In clear contradiction of the Church’s often-repeated claims of a “constant and unchanging tradition” of strong opposition to homoerotic relationships, there are numerous notable men and women from a range of sexual and gender minorities who have been recognised by the church in different ways, as canonized saints, as consecrated bishops and even popes, or as same sex couples, joined by the church in liturgical rites of union, or buried by the church in shared tombs. Knowledge of these can help modern LGBT Christians to resist the misinformed insistence of the intolerant that their bigotry is dictated by faith.
I carefully use the word “queer” here to avoid the tedious arguments over exactly what qualifies as “gay”, especially for monks who have taken vows of celibacy, and to admit discussion of cross-dressing women who assume male identity for purely religious motives. I also include some notable women who are important not because they are in any sense gay, but who have notably transcended the usual limitations of socially imposed female gender roles.
I also include as modern heroes, some who have been persecuted rather than honoured by the Church – but who I believe will in time be more widely recognized as early witnesses for ideas on LGBT inclusion that will in time become widely accepted.
For brief summaries of the leading groups of queer people in church history (including recognized saints, martyrs and others who have achieved high office in the Church hierarchy in spite of clear evidence of homoerotic interests or activities, see:
Queer Saints and Martyrs – Historical Synopsis
- Before Christianity (In Jewish scriptures, the New Testament, and in other religions)
- The Early Christians (Roman martyrs,bishops and some near-mythical figures)
- Medieval Homoeroticism
- The Great Persecution
- Modern Martyrs, and a Modern Revival
Queer Saints and Martyrs -Some Thematic Groups
For more specific posts, use the links below. These are mostly to my own posts here at QTC, but I also include several to two other key sources: to the established and comprehensive lists included in the Calendar of LGBT Saints (“Calendar”) at the LGBT Catholic Handbook, and also to the rapidly expanding and impressive series on LGBT saints at Jesus in Love Blog (“Jesus in Love”.)
October 26, 2009 at 9:41 pm
I share your interest in gay saints. Thanks for a fascinating post. I will be trying to find out more about those cross-dressing nuns for my series about GLBT saints at the Jesus in Love Blog.
October 27, 2009 at 12:01 am
Hi Kittredge. It was your interest in gay saints that first got me to look at Jesus in Love, with your post on Sergius & Bacchus. My info on the cross-dressing saints came originally from the LGBT Catholic handbook, specifically the section on lesbian gay and transvestite saints, then fleshed out with references fro the on-line Catholic encyclopaedia. When I started out my intention was to do a lot more on saints, but I ahve ended up spending so much time on general writing that I fear that it is not looking as intended. I’m glad you’re doing it – people need to know about these role models.