Honesty About My Sexuality

I haven’t really been keeping up with regular blogposts lately, mainly because I’ve been very busy with lots of other things going on in my life. But something happened tonight that motivated me to write a quick post.

In the debate about how open one should be about one’s sexual attractions to the same sex among Catholic circles, I’ve often encountered the argument that “it’s exhausting to constantly hide one’s sexual orientation.” The examples that are often given are the times when people ask about your romantic situation: are you single, are you dating someone, are you married, that sort of thing.

Tonight I was at one of my favorite breweries and while the friend I was with struck up a conversation with the fellow to his left, I began chatting with the guy to my right.

We talked about the usual stuff one talks about at a brewery: what beers are your favorite, what styles do you like, what’s your favorite brewery in the state. Eventually the conversation turned towards what part of town we both lived in, and our living situation. I found out he was single, though on the search for the right woman. He then asked if I had a wife at home.

Now apparently this is supposedly an automatic moment of angst for those who have chosen to identify as “gay chaste Christians.” I don’t experience that, because I’m very honest with my sexuality. I accept the truth that I am a man made for women, regardless of my subjective desires and attractions for men. So what did I say to the guy?

I told him, “well, I’m single right now. I haven’t met the right woman, but I’m quite content to live as a single guy. I figure at this point in my life I’m not really in the search for a woman to share my life with, since I’m pretty content as a single guy, but I’m certainly open to the possibility if the right woman comes along. I’m not in a proactive search, but I’m open to the possibility.”

This answer has always served me well, and it’s very honest. I accept the objective reality that I am a man made for women, that my true chance for companionship will only ever be with a woman . There’s no dishonesty here at all.

 

Conference Announcement

I have been very busy recently helping to create a conference that will address issues of same sex attraction and Catholicism. The official announcement has happened, and a poster for the event is now available for downloading.

I’m very excited about this–it will truly be an international affair, and the line up of speakers is very impressive, with more being added daily. I think this is desperately needed at this point in our Church’s history.

Please pray for this event, and if you do pastoral work as a priest, religious or work within a diocese with those who live with same sex attraction, please consider coming. The registration process will be available on March 1.

SSA Flier-page-001

In Praise of Depressing Holidays

I never expected or planned that I would live a single life. When I bought my home over a dozen years ago I thought that this house would become a home, with a wife and children.

It was a hard decision to make alone. I agonized over buying a house since I feared making the wrong decision.

When I finally found two houses that interested me, my real estate agent asked me in the midst of my indecision, “What would make the decision easier?”

I looked out the car window as we sat in front of one of the houses. “A wife. A wife would make the decision easier, because then I wouldn’t be deciding on my own what house we want to make a home.”

He mustered the best reply he could. “Well, that’s one reason you have me to help you.”

He was a good agent, but he wasn’t my soul mate. He wasn’t a companion I had chosen to share my life with. Buying a house by myself made me feel more terribly alone than I ever had in my life.

I was grateful for my job, grateful to have a house–finally–but it was an empty house. How I planned and dreamed! I made sure the house had three rooms. Enough for kids. The basement was going to be a perfect play room for the children when they came, just like my house growing up. The backyard looked like a park. I would build a sandbox and hang a hammock between the massive trunks of the soaring white pine trees that lined my yard. How I loved them, the tallest trees in my neighborhood–so tall that a hawk nested among their branches. I dreamed of rocking my children to sleep on a summer’s afternoon. I could see us, swinging in the hammock, looking up into the trees for a glimpse of our hawk. I would tell them stories, while they were soothed to sleep by the sound of the wind whispering through the needles that danced far above us.

I slowly made the house my home. I picked colors for rooms, always mindful of my bachelor state. “For now, I want my house to feel like it’s a den,” I told my friends. Leather chairs, deep dark browns, reds and mahogany, dark stained oak.

No feminine touches here.

Not yet, anyway.

“One day, soon,” I always hoped.

