that you support me.

I’m 30 and for as long as I can remember there have been people telling me that I cannot be fully me; people who have put limitations on me being me. So once more; I’m asking you to please just let me be. Let me love. Let me commit. Let me feel supported. Let me be equal. Let me be a husband. Let me be a Dad. Without the limitations or restrictions. I already am many of these things and I’m doing as good a job at it as the next person; so support and protect me as equally as my straight friends. Please. I’d like to live in a world where I can be as fully me as God created me to be. I’d like to live in a world where the love that I have to offer can be expressed and celebrated confidently; without limitations. Now wouldn’t that be ideal?

by David Mooney

A letter from me to my straight teaching colleagues in staffrooms around the country. – Paul’s Story

Paul Knox 1

Dear colleagues,

There is much talk about how LGBT staff members might find maneuvering staffroom conversations a kin to a delicate tight rope balance, especially in certain schools. But what about if you don’t find this? What if you love who you are and love being exactly that person in the staffroom because of the inclusiveness and respect your teaching colleagues show you? That’s what most LGBT people want right? What if you have that, like I do? But what if it’s not enough? Well, that’s what I want to talk to you about today.  I want to tell you it’s not enough and you can do something about it.

After the Christmas holidays I walked in to the staff room at little break, the place a buzz with gossip and detoxing.  However everyone is crowding around one of my teaching colleagues cooing and laughing.  I wonder what’s going on. Maybe they’re chatting about a night out or talking about something funny that just happened in class. All these things I experience too, so I rush over to become involved in the fuss. Except it’s actually something I can’t experience, in fact it’s something I’m not allowed experience. A teacher has pictures of her wedding day. And I guess that’s why I am writing to you today.

One of my teaching colleagues Brendan is pretty much the same as me. We both hate planning, we both love having a laugh with our principal about it and we both have horrendous lunches because we both have not mastered the art of planning ahead.  Yet he and most of my staff have and can marry who they want but I cannot; and it’s kind of a big deal.

For me at least, working in a primary school, there seems to be a colleague getting engaged or planning a wedding every other week. In my school there is a running joke that I hate wedding talk and wedding pictures. I roll my eyes dramatically on hearing these conversations in a faux exaggeration of the persona I have created. It comes across as funny because I’m the young single gay guy who hasn’t settled down.  Some lament that they would love to be like me. But as much as I want, I can’t be like them. I can’t be like you. I can’t get married to someone I love. And every time another engagement is announced or another wedding conversation takes place, I feel more and more like an outsider. And all I’m doing with my jokes is concealing a deep divide between you and I. With you on one side with the choice to marry who you choose because you are straight and I on the other, not allowed to marry who I choose because I am gay.

Paul Knox 2

Being young and having fun on the town most weekends, with very few cares in the world, you probably think I don’t want to get married. It probably doesn’t look or sound like it I do. I’ve probably convinced myself  that I don’t either and because of this, I act the way I do in my staff room around the topic. However it’s not true. Yet in your world, the very typical is but a mere dream for me.  A world that I am excluded from for simply being myself and a world where if you are straight, was made for you and not me. I grew up in this world that wasn’t made for me. Well, it wasn’t made for the gay part of me. I never saw myself in books in school. I was never spoken about in the curriculum. I wasn’t on television.

Consequently I couldn’t dream like you could. I couldn’t dream because I didn’t exist in any form as I looked out and absorbed everything I saw and heard.  I never dreamt of marriage or the wedding that you dream of because I wasn’t in a fairy-tale story or a magazine getting married like you were. I bought into the conversation that I didn’t want to get married because I couldn’t. I didn’t dream of the moment I would say I do and commit my life to the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. But it’s not true; inequality may have never given me a chance to dream but not anymore. I want to be able to say I do. I want to dream too. Like you.  Let me dream like you do. Let me imagine getting married someday to a person whom I love, like you can. I don’t want to be sitting at your weddings for the rest of my life. I want you to be sitting at mine.

