Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Long Introduction from a New Contributor

Even as a little girl, I loved to defy stereotypes. Gender stereotypes in particular were a lot of fun, though I suppose that comes with the territory of being a little girl who loves dinosaurs and bugs and reptiles and science in general.

Too, I always loved boys. Not like, Oh, he’s so dreamy! boys, but more like Are they really doing THAT!? Boys are so hilarious; girls would never do this kind of stuff! Perhaps it has to do with the fact that the girls around me would do dumb things like stand and talk to each other when they were supposed to be guarding second base in the gym class kickball games, or would scream and carry on for minutes about the fly that buzzed past the lunch table. In short, even before I started liking them romantically, boys had always held a certain charm for me. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always taken pride in the fact that I’ve had about as many close guy friends as close girl friends.

But don’t think that I didn’t enjoy being girly. I was some creative variation on “princess” for many a Halloween, and I thoroughly enjoyed dressing up in a fancy dress for Christmas and Easter, adorned with a corsage from my father. It’s just that there was a time and a place for everything. And besides, I delighted in seeming contradictions. (“What? That girl in the ball gown over there can burp on command louder than I can and will gladly demonstrate!?”)

Then, when puberty hit, I was just like most other preteen girls, oooing and aahing over the “hot” (read: popular and conceited but admittedly attractive) boys from a distance. After a few of these crushes, though, I realized that all the boys to whom I was attracted physically were jerks, so I put a lot less stock in that.

Not that I’d ever cared a whole lot about the looks department. From childhood, I was feminist enough to want to spare my future husband from having to measure up to an impossible Prince Charming ideal in my head, so I never made one. Never dreamed about my wedding, my husband, my family. (Well, not until college, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves.)

I dated a few guys in high school. Each relationship was different but not unexpected – I had the cute best friend-turned-boyfriend (our relationship was little different from our friendship), the gangsta with whom I had nothing in common (except that we were both good kissers – but maybe I should’ve taken the hint when I had to take his hand out of my bra twice on our first date), the long-term high school boyfriend. Over the year that I dated that last one, I gradually lost touch with my other guy friends and spent more time with his (I went to an all-girls high school, so I had to go out of my way to spend time with guys); consequently, when I entered my senior year of high school a single girl, I didn’t have any interaction with guys whatsoever.

Gradually my circle of friends shifted; I spent less time with my classmates and more time with my sports teammates and fellow actresses. One of them confessed after several months that she’d only liked one guy in her life, but always girls, always women.

This took a little getting used to. I’d been raised Catholic, so gay relationships were a no-go, but most important was to love and not judge (because everyone sins; it’s just how we sin that’s different). Up ‘till this point, I’d read up on arguments for both sides of the homosexuality debate, and it seemed to me that both sides had good, solid arguments, so who was I to choose one?

Eventually, she admitted she was attracted to me, but I was quite used to guy friends having unrequited crushes on me, so what difference did it make this this was a girl friend who had such feelings? Well, over a few months of soccer practices and play rehearsals nearly back-to-back with this girl, we started “playing games.” It started as the old isn’t it funny when we pretend to be lesbians? look at the guys’ mouths water as they watch us! shtick, but quickly progressed to how far can I push before I make you pleasantly uncomfortable... and before you know it, we’d spent the night together in what was clearly either a one-night stand or the beginning of a relationship.

Well, my Catholic upbringing had succeeded in impressing upon me the importance of sexual acts, so I didn’t like the one-night stand idea, and I didn’t want to have to stop our little games, because I was quite good at them. I wasn’t attracted to her any less than I’d been to my previous boyfriends; in fact, I’d always found the female form beautiful. Besides, a man doesn’t know what a woman wants; you have to make such efforts to communicate with him, and it so taxing on both of you. On the other hand, I could walk into a room and give a significant glance to a woman, and she would know exactly what I was desiring or feeling. Besides, I read somewhere that Vatican II said to follow your conscience over objective teaching, and that was enough: we were dating.

It was a tumultuous time, inside of me. I was absolutely terrified that I was doing the wrong thing, and consequently clung to it more tightly. (My parents even brought me to confession once, and it was my only experience of imperfection contrition: not so much sorrow for sin as terror of going to hell for it.) I told my parents after a week, thinking that since they were great parents who supported me, they would support my every decision. They did what they were supposed to do, to love the sinner and hate the sin, to support me but not that lifestyle, but I felt completely rejected and pulled back from them entirely.

The last few months of my high school career (and the summer following) are a blur. When she and I were intimate, I couldn’t help but think to myself, This is good, but imagine how good what she’s doing now would feel if it were a guy doing that! I knew from experience that, while the things she did produced quite a charge, it was nothing compared to the charge of even lesser actions from the previous boyfriend. (I was lucky: I was wired right.)

