Monday, August 31, 2009


Sometimes I have the most illuminating conversations with friends who have no personal experience with homosexuality. I am often impressed at how clearly they perceive some things, and interested to learn which things they have little to no concept of.

This weekend, I was discussing this blog with just such a friend, talking about how thrilled I am to have discovered a medium in which I can spread my knowledge about homosexuality without publicly associating myself with it. Because not only would public association as an ex-gay draw all kinds of attention (mostly negative or ostracizing) to me, but (more importantly) it would brand the children I hope to have with a terrible label. Can you imagine being raised by a woman who was known for having left the gay lifestyle? It'd be worse than being a Preacher's Kid!

My friend then spoke with great perception: I seem to still connect some part of my identity now with who was then. But I really wasn't very deep in the gay subculture; I was just a high schooler who experimented a bit. It was as if he said, Is it really so important to take your past so seriously?

He had a very good point. If people with SSA are thrown into a murky lake and are forced to just tread water for most of their lives (in such a case, it's little wonder many just give in and enter the society below the water), I was the weird kid who thought it'd be a good idea to run into the water and splash around a bit, 'cuz my friend in there wanted some company, but really, I was never so far in that I couldn't touch the ground. In fact, it's debatable whether I was ever bodily submerged. But after my miraculous healing (thank you, Eucharistic Jesus!), in which I was enabled to get up, walk out of the muddy lake, dry myself off, and clean myself thoroughly, I've been mostly surrounded by people who've done no more than look upon that lake from afar, or perhaps watched with confusion and sadness as dear friends of theirs foundered in that same lake.

So the question became: is that part of my past, which is entirely divorced from who I am now, really so important? Or can I just brush it off as something I did once when I was young and stupid?

But then reality set in. While my brief foray into the life of a lesbian is an insignificant mistake I made in high school, and fits into the grand scheme of mistakes that most people make in high school, there's one crucial difference here: other people's perceptions.

If you did drugs in high school, people are pleased that you're clean. If you were a partygoer, people are pleased that you've discovered priorities (or at least that you now only get wasted sometimes). If you slept around, that's a shame, but at least you came to a fuller understanding of sexuality with enough time to start over, if you will, before marriage. But if you committed sexual sins with another girl? Ooo, that's weird. People distance themselves from you, wonder whether that's still a part of you. Or else they think it's awesome that you had that experience because it broadens your horizons (these people then think you condone such sins). Regardless, it changes how people perceive you, and it takes either a great deal of unconditional love or a whole lot of explanation on your part for people to understand where you've been and to treat you the same way they did before they learned of your past.

Gay relationships are still scandalous. As much as they are becoming more mainstream and accepted, they still confuse people and incite strong emotions (which are often divorced from reason because of their strength). And we all struggle with judgmentalism, with treating people differently because of what we know about them.

No, I will not back down on this one. Think about how hard it was to grow up without a family reputation to break free from. The sins of my past are insignificant, but other people do not understand this, and I refuse to burden my children with my sins. These stories will stay here, remaining entirely separate from my daily life (I'll be like Batman!).

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The full spectrum

The rainbow has been a gay pride symbol since 1978. Gilbert Baker of San Francisco first developed it. Some suspect the Wizard of Oz had something to do with this. The song "Over the Rainbow" I find resonates very deeply with this struggle (not to mention how idolized Judy Garland was by the gay community). Today the flag simply represents diversity. Originally it had eight colors, each of which was symbolic. The original eight colors were hot pink, red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, indigo, violet. Pink = sexuality, Red = life, Orange = healing, Yellow = sunshine, Green = nature, Turquoise = art/magic, Indigo = serenity/harmony, Violet = Spirit. Due to fabric constraints it was reduced to seven minus the pink. This quickly morphed into the six color flag that is common today, which has red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.

