Reason #127 Not To “Come Out”

There are myriad reasons why I think it’s unwise to “come out” or to claim a sexual identity other than male or female. I’ve written often about the topic, but a few things came up recently that have caused me to reflect again on the question of “coming out.”

I’ve never gone through the ritual of “coming out” with anyone. Though I have told people throughout the years that I happen to live with an attraction to men, I’ve never said to anyone, “Hi, I’m Dan, and I’m a gay guy.” (You can read some of the reasons I have refrained from doing that in my first article about sexual identity here.)

When I wrote that article in the summer of 2012, I knew most people in my life would eventually discover that I find men sexually attractive. I figured when people stumbled upon the knowledge they could talk to me about it if they wanted. Recently some good friends did just that.

Their reaction was very positive and loving, as I knew it would be. But I have also seen one big reason why I think it unwise to “come out”: it’s natural for others to place us in boxes that they construct, and the boxes of sexual identity rarely have much to do with the truth.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

Yesterday I was with one of those friends. A story from several years ago about a woman who had “come on to me” came up in conversation. With a wink-wink and a nudge-nudge, my friend said to me, “well, but of course she wasn’t your type.” I awkwardly chuckled along and the conversation meandered to other topics, but I kept thinking about her comment about “my type.”

Do I have a “type” now that would explain why I didn’t pursue that woman? Obviously, in my friend’s mind, my “type” is now a man, and the reason I didn’t pursue that woman was because “I’m gay.” She’s placed me in a box which defines for her who I am now, at least concerning my sexual identity and orientation.

How does that do dignity to a friendship? How does that do dignity to the uniqueness of the human person? How does that do justice to the complex landscape of sexuality and sexual attractions?

I didn’t have a chance to talk with her much because we were at work. If I had the opportunity, I would have asked her how my past relationships with women fit into the box she’s constructed for me. I have dated some women in my life, and one of those women I hoped to marry. Will people now think those were merely ruses, or that I was repressing my true sexuality? It seems that with some people, I’ve been placed inside the box of “Dan the Gay Man,” and that my entire life is being rewritten from somewhere inside that box, a box built by someone else’s imagination.

I don’t like that.

There are other instances of this revisionist take on my life. One of my oldest and closest friends told me after he stumbled upon my blog that “my life finally made sense to him.” (Was I mystifying before?) I scratched my head wondering what that could mean. It didn’t take long for me to find out.

It seems he thought (or thinks) that the reason I didn’t marry the woman I wanted to marry was because I’m “gay.” It felt to me that he analyzed the situation and concluded to his personal satisfaction that, “Dan’s gay, so of course nothing could have worked out between them.”

man-peeking-out-of-moving-boxPlease get me out of this box, if you don’t mind!

The truth didn’t seem that important. (She didn’t want kids, and I did. Faith wasn’t a big deal to her. It is to me.)

Dan’s life finally makes sense to me now.

Things didn’t work out with that woman, because she wasn’t Dan’s “type.”

What is “my type,” anyway?

I am far more concerned with the truth of human nature, and the dignity of being created in the image and likeness of God, than I am concerned with my subjective sexual attractions or desires. My “type” is a woman–my body reveals that to me. My male body is the true north of my sexual identity–my subjective inclinations and attractions are the compass needle.

Sometimes, a compass’s needle points away from true north.

North never changes directions. A compass’s needle sometimes does, however. If there’s metal nearby, the needle will spin all over the map. A man’s sexual orientation for women never changes directions either. His head may turn towards men more than women, but that just means his sexual attractions are disoriented. To follow them always leads him down the wrong path, even though it feels for all the world like he’s going in the right direction.

So what’s my type? Women. It just doesn’t always feel that way to me. As my dad always used to say to me, however, “feelings are important, but they don’t always tell us the truth.”

Live your life in accordance with the Truth. Once you “come out,” there’s no undoing that. One of the biggest problems with “coming out” is that you’re not in control of what that means to other people. You get boxed in, no matter how much you might want to try and define your terms. There are a lot of folks these days who have come out as “gay but chaste Christians.” I see things very differently than they. One reason I began writing about this part of my life is to be a counter to their voice. If you haven’t “come out,” my recommendation is don’t. A good friend of mine has wise words about “coming out.” He more accurately describes “coming out” as a “going in.”

I couldn’t agree more with him more.

Share this part of your life with some close friends, a priest, your spiritual director, and your family, but not to all. Don’t submit to being stuck in a box. Instead, follow our Mother, the Church, who wisely tells us, “the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person as a ‘heterosexual’ or a ‘homosexual’ and insists that every person has a fundamental Identity: the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life.”

Here’s an excellent article on the problem with sexual identity, called A Label That Sticks, written by the excellent and wise Fr. Paul Scalia.

 

 

Teresa Tomeo Taping

Like the alliteration?

Tomorrow I’ll be doing a taping for a show on EWTN, hosted by Teresa Tomeo. Please say some prayers that it will go well. Apparently it will be aired in the fall.

