08 April 2014

Too Unconventional

Maspeth is a Queens neigborhood only two miles from my apartment.  I pass through it frequently and even stop once in a while, as one of my favorite Italian-American bakeries--the Russo Bakery--is there.

For a long time, it was a conservative blue-collar enclave inhabited mainly by immigrant and second- and third-generation Italian and German families.  More recently, Poles and Albanians have moved there, fleeing the poverty of their native lands.  It is a quiet neighborhood, long regarded as safe. 

However, it has not been terribly welcoming of diversity.  Along with the Poles and Albanians, Mexicans and other Latin Americans have been moving there, to the displeasure of some longtime residents.

It's also been a religious--mainly Roman Catholic--enclave.  On Sundays, the churches are full and, during services, streets are deserted.  Once the masses and services end, families throng down the streets or flock into their cars for long Sunday brunches or dinners at the homes of family members and friends, or in the local restaurants.

In such a milieu (Such a word would never be uttered there!), it's not surprising that not many gay people, let alone couples, move in.  Or that a young woman is told she can't bring her boyfriend to the prom because he's too "unconventional".

Actually, Anais Celin was informed that Nathaniel Baez's gender transition was "too unconventional" for the pastor at Martin Luther High School.  The school is affiliated with the Missouri Synod, as are most Lutheran churches in the eastern United States. While the Evangelical Lutheran Church has allowed the ordination of non-celebite gay clergy members and has consummated same-sex unions for the past five years, the Missouri Synod does not permit either.

Even though Maspeth has remained a largely conservative community, it's still part of the most diverse county--Queens, as in the borough of New York City--in the nation.  I cannot understand how a school in such a setting, even if it is affiliated with a church that takes the stance it does on homosexuality, can deny a young woman the right to bring her boyfriend to the prom because his gender identity and expression are "too unconventional".

Then again, Maspeth is next door to Ridgewood, where trans woman Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar was brutally murdered four years ago. And the school is named for Martin Luther, a notorious homophobe, even for his time and place.