Long before we broke up, I knew it would be just a fling (though a months-long one) and I’d never date another girl. But we made the most of every moment, even hiding away in places as absurd as under the blankets with other friends in the room to have our moments.

But I wasn’t about to enter college with a girlfriend, and especially not the out-of-state conservative Catholic university at which I was quite excited to begin my college career. Going there was really a turning point: the people I met and the things I learned while I was there opened my eyes to the possibility that maybe those people against gay relationships did know what they were talking about. Slowly but surely, I considered this more and more thoroughly, until I reached a point where I wanted to go to a priest and confess this relationship as a sin.

Unfortunately, confession turned out to be exactly what i’d feared: I knew in my head that I was forgiven, but I didn’t feel it in my heart. But I’d met these people who called themselves “charismatic,” and there were two things that stood out about them: 1) They were really serious about living their lives radically for Christ, in a way I’d never encountered before, and 2) They had this idea that the dumb things we did in our lives left us with baggage that we carried around, and if we invited Him in, the Lord would come and heal us – in His own time of course, but He’d take that baggage away from us and free us from those worries and insecurities. That sounded cool. So I told God He could heal me of this relationship if He wanted.

One night, He took me up on that offer. Through receiving His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, and later in the evening through nearly two hours of prayer with four of the aforementioned charismatics, He removed from my heart, mind, and soul all the baggage that I’d accumulated from my relationship (friendly and romantic) with her.

But every healing has a moment and a process. My process began with the assurance that, though I had homosexual sins in my past and none of my peers did, that didn’t make me categorically different from them. They had other sins in their pasts that I’d never come in contact with, some of which were much worse than what I’d done! But I was different, my actions and experiences had set me apart. After a while, I got over that, and began to accept that what truly mattered was that I was a person, not that I was a person with a history including homosexuality.

That was a hard lesson! Once I finally learned it, though, the Lord’s work in my heart changed. True, I was not categorically different from any of my friends. But the sins I had chosen had left a different kind of mark on my psyche and my heart. One relationship does not a disposition make; there had been other things askew, dating back to childhood, that needed to be corrected in order for me to be truly healed.

That semester, I took a class on Christian Marriage and learned the philosophical and theological reasons why homsexual relationships are wrong (a summary is linked in the sidebar). For the first time, I read a book that changed my life: The Homosexual Person by Fr. John Harvey (founder of Courage, linked in the sidebar). This book unpacked the psychological underpinnings of homosexuality, and his words still ring true for every single homosexual person I have ever known. I found a few other people who were in various stages of dealing with same-sex attraction or relationships, and we worked together to iron out what God was doing with us and how to leave behind the bad from what we’d done and felt, and move forward towards the good and the true. Finally, I spent a lot of time with one group of normal guys (I have often been the one woman among men), and learned through them that men don’t really mind most of the silly female stereotypes I’d hated so much. For instance: it’s not a big deal if a woman owns thirty pairs of shoes, so long as she doesn’t have to mortgage the house to pay for them.

I read a book on Christian femininity that semester, Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge. It didn’t touch me at all, because they spoke to childhood dreams of being the princess or the bride, and playdates where the girl is the damsel in distress. Not that we ever played that sort of game when I was a kid, but I would’ve been hard-pressed to have willingly sat there and waited as the princess. I totally would’ve gone with the more exciting adventurous part (actually, I probably would’ve volunteered to be the bad guy. The bad guy parts were always more fun to pretend). But at the same time I began to see the positive side to some of the quirky things women did. No longer did women go to the bathroom in groups because they were too insecure to go on their own (though that did happen); more often, though, they went to express candid observations about the evening, and even to keep the guys wondering just a little bit (which they kind of enjoyed). And besides, if I missed some great joke or something at the table while we were gone, it wasn’t the end of the world.

I suppose what I’m trying to express is that I was relearning what it meant to be a woman, letting go of a lot of the baggage I’d just heaped upon myself because I saw the world as unfair and insecure. When I reread Captivating a year or so later, I found that I’d grown enough that I could relate to heteronormative Christian feminine spirituality. I found that those desires I didn’t remember as a kid had emerged late (like, in college).

I’ve been at this too long, and the later healing bits are always the hardest part to write; I’m rambling like nobody’s business! The point, I suppose, is that there’s hope. Maybe I wasn’t as firmly entrenched in the gay lifestyle as you are. Maybe you’ve experienced only same-sex attractions, which I was pretty well spared. But there are others with stories like mine. Others who have been there, and are there no longer. Others who have found in Christ a peace unlike anything they’ve ever known, and One who understands their suffering and bears it with them.

