Florida DCF Should Protect LGBT Youth in Foster Care

Florida Department of Children and Families
1317 Winewood Boulevard, Bldg. 4

Tallahassee  Florida  32399

ATTN:  Ms. Jodi Abramowitz

Dear Ms. Abramowitz,

My name is Timothy MacGeorge and I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).  In my work as a therapist at a community behavioral health center in Naples (FL), I occasionally work with youth who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT).

I am writing to urge the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to restore the language that was recently stricken from  Rule 65C-I4: Group Care Licensing (cf. http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/publicnotices/20160408-Notice-of-Change-65C-14.pdf ) being considered at tomorrow’s [April 8, 2016] public hearing.  As a therapist, I have seen first hand how a young LGBT person’s emotional well-being is impacted by the degree to which he/she is accepted by his/her family, friends, classmates, teachers, and society at large. When young people are accepted for who they are, they are more likely to thrive and reach their God-given potential. When young people are denigrated, shamed, and made to feel that their sense of self is an abomination to be exorcised, then the resulting high rates of anxiety, depression and even suicide should not come as a surprise. All reputable mental health organizations now recognize the broad range of sexual orientations and gender identities within the human family. They also recognize that any attempt to change or “convert” someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity is not only clinically unsound, but also professionally unethical.

Media reports suggest that the impetus behind this recent language change in the Proposed Rule was pressure from religious groups in the state, including the Florida Catholic Conference. As a Catholic Christian (one who was also ordained a Catholic priest), I believe that there is more support in Sacred Scripture for accepting all of God’s children as they are, created in God’s image and likeness, than there is for any view which sees LGBT persons as “unnatural,” “not normal” or in need of so-called “conversion therapy.”

Please do the right thing and restore the recently stricken language from the proposed rule. Please act on behalf of all youth committed to DCF’s care — including LGBT youth.

Sincerely,

Timothy J MacGeorge, LCSW
Bonita Springs, FL  34135

The First “Bible” is Nature and Creation

Two men holding hands

Two men holding hands

To those who say that same-sex attraction is “unnatural” or is contrary to “biblical teaching,” remember that even before there was the written Word in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, there was and is the Word of God written in Creation.

LGBT people know in the core of our being that we are beloved sons and daughters of God. We know that our love is just as natural, just as God-given as the love of our straight brothers and sisters. It is this knowledge — borne of profound self-awareness and a respect for our own Nature as created by God — that tells us that the Church’s theology of human sexuality is limited and incomplete.

Read Richard Rohr’s Wisdom Lineage Summary for a more complete discussion of the sources of wisdom.

True Courage

ChiSonoIoEven while there are many hopeful signs about the Church moving forward on the subject of God’s gay daughters and sons, there are some who still call for an expansion of “ministries” that ask LGBT Catholics to be less than who they are. One of these is called “Courage,” and Fr. Roger Landry’s commentary in the Boston Pilot’s online forum, Echoes, pronounces the virtues, nay necessity, of this organization for LGBT Catholics.  Here, in part, is my comment to the contrary. 

I have to agree with Ann Marie Rosa, while simultaneously taking great exception to Fr. Landry’s commentary.

What I find most strikingly off target with the tone and substance of his comments is the underlying assumption that God’s LGBT sons and daughters are somehow distinct from “the Church” and “Catholics.” Gay and lesbian persons are in every parish, every Catholic community, every diocese around the globe. Indeed, we are in many (most?) seminaries, rectories, convents and houses of religious men and women. Gay and lesbian Catholics are not so much looking to be welcomed by the Church, for indeed, we ARE the Church — just as sure as is every other person who embraces his/her baptism and seeks to live the Gospel with faithfulness and integrity.

What we are looking for, however, is an experience of Church that reflects the famous (and hopefully prophetic) words of the Holy Father. You will recall that Pope Francis was asked a question in the summer of 2013 about a “gay lobby” at the Vatican. After addressing that point in particular, Francis went on to say that, “if a person is gay and is eagerly searching for God, then who am I to judge them?” Fr. Landry, however, seems all too willing to go where the Holy Father chose not to. And so, rather than listening to the lived experience of God’s gay sons and daughters; rather than walking with us in faith through the joys and struggles of our lives; rather than listening to how we understand our unions to be both unitive and procreative; and rather than think that perhaps — just perhaps — his own judgment about the morality of our lives might be flawed, Fr. Landry instead pronounces judgment and prescribes what he thinks he knows is best for all God’s gay children.

I believe the Holy Spirit was at work in this most recent synod as it made history in addressing an issue hitherto swept under the rug. I pray fervently that the same Spirit will continue to soften the hearts of all those who stand in judgment of God’s gay children. All of us are created in God’s image and likeness. The diversity of human sexuality is only one of the many beautiful and glorious ways in which that divine image shines through humanity. May the work of the Spirit allow that diversity to shine even more brightly in the years to come.

Ducks, Lies, and the Truth about God’s LGBT Children

“An untrue or inaccurate statement that may or may not be believed true by the speaker.” That’s one definition of lie provided by Merriam-Webster. I do not know if Laire Lightner believes what she says, but I do now that it is a lie.  Ms. Lightner, it seems, is “the driving force” behind an online petition to have Duck Dynasty personality Phil Robertson reinstated. Mr. Robertson was recently removed from that program for his comments denigrating LGBT people in an interview (perversely entitled, “The Gospel According to Phil”) with GQ magazine.

LaireLighter

Laire Lightner (with her husband) is leading the charge to reinstate ousted, anti-gay Phil Roberston (Photo: John Osborne / Naples Daily News)

In today’s edition of the Naples Daily News (Naples, FL), Ms. Lightner is quoted as follows:  “Homosexuals and Christians have different values, but I will fight to make sure their rights are protected.”

While the second part of her statement is laudable, the first part is blatantly a lie. It is a longstanding canard of fundamentalists and Biblical literalists to claim that Christianity condemns homosexuality, that one cannot be both gay and a disciple of Jesus. Thankfully, the facts of history — as well as the lived experience of thousands, perhaps millions — of LGBT Christians undercuts that assertion on its face. As a gay man and a Christian, I am just one example of someone who is gay by Nature and Christian by Grace — and both Nature and Grace are authored by God.

I suppose it shouldn’t surprise us that Ms. Lightner “studied divinity at Liberty University,” the fundamentalist school in Lynchburg, Virginia founded by Jerry Falwell. Having only studied divinity for two years, perhaps Ms. Lightner would be open to continuing her education by learning about LGBT Christians and then reconsidering her statement.

Christmas quickly approaches. This Feast of the Incarnation celebrates our belief that, by taking on human flesh, God reminds us in Jesus that every human person is created in the image and likeness of God. As an early Christmas gift, here are some resources for Ms. Lightner — and all those who hold that same false belief — to begin that education.

First Time, now The Advocate — quite the year for Francis!

TIME-Cover-Pope FrancisTheAdvocate-Pope FrancisFor Pope Francis to be named Person of the Year by Time magazine … that’s understandable. After all, Pope Francis has captured the hearts (and, with his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, the minds) of countless millions around the world — Catholics and non-Catholics alike. But to be named Person of the Year by The Advocate, a leading magazine covering “Gay News, LGBT Rights, Politics and Entertainment”?  Now that’s progress!

Evidence, not Opinion: What the bishops should embrace about homosexuality

I spent this past week at a conference in San Francisco on ADHD, the annual conference of the non-profit organization where I work. The closing plenary was by a renowned neurologist, Dr. Martha Denckla from Baltimore’s Kennedy-Krieger Institute. Dr. Denckla is a true scientist, relying on the facts and what empirical data show in drawing her research conclusions.

During the Q & A after her presentation she was asked by one attendee, “What’s your opinion of [some named product making claims about alleviating ADHD symptoms]?” Without missing a beat, Dr. Denckla replied, “I prefer not to have opinions. I prefer evidence over opinions.”

Russian icon from the collection at Hillwood Museum.

Such wisdom would serve well current Church leaders who continue to bury their heads in the sand, choosing to remain blind to the incontrovertible evidence about what it means to be gay. As the US Catholic Bishops have their fall meeting in Baltimore this week and discuss (as no doubt they will) what to do in response to last week’s election, the wisdom of those words deserves repeating. The bishops (both in the US and around the world, including Rome) would do well to take a dose of humility for a change and simply listen. They should listen to the evidence of the lives of LGBT people, their families and friends, as demonstrated in the favorable votes in four states on same-sex marriage. They should put aside their opinions, based as they are on outdated and incorrect understandings of human sexuality, and they should listen to the evidence that tells us that:

  • being gay is a given, not a choice;
  • being gay for a gay person is just as ‘natural’ as being straight is for a straight person;
  • the struggle for LGBT rights — including the right to marry the person you love — is about gay people and in no way diminishes the marriages of straight people.

As the US and worldwide bishops continue to look away from the clear evidence of research and most especially the evidence of the lived experience of God’s LGBT children, they run the risk of being guilty of remaining in what moral theology calls “vincible ignorance.”  Unlike “invincible ignorance” which cannot be overcome due to one’s own efforts, vincible ignorance is that lack of knowledge for which one is morally responsible. As shepherds of God’s People, bishops have an obligation to know the people they are called to serve.

They have an obligation to listen to the stories of gay men and women who live lives of deep Christian faith and who live in faithful, committed relationships.  They need to listen to the stories of parents whose gay children have suffered bullying and abuse at the hands of others inspired, in part, by the hateful language of “disordered” and “unnatural.”  Perhaps especially they need to listen to the stories of their own lives (many bishops, no doubt, are gay themselves) as well as the stories of their family members and friends.

The lived experience of God’s People is not only a legitimate source of insight into clarifying and articulating anew the Christian message in every age; it is a required source of such insight. If we really believe that God is actively involved in the lives of His People, then it is the evidence of God’s action in human lives that deserves recognition, respect, and support.