I want my Dad to walk me down the aisle. I want my Mum to get a big day out and an excuse to buy a beautiful floral frock that screams “Irish mammy at a wedding!”.  I want to spend days contemplating centre pieces and seating plans. I want the trouble of figuring out where Aunty Patsy will sit because nobody likes her jokes. I want the joy, I want the pain but most of all I want the choice. My parents gave lots to me, just like your parents gave to you. They instilled me with the values of kindness, hard work and honesty. They worked hard to give me opportunities. Except I want one other very simple opportunity they had. I want to marry the person I love, make a home, and grow old with that person, that man. On May 22nd they have a chance to afford me that opportunity. You have that chance too. Not just for me but for your friends and many people you do not know.

In your staff room do you ever wonder about this when you share your wedding photos, wedding plans or engagement ring with me or someone like me? You do your best to include me in conversations, invite me to your weddings and make me part of your world. But it’s not enough to close that divide – you can do one small thing that could close it. I need you to think of me even if you don’t know me or people like me. I need you to break the silence that excludes me and I need you to vote in the civil marriage equality referendum. So maybe someday when you enter the staff room and see the cooing and laughter that signals an engagement or wedding pictures, when you run over to get involved and see what the fuss is, the person with the wedding pictures is actually me or someone gay like me. It’s not enough to be accepted in your world anymore, I want to experience your world fully, so it can be my world too.

Kind regards, someone you know, or someone who you love might know,

Paul Knox

“Coming to terms” with your sexuality – The loss of your future

What an awful title eh? Really awful, isn’t it? So negative and devoid of joy! You’d be forgiven for reading a bit of shame into it, a bit of self-loathing, a bit of (dare I use the word) internalised homophobia.

So why did I use it?

I used it because language is powerful. I used it because the way we phrase something often reveals the hidden truth of the matter.

When we talk about young people discovering their sexual identity, we nearly always use that phrase “coming to terms with their sexuality”. We come to terms with a loss. We come to terms with a tragedy. We come to terms with a disappointment. So why do we come to terms with our sexuality? Why is it negative?

It’s because for most LGBT people, the initial acceptance of that identity came with a loss. It was the loss of a potential future. When I first sat myself down and said “Ah come on now Niall, be honest, it’s not a phase, you really don’t fancy girls at all” it was an awful, awful loss. My future had been snatched away from me; I knew I would never be able to have the same life as my brothers and sisters. I was fifteen years old and I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to be when I grew up…. but I knew I wanted to be a husband and a Dad. And now I knew that that would never ever happen for me.

When I came out to my parents at eighteen, they were wonderful and accepting. My mother, in particular, reacted to the news as if I had just told her that I preferred tea to coffee. She put down her knitting and smiled and said “Sure I know that, and I think Insert-Name-Here is a lovely boy. He’s your fella isn’t he?” It couldn’t have gone better. What I found out later, was that the next day she rang my sister and she cried and she cried and she cried down the phone at her. Not because she didn’t love me or was ashamed of me, but because “He’s so good with kids, and he’ll never be a father” and because “He’ll have to watch the other two get married and he’ll know he can’t” and because “life will be harder for him”. My mother “came to terms” with my sexuality. She came to terms with the loss of the future she naturally assumed I’d have, the one she’d prayed for when she felt the first kicks of that pregnancy, the one she’d imagined when she first held me in her arms. Gone.

All doom and gloom eh?

Well it isn’t! I’m talking about accepting my sexuality in 1997 and telling my mother in 2000. In 1997 it really was a loss of a future. In 1997 we never ever would have imagined that Marriage Equality could one day be within our grasp. I’m only in my early thirties and if we vote yes to Marriage Equality I most probably will end up becoming a husband and father one day. I will have the same life as my brothers and sisters, the life my mother pictured as she watched me sleeping in my cot.

I have set up a group called Teachers For Marriage Equality. It’s a group for primary and secondary school teachers, gay and straight to advocate and campaign for a YES vote in this referendum. If we vote yes, hopefully the day will come when no child in your class, present or future will have to “come to terms with their sexuality”. Discovering their identity will no longer come with the loss of a potential future of husbands, wives and children. It will be the same as realising you prefer tea to coffee. Instead of coming to terms with their sexuality, I want those children to embrace it as just another difference that adds to their own special uniqueness!

Please visit www.facebook.com/teachers4marriage and on twitter @teach4marriage

Niall Callan