David J. Biviano, was born a second-generation Italian Catholic in 1941 in Cortland, New York. He spent his teen years in Syracuse and first became aware of being dangerously different in 1952 in sixth grade—puberty! Instinctively, he knew that what he was feeling and thinking dare not speak its name.
David had been a choir boy and was now an altar boy, in the sacristy so much that he smelled of wax. By age 12, he had stated he wanted to become a priest, garnering hard-won approval from everyone that mattered. He became active in his parish Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) during high school, elected treasurer of the diocesan CYO, and President of the New York State CYO during his senior year of high school, serving during his freshman year in college. At graduation from St. Patrick’s High School, he was awarded the Chi Rho Key, a recognition for the graduate that was most involved in religious activities.
After a year at St. Bonaventure University, he entered the Franciscan seminary. Upon completion of college with a Philosophy degree, he left the order, disillusioned by the hierarchical, authoritarian structure of the “community.” While the student/clerics were called Frater, they were not allowed to fraternize with the Lay Brothers, who truly exhibited the Franciscan spirit. This was his first experience of disconnect within the church and its institutions.
David attended grad school at Fordham University and became a philosophy professor there and at the College of New Rochelle. During these years, he fought off and denied his sexuality —it was not possible for a good, Catholic boy. This denial was supported by two Catholic counselors, who assured him that someday he would meet the right woman and everything would be ok. So he got married and started a family, becoming a father to six children.
After seven years in academia, David moved on to become a Religious Education Coordinator in two large parishes, one in Wappingers Falls, New York, and then in Spokane, Washington. He became the first lay Youth Director for the Diocese of Spokane, serving for five years. With his four years in the seminary and ten years in religious education, he had served the Catholic Church as a lay minister for more than half of his adult life.
After being laid off by the Diocese (which became a major news story in the clergy abuse scandal, including half a dozen of the priests he had worked with), David became a Director of the Juvenile Court Community Corrections Project for Spokane County. During that year his wife learned that he was gay, as did the County, and he was fired in 1985.
Now divorced, out of a career and gainful employment, responsible for support for six children, David devoted his energy to activism against wars in Central America and on behalf of civil rights based on sexual prientation. Over the following years, he earned a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership at Gonzaga University. He became a Trainer and Management Consultant in Workforce Diversity and Sexual Harassment Prevention, working for Washington State University, the Washington State Department of Personnel and as a private contractor.
With the help of the Seattle Chapter of Dignity, David led the formation of a Spokane chapter following Dignity’s International Convention in Seattle in 1983 (Biviano provided the bio for RAN’s entry on Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, the hero of that convention). He also started support groups in Spokane for gay/bisexual men, for gay fathers, and for three transsexual clients in the mid-80’s.
David had struggled since coming out to himself at age 37 to reconcile his sexuality with church doctrine. That became very difficult after Cardinal Ratzinger characterized LGBT persons as “objectively disordered” and “intrinsically inclined towards evil.” It became impossible when he ordered the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to forbid Dignity Chapters the use of church facilities or the chaplain ministry of priests and nuns. On the Sunday that Cardinal Bernadin evicted Dignity from Chicago diocesan ministry, David refused communion in his very peace-oriented and gay-positive Franciscan parish, overwrought with pain and anger. The following Sunday, unable to shake the anger, he walked out after the homily…and left the Catholic Church. Just as he had refrained from visiting his parents’ home where he was not welcome, he no longer entered churches where he was subjected to emotional and psychological abuse, what Jimmy Creech would one day label “spiritual violence.”
Which leads to David’s encounter with Soulforce, the ministry founded by the Rev. Mel White and his partner, Gary Nixon. David was one of the Lynchburg 200 when Soulforce attempted a dialogue with Jerry Falwell at Liberty University, which he sabotaged with outrageous stunts, including an unannounced “ex-gay” panel member, leading to Creech’s statement.
At that time, David and his partner lived in Centralia, a small city in southwest Washington, as leaders of the local charter of Hands Off Washington, in an area notorious for its ant-LGBT state legislators. The regional newspaper sought an interview with him before attending the Lynchburg event and published a front-page story with commendable fidelity to the interview. Then they followed up with a second story upon his return. This was an amazing development in that community in 1999.
David met so many wonderful, loving, committed LGBT and allies among the laity and clergy involved in Soulforce and was grateful for the many affirming churches and congregations in the vanguard for LGBTQ rights. He was arrested with two dozen of them at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in D.C., at the convention mass of the USCCB. He was honored to advocate alongside these heroes in the effort to end the ant-gay, lifethreatening messages coming from the pulpits and conferences of mainline churches. However, he was not inclined to identify as a Catholic or a Christian any longer.
David and his partner lovingly separated in 2001. David continued his spiritual journey in Buddhist meditation with readings from Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay). He was privileged to be a member of a 70-person delegation for three weeks of a 2007 pilgrimage with Thay in Vietnam. This was a life-changing event for David and immediately impacted him during a visit to a children’s home in Siem Reap, Cambodia while visiting Angkor Wat. He returned in 2008 and founded the Cambodian Children’s House of Peace, caring for 30 youths while they attended schools that were not available in their villages. He lived there for 3 years. The project has continued to this day.
David participated in the Dharma Buddies Sangha in Seattle during the 2000’s, a very enriching time of spiritual growth among 20 or so gay and bisexual men each Sunday. He attended three 5-day retreats with Thay over the years and was able to find reconciliation in his own heart and mind with his father, his ex-wife and his children. A 40-day/40-night solo retreat on the Indian Ocean in Kerala State, India was a profound transformation in his spiritual journey.
Now David is retired these past six years in Chacala, Nayarit, Mexico, still traveling when possible for family visits in the Pacific Northwest, and occasional trips to Cambodia and Nepal to stay connected to families there that have become part of his life. David is grateful to LGBTQ-RAN and its documentation of the countless men and women, lay and clergy, religious and non-religious, who have labored to end the spiritual violence of the churches against their own members. He is also thankful for decades of Buddhist meditation in the worldwide community of Plum Village/Thich Nhat Hanh, which has helped him grow in his spirituality and live in peace and harmony with the world.
(This biographical statement provided by David Biviano.)
Biography Date: August 2019