Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Beyond Gay" and prop. 8

I recently finished a book entitled: "Beyond Gay" by David Morrison. It's basically a biographical and apologetic work rolled into one. The book follows his conversion from being a gay activist to a faithful Catholic. The rest of the book is his case for a Catholic view of sexuality mixed with some encouraging words for those who struggle with the phenomenon of SSA directly or indirectly. I have to admit at first I was skeptical that this book would be worth my time. Not because it doesn't hold anything valuable in it, but because I probably had heard everything he was going to say. While that was mostly true I found this book to be very valuable nonetheless. Largely because of the con-natural knowledge it imparted. I have heard testimonies similar to his before, but somehow reading a complete book made a better impression. I would highly recommend this to people who are trying to find a balanced way to talk about the issue of homosexuality. It is interesting to note that the realizations he has had are just as valid today as they were 15 years ago. The tensions, misconceptions and caricatures of both sides has seemed to only be strengthened with only minor progress on the Christian "side".

One point I really appreciated is how he based his disagreement with the gay affirming "theology" on the basis of what it means to love. I don't know if there can be a genuine dialogue, especially about the issues now facing us, without talking about what it means to love. This is tied intimately with what it means to be human, what our sexuality has to do with that and ultimately our idea of how things "should be".

This week the supreme court of California upheld the ban on gay marriage. I found this refreshing, not so much for preserving traditional marriage in America (it's a little late for that), but because the justices decided to put aside their personal agendas and rule in favor of a democratic society. Their exceptions for the however many who had already been "married" demonstrates a philosophical inconsistency, but it is understandable why they would make those exceptions. What is important to note that this battle is nothing other than a symbolic one. Since the court ruling states:

Accordingly, although Proposition 8 eliminates the ability of same-sex couples to enter into an official relationship designated “marriage,” in all other respects those couples continue to possess, under the state constitutional privacy and due process clauses, “the core set of basic substantive legal rights and attributes traditionally associated with marriage,” including, “most fundamentally, the opportunity of an individual to establish — with the person with whom the individual has chosen to share his or her life— an officially recognized and protected family possessing mutual rights and responsibilities and entitled to the same respect and dignity accorded a union traditionally designated as marriage.” (Marriage Cases, supra, 43 Cal.4th 757, 781.) Like opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples enjoy this protection not as a matter of legislative grace, but of constitutional right.
Pg. 41, 2nd Paragraph,

What I'm more afraid of is a total disintegration of the framework in which these debates occur. If our justice system is so contradictory that it rules an amendment to the constitution is unconstitutional, I would seriously begin to question if our nation has any hope. It's kind of the whole thing with Obama and Notre Dame, most people thought the battle was because of Obama's position on abortion. What people didn't realize is that abortion as such was not the issue, it was whether or not a Catholic institution can reward someone for doing things that are opposed to her teachings. It was about intellectual honesty and Catholic identity more so then affirming the right to life. But, that's a dead horse.

What amazes me is how it seems the major people opposed to prop 8 have given up fighting the notion that allowing for non-traditional definitions of marriage is a slippery slope. Since at polyamorous unions are now supposedly something worth getting behind.

Finally, I do believe that perhaps if only a fractions of the $40 Million used to support prop. 8 had gone to developing programs that help further our understanding of SSA perhaps this whole mess could have been avoided. The gay activists have been a constant drip through the moral roof of our society since the 1960s (perhaps since the 1860s even) and we put up the umbrella only when we're already soaked and it's really starting to pour. It's going to be messy fixing that hole now and a bucket isn't going to stop the house from flooding. Especially since there are leaks in every room. All in all, David Morrisons book is worth reading to help keep a balanced perspective on this and to remember that this is not so much a legal or even idealogical issue, it's a human one. Real people are involved and since that is the case great sensitivity and openess is neccessary from both sides in order to procede without doing damage to people.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Road Less Traveled

Sorry to steal the coveted top-post-on-the-blog space from Theophilus so soon, but it's his excellent post below that prompted mine here, now.

See, after reading his musings I was reminded of my interior dedication to this blog, and my promise to myself to post at least once per week for the time being. So I was inspired to search Google BlogSearch for words like "queer" and "gay", and added at least nine new blogs to my blogroll (staying up at least two hours after my intended bedtime to do so). Then I shut off my computer and got ready for bed.

