By TJ Acena, PQ Monthly
The Advocate named Pope Francis person of the year. The oldest LGBTQ magazine in America named the head of the Catholic Church person of the year. Didn’t think I’d ever see that in my lifetime. And he was named person of the year because he said some nice (not horrible) things about gay people, specifically “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?” Fun fact: When he was known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio he called gay marriage a “destructive attack on God’s plan.” I’m not sure why The Advocate doesn’t recognize the cognitive dissonance of this situation but editor Lucas Grindley justified the choice:
Pope Francis is leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics all over the world. There are three times as many Catholics in the world than there are citizens in the United States. Like it or not, what he says makes a difference.
An influential person with anti-gay sentiments gets promoted to the head of a historically anti-gay organization and then decides that gay people are just OK gets to be person of the year. The bar seems set pretty low. I guess since the Church has spent so much time and effort trying to destroy homosexuals this seems like a really big deal, but if a liberal political candidate in America said “I can’t judge gays for what they do,” the Advocate would roast them for being weak on gay rights. It was the very least the pope could do. Literally. Saying ‘who am I to judge?’ is. The. Very. Least. Anyone. Could. Do.
The new pope seems to engineering a public relations campaign on behalf of the Vatican, make some kind words about gay people and the evils of unfettered capitalism and everyone will talk about how “revolutionary” he is. I guess that makes up for the millions the church has poured into promoting anti-gay laws over the years, decades spreading bigotry around the world, and teaching young children who grew up Catholic to hate themselves. Oh, maybe people will forget all about the Church vilifies abortion and the horrible history of child abuse.
In case you were wondering, the other finalists were: Justice Kennedy, Macklemore, the plaintiffs and legal teams who overturned Prop 8 and DOMA (including Edie Windsor), WNBA player Brittney Griner, Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos from Blue is the Warmest Color, former Russian TV host Anton Krasovsky, an anonymous transgender teenage girl in Colorado who was the target of anti-trans organizations, Jack Andraka the gay teenager who invented low-cost early-detection cancer tests, and all bisexuals. Every. Single. One.
You know what makes those people more deserving than Pope Francis? Work. They worked hard to overcome adversity, to fight injustice, to promote tolerance, or to be a role model. Some of them have put in years of work. Yes, I am glad the pope said those sixteen words, but with his millions of followers and millions of dollars of the Vatican could have done something that made a real difference. He could have made a fucking apology. In fact he could have made several. But why bother? Apparently the gays are already falling all over themselves. Just ask The Advocate.
TJ Acena is a freelance writer and essayist living in Portland, OR. You can reach him through PQ Monthly at info@PQMonthly.com.