I used to write letters to my wife. On cotton stationery. I imagined giving them all to my wife on our wedding night, wrapped in a silken bow. “These are my gift to you,” I would have said to her, on my knees.

Writing to her kept the dream of her alive in my mind. When I was feeling particularly lonely I would write to her, saying things like, “I know one day we will meet. But will I know, in that first moment, that here, on this day, I’ve met the woman I one day will wed? What joy there will be when look back on the paths that led us to each other! We will be happy when we both realize we’re in love, and you will choose me, and I will choose you, over all others.”

I would pray for my wife, that she would be happy, that she would grow in love for God. I would pray that God would help me to be a man worthy of her love. Despite my attractions to men, I believed with all my heart that God’s plans would somehow bring a woman into my life who would cause me to say, like Adam said of Eve, “here at last is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh!”

That day never came.

I burned those letters long ago.

There are no children’s voices greeting me when I arrive home, nor, I realize, will there ever be. I have my trusty hound who greets me with tail wagging, but like Adam surveying all of the animals in Eden, my dog isn’t a suitable companion to me.

Solomon said ages ago, “two are better than one. If the one falls, the other will help the fallen one. But woe to the solitary person! If that one should fall, there is no other to help. So also, if two sleep together, they keep each other warm. How can one alone keep warm?”

So what is a man to do who’s chosen the single life out of obedience to God? Who feels lonely, and who longs for a companion to keep his bed warm?

I must say to God, “thank you for loneliness.”

This may seem like madness to some, but this is the only way to true peace and contentment I have found that works. This can only be done by an act of the will, aided by the grace of God.

I hate the loneliness I so often feel, especially during the holidays. I don’t particularly like Christmas, to be honest. I’d just as soon hibernate for a few weeks and wake up in the following year,with no change in my schedule, than go through the Octave of Christmas as a single man.

I could numb the ache, and fill the coldness of my bed easily enough with another lonely soul, and have some pleasures while I’m at it to help me get through the holidays. Or I could say in 2015 that I’ve had enough loneliness, turn my back on my rational mind and my faith, and try to believe the lie that all that matters is whether I’m happy in the way I’d like to be happy. It wouldn’t be hard to find a man to share my life with, if I decided that my loneliness is the worst thing that could happen to me in my life.

That’s not the path for me, however.

I don’t have many choices over what life has brought me, but I do have a choice in how I will respond.

My brother recently reminded me of St. Paul’s words to the Thessalonians in his first epistle to them. “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”

That’s a hard saying, and it makes me irritated sometimes, if I’m honest. Give thanks to God during the holidays, when all I want to do is stay in bed until I’m back to work? Give thanks to God when I come home to an empty house? I can’t seem to do that, but I realize I need to try.

So often in my life I’ve shook my fist at God and said to Him that He doesn’t know what He’s about. Why did he allow me to be attracted to men? Why didn’t he take that away from me in all of those countless nights of crying out to him? Why is my lot in life the single life? That’s enough to make a man turn his back on God.

And I did.

For a time.

I still sometimes want to shake my fist at God. I still get angry with him, but that time away from God showed me how little I know about my own well being and happiness. One of the greatest gifts God can give to His children is experiencing some misery in this life. The loneliness and pain I’ve experienced is the only thing that could ever make me long for heaven. Thanks to loneliness and the heartbreak of broken hopes, there’s nothing here that I know will bring me the joy or fulfillment or happiness that I really want.

I have loneliness to thank for that. Because of loneliness, pain, heartbreak and depressing days in bed, I think of heaven every single day of my life. And every day of my life I desire to go home.

This earth–it’s just a house. It’s no home for us. We’re pilgrims, wayfarers in a poor man’s inn. But even for all that, it’s not so bad. We have friends, beauty and love. And music, and beer, and yes, even dogs to help keep us warm at night, until we finally reach that far distant country, where joy, infinite joy, will be ours.