There is hope. You don’t have to choose this just because it’s what you feel. The road won’t be easy, but it will be entirely worth it.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, my physical attractions to men have become much more frequent. One day, I will date a man who is positively hot, and I won’t feel like a liar when I tell him that. :)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Existential Inquiry

A swirling bed of emotion. The light slips like a rug out from underneath me. My mind tumbles down a dark hallway towards that emptiness. The bitter sadness that bites the consciousness, searing hopes with accurate depictions of reality.
What human being can bear to endure the lifeless drudgery that encompasses my daily events?

The cross.
The cross.

My shame, my glory.
Where else can such sweet and sad emotions find harmony?

Do my perceptions make things worse or merely make things more bearable? Even the cynic finds pleasure in his negativity, or at least some control. May I shed myself of despair? May I destroy the fountain of fear that springs up inside me? Is it so naïve, so foolish to rid myself of concern for myself? Those who seem to care the least about themselves are often the most selfish.
Who will I be? An accuser or a Paraclete?

Am I alone?


I have found that ancient life. That reverberating melody, rhythm and holy song that penetrates the fabric of the material and immaterial universe. Yet perceiving this holy song only make me more lonely, for no one else can hear it as I do. I want to sing it, to live it, to hold it, to be it. The song is alive, it is Love. Hope in it, laud it still.

Who can touch that sacred space in my heart but God? Here He calms me of my deepest fear and yet when I see Him leave the hole is bigger than before. That hole, oh that hole! It widens, it deepens until only He can fill it. I suppose that is His purpose in filling all holes in my life until those pits, spreading like cancer, forming into a singular chasm, where I am truly nothing and He alone can subsist in the space where I was.

Yet some how now I am with more substance than before.

I am afraid more now of what I want than what He does. For His desires can only lead to happiness.


Emptiness... pain.

This is the mystery of His will, that in making me He has given me His desires in the form of my own. The task is then to distinguish between that which has been distorted by creatures and designed by the creator.

Can what I desire truly bring me deeper into Him?

The wisdom of old says to desire nothing aside from the All. Yet I have stunted, squashed and suppressed my desires from early in my youth. Some were good and some were bad. Through the colored lenses of fear and expectations it is hard to tell which was which and which was more. Unrestrained they only lead to internal tyranny and desolate seeking of pleasure. Ignored they lead to explosions of passion and subsequent confusion.

Who am I?
How can I answer this unless I know what I want?
Which are the desires rage in me from my diseased flesh or wounded memories?
How much are my desires dictated to me or am I dictating to my desires?

It seems to me the greater mystery in discerning God’s will is discerning my own. Desires arise from deep within me that I am told are the result of warped perceptions, hurts that haven’t been healed and yet they come back new, fresh and reshaped. Waves crushing the sandcastles of my self-understanding.

Is this a lengthy rant merely romanticizing my angst and immature, reckless desire for Love in general or are there legitimate yearnings that man has neglected through distraction?

I don’t know. But here I am.

Here I am.

"Let it be done unto me according to your word."

Sometimes the inflamed wound of my soul acts as the perfect sign to the goodness of God. At other times it is merely the intellectual recognition of the emptiness of all other loves that keeps me pushing forward in darkness, hoping for the True Love.

The temporal and eternal desires of life crisscross in a mesh captivating my attention in a futile attempt to see where each is coming from and where each is going. I believe all desires ultimately come from and lead to the All of love in God even if in their manifestation they have been mangled.

Yet that is impossible to grasp while I am still physical, while I am still an intensely finite amalgamation of material and immaterial. Is it in these temporal experiences that I am called to grasp those eternal ones? Am I to journey in the cloud of unknowing? Or is it in the light of human interactions that I am to be catapulted into His divine light?

Yet all which is most like Him to me is still less like Him to Him than that which is least like Him to me. Ergo darkness.

How can I want that which I cannot perceive and not want that which I do? Especially when it is my experience of Him, which is not actually Him, that leads me to seek that which is Him.

If I explore any alternative to the narrow gate of faith I only find wide road labyrinths and layers of lust leading to the twisted alleyways of the psyche saturated in the seven sins. Milemarkers of iniquity throughout history. Grimey walls painted in foundationless sin-justifying false logic. To whom shall I go?

I am called to be in the world, this I know without knowing how.

What then are these forbidden desires of my heart?

I long to be known. I long to be loved. My soul and body craves for the conjugal relationship with the mystery that is woman. I realize it cannot be woman that I want but a woman, a unique person. I feel that I must be captivated by her whole person in a genuine and homogeneous flow of beauty from spirit to body. A symphony of qualities that is harmonious to my own. More often than not, I am compelled to want the want. Devoid of the natural draw I am drawn to it because I am not drawn.