But as I stood in the shower, it suddenly hit me: I am extremely vulnerable to the pro-gay rhetoric. Not so much that I'd be convinced to call up my ex-girlfriend and say, Hey, you were totally right about this alternative sexuality thing, I was definitely brainwashed through college, let's do lunch. But enough that I'd be hesitant to talk about the issues to anyone who was not 100% on the same page (Catholic teaching), and that I might call up Theophilus for some encouragement and a reminder that there really is objective truth.

Then another realization hit me: I am not a warrior. Though the many pro-gay websites and blogs out there beg to be addressed by rational people who have a clue, the thought of being that person just about paralyzes me with worry.

I am not a warrior; I am a catechist, a teacher. All I desire to do is to bring information to others - in this case, primarily to people who are coming from a philosophical worldview similar to my own - to enable them to love others better by understanding their struggles and supporting them without judging them.

That is my mission here on this blog. And I don't have to feel bad about leaving aside the most obvious path down this road. After all, I'm already accustomed to discovering the roads less traveled...

Monday, May 25, 2009

To come out or not to come out.

May 31st 2009 is the 5th year anniversary of my "coming out" to my parents. I was a faithful Catholic back then as I am now so it mostly consisted of me informing my parents that I was likely to be barred from the priesthood due to my struggle with same-sex attraction. At the time I labeled myself as bi-sexual since I did experience the occasional attraction to women. Which I am certain the vast majority of gay guys do, but that’s for another posting. Eventually I would come to call myself “gay” but I have issues with that now, but again that’s for another posting. The real question I would like to grapple with is one of prudence. Unless you have been living under a rock it is pretty clear that there is a LOT of confusion about same-sex attraction. I am convinced that this is due in part to how few who struggle with it have opened up. The dilemma is this: I have been advised by multiple Catholic pastors/Christian leaders to keep my struggle with same-sex attraction quiet. I can see an issue of it being made known for a couple reasons: 1) The tendency to place one’s entire identity in one’s orientation is especially strong among those who struggle with SSA. Whatever one may say about theories in regards to its development, I suspect identity perception has something to do with the core of its development. 2) It exposes one to being extra tempted by those who struggle likewise, either openly or secretly. It makes one an easy target for seduction.

The problem is neither of those were reasons these leaders gave to me. The main reason given was misunderstandings could arise that would lead to me being ostracized. I have frequently acted as a youth minister or in some other leadership position, which then made the possible ramifications of misunderstanding that much worse. However, part of me thinks that this only makes the whole cycle of confusion and misunderstanding worse. I mean, how else are we going to get past those misunderstandings unless we talk about them openly? It’s not like I am going to just come right out during the middle of mass and scream "I’m GAY! And it’s fabulous!" I could see myself maybe convening a special meeting to share my struggles and how to charitably approach the issue as Catholics. For the most part I would just let people know what it’s like when it comes up. The fact is “keeping it quiet” perpetuates the cycle on several levels. 1) On a communal level, people judge, criticize “those gays” without understanding why people are driven to such behavior. It’s not that the “gay rights” activists are all that innocent, but is anyone? Perhaps if Catholics knew other Catholics who struggled with SSA it would be less of an ideological battle and more of an interior fight to love. 2) Even worse is on the personal level. Here I am trying to overcome the overwhelming sense of shame and when I bring it up I’m told in effect: “That’s too messed up to talk about openly; keep it quiet or people will demonize you”. Unfortunately there is another phenomenon that also occurs, when you’re being told to keep big secrets you learn to keep big secrets. I am among the unbelievable number of men who have maintained, at least in part, homosexual relationships on the side without anyone knowing about it. To this day very few of my friends know the extent to which I have strayed in some of my darker days. I’m back on track now, but there have been several points in my life which I was extremely close to abandoning everything for a gay relationship. It felt like the only honest thing to do. On second thought it actually felt like it was the only way I could get help. I knew it would bring total derision from some, but at least others would see me in a more honest light. However if I were to have done that it would only reinforces the misunderstandings! The same false perceptions these pastors are afraid of. Sad day.