If you are observant you will notice that our design does not match any of the above sequences. I must admit this was not intentionally done. When we first designed it we assumed the popular symbol simply followed the naturally occurring color sequence, popularly remember as Roy G. Biv (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet), or the more proper CMYK (red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, blue and violet). We chose the former for aesthetic reasons. In Catholic culture I am sure each color can easily represent a different meaning, however what struck me more was the numeric significance.

Two things: First off, this blog's premise is that 1) Homosexuality is unnatural 2) No one has the complete picture. Secondly, According to Thomistic understanding (and Aristotelian understanding before that), moral virtue is the median between two extremes. It requires proper quantity and kind. Therefore any addition or subtraction leads to vice and/or an improper hierarchy, and improper order leads to vice. In the original flag there is not only an improper order, since it doesn't follow the naturally occurring rainbow (there is no blue), it also has an additional color: pink. Hot pink actually. The subsequent flag due to the lack of that color in fabrics still had an improper order (still no blue) and finally the modern flag has only SIX colors. It is missing indigo or cyan depending on which rainbow you go by. In Jewish numerology the number six is the number of incompleteness. Seven, on the other hand, is the number of completeness, of fullness.

Seven is a unique number that occurs in nature in various ways beyond just the primary colors. There are seven days in a week and what's really cool is how there are seven primary notes in a scale (an octave is formed by the repetition of a higher pitched first note of a scale). In Catholicism there are seven sacraments and seven capital virtues that fight against seven vices. Need I say more about that?

When it comes to the symbolism of the colors themselves, note that the modern flag no longer contains the colors for "serenity" or "art". I'm not sure if the blue is meant to symbolize something; perhaps it symbolizes both; if it doesn't, that's pretty significant. In either case the color for "sexuality" is removed. This perhaps is most symbolic because in reality homosexuality isn't sexuality at all. True sexuality is that which is unitive and procreative. Intentional disregard for these ends in the use of the sexual faculties in a way denies the activity the right to be even labeled "sexual". Today that term more often simply means "involving aroused genitals of one or more people". The teleology of sexuality has been usurped in people's minds by a motivation for its by-product (sexual arousal), making them no longer cognizant of its true end, which is far superior in every dimension to any consequent personal satisfaction gained in the process. The subtraction of hot pink from the rainbow ironically indicates that homosexuality isn't really sexuality at all.

I don't believe in coincidences; even something simple can contain vast amounts of meaning. It is significant to me that we try to complete this picture and to do it in the proper order, both literally and figuratively.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Patron Saints

We Catholics often like to ask the saints to pray for us, akin to how we might ask our friends to pray for a particular intention, except that the saints are much closer to God than anyone here on earth.  Many saints are patrons of something; that is, they have a particular connection to that intention (whether it's an occupation, a country, a state in life, etc), and God seems to heed their petitions more closely in those areas.  It's kind of like when I ask my mom to pray for my friends (which I do a lot).  She'll gladly pray for all of them, for whatever their problems may be, but when I asked her to pray for the 24-year old girl whose father just died, I'm sure she prayed much harder, because her own father died at 22.  Praying to the saints goes kind of like that.

So Catholics often wonder who is the patron saint of homosexuality?  Is there a saint to whom they can look for an example as to how to live past this cross?  Someone who can intercede for others who has full knowledge of their situation and how it affects life?

Unfortunately, there is no official patron saint for homosexuality.  A priest once suggested to me St Charles Lwanga, a Ugandan missionary who was martyred (along with many men who converted to Christianity because of his testimony) partly for being Christian in a pagan country, but also because they refused to let the king have his way with them.  While tangentially related to the cross that gays carry, I find his story to be rather lacking in many of the essentials that a patron saint should have, and I do not find him sufficient as a patron for this (though he really is a pretty awesome saint in his own right).

So where else to go?  It's not like there's a registry that suggests that this and such saint may have struggled with same-sex attratction.  Admittedly, the active gay community has claimed a few saints (the historical claims behind which are tenuous at best), but that's still not the same.  We don't have a great option right now...

