Social Justice and Sexual Diversity

I’m writing this on National Coming Out Day in the United States. The metaphorical closet to which it refers is a potent symbol of vulnerable marginalization. This week, the Supreme Court heard arguments from plaintiffs who believe they have a right to fire people who are transgender, who are gay, whose gender presentation is too far from the stereotypical norm.

My support for people whose gender or sexuality goes beyond the “gender binary” is firmly rooted in my formation as a Catholic. It is clear to me that people who are not heterosexual and cisgender are marginalized by our society, and the preferential option for the poor is a preferential option for those who are economically marginalized. The biblical injunction to care for the poor, the stranger, the widow, and the orphan describes people who are marginalized and vulnerable in a variety of ways, and therefore God commends them especially to our protection.

Many would describe the plaintiffs’ position in the Supreme Court case as representing traditional Christian values about sex and gender. Even supposing that this were the case, the Biblical teaching about welcoming the marginalized (which would include “not firing them from their jobs”, just so we’re perfectly clear) would still apply. “But they’re icky” is not a get-out-of-loving-your-neighbor-free card. [1]

But don’t just take my word for it. Check out the new religious studies minor in Social Justice and Sexual Diversity offered by Mount St Mary’s University:

This minor provides students an opportunity to examine sexual diversity and religious discourse through the lens of Social Justice, as expressed in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition.  Sexual diversity manifests itself in various forms of identity, expression, gender, and embodiment.  Hence, this minor weaves affirmation of sexual diversity with the themes of Social Justice: human dignity, rights and responsibilities; solidarity and community with the marginalized; and stewardship of creation.  The methodology is praxis-based and interdisciplinary, and provides opportunities for local and global advocacy by and for the sexually marginalized.

Students choose 18 credits worth of coursework from a list of almost 40 fabulous options that examine sexual diversity in the context of sacred texts of multiple traditions, interfaith conversation, bioethics, colonialism, the ecological crisis, and more! (Can I take all of them??)

A praxis-based program with opportunities for advocacy is especially timely, and will help form students in “walking the walk” of social justice principles. I commend MSMU for offering this Religious Studies minor, and encourage young progressive people of faith (or their parents!) to check it out.

[1] To the contrary: tradition tells us that St Francis of Assisi made a point of embracing lepers because of their ickiness, in an attempt to grasp Jesus’ descent from the divinity of heaven to the muck of humanity. And mimetic theology tells us that the outraged response to ickiness is the scandalized response that leads to scapegoating.

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1 Response to Social Justice and Sexual Diversity

  1. Andrew says:

    Thank you for this.

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