I wanted to follow up Kyle’s excellent recent post on the complexity of sexual identity with my own account of bisexuality. I’m certainly not trying to characterize Tom Daley or anyone else, but I wanted to give some picture of what it could mean for a man to have a bisexual orientation.
There’s a fairly widespread belief that bisexuality doesn’t really exist in men. From what I can tell, there are a variety of reasons for this belief. I think one of the more common reasons is that it is quite common for gay men to initially identify as bisexual. That leads to the suspicion that any man claiming to be bisexual simply hasn’t been able to accept himself as gay yet. Some skepticism stems from a 2005 study titled “Sexual Arousal Patterns of Bisexual Men” that failed to find evidence that male bisexuality actually existed, although a 2011 study titled “Sexual Arousal Patterns of Bisexual Men Revisited” using the same methodology showed a different result. I was always puzzled by the 2005 study, given that my experience contradicts the conclusion many people were drawing from it. There is also need for caution in interpreting the results of both studies, because the methodology used simply involved measuring genital arousal in response to certain forms of pornography. Thus, it only measured one part of attraction under artificial laboratory conditions and may not be reflective of someone’s full experience of sexual orientation. Given that I’ve never used porn, I’m actually not certain what results I would have gotten under the studied conditions.
This post just came across my Facebook news feed; I offer it as a playful reminder that, while we here at Spiritual Friendship talk about sexuality a lot, there’s more to life than being gay! The nature of this website means that sexuality and “allied fields” are mostly what we talk about here, but there’s much more out there! Those who denounce us for calling ourselves gay or queer or what have you are over-making their case, certainly; but there is a certain basic truth that underlies their argument. It is true that our fundamental identity must come from Christ; it’s just that Christ is not the only name by which we may call ourselves.
With that being said, gay is just one word that describes Stephen Lovegrove. Attraction to guys is just one characteristic that describes me. And my sexual orientation is a very small part of my multi-faceted, complicated, and spectacular life. So I write today to say, there’