More thoughts on the “Gay Identity”

I was recently watching a talk Fr. Robert Barron gave at Elmhurst College in which he spoke about what he has dubbed “The YouTube Heresies,” the common misperceptions of God that have been fomented by the New Atheists. Rather than ignoring the comment boxes, Fr. Barron chose to engage, for, as he said, he’s “got a little bit of what the French call the jeux de combat, the joy of the battle.”  So too do I!

For me, the jeux de combat comes in the form of speaking about homosexuality and the Church.  I have been learning lately from many wise men and women, including the saints, that this can be overdone, and I know at times that I fall into a temptation that St. Francis de Sales is explicit about.  He wrote to an Abbess attempting to reform an Abbey these simple words:  do not show any desire to conquer.

These are wise words for me, since I have come to realize that my online rhetoric is more often than not of the bludgeoning type, rather than the mode St. Francis de Sales recommends.  When contradictions are found, he says, “do not break them, but prudently let them pass, and bend them with sweetness and time.”  How I could learn from this wise Saint!  I am working on having more sweetness in my interaction, but it doesn’t always happen.  These comments that I posted on Melinda Selmys’s blog recently, as “Midwest Courage Guy” I hope reflect a “sweeter” approach.

This particular post of Melinda Selmys is one in a series she is writing about embracing her “queerness.” In this post, she mentions how her husband lovingly wrote to her during their courtship, saying, “shine on you crazy diamond.”  Melinda’s thoughts about this seem to me to be that her queerness is the embodiment of how she is “a crazy diamond. A strange, multi-faceted, unique, rare and therefore valuable individual. A mad and wonderful one of a kind.”  This is what I wrote in response to her:

I think we’re all “crazy diamonds,” and one aspect I don’t like of our cookie cutter society is that we’re all expected to BE a certain way, to conform to the way the world expects us to. The older I get, and the more I realize that we’re all just a bit “weird,” or wired differently than those around us, no matter how much we try to adopt the status quo, the more I think how truly odd God is. My go to always is this: he created the duck billed platypus. What is that thing, anyway??? 🙂

What I question is ascribing the uniqueness of you, the “crazy diamond” aspects of you which give glory to God, and how you truly do reveal the imago deo within yourself, to your being “queer.”

I think we’re all a bit quirky, and indeed queer, but not in the sense that the term is being used these days on your blog and on others. I would submit that your quirkiness and mine have nothing to do with our homosexuality, but everything to do with the weirdness of God. Your “queerness” is the same oddness of God reflected in the duck billed platypus, reflected in an ostrich putting its head in the sand, and reflected in you, uniquely as a woman, who is fully woman, who is fully feminine, and in no ways, ever, in the mind of God, “a dyke.”

I’m as quirky as the next guy with SSA, but I think it’s a gift to reflect the oddity that is God, and I don’t ascribe any aspect of my personhood that is fascinating to the fact that I’m attracted to other men. I think it’s rather a boring aspect about my person and I wonder why so many seem of late to be clinging so strongly to the identification of being queer to so many things that are good in them. Especially when the very things which seem to be defined as inherently associated with “being queer” can be seen in people who’ve never experienced SSA. I’ve known some very “manly” women who’ve never been attracted to women.

I wrote a little more in the comboxes, after a little bit of interaction concerning the necessity of accepting social constructs about ourselves, and that the gay identity is socially constructed.

I guess the question that comes to mind when I hear that “queer” is socially constructed: should we choose to embrace it, just because it is socially constructed? I often think about the gift God gave to Adam of naming the creatures God had created. We have mastery over the earth, and God has given us the gift of reason to look at the world and create a systematic understanding of what we see, such as the various taxonomies of the animal kingdom (to keep the analogy going).

This suggests to me that God delights in us using our reason to “figure stuff out,” and to continue to define and label what we see in the world around us, as well as within the world of man.

However, just because man has the freedom to name things, and to describe things, and indeed to socially construct things, it doesn’t mean that man is always correct in his way of defining or seeing the world. Racism is a social construct, for example, which is irrational and opposed to reason, and is clearly one of those things which Isaiah talked about in 29:16:

You turn things upside down,
as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!
Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it,
“You did not make me”?
Can the pot say to the potter,
“You know nothing”?

I guess my point is this, as someone who has never embraced the social construct about me “being gay,” I’m intrigued why those of you who find it important, choose to embrace it enthusiastically. It’s never been important to me, and indeed I’ve consciously chosen not to embrace it about myself, and so I find it a bit alien when I read the current discussions going on. But I also wonder if that’s a function of my age, growing up as I did in the 70s and 80s when homosexuality was so often associated with the sadness of AIDS, and when “gay pride” was ACT-UP and other angry movements that caused me (and so much of the rest of society) to be very leery of what it must mean to embrace a “gay identity.” A lot of damage was done back then, on both sides, but the ACT-UP crowd, now long forgotten, left an indelible impact on me when they burst into St. Patrick’s Cathedral throwing around condoms!

