There have been a lot more posts on this blog talking about homosexuality than there was in the past. I never intended this blog to pick up a particular theme. I mean I did promise gratuitous Latin, symbolic logic and Popery (and I hope that on this note, everyone does realize that even though I am working towards a fancy theological degree, I’m just some guy and everything I say should be taken with a good dose of salt – look for catechesis elsewhere), and at least one of those categories have been fulfilled. But anyway, it does seem to be becoming a more regularly dissected topic.
Part of this is because in recent months I’ve just been more at peace with this aspect of my life than I have previously. I’ve also given a lot of thought about the extent to which a Catholic should be open about issues pertaining to their sexuality.
About a year and a half ago I was talking with a fellow convert asked me how, after my conversion, my attitude towards women had changed. I decided to come out to him, and that provoked a whole lot of awkward questions. But at the end of it all, he said that it made it easier for him to believe, knowing that there was someone like me who was committed to following the sexual ethic of the Church, and was content with that.
It seems to me that however articulately you present the Church’s teachings on sex, many people will have a tough time taking it, because it does seem to make impossible demands of some people, and part of that perception comes from the fact that they can’t point to anyone in their lives living it out. We know people who were raised religious, burned out, and found happiness with a partner. We hear a lot of stories about how Christian experience became associated with self-loathing, people feeling that they couldn’t be loved by God (or their family) unless they were straight, etc. In short, it feels akin to a world where we’re only getting our info about marriage from people who are divorced (which isn’t too far from the truth, actually).
So, at the risk of catching some flack, I don’t mind being that chaste SSA/gay/whatever your term of choice guy, whom people can look to for the other side of the story. I doubt I’ll change anyone’s mind, but if this gets some people to view the Church in a more sympathetic light, or if it gives someone consolation, then I guess I’ve done something. On that note, during my conversion I didn’t know anyone who had done what I was doing, and it was helpful to stumble across various bloggers who were in the same boat as me – so I feel like I should return the favor.
I think we can’t afford to be too tight-lipped about it, because the surrounding culture is anything but. My guess is that for a lot of people raised in the Church, the first time they heard any frank talk about same-sex attraction was from the LGBTQ community. That can give the impression that there is a bit of a gap in the Church’s thought here – that she never gave the issue much serious consideration and so as a result frothing hate filled in the gap.
As an addendum, I’ve been trying to think more about the question of identity. I do think that the implicit claim I made in my second conversion post – that anyone who self identifies as gay is making an idol of their sexuality – is a bit extreme. I recognize that for a lot of people, same-sex attracted/gay/homosexual are more or less synonymous. I still feel that, on an ontological level, there are no straight and gay people, and that that dichotomy doesn’t always do a good job at covering what is a very wide spectrum of experiences, but I don’t feel the need to be that hardline about it.
I think the extent to which these labels can hurt/help depends on who we’re talking about. For someone like me, “I have same-sex attraction” vs. “I am gay” is not going to have much of an effect on my life. I’m not stuck in any sort of identity crisis over what I am – it’s more that the words I choose to use may effect how other people perceive me. But if you have a teenager who is struggling through the usual sexual confusion, I can see how all this bombardment with labeling can be unhelpful, and how coming to terms with same-sex attraction gets conflated with coming to terms with all the cultural ideas surrounding “being gay”. It’s difficult to avoid either being unnecessarily alienating, and unnecessarily worldly with things like this.