Also, here’s a link from one of my fellow Courage compatriots, who compiled some things from a talk he gave at the University of Tulsa. It gives a link to a video portion of his talk, along with some transcripts of his questions and answers.

Here’s a link to his website at Pursuit of Truth Ministries.

Is it healthy to be who you’re not?

One of my favorite parts of speaking to high schools about homosexuality and the Catholic Church is the Q&A section. I always try to answer their questions in surprising ways. At the talk I gave early last week, one of the questions asked me if it’s healthy for me to be who I’m not.

I answered, “of course not. Which is why I don’t call myself gay. I like to live honestly.”

Made Ya Think!I have a pen pal who keeps sending me letters. Well, I guess it’s a rather one sided pen pal relationship. I get anonymous letters in the mail, with printouts of newspaper articles or essays, so I can’t really respond. But I’ll call this person a pen pal, since I know he or she is motivated by a desire for my happiness.

The latest installment featured a printout from the Washington Post about a fellow in his fifties who said, “I’ve tried to be a decent person all my life. I’m not perfect, believe me. And I wouldn’t wish [being gay] on anyone. But you can’t be somebody you’re not. Otherwise you’ll end up 63 and alone.”

Sigh. Where to begin?

There has never been a more true phrase spoken than this: you can’t be somebody you’re not.

But here’s the thing. “Who I am” isn’t determined by whatever (or whomever) I think I am. I want to live my life in accordance with objective reality. That’s the path to true freedom. My subjective inclinations or attractions don’t tell me “who I am.”

I love this passage from Pope Benedict XVI, taken from a speech given to the German Bundestag in 2011.

If something is wrong in our relationship with reality, then we must all reflect seriously on the whole situation and we are all prompted to question the very foundations of our culture. Allow me to dwell a little longer on this point. The importance of ecology is no longer disputed. We must listen to the language of nature and we must answer accordingly. Yet I would like to underline a point that seems to me to be neglected, today as in the past: there is also an ecology of man. Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he respects his nature, listens to it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled.

 

Red-Bullseye

 

 

An Update

I’ve been away from my blog for quite awhile. Since the beginning of this year it seems that I’ve been going full tilt, with very little break. I seem to be giving a talk or presentation every two weeks and I’m realizing that this pace is taking its toll on me. I’m off to do a presentation to parents tonight at a Catholic High School, followed by a presentation to the high school students tomorrow morning. This is after two weeks of a lot of traveling for work, which included my first public conversation with someone from a different view of thought.

Please say some prayers for tonight and tomorrow, if you would. Also, I know I owe some correspondence to some folks. I’ll be able to catch up on emails next week during my spring break, which I’ll really be looking forward to.

If you want to read about the pseudo-debate I recently did, you can read about that at this link.

I hope to start writing with more frequency in mid April.

 

From Some Old Journals

Not too long ago I stumbled upon a box containing old journals. They chronicled some tough times many years back, and it was illuminating for me to read them again. To revisit such things makes me aware of how far life has taken me.

One portion of the journal was dedicated to very rough ideas I had of things to write about. Here’s one of those ideas.

A naked man awakens, trapped in the brambles of a stark wilderness. It is his first conscious moment, and he looks around the barren land, touches the bleeding wounds on his body and asks simply, “WHY?”

In the desolate darkness, he sees a wealthy man riding near, coming towards him. The man dismounts, and walks near to the man in the brambles. He covers the man with his cloak, and is then naked himself. Suddenly, the first man sees that his wounds are healed. He gazes in wonder upon the wealthy man, who now bleeds in his stead.

I was the man in the brambles, many years ago, but there was no rescue in sight at the time. I was asking the cosmic, “why?” that I believe we all must ask at some point in our lives if we’re honest.

It is good news to know that rescue came indeed.

EWTN

Well, today has been an interesting one. I just got booked for a couple of TV shows on EWTN.

It seems that 2014 is turning into a rather surprising and exciting year. 

I’ll keep you all posted when I know more. 

Reflections On My Week

I have a thousand thoughts whirling through my head after this week. After Wichita, I came back home, and then spoke at a conference in Ann Arbor where I shared my story and the good news of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality to a mixed age audience of over 200 people.

As I think back on this week, all I really want to do is to do another week like this all over again. The first question that I received from the kids in Wichita on the second day was a kind question: how do I find the strength and courage to get up in front of a gymnasium full of high school kids talking about parts of my life that I never wanted to talk publicly about.

I told them that when I received the schedule I saw that there was a Theology On Tap happening, so that I came for the beer. That got a little bit of a laugh, but as I reflect on the week, I realize it doesn’t take tons of “strength and courage” to do this, because I want to do it. Call me crazy, but this week has been immensely energizing and fulfilling for me, for one reason: the students who were sitting in those gyms living with an attraction to the same sex, like I might have been over 25 years ago. I want to go speak to those kids. Especially kids like the girl who thanked me for coming and told me that she had never before met a homosexual person who wants to be close to God and live a Catholic life, and that she was so glad she finally got to.

I want to go talk to every student like her! I can’t imagine a more fulfilling thing to do in this life.

As the kids say: YOLO.