Today is a far cry from those days, with shows like Glee and Modern Family, and so many celebrities who have come out, as well as teaching the normalcy of homosexual acts within the schools. Perhaps it’s a function of age, but the source of my rejection of the social construct of “being gay” is many and varied, and ultimately, I just don’t find it that interesting about my person, (or anyone else, for that matter) compared to all the other aspects of who I am. The “crazy shiny diamond” is pretty shiny and crazy without my homosexuality. I think that facet is the least shiny and crazy of all, so I’m intrigued by those younger than me who seem to feel at home where the Rainbow flag flies and who embrace their queerness. It’s interesting to realize how differently people can see the world, even if they live with similar experiences and your posts are helpful in understanding this a bit better. I still don’t know what I think about it, other than it’s very foreign to me, and I wonder about the wisdom of it because of that, but that could indeed be my own prejudice. Though I think we who are older, and who haven’t lived under the Disneyfied glorification of homosexuality which we see now in culture, have some great insights as well. I think there is far more associated with homosexuality that is associated with sadness, and literal death and destruction, than is good about it. I fortunately didn’t lose any close friends to the AIDS epidemic, but many of my friends did. It’s hard to celebrate something that has caused so much pain in the lives of so many people we have loved, as well as in our own lives. I hope you all take this into consideration too.

Finally, I find it remarkable what was reported recently in the National Catholic Reporter.  Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, Calif. has been investigating the authentic Catholic nature of the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry.  It appears that the conclusion of two years of investigation is soon upon, and the Bishop has grave concerns about CALGM, and he is wise to have such concerns.

One of these concerns pertains to the use of the terms “gay and lesbian” on the website.  The NCR article says the following:

In an eight-page follow-up letter to the January meeting, dated April 15, 2011, the board sought to clarify questions about the association and its stance on several of the bishop’s concerns, one of which was its usage of the terms “gay” and “lesbian” on its website and in its publications — a concern that “honestly surprised” the board.

Fitzmaurice said that Cordileone said during their Jan. 7 meeting that the terms weren’t in the church’s vocabulary, and were promoted by groups opposed to the church’s moral teaching.

Let’s focus on the section I placed in bold:  the terms “gay and lesbian” are not in the Church’s vocabulary, and are promoted by groups opposed to the Church’s moral teaching.  This is a rather bold statement.  Now one bishop is not the Magisterium, but within the confines of his Diocese, his IS the voice of the Church.  I think he is right when stating that those who propose the terms “gay and lesbian” about the human person are directly opposed (at least in the notion of identity) to the moral teachings of the Church.

I think there is great confusion that abounds today in Catholic circles about homosexuality and how we are to identify ourselves, but really there is only one way:  we’re male or female children of God.  And that’s it.  Thanks be to God!

5 thoughts on “More thoughts on the “Gay Identity”

  1. The church has never embraced secular language, especially not the language that is invented for the purpose of social-engineering or moral suasion. The terms gay and lesbian replace older terms which we hardly have to list here. The terms were invented in order to carry out a socialization process; An agenda for normalizing what was not considered normal or acceptable.

    But whether Gay or SSA is the term that we use, people are weirder in the totality of their being, than our society has ways to deal with. In most places, we suck in the weirdness and only show it to our friends. The Gay culture (but not SSA people who are outside the gay culture) is unique in that it wants to revel in a collective homogeneity of That One Weird Thing about Us. Odd that in the end, this just might be ignoring the real weirdness, the real spark, and that “crazy diamond” that your friend has inside her.

    We are all increased, and we all only grow as we grow towards what is real. When we accept the shallow, the fake, the replacements for real things, we are decreased, both in our goodness, and in our weirdness. Sin leads to boring, shallow sameness. Sanctity is the path towards being Really Weird, and Really Great.

    Great blog, thanks for writing!


  2. Hi W,
    I couldn’t agree more. The embracing of a “gay” identity, albeit within a chaste context brings with it all kinds of ideological baggage. I think JP II’s words in Veritatis Splendor are excellent when I think about the current alphabet soup that’s out there today, and how this has all been engineered by the behavioral sciences:

    “In fact, while the behavioural sciences, like all experimental sciences, develop an empirical and statistical concept of “normality”, faith teaches that this normality itself bears the traces of a fall from man’s original situation — in other words, it is affected by sin. Only Christian faith points out to man the way to return to “the beginning” (cf. Mt 19:8), a way which is often quite different from that of empirical normality. Hence the behavioural sciences, despite the great value of the information which they provide, cannot be considered decisive indications of moral norms. It is the Gospel which reveals the full truth about man and his moral journey, and thus enlightens and admonishes sinners; it proclaims to them God’s mercy, which is constantly at work to preserve them both from despair at their inability fully to know and keep God’s law and from the presumption that they can be saved without merit. God also reminds sinners of the joy of forgiveness, which alone grants the strength to see in the moral law a liberating truth, a grace-filled source of hope, a path of life.”

  3. I’m Orthodox, and new to your work via the First Things blog this week. It seems to me you’re on the right track – i.e., you substantially agree with the conclusions I’ve empathically reached about my brothers and sisters who struggle with, or in some cases embrace, SSA.

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