The wisest decision I ever made about living with an attraction to men was never broadcasting it to the world by following the ritual of “coming out.”
As time passes I become more convinced that the wisest course of action for anyone who lives with same sex attraction is to keep this information limited to a very small number of close confidants. Unless someone likes boxes placed around them which have very little to do with reality.
Obviously, I’ve written publicly about all of this. I’ve been on television, I’ve been on the radio, and I’m even in a film about it all. Eventually I knew that all of this would trickle down into my day to day life in a rather organic manner. I knew that all of my colleagues would know about this, and that they might find it strange, or surprising, or shocking—or something. And I knew they would have their own views on the subject, and probably think that I’m repressed, or backwards in my thinking, or perhaps “finally discovering who I truly am.” I didn’t know exactly, but I prepared for whatever might come as best as I could.
I couldn’t really prepare fully for the way some have responded. I wouldn’t change what I’ve done, but their responses to me have convinced me even more strongly of the need to discourage anyone from ever publicly disclosing their attractions to the same sex.
Here are a few of the more irksome moments I’ve encountered:
At a bonfire with many people I work with, a fellow who has been with another man for a long time made it clear that he had become aware of my writings on homosexuality. The way in which he did it was very silly to me. I was pointing out to him someone on Facebook that I thought he might know. He indicated that he knew the family, and that he thought all of the men in the family were cute. Turning to me with a mischievous look, he said to me, “you do too, don’t you?”
“Well, no,” was what I wanted to say, but I responded instead by saying, “Oh. So I guess you’ve found some of my writing online?”
I have always wondered what my friends and colleagues who’ve chosen to live with a same sex partner might think of my writing. It has troubled me, since I have wanted to make it clear that my choices are the choices I’ve made, and that I haven’t written publicly about any of this out of judgment of them and their lives.
So I decided that perhaps this night provided a chance to make this clear to my friend. I suggested we take a walk.
We talked for a long time. He was concerned that I stood in judgment of him and his partner, and I assured him that this was a choice I made–for me. I care about this fellow, and I wanted him to know that just because I chose to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church, that didn’t mean that I stand in judgment of him.
It was a good conversation, and eventually we meandered back to the bonfire.
Later I heard that when we left the bonfire there was joking that took place among some who were there that, “oh, I bet they’re going out there to make out/mess around/do something.”
The box both he and I were put in was this one: we’re both “gay” in their mind, and apparently in that box, “gay guys” take any opportunity to have some sort of physical/sexual encounter.
What kind of dignity do they think it’s possible for “gay men” to have, if they think that two men walking alone, away from a bonfire, are going to have some sort of tryst? It’s horrible for me to contemplate that this is the box they seem to have placed me in now.
That was the last thing on my mind when I walked away from the light of the bonfire. I was concerned about my friend, and concerned that my writing might have hurt him. And it hurts me that we became the butt of some sort of joke. And here, in the midst of writing this post, where the phrase “butt of some sort of joke” flowed naturally in my reflections, I’m thinking of the sophomoric world in which we live and how I suppose that’s a phrase I should avoid now.
That’s maddening to me.
Here are a few of the other random comments that well-meaning friends and colleagues have made that reveal they have placed me into a box:
Any relationship I had with a woman in the past will apparently now be construed as me “exploring my sexuality.” Never mind the fact that I fell madly in love with a woman who I hoped to marry, and was devastated when it didn’t happen. That part of my life is now neatly packaged, filed away on a shelf with the label: Dan’s Sexual Exploration. I suspect too the reason they’ll say that it didn’t work out is because of the box they’ve put me in as being a gay man. “Of course it didn’t work out—how could he? He’s a gay guy, and he couldn’t even acknowledge it to himself back then.”
One friend told me that as she looked back on my past relationships with women, she seemed to believe that I was always attracted to masculine or androgynous/boyish looking women.
Really? I think the women I dated would find that offensive. And it’s demonstrably false.
Yet another example of rewriting my life story though the lens of “Dan the Gay Man.”
Other friends seem to think that all of this is me trying to reconcile my faith with “my sexuality.”
What they don’t understand is that I came BACK to my faith, in large part because of the truth of sexuality. I was very content to leave behind my faith—I routinely flipped off a Church in town, every time I drove by it, but eventually I found the truth about my sexuality where I least expected it to be. Though I know they believe this is me merely clinging to superstitious beliefs I need to get rid of, if I want to truly be set free. One more box. It’s all so patronizing.
Another person seems to think that I’m just the sort of person who “wants to live a single life, regardless.”
Yet another box I’ve been placed in.
Here’s another box: if I’m striving for chastity, it must mean that “I’m not interested in sex.” The logic here seems to be this: anyone who is consciously choosing to live a chaste life must not really enjoy sex.
This couldn’t be further from the truth for me. Is it so hard to conceive of a human person who might enjoy something immensely, and yet decide not to fulfill those desires out of a desire for a greater goal he has in mind? We see it in physical fitness, or in dieting, or in sacrifices people make for pursuing a career. Why not with chastity too? If I could have the world revolve around my particular desires and proclivities, my days would start and end with a roll in the hay. But that would be a very inhuman way to live, and a life of complete and total self-indulgence.
When I think of chastity, this line from St. Pope John Paul II pretty much sums up my life:
An exuberant and readily roused sensuality is the stuff from which a rich—if difficult—personal life may be made.
I’m not an asexual creature. I’m not someone who just has always wanted to be a bachelor. I’ve been madly in love with a woman. And I’ve been madly in love with a man too. So who am I?
According to a lot of my friends and colleagues, they’ve conveniently pigeon-holed me wherever they seem to think I fit best.
I hate that. I really, really do.
Who am I, truly? Who is anyone, truly?
I am a man, made in the image and likeness of God. That’s who I am—I’m not a “gay man,” and I’m not a “bisexual man,” and I’m certainly not a man who looks at a bonfire as a way to find some guy to make out with or have a sexual tryst with. I know who I am, and I know who I am, sexually. That truth comes from the truth of my body. I am a man, made for sexual union with women, and the only sane–and rational place–for that sexual union to take place is inside of marriage that is open to the possibility of life. And that’s the reason I have chosen to pursue chastity.
One of my great missions in life is to tell young people to avoid the rather boring and insipid boxes of sexual identity that our culture likes to create for us. Don’t come out. It won’t bring you freedom. You’re not “coming out” into freedom and truth. Rather, you’re being boxed in to lies and misconceptions. “Coming out” to the world isn’t liberating at all. Unless you find chains and labels liberating.
The Bishops had it right. Share this with some close intimates. Share this with your parents, your priest, your family, and a few close and select friends. But don’t share it with the world. They are the ones who truly love us, who are our Shepherds, guided as they are by the Paraclete. Listen to them, and be free. Don’t be enslaved by the appearance of freedom or liberating that supposedly will be yours by “coming out.” Hear their words, and be guided into the path that is safe:
For some persons, revealing their homosexual tendencies to certain close friends, family members, a spiritual director, confessor, or members of a Church support group may provide some spiritual and emotional help and aid them in their growth in the Christian life. In the context of parish life, however, general public self- disclosures are not helpful and should not be encouraged.