To this day I’m still perplexed about this. At some point in my life I may have to be open about it, for now I will be silent. Well, not to those I’m accountable to, but you get the picture. That was a big reason I started this blog, so I could remain anonymous, but still fight the misunderstandings.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Jumping to Conclusions

I know, I'm too far behind for the journalistic standards of the blogosphere, but I wanted to address this story about Archbishop Robert Weakland (emeritus of Milwaukee) - the revelation that his soon-to-be-published autobiography includes him speaking frankly about his struggles with homosexuality.

Of course, the Catholic blogosphere was abuzz with the expected critiques.  How sadly unsurprising, that a liberal bishop already in scandal who did great harm to the Liturgy (though his social justice works were good) throws into his autobiography accolades for the gay lifestyle, they all seemed to say.

I suspend real judgment until I've read the book (which I intend to do this summer, with a review to be posted here).  I do believe that Catholics who are promoting such things have a significantly flawed understanding of what it means to be Catholic, and a bishop doing so is doubly scandalous (meant in the Biblical sense, i.e., leading others to sin).

But here I take the Archbishop at his word.  He says that the book discusses "his struggles".  That's good.  We all have struggles, and it's important for us as humans to understand each others'.  What will make or break the book is how he portrays those struggles: as a natural struggle which he tried to overcome (falling repeatedly, but always getting back up to try again), or as an imposed struggle to which he would not have been bound had the Catholic Church only wisened up and got with the times.

I look forward to the read.  I will do my best not to judge this book by its cover.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Something Is Missing

I read a lot of blogs (more than I'd like to admit, actually), several of which discuss themes of gender and sexuality. I would like to highlight two of them in particular as symptomatic of the same problems faced by many people who are in support of traditional marriage.

Recently, the Art of Manliness (a laudable website that suggests that what it means to be a man is to be honest, loyal, thoughtful, courageous, brave, caring, etc, and helps men to practice these virtues) reviewed a NY Times blog post about gender in adolescents (particularly, in boys). The Times post began with the story of a little boy who actually shot himself because a bully suggested he should (said bully, along with other classmates, had been telling this boy he was gay just because he did well in school). It then mused that despite the fact that gender has become much more flexible in this day and age than it once was, the reactions of little boys today are very similar to what they might have been 50 years ago: if a boy doesn't meet others' standard of rugged manliness, he is ostracized and his manliness called into question.

The authors of AOM (Art of Manliness) connected this with the growing movement in our generation (20-somethings) to return to what he called "gender roots" - that is, our innate gender identity as felt deeply within us, before the pansexual prodding of today's society.

Another blog, For the Love of Men, looks at gender roles from a complementary female perspective. In the recent post linked above, she begins:

THE VAST MAJORITY of responses I get about this blog are very positive. There is no doubt in my mind that men and women have had enough of being told how they should act and think around each other. Our intuitive wisdom about our sexual natures is too strong to be quashed anymore.

She speaks with strong language about the innate sexual desires written on our hearts and in our bodies, in part because she'd been taught for so many years to ignore them and do as society told her to (something I'm sure many readers of this blog can relate to).

There is much truth in the views expressed on both blogs. I firmly believe that today's boys and girls need to know that it's okay to be men and women, rather than some androgynous, politically correct in-between thing. But both blogs, like the previously-mentioned book Captivating that, well, failed to captivate me, are missing something crucial: a bridge to unusual experiences of gender and sexuality.

There are things innate to being a man. I do not possess these things. Rather, I possess things innate to my womanness. Yet I feel supremely comfortable doing many manly things, and less than comfortable doing many womanly things. There are plenty of aspects of womanhood with which I simply do not identify. So if womanhood means following my instincts and feelings as a woman, what does that mean when I don't feel womanly?

That paragraph is not very clear, but I don't know how to phrase it any better, and I think its very confusion underscores my point: Whether you believe homosexual tendencies are innate or inbred, nature or nurture, genetic or psychological, the fact remains that there are plenty of men who don't identify with typical manliness and women who don't identify with stereotypical womanliness. Whether they're meant to be that way or something went wrong and such feelings are a by-product thereof, these men and women don't feel things the way they "should." The rules that apply to heteronormative men and women cannot be applied in the same way.

And it is from this stark contrast, this great confusion, that the gender continuum we have today arises. Neither way is an effective solution. I don't know what is a good solution, and I'll continue poking my little head around until I find something that is, but in the meantime all I can do is point out the holes in others' arguments and hope that eventually I'll find enough little pieces to put together something of my own.