by Laura Slattery, Executive Director, July 2013
In the most recent homeless count in San Francisco in January 2013, an additional question was asked for the first time of one thousand of those who are unhoused: what is your sexual orientation. The results showed that 29% of those living on the streets identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Queer (LGBTQ).
Given the above statistic and Gubbio's mission of welcoming all our brothers and sisters who live on the streets, it is no surprise that The Gubbio Project, and hence St. Boniface Church from 6 am to 1 pm each weekday, is chock full of people who do not fit within the gender or sexual norms laid out by society, nor the Catholic Church, for that matter. It is a daily occurrence that we ask someone using the women's bathroom if they identify as a woman, and/or explain to questioning or upset guests that if people identify as female, regardless of their exterior trappings, we allow them to use the women's bathroom.
Daily, several couples of various gender combinations lay down next to each other in the back of church, often snuggling before they fall asleep. Each and every day, someone shares with us the pain of being rejected because of how they look or who they love (see article below), and often (though not often enough), they share the joy of finally feeling safe with someone, or getting put on a list for the surgery they need to make them look more like they feel.
To accompany the Gubbio guests, those who are struggling with addiction issues or mental health issues, or those 30% who identify as LGBTQ, we need to be able to cry with them and to rejoice with them. We cannot weep or celebrate with our brothers and sisters if we are thinking (or God forbid, saying) "God loves you, but you need to change." It is a most unhelpful message that people have been hearing their whole lives. A better second half of the sentence would be "and so do I."
It is no secret that LGBTQ folk do not often feel welcome in Church. I am glad to say that from 6 am to 1 pm every Monday through Friday, they are welcomed by this Project into this church with open arms.
*Queer is an umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities that are not heterosexual, heteronormative, or gender-binary. No offense is meant by this term that has been largely reappropriated by the GLBTQ community from its form as an anti-gay epitaph.