Our New Closets

On a rainy Tuesday, my thoughts keep wandering back to contact theory.  I have nothing new or brilliant to add, but at times my circular thought gets so consuming that I have to write it out.

Last night, a friend told a story of pressure his parents received to have an abortion instead of having him.  His older brother had MD, and chances that my friend would have it too were high.  He had never told me that before, and we began talking about the tension between his family being fairly Catholic and other Catholics telling them to abort the baby.

I just finished teaching high school juniors a course on Christian Controversies.  The students are stunningly brilliant, but tend to be sheltered.  I could not help but notice that our conversation about the LGBT community and the Church teaching that goes along with that was extremely mature and nuanced.  This was much in part, I believe, due to the fact that we had a transgendered student in the class as well as students who are gay and lesbian on varying degrees of openness.  The students knew they were talking about people, not just issues.  But when we moved to talk about abortion, the conversation grew immature and overly simplified.  Few young people were able to sit in the complexity of the issue.  I am guessing this had something to do with lack of contact with people who have had or considered having an abortion.  The conversation was missing life stories.

As more people come “out of the closet” to self-identify in the LGBT community, I pause to question what other closets their are.  I do believe that if we had more stories to attach to things “issues” like abortion and rape, the conversation and legislation around it would be transformed.  Where I struggle is that I firmly do not believe that people in power should need to hear painful and powerful stories in order to care.

Looking into the face of my friend last night, my thoughts around abortion, although ultimately may not have changed, did grow more complex.  Although we should never have to learn at the expense of another, being witness to powerful moments, when story humanizes issues, is a gift to be held carefully.