I made a new acquaintance recently, a man who turned out to be Catholic and who attends the parish where I received the sacrament of Confirmation in 2010. We found we had a lot of connections, and as conversations such as these always tend to go, I found out he was a married man with six children, the oldest in college, the youngest still in elementary school. He then asked me, “So how about you? Married? Have any children?”
This is the moment in conversations that many people who identify as gay find awkward. The situation often causes an internal monologue of stressful questions: “How do I tell the person I’m single, because I’m gay, and seeking after God, and so thus I’m living a chaste life, which means I’m probably going to be single the rest of my life?”
I understand the awkwardness of the question–it’s awkward and uncomfortable for people like me too, who reject LGBT labels, yet experience predominantly same-sex attractions. I remember this awkwardness particularly from when I was younger, when people my age were regularly getting married and starting families. The question was often asked of me at weddings, “So Dan, when are you going to find yourself a wife and get married?” It’s a challenging question, and it gets asked often of people in their mid to late twenties. So what’s the answer to give in those situations? The key here is to be truly honest.
Now, some people who identify as gay, and yet are still committed to Church teaching on sexual abstinence outside of marriage also argue that any commitment to virtue requires an honest answer, where “being honest” is defined as being forthright in saying, “Well, marriage probably isn’t in the cards for me, since I’m gay, and am committed to the Church’s teaching, so that’s why I’m not married, or won’t be. But thanks for asking!” I find this sort of answer strange, and actually opposed to honesty.
Central to my way of thinking here is the Catechism’s discussion of sexual identity:
2333 Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out.
2334 “In creating men ‘male and female,’ God gives man and woman an equal personal dignity.” “Man is a person, man and woman equally so, since both were created in the image and likeness of the personal God.”
The “gay” identity is no identity at all in the Church’s teaching about the human person. Humility before my God, as a created being, allows me to accept and acknowledge the truth of my created nature: I am a created being, created by God, as a man, with an innate sexual orientation towards my sexual complement given to me by God in my created nature. My sexual identity is not as a “gay” man, but rather, simply as a man, who is created for sexual union with a woman. Humility before my God, and total abandonment to divine Providence thus makes me open to the possibility that God’s will for me may one day be to realize my innate sexual orientation in marriage with a woman.
Having followed the teaching of the Church in accepting and acknowledging my sexual identity as a man, it would dishonest of me to say that the reason I’m not married is “because I’m gay.” No, there I see a confused understanding of “who I am” getting in the way of God’s potential will for me in my life. I cannot know what God, in his Divine Wisdom has in store for me, and I refuse to close the door to the possibility that he may will for me to marry a woman, by adopting a false identity, manufactured by the world, which by its very nature argues that for me to be married to a woman would be lying about my true sexual nature and orientation. *
So what is one to do in such a situation, when one accepts and acknowledges his true sexual identity, and yet realizes that there is a very real obstacle in the path towards marriage, because he doesn’t particularly find many women sexually desirable at all?
Here the key is total abandonment to Divine Providence, with an accompanying humility and docility to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. What I say in such situations where new acquaintances ask about my personal life is exactly what I said to this new friend I met recently:
“Well, I’m still single and it seems that it’s God’s will for me at this time that I be single, but I’m open to being married if it’s Gods will. I decided to stop looking for a wife long ago, since dating is really just a drag, but I’m reminded of what we read in Genesis: God brought Eve to Adam. So I say to God, ‘Look, Lord, if you want me to be married, you’re just going to have to bring me my Eve, because I’m not interested in looking for her’. In the meantime, I’m content being single, for it seems that it’s God’s will for me.”
The line about “God will have to just bring my Eve” always gets a laugh, and no one ever thinks anything more about it. Saying that you trust God’s will for your life more than your own hopes, dreams and desires is the most sane–and most honest–response a man like me can ever give to questions of why I’m single.
*Key for me here in knowing that it may be God’s will for me to be married is that I would say of a woman God brought to into my life the same words Adam said of Eve, “Here at last is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh!” This is a very different view from “sexual orientation change efforts”. I find the notion of such things as “sexual orientation change” based on a faulty premise: that man is the sort of creature with a plurality of sexual orientations–no, our sexual orientation is innate and built-in to us, but due to man’s fallen nature, this true sexual orientation can be impeded. Yet God is not limited by man’s fallen nature, and there are too many examples of men who once lived life as “gay men” and are now married to doubt that God’s will for many men with SSA is for them to be married. But that is beyond the scope of this post.