It's 2 am here in Bangladesh. By chance I was the first in this building -- serving as HQ for Priests of the largest Catholic Congregation in all of Bangladesh -- to learn of the news of the new Pope. So I went around my floor waking up all the priests to tell them the news.
It's probably the first -- and last -- time someone who is both Muslim and gay will be the one to bring them news of a new Pope.
I mention this because, as many people are (rightly) pointing out, the person who is now Pope Francis the First has had a history of being vocally against gay marriage. He has even said it is "the work of The Devil". Ouch.
For the past 6 months, I have lived with Catholic Priests. I sleep in the same building as the head of this congregation, a retired Bishop, and my dad's old school teacher. We eat together, watch TV together, and complain about the weather together.
What I've learned is that Catholics -- and those who are part of The Church -- are complex human beings. And when I was forced to come out as gay, I found nothing but love, kindness, and support here. One priest has even kinda sorta been trying to set me up on dates here (and, yes, it was awkward).
I found more support from people whose title is "Father" than I have my own biological father. The Catholic Church has given me shelter when many of my own blood relatives in this country have cut ties and won't even let me come for tea. They've been my friend when cousins, aunts, and uncles from around the globe dash to unfriend me on Facebook.
I wish things were different. But change, if it at all happens, takes time -- especially for The Catholic Church. And, what I've learned in life, is if you vilify someone it makes it harder to empathize with them. And that whoever you vilify is less wiling to try and empathize and reach out to you.
So, if you are pro-LGBT rights, I ask that you consider the complexity of Catholics out there in this world. And how you might be hurting them -- and losing opportunities to realize there is no "them" in this life -- if the language and tone we use to discuss the new Pope's LGBT stance has too many pitchforks.
Please also bear in mind this isn't me saying we should shrug this issue off or not talk about it. But, if we talk we talk about this with the same hatred and vitriol as the internet's worst homophobes, how are we better than them?
Follow Shawn Ahmed on Twitter: www.twitter.com/uncultured