Dual Citizenship

Aude

Aude-Marie Ackebo ’18

Where I’m from, being religious is common. Most people in the Ivory Coast are Christians or Muslims. I only know a few atheists, but in the United States it seems that the amount of my peers who align themselves as being non-religious has significantly grown. I have had countless debates with my gay friends about Catholics and their view on homosexuality. I am a proud Christian Catholic; my religious beliefs made me who I am but not everyone has to share them.

My first year at Northwood, someone affirmed they heard me say that I didn’t like lesbians because I am Catholic. I do remember talking about my religion but there was no way I said that I didn’t like homosexuals. Why? Because one of my best friends at the time was gay and the other bisexual. Quickly, the rumor about me being homophobic spread around the small school. The fact that I had malaria at the beginning of the year and got to school six months late already made it hard for me to make friends. Add adrenaline-filled high-schoolers to the mix and the result is a friendless new kid.

The misconceptions on religion are immense. I’ve heard people say that women can’t give mass, that all Christians are homophobic, that the bible says gays should be stoned to death, etc.  All of these are false but the homophobic part is what hurts me the most. Most of my family is Christian and homophobic. Most of my family is also at least twenty years old. All of my family members from the same generation as me are perplexed by homosexuality but have nothing against it; it’s about understanding and accepting. The average African teenager doesn’t know anyone gay (or at least publicly) and therefore, they don’t have anyone explaining it to them. Since our generation is lazy, most of my Ivorian friends take what’s told to them as truth instead of looking up fact; This is where they usually get brainwashed by a homophobic adult.

The PEW research center did a study on the subject and shows that 62 percent of Catholics in America think homosexuality should be accepted. 53 percent of Catholics are also strongly in favor of same sex marriage. Catholic homophobia stereotypes are based off the minority of the population.

The majority of Christians have a peer or are themselves a member of the LGBTQ+ community.  Over the last few years the Pope, Francis 1, has encouraged the Catholic Church to welcome LGBTQ+ members. Two years ago, Pope Francis uttered these words, contrasting his predecessors: “If someone is gay and searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”  Months earlier, Pope Benedict XVI affirmed that gay marriage was a threat to global peace. The effect that the new pope’s opinion had on the church was seen right away. The summer of 2014 was a remarkable period during which a number of high-ranking Catholic leaders signaled that Pope Francis’ progressive stance had spread throughout the Catholic world. In May, a top-ranking Italian bishop said that the church should listen to same-sex marriage arguments. A few weeks later, Brazilian Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, said he “didn’t know” whether Jesus would oppose gay marriage. In early September, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan approved the St. Patrick Day Parade Committee’s decision to allow a gay group to march in the 2015 parade under their own banner. In the first months of 2015, Pope Francis had several meetings with LGBTQ+ individuals and groups, like a transgender man from Spain who was excluded from his parish community, and gay and transgender prisoners in Naples. The Vatican also gave the VIP treatment to a pro-LGBTQ+ American Catholic group visiting Rome and the Pope met with a gay Paraguayan activist during his recent trip to South America. This proves that the evolution of the Catholic Church is not only happening on a small level – the entire community is slowly changing.

Considering the amount of prejudices the LGBTQ+ community faces, I thought they would be the last ones to judge religious people. However, I do understand that they have been oppressed by religious extremists and other judgemental people. We shouldn’t generalize stereotypes to all Catholics. Homophobia is not the only misconception Catholics are vulnerable to, there are also other things like being against abortion and contraception, sex before marriage, women’s rights, etc. We might all believe in a God but we are all different human beings, with individual brains  that we use to form our own opinions.

I am a Christian Catholic but I am also an ally. I go to Sunday mass before going to the pride parade. I don’t have to choose. My relationship with God has nothing to do with my support to the LGBTQ+ community. I can be both, I choose to be both.

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