But I do have someone I pray to.  The Servant of God Terence Cardinal Cooke was Cardinal Archbishop of New York at the time Courage was founded there, and that is enough for me.  While he's not canonized yet, the process has been begun, and that's enough to guarantee to me that he's in heaven praying for me when I ask him to.

Terence Cardinal Cooke, pray for us.
All you saints and angels, pray for us.
All holy men and women, pray for us.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Terminology - Gay & Homosexual

I hate to post something like this so late in the game. But it needs to be done. Words are extremely important . Over time it seems the connotative can overpower and replace the denotative. With something that is very emotionally charged this can lead to muddled denotation. With the word "gay" this is certainly the case.

According to the dictionary, gay means a homosexual. When and how this happened is for another post. "Homosexual" according to is: "(noun) sexual desire or behavior directed toward a person or persons of one's own sex." I balk at this in general since it links sex with sexual behavior. You can have a homosexual high-five, two people of the same sex giving a high five. It completely removes the idea of one having a sex without having to have sex. I also balk at this when being applied to a person for the following reasons: 1) There are folks who have homosexual encounters without being particularly attracted to people of the same sex. 2) There are folks who have infrequent or minimal same sex attraction. It can mitigate the gradation in sexual orientation. 3) The word homosexual wasn't even coined until the late 19th century by psychiatrists. (Interesting to note is the word heterosexuality originally denoted the desire to have sex with the opposite sex without family life.) Prior to that point sodomite or pervert was given. Nevertheless, when understood properly this is a good definition to describe non-personal behaviors or inclinations. I would be inclined to state that a person is a homosexual only when either inclinations and/or behaviors are predominant. If someone is homosexual by predominance in behaviors - regardless of inclinations - the term "active" is best applied in conjunction for clarity. Behaviors or inclinations that are directly related to sexual acts with people of the same sex are homosexual too.

The problem is that the word "gay", more so than "homosexual", seems to carry connotations and thus restrictions or non-existent implications. For whatever reason there ARE "gay" subcultures, and predominant "gay" subcultures at that. Sometimes when the word is used it is meant that the person it is applied to chooses to act on their un-chosen same sex attraction (SSA). Or even simply that they have many of the mannerisms or preferences associated with the term. When it is used in the pejorative sense this is especially clear.

An even deeper issue is how "gay" fits into the English language. English in general is odd in that we say "I am hungry;" we speak as if it is a state of being, as opposed to other languages which say "I have hunger," something that is possessed. English has no way of conveying depth or duration of a state of being without being verbose. The closest we get is in the distinction between titles and general nouns. We say "I am hungry" or "I am tired", not "I am a hungry" or "I am a tired". It's as if we are saying we share in this universal nature of hunger or tiredness or sloppiness or whatever. This can lead to some level of identity conflation when it comes to other things we say we are. For this reason, along with what was mentioned earlier about the frequently concurrent mannerisms and preferences, it is easy for the word to conjure a huge chunk of identity in the person whom it is being applied to. If so-and-so says "Bobby is gay," one cannot help but think back to earlier interactions with Bobby and recall aspects of his personality and preferences that somehow are now linked to his sexual preferences. It's easy to get trapped and have it consume one's entire identity, which is why I am uncomfortable saying "I'm gay". Since it seems identity issues are at least correlated to same sex attraction, it is also another reason to be cautious.

Many people who believe in reparative therapy or even just the immorality of homosexual acts avoid using this term for those reasons. It's kind of funny now that I think about it. One of the aforementioned arguments against using the word gay is that it connotes or even denotes aspects of one's identity and personality that aren't necessarily true or at least desirable. But if there is genuine correlation between the term and one's preferences, temperament and mannerisms, wouldn't that aid in the argument that homosexual inclinations are largely developed by implicating these other aspects as precursors or exacerbating factors?