That moment when we go home, where we enter finally into the great promise of eternal life, Pope Benedict XVI called, “the supreme moment of satisfaction, in which totality embraces us and we embrace totality.” Our true home, he says, “would be like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time—the before and after—no longer exists. We can only attempt to grasp the idea that such a moment is life in the full sense, a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy.”

I see now why the dark days of depression I feel during the holidays are such a gift to me. For without them–without that loneliness that grips my heart like a vice–why would I desire heaven as much as I do? Oh, how I long for that day! Every unmet longing in my life points to that desire in me to plunge into the ocean of infinite love, where we can love others and be loved by them, finally and completely. With no impediments. No selfishness, no fears. No need for approval. No doubts, no insecurities. No envy or regret, or suspicion or lack of trust. Nothing, but love. Not love as an emotion, but Love, as a person, flowing in and through us. We will overflow with the infinite love of God for us, a love with the currents of the eternal and boundless love of the Father for the Son and the Son for the Father, bringing joy in its wake. The tides of that love never recede. There is always more, it is never ending and boundless, and like an ocean swallowing a drop of rain, all of our pain in this life will be as nothing. We will be glad for it, for it was the path that led us home.

A Word About Sexual Orientation

One of the big topics of my blog is the question of sexual identity, and how the Church must resist the language of “sexual orientations” or of the confusion of “sexual identities.” Rather, what the Church must be in this confused world is salt and light that points to the truth that all men and women are made in an objective way, ordered both body and soul towards their sexual opposite.
I haven’t been able to keep up much on my blog, but I do correspond with some folks from time to time on topics related to my blog. I just finished up an email I sent to a few folks about a recent post at Spiritual Friendship that troubles me, and so I decided to paste it below:

I’m sending this to those who might be interested in the question of sexual identity and anthropology, as seen through the lens of those who call themselves a “gay celibate Christian.”

This is a blog post today from one of their leaders, an Anglican, Wesley Hill who wrote the book Washed and Waiting. This post points out one of the common threads I’ve seen in the thinking of the “gay but chaste” group of thinkers. They’re always telling their interlocutors who have concern over their calling themselves gay, “you don’t understand what being gay means, and if you did, you wouldn’t be troubled by it.” There’s a bit of hubris in it, plus it reveals how they’re trapped in the language of sexual identity, rooted in the destruction of the notion of our innate sexual complementarity.

The blog quotes an evangelical woman who was just hired at Wheaton College (amidst some controversy) to help minister to those with SSA. She describes what she sees a gay orientation as being:

A gay orientation can be understood as an overall draw toward someone of the same sex, which is usually a desire for a deeper level intimacy with those of the same sex. Just like a heterosexual orientation can’t be reduced to a desire for straight sex, a gay orientation can’t be reduced to a desire for gay sex. This longing for intimacy is usually experienced as a desire for nearness, for partnership, for close friendship, rich conversation, and an overall appreciation of beauty. The best way I can describe my experience of “being gay” is that with certain women I feel the “it” factor: that sense of chemistry that longs to share life with them, to know and be known by them, to be drawn outside of myself in self-giving love for them. When I feel all Lesbiany, I experience it as a desire to build a home with a woman that will create an energizing love that spills over into the kind of hospitality that actually provides guests with clean sheets and something other than protein bars. Most women feel that chemistry or longing for other men (even though it can’t be reduced to a desire to have sex with other men), while I usually feel like “bros” with men. This causes me to see the world through a different lens than my straight peers, to exist in the world in a slightly different way. As God has redeemed and transformed me, he’s tapped into those gay parts of me that now overflow into compassion for marginalized people and empathy for social outcasts—he’s used my gay way of being for His glory rather than making me straight.

