Faith: I am Roman Catholic. I went to catholic school in Princeton as a kid so that really kind of shaped me as a person.
Aspects of your life which have shaped your faith: Going to a pretty well-off school. It really shaped who I was just because I was around a lot of nuns. The priests there were always super nice to us. I think they could tell that I was a little bit different than the other kids. I was the youngest of five, all of my siblings went there so all of the teachers knew me. I was, like, a huge fuck-up in school—I failed religion in eighth grade—and I had to do study sessions with my vice principal, that’s how small the school was. I think being in something like that environment that’s loving but at the same time you kind of fear being different was kind of hard. I think that if I had gone to public school at that time it would have been really rough for me. A lot of the kids knew who I was in my area and they all made fun of me. When I went to high school it was like, “Oh, hi! Who are you?” and I was like, “Great! Nobody knows who I am.”
Do you generally feel included with your peers? I don’t necessarily feel included just because I think I’ve secluded myself. My mother and I, whenever I go home around holidays, make a point to make sure that she goes out to church just because no one in my family really goes anymore. I think my oldest brother goes with his wife, but I think everyone’s a little too busy. My family used to all go at different times. But I think taking her there, especially since she and my father are pretty religious, is nice for her to go because I know how much she likes it. So I usually go then.
A time when you felt included: I think the most that I feel included is when my mom talks to me about it. She always talked to me about how open the pope is about things. She’s always trying to tell me to find more Irish people to be around because they could be “more inclusive.” I think my mother is really a champion for her faith because she has never really judged me for being gay and Catholic. They were never two different things. It’s like, “Oh, you can be gay and religious!” She always hated that the kids at school made fun of me because she knew that later in life I wouldn’t want to be around them. I didn’t want them to be embarrassed going to church because their child was clearly gay. I guess that in the early 90s, it wasn’t as acceptable as it is now which is sad to say because in the early 90’s it was much more acceptable than the 70s and 80s.
How did it affect you? Going to art school, I touched on it a lot when I was getting close to my senior year. A lot of my work talked about the fear of change and the fear of the nuns finding out, I’m pretty sure if they did they would just be like, “ok.” When you’re a kid, everything gets blown up and out of proportion, I thought that I would get brought out of school and that the kids would make fun of me more than they did. It really was terrifying. I remember coming out to my parents when I was 15 at my brother’s birthday party cause everything has to be about me. Half of them didn’t hear me and my mom and dad did but no one really understood why I went upstairs and secluded myself. They were like, “ok, Brendan’s just being a teenager again.” But afterwards they were all fine. It was just the thought of them finding out and knowing that my religion frowns upon it was really scary to think about and now that I think about it, it’s like, “oh, they’re my family and they have to love me.” I guess I’m just lucky in that aspect.
A time when you felt excluded: I think because when I talk to people, I don’t really bring up the fact that I’m religious because so many of my friends aren’t religious and so many of them are against organized religion and especially Catholicism. White Catholics have done a lot of amazingly terrible things—America is basically founded on that. I guess I just keep to myself so that I don’t have to deal with that conversation. It’s never something that I bring up because I don’t want to make anyone else uncomfortable.
Plan to overcoming exclusion: I guess I could go more often to church. I just haven’t found one that I’m necessarily comfortable in. I’ve had people come up to me while I was working at Starbucks—a couple that I always served—the one day they were getting married and they asked me to come to their ceremony and I was like, “I don’t really know you guys. That’s super sweet of you but I’m not comfortable,” and they were like, “No, we’re accepting.” I’m not here for you to accept me. I don’t think that I should have to be accepted, I think I should just be able to appear at church and no one bother me. I’m just there to pray. I’m minding my own business.
Advice for someone who is feeling excluded: I think the exclusion that I faced as a kid helped shape me as an adult because I think that I’m more aware and understanding of things. I sometimes tell people I’m like a character in a play that knows too much because I feel like I can talk to people and understand. I would say just work through it. Don’t make any rash decisions. I would just focus on something else and not think about it and there are people you can talk to, you just have to have the courage to stand up and know who you are and fight to be who you are.
To the people doing the excluding: You fucking suck, like come on! There was a kid in, I think, 7th or 8th grade who must have told a girl that he was gay and she told the teachers and the principals that he was gay. Then he was sent to the nurses office and I think he was gone for a week after that. This was clearly something that this kid was struggling with, what the hell is wrong with you? I had kids in high school walk by me and call me a faggot in front of teachers and the teachers were just dumbfounded and I’m like, none of you are doing anything, you need to yell at this kid. There are people who can stop it from happening and they don’t. You just have to be strong enough to look that person in the eye and be like, “fuck you.” I’m just a person, it doesn’t matter.
One thing to make the world a more inclusive place: I think the whole idea of religion is that someone is going through something terrible and they find something that is inclusive for them and makes them feel happy. I think if we were to take apart all religions and see that it’s all basically worshiping something and saying that if you’re a bad person, bad things are going to happen to you. If you take apart all the things that make up a religion, I think that everyone could come together and realize that they’re all in essence the same thing. We’re all thinking about why are we here. These are just questions we like to think to soften the blow. I would like to think that my parents have something after they die or any of my friends or family and I think if we all remember that we’re all just people on this planet that don’t necessarily know what they hell is going on, like how we got here, it’s good think about that.
“When you’re a kid, everything gets blown up and out of proportion, I thought that I would get brought out of school and that the kids would make fun of me more than they did.”
Web Design by Harrison Brink
"human." is a culmination of the writing, photo, video and design work of Harrison Brink and Alisa Miller. It is meant to act as a forum where we show the vitality of the human spirit through the strife that people face and overcome. If you have any suggestions for the project, please contact us. All input is welcome.