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.”
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.