I find this so strange, and I think this is where Catholic thinking can help. Feeling all “lesbiany” and having that desire go towards essentially nesting with another woman in a domestic partnership is part of what is objectively disordered about same sex attraction. This woman is made for man, and insofar as she feels “all lesbiany” in dissonance with her God given nature, we see one result of the fall of man in our lives. It seems unwise to view as good the privation of the good of experiencing our true sexual nature. I see this as an impediment to growing in relationship with Christ–if we are confused about our nature, and see what God allowed as a privation in our lives as something good, then we can’t see the reasons why Divine Providence allowed it in our lives, and therefore understand why through His good pleasure God wounded us in this particular way, for our good and for our sanctification.

And the last sentence: “he’s used my gay way of being for His glory rather than making me straight” is the result of her ten years involved in sexual orientation change efforts, through the Protestant group Exodus. The bifurcation of sexuality into “straight” and “everything else” is one of the great problems with today’s view of sexual identity. Of course, God made her a certain way, ordered towards her sexual complement. What she means by God not “making her straight” doesn’t mean a change in her objective sexual orientation, but rather her subjective attractions and inclinations coming into alignment with the objective truth of her sexual orientation. God doesn’t always allow this, but this is where we must follow the example of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane: may this cup pass, but even so, Thy will be done. The wrong response is to think and believe ourselves as being some sort of sexual “other,” or “sexual minority,” as many of these authors like to talk about. This is where Courage has wisdom: if we’re going to grow in sanctity and holiness, we must have a certain humility to the truth of our situation. I think that’s very painful for a lot of people, but the virtue of chastity is far more than “being celibate” or “being continent.” The CCC tells us that it is “the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being.” It seems to me that embracing a sexual identity, or sexual orientation that is opposed to the truth of the body will inhibit the true growth of the virtue of chastity in the human person, even if one is sexually continent. I think one focus of our conversation must therefore be on “what is chastity” with regards to homosexuality. Josef Pieper I think can be very helpful here.

Digging more into the blog post I mentioned at the opening, I see obvious evidence that those who call themselves “gay and Christian” are prisoners of today’s culture, and yet they are blind to it.

Wesley Hill quotes another blogger about how we as Christians should view homosexuality today, and in so doing, sums up exactly why I think we need to do battle for a recovery of a cultural understanding of sexual complementarity which goes far deeper than merely the issue of same sex marriage:

[I]f we truly understand the cultural situation in which we find ourselves, we have to accept that being gay/lesbian is a matter of human identity, not a matter of performing (or desiring) certain erotic activities. Thomas Aquinas could properly treat (male) homosexual activity as one amongst many species of lust, because culturally, that was how he and his readers experienced it; we experience our sexual desires as identities—gay, lesbian, or straight [footnote: Or indeed bi, trans, queer, or asexual…]—and so as something far more profound and basic to our sense of self than merely another experience of desire, whether disordered or not.

In the book, The Homosexualization of America, author Dennis Altman writes that the great success of the gay rights movement was to focus the discussion of homosexuality away from behavior, and instead on identity.

Sadly, these Christians who are striving to follow Christ aren’t even aware that they are prisoners of the culture around us, and that their view of homosexuality is the result of those who C. S. Lewis would call “innovators” in the Abolition of Man, where he writes of them, “Let us decide for ourselves what man is to be and make him into that: not on any ground of imagined value, but because we want him to be such. Having mastered our environment, let us now master ourselves and choose our own destiny.”

This all calls to mind St. Pope John Paul II’s wise words in Veritatis Splendor:

It must certainly be admitted that man always exists in a particular culture, but it must also be admitted that man is not exhaustively defined by that same culture. Moreover, the very progress of cultures demonstrates that there is something in man which transcends those cultures. This “something” is precisely human nature: this nature is itself the measure of culture and the condition ensuring that man does not become the prisoner of any of his cultures, but asserts his personal dignity by living in accordance with the profound truth of his being.

I see these continuing conversations we’re engaged in as one small step in freeing mankind from the prison of today’s culture concerning sexual identity. If the Church doesn’t save the world from the confusion of sexual identity, who will?