This post is offered up for you today by a guest contributor, Ryan Black. Ryan is the hardest working paralegal in San Francisco, and lives there with his partner, Marcus and two insane cats named Victor and Stefano. For the last 34 years, he’s been Rachel Jones’ best friend and is an all-around incredible human being for whom she is unspeakably grateful. He’s getting married in April.
Many of us will find ourselves celebrating the upcoming holidays in someone else’s home. Christmas is inevitably one of those times in the year when we pack several days worth of clean underwear and willingly endure long lines and volatile personalities in airports and train stations so that we can be near the ones we love in order to celebrate what is, for most of us, the most magical and special day of the year. One could argue that the tradition of being a guest at Christmastime began on that very first Christmas, when Jesus made His world debut in someone else’s home (or manger, depending on which Gospel you’re reading). It’s fitting, then, that The Daily Cake has made a place for me and so many other guests this Advent.
I suppose you could say that being a guest has been something of a theme in my life. I was brought up in the Catholic tradition, and as much as I adored the ritual and reverence associated with one of Christianity’s oldest faiths, I often struggled to find a home for myself in the Church because I knew from a somewhat early age that I was gay. To say I felt unwelcome is a bit of an understatement. I remember one Sunday in particular, when our parish priest used his homily to admonish us turn off our television sets when Ellen Degeneres’s sitcom came on so that we wouldn’t find ourselves on Satan’s rotisserie in the afterlife.
Those of you keeping score don’t need me to recite my laundry list of ways in which gay, lesbian and transgendered individuals have been marginalized and made to feel unwelcome—by our society, by our churches and, in many cases, by the very families who raised us. But what I believe deserves closer scrutiny are the invitations that are being extended to mend that gap. This is one of the reasons I have grown so fond of Pope Francis, who has washed the feet of Muslim women and opted to use the Church’s resources to help the marginalized rather than to litigate cannon dogma. There’s something unequivocally inviting about this new perspective, something that tells us we can be and are all a part of something bigger—whether that is the Church or something else. It’s a powerful step, one that seeks to transform its community from one of guests to one of inclusion and belonging.
Other transformations are subtly taking place in and around my life. This spring, I will marry my partner of many years, making this the last Christmas I will spend as a guest in his family’s home for the holiday. And with the eradication of Prop 8, I am keenly aware of the new place of belonging in our local community. Yet there will always be guests in my life—guests that come not only in the form of other people but also those that come in the form of uncomfortable ideas and divergent viewpoints. My hope and prayer for this Christmas is to be able to welcome all of those guests—good, bad, ugly or indifferent—and to make a place for everything so that I may leave with a greater sense of knowing what belongs.