“I Cannot Imagine My Freedom Without Women”

Richard Rodriguez recently sat down with “On Being” host Krista Tippett for a conversation about “The Fabric of Our Identity.” The entire exchange is worth listening to, but this passage from Rodriguez about women and religion, and their influence on his life as a gay Catholic, stands out:

[A]s a Catholic, I was surrounded by an iconography, which was luscious and physical, and there was the bleeding Christ on every cross that I ever saw. And the eroticism of the religion was, to my imagination, very, very rich from an early age. At some level, this church which denied me also gave me a great deal. I want to be clear about that. Um, I do not want to present myself in any way as oppressed. It did teach me, and this is the point of Darling. I’m — Darling in the book is not Richard Rodriguez. Darling in the book is a woman, a friend of mine, who has lunch with me in Malibu, California, on the day her divorce was finalized. She has since died of cancer. The chapter really is about women and religion. And I think that I came upon that theme, that subject, because I am gay.

Uh, I don’t want to talk about myself. But all I want to say to the Christian churches, is that the man that I’m with, I will say not even — I won’t even give myself the grandeur of this word. But his achievement and his importance to me is that he has loved me. And he has taught me the import of that word. The church will not give us that word. I date my emancipation as a homosexual man with the women’s movement. And I notice that Susan B. Anthony came to this place to argue for the vote for women. When women begin to call for the vote, it is a revolutionary act, and it liberates me.

And I’ll tell you how. For the first time, women are saying I don’t want to be identified merely with what I am at the house. In civic society, I don’t have to be somebody’s mother, or wife, or grandmother. I want to be judged equally with any man in the voting booth. And when women get the vote, they move out of the kitchen in something like the way that they allowed me several decades later, to move out of the closet. These movements are related to each other. I cannot imagine my freedom without women.

Listen to our Deep Dish podcast with Rodriguez here.