Also I feel that many who oppose using the term gay are doing so for more subtle reasons, primarily out of an anxiety to not endorse anything they cannot condone. I can't help feel when I use the term that I am somehow conceding to an agenda, that they have succeeded in warping language. That somehow by using the term "gay" I am legitimizing certain aspects of it that I can't agree with. And when applying it to myself I can somehow communicate that I condone the behaviors that are immoral or even practice them myself. However, these people fail to see that CULTURES define words, not necessarily intellectuals who can make clear distinctions. Even if an agenda pushed for a term, if it is adopted we need to respect how context defines things.

If "gay" is simply understood by the culture to mean: "One who has predominant same sex attraction," then I'm gay. Nevertheless it is next to impossible to weed out associations. Then again, there are campy stereotypically gay preferences and mannerisms that I do have. So if "gay" were to mean: "Someone who has predominant SSA and more than likely associated mannerisms and preferences" I would still fall into that category. If "gay" means to most people: "I experience predominant SSA, I participate in homosexual behavior and have many of the correlated preferences and mannerisms" I would STILL fall into that category. However if it meant: "I experience same sex attraction, I participate in and CONDONE homosexual behavior and have many of the correlated preferences and mannerisms," only then I would have a problem with it.

When I am confronted with all of the additional words I need to use to articulate myself and other nouns without using the word "gay" I am faced with a daunting task. Additionally, I risk alienating my audience. While I am not one for dumbing down my vocabulary, I do appreciate the effort to relate to people with words that show I can empathize with them. In the end it comes down to two primary dangers: First is the social, somehow by saying "gay" I am conveying that I condone immoral behaviors and false ideas. Or even just that I agree with something I don't, simple miscommunication. Second is the danger of it consuming my identity or overshadowing the identity of other nouns which I apply it to, especially people. In which case I view the word much like the term "sinner". It is something that I am and will be until I die. There is even a nature to being a sinner that is immediately connotatively suggested. The danger is letting that become the focus. If I avoid applying the word entirely to me I can fall into pride. If I use it to much I can fall into despair. Likewise if I use the word "gay" too much it can overshadow my personality and usurp my identity. For the purpose of this blog "gay" will mean not only "a person who experiences predominant SSA", but also "those preferences, personality traits and mannerisms associated with SSA and homosexual behavior". Context will largely communicate which is which.

Thus, there is gay culture. Even if there is segregation and even polar opposites it doesn't stop it from existing. Pink and pleather can be gay, but so can cowboy outfits. Light is a particle and a wave. Denying that light exists isn't going to solve it. It is a difficulty, not a doubt. A thousand difficulties do not make one doubt. Fortunately there are terms to describe the differences, i.e., pink and pleather = fem or queen (which is a fem guy) and butch. I plan to do a post talking about all the subcultures someday.

With that being said, the only final argument against using gay as a term that denotes associative things (for lack of a better word) with homosexuality is that it can extend or validate that with which is associated. This can lead to excessive suspicion, which in turn can lead to legit homophobia and loss of that which is good and not explicitly or more fundamentally tied with homosexuality. All of us have something we like, do, think about etc... that can be considered "gay" in this sense. A good way to avoid this is to systematically bring up all that which is seen as gay which shouldn't be. Which really is the purpose of this blog. To point out how we are all gay, but not all gay and that one can be gay without being gay ultimately so we can all be gay.
In all of these instances gay meant something different. And that's ok, I'm not going to stop using the word because some people may not be able to distinguish its meaning based on context, but I will make an effort to make sure what I mean by it is clear.

For simplicity's sake, in this blog the word gay can mean:
1) A person who is homosexual (according to definition above)
2) A person who condones homosexuality and is homosexual ("pro-gay homosexual" is best)
3) Behaviors or inclinations directly related to homosexuality
5) Those mannerisms and preferences that are culturally or indirectly associated with being homosexual
5) Being happy

There are many uses of the word gay which one can be without belonging to the others, too (with the exception of two).