Students reconcile religion, identity

Bridget Duffy (left), a senior double major in English writing and Classics, talked about her affiliation with both the Catholic and Episcopal communities at Rainbow Alliance’s Religious Panel Thursday evening. (Photo by Chiara Rigaud | Staff Photographer)

Bridget Duffy felt uncomfortable practicing her family religion of Catholicism when she found out same-sex couples could not get married in Catholic churches and infants of same-sex couples were not allowed to be baptized.

“I’m a traditional person. But I need someone else to tell me that God doesn’t hate me,” Duffy said.

Duffy, a senior double majoring in English writing and classics who identifies as lesbian, spoke on a panel of people in the LGBTQ+ community at an event hosted by the Rainbow Alliance Thursday night in the William Pitt Union. Hope Kay, a sophomore majoring in finance, facilitated the discussion, asking the panelists questions regarding their journeys coming to terms with their identity while maintaining a religious faith.

The panelists began the event by describing their initial struggles with personal identity and faith.

Timothy Miller, another panelist and a sophomore majoring in English writing and political science, identifies as gay. He said his search for religion as he transitioned from his family’s religion of United Methodism — which finds homosexuality to be incompatible with traditional Christian doctrine — to a pagan religion involved a lot of research into different religions’ values and beliefs.

“I had to find a religion that best promotes who I am,” Miller said.

The panelists also discussed any aspects of practicing their religions they would like to change to better fit their identities and beliefs. Duffy said women should have a more active role in Catholicism and the Church should change the way it approaches the LGBTQ+ community.

“The number of Catholic priests is declining. Numbers would grow if they opened to women,” Duffy said. “The Pope said that gay people are struggling and they need help. I’m not struggling with identifying as gay and the Church’s attitude has to go away.”

But other panelists described how their religions and religious institutions acknowledge their identities in a positive way. Duffy said the description of God in her current practicing religion, the Episcopal Church, illustrates LGBTQ+ values.

“For God, they use gender-neutral pronouns, which is cool,” Duffy said. “God is an entity. God is above gender.”

After describing how their respective religions viewed their identities, panelists spoke about how their respective religions tried to make their LGBTQ+ members feel comfortable. One panelist said his Hebrew school in his hometown is trying to accommodate the community’s needs.

“My Hebrew school is thinking of getting gender-neutral bathrooms. I thought that was very awesome,” he said.

Kay also asked the panel if any sacred texts from their religions spoke to them. Duffy said she particularly connected with a line from the Bible.

“The line was ‘Before you formed in the womb, I knew,’” Duffy said. “God knew you at your uttermost core. Being gay is a part of who I am at the core. God made me that way on purpose.”

After Kay concluded, audience members asked the panelists questions. One audience member asked what it felt like to transition to a new religion, referring to the stories of two panelists earlier in the night who spoke about changing their faith to better suit their identities.

Miller said his pagan religion, Chthonioi Alexandrian Wicca, affirms his views.

“Alexandrian Wicca is based on the energies you feel. It allows same-sex initiations. It is a very sex-positive sect,” Miller said.

Dan Marino, a first year majoring in linguistics who attended the event, said he was raised Catholic and has never looked into other denominations of Christianity. But after the event, Marino said he thought he would “get into Episcopalism” — which Duffy said is similar to Catholicism but accommodates the LGBTQ+ community.

“It’s not bad to question your religion,” Marino said. “It is good to look at other avenues.”

Bridget Duffy is a copy editor for The Pitt News.

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