I cannot shake a desire for intimate masculine affection and companionship. As the inordinate lusts, possibly born of rejection begin to dissipate these desires do not. They cease in their compulsive nature but remain, nagging me constantly.
Is it the residue of sinful thought patterns? Is it a subtle seduction in the form of seemingly innocuous hopes? Am I deceiving myself? Am I being deceived? Do I want to consume? Do I want to receive an impossible confirmation of my masculinity through another? Do I futilely seek to reconcile past lies, hurts, false perceptions?

My fear is that this desire for an exclusive, intimate and affectionate relationship with another man is actually all these things in some combination and nothing more. I have always had issues with applying the label of “best friend” to anyone. I always seem to be different, not necessarily in person hood, but intention from all of those whom I have had companionship with upon which this label could fall.
Is this self-pity distorting my memories of current and past relationships? What if most of these fears are true on some level, does that mean my desire for this relationship is purely a construction of these illusions?

I want to know the truth.

I cannot speak to if this desire simply lays dormant in all men or in merely a few. I do know that it is strong in my own heart. Maybe the reason it is stronger at times than the more fundamental masculine draw to that of a woman is because it is augmented by all of those lies, wounds, sins and distortions. It is my suspicion that this is the case. Yet it's difficult to endorse such a formal cause when all the material causes seem absent and even the opposite.

Jonathon and David.
Paul and Timothy.
John and Jesus.

How do I know when it is right for me to have this relationship? How do I find it? Am I to find it? Is it before, beside or after the ordered romantic relationship? Does it come suddenly or grow slowly and organically? For I know from experience that even if it is not dangerous it is at least futile to seek it.

I want a man who can be free in affection, intimate in conversation, unashamed and unafraid of his body. A man who in body in soul is fully and magnificently masculine. Some one who wishes to be exclusive with me and is not indomitably tainted by the constructs of homosexuality, neither in expression or foundation. Someone who is not seeking to be fulfilled in me or excessively dependent on my affections and affirmations. A free exchange of fraternal love that is built on seeking a common good. A constructive relationship of giving and receiving that can be admired, even if initially viewed with suspicion.

If I were to find such a person, would they want this with me? Would I be able to overcome my fear?

Maybe this idealism is making it improbable for me to discover it where it already is.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Redefining marriage.

There are few things that irk me more than inconsistencies in Christian efforts. There are two that come to mind most readily.
1) As noted in a previous post, my belief is that if Catholics and Christians spent more time focusing on getting at the root of homosexuality we wouldn't have to deal with all the (fruitless) legal battles. This plays into the idea of "cafeteria Catholicism". That phrase is used to lambaste politicians and public figures who, while generally are worthy of excommunication, nonetheless receive rather unchristian treatment. Which is ironic since when that happens the people laying into the unfaithful Christians are themselves being cafeteria. Whatever happened to "cook the truth in Charity until it becomes sweet"? It's my belief that some times how you say something is more important than what you say, since truth is relational. The truth is not something it's someone. But that's for another rant. All in all the whole "love your neighbor", "tax collectors and sinners getting into heaven before you" bit seems to be frequently missed as good intentioned Christians reflect on my, I mean... ::ahem::... the depravity of homosexuals.

2)What also really irks me is that most Protestants opposing gay marriage. Rather sweeping judgement, I know. Let me explain why. Most protestant churches not only do not have a total condemnation of contraception and divorce, but explicitly allow for it. The fact is marriage was "redefined" in western civilization a looooooong time ago. Arguably with King Henry XVIII and his whole divorce thing. Once again in the early days of "the pill" it was Episcopalians who made allowance for such effective contraception. Contraceptives are the ultimate blow to the definition of marriage. The end result is "marriages" that last a few years and bring few children, if any. In effect they are no different than gay "marriage". Rick Warren I think recognizes this. Basically for the sake of consistency you need to reject contraception, fornication, divorce, masturbation and every sexual deviation that will never lead to kiddies. Otherwise I think the gay groups are right in their arguments, they do deserve a shot at that kind of "marriage".

In the end only a handful of protestants and Catholics have any level of consistency in their arguments. And while it may seem [somewhat] unrealistic, to be truly consistent Catholics should start pushing for legislation that will make divorce and contraceptives illegal. Not only that, but legislation that gives the family more power than the government. Social services should not be the ones to step in if there's a bad situation, the closest kind should and the government should enforce that. Otherwise it's just going to be reactions to the latest depravity in the culture.