Monday 6 September 2010

James Alison on Responsible Gay Catholicism

From impossibility to responsibility: developing new narratives for gay catholic living

If, on a Sunday evening, I go down to the street on which my apartment block stands in São Paulo, of one thing I can be sure. There will be acres of kids. Actually, gay and lesbian kids. The fourteen-to-eighteen year old variety. Emos, Goths, Mohicans, piercings, visible designer underwear waistbands, every conceivable variety of sartorial demonstration of the rage and glory of adolescence. Why just there? Well, there’s a big club on the corner, in this, the more downmarket of São Paulo’s two principal gay neighbourhoods, and it holds a “matinée de menor”, an “underage matinée”, on Sunday afternoons. There are actually several such clubs, but this one is the best located. So from about 4 p.m. until about midnight, the kids, who wouldn’t be able to get into a regular club at normal night hours, can party. Which they do, both in the club and outside it, to the chagrin of local drivers, reduced to a crawl as the traffic lights become ineffective, and under the gaze of a discrete police presence mainly designed to protect the youth from occasional flare-ups. After all, from time to time skinheads decide to prove something or other by turning up for a little light Sunday Queerbashing. Rather to my surprise, I’ve never seen predatory adults hanging around on the prowl for underaged kids. Actually, I’m not at all sure that the kids would even notice if somebody tried, so completely in their own world do they seem to be. If somebody did try, then, well, attitude can be a withering weapon. And these kids have attitude in spades.
Why do I start with this picture? If you had told me, fifteen or twenty years ago, that something like this would be regarded as really quite normal in a major city, I would have thought “impossible”. The sheer normality, the cuddly, yet slightly hysterical adolescent banality of it all is what would have seemed impossible. Here is a generation for whom, as far as I can see, their introduction into the world of courtship, of dating, and of pairing, is happening at the same time as that of their middle-school and high-school contemporaries. With the background of the same music, fashions, waves of angst, shrieking contests and so on. Even though the kids are able to be particularly free in their self-expression in my neighbourhood, the fact that their relationship pattern is same-sex doesn’t seem to be, by any means at all, the most striking or important feature of what’s running their lives.

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