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Our Giftedness
by Chris Hindi

When I look back at the past four years, and the events that led me to the little Chapel above St. Peter's Church in Bombay last August where I was received into the Church, and earlier this year to the office of Sr. Sue Hoffman (one of the Chaplains at the University of Rochester) where I first came out to anybody, one thing seems clear and seems to make sense out of all this - my sexuality and religiosity are inexorably intertwined.  I am Catholic because I am gay.

Let me try and clarify that seemingly incongruous statement.  First, some autobiographical background:  I was raised in a Hindu family, though not in any kind of a religious atmosphere; my parents aren't really religious as such.  I had more than enough exposure to Christianity (having been educated by the Jesuits since fifth grade through college, and especially through being in school/college choirs) - and this has been, I am sure, no mean "background influence" on me.

I think, by the time I was 16 or 17 or so, I definitely knew deep down that I was gay; I had known that there was something different about me earlier, but by this time I had put a label to it.  Sexuality in general is a taboo topic in India, and there is a head-in-the-sand attitude towards homosexuality (it is a "western" vice) - I am sure that if anyone cared to look at India's rich cultural heritage honestly, there are sure to be expressions of same-sex desire, eroticism and love.  But, in modern India, homosexual activity is criminal under sodomy laws left by the British (which Britain itself long ago repealed!)  And with the presence of closely knit family structures and the importance given to starting a family and raising children in the culture, it was ages before I could acknowledge my own homosexuality to myself in any way.  I knew that it was there, but I could barely admit it to myself, let alone to anybody else.  Going through a college with a highly western-influenced culture, especially in its emphasis on compulsory heterosexuality and peer pressure at prom nights and so on, was hardly any help.  Through all the despair, anger, self-pity, deception and general misery of the closet, I found myself powerfully attracted to the central symbols of the Christian faith.  The only ones I could turn to were my God, my Jesus, crucified on my wall for my sins, his arms open wide for me, and to His mother cradling him at her breast fiercely protective.

I have come to link my "journey of faith" to two powerful religious experiences.  The first was on Good Friday, 1991 at the lovely outdoor service, attended by thousands, at Holy Name Cathedral in Bombay.  I had attended Midnight Mass at Christmas (mainly out of curiosity and a love of Church music) and had decided to attend the Triduum services.  Anyway, during the Veneration of the Cross, I got up to join the people queuing up to kiss the crucifix and I was overwhelmed by this strong powerful feeling that this man, two thousand years ago, had died for me, and a corollary to that:  what am I doing about it?   It's hard to describe exactly what I felt, except that it was something totally new, something I'd never experienced before, and it was something that, for lack of better words, totally 'zapped' me!  The way I've come to analyze that Good Friday experience is that it was a kind of challenge - a challenge to look more closely at life, at what life means, at myself, at where I was headed, and so on.

In January 1993 I made a retreat to discern how serious I was about becoming Christian, i.e., being baptized into the Church.  It was during this retreat that I had the most profound religious experience of my life - very  briefly, it was an experience of being loved, of being surrounded, totally enveloped, of being uplifted by love (again, very difficult to put into words)-it was the Presence of God.  More than just deep emotion, it affected me at the very core; it was an experience which addressed my whole being, and especially my sexuality, directly.

What my experience at the retreat underlined for me was that I am loved just as I am - not in spite of who I am, but because of who I am, in my entirety.  I remember, it was a long time before I spoke to anybody about that retreat (not even to the retreat director!) - a long time before I myself grasped its import.  I knew deep down that, whatever happened, God was with me; my Jesus would always be at my side.  I knew that God did not think that I was "objectively disordered" - She'd better not; She made me this way! (…the way I am.)

For me, getting baptized was the first step in trying to respond to that great and awesome love.  It was almost another year (after my baptism) before I received the courage to overcome my fears, the courage to trust in God and grasp God's outstretched hand and finally acknowledge my sexuality to myself and to others.

Coming out of the closet has been another deeply religious and spiritual experience a feeling of liberation from fear, of life-giving and transforming joy; the joy which Scripture tells us no one can take away; an experience of Easter and new life.  These past two months have been among the most beautiful in my life.  I find the use of language as a metaphor for one's self-identity, especially one's sexuality, to be particularly apt.  Having received the courage to come out and after years of trying to communicate in an alien language, I can now hear the good news spoken to me in my own tongue, like the apostles on the first Pentecost, in a voice which my heart can understand.  Or to put it another way, I can now let a very integral part of me - which is very familiar to me but so far repressed and silent - speak out with its own voice. 

St. Paul says "there are different gifts, but the same Spirit, there are different ministries, but the same Lord, there are different works, but the same God, who accomplishes all of them in every one.  To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good."  We who are lesbian or gay have our own gifts, unique to our calling, to offer in service to the community.  The intense pain and struggle all of us undergo in coming to terms with our selves as God created us, deeply enriches our spirituality, I feel.

This brings me to what, to me, appears to be an essential part of being Christian:  being a witness to God's great and boundless love and responding to God's love by our own - for each other, even for those that persecute and hate us; trusting in God in the face of all our uncertainties and insecurities, embracing our pain, our wounds, our anger and our fears and affirming ourselves as we are, as God created us, as God has gifted us, and speaking out with our lives and actions to the world, as more loving, caring and giving people, as beacons of the Light of Christ in this world.

For, it is only by our love, that they will know we are Christians. 

Now working in pastoral care, Chris is forced to use an alias for the above testimony to protect his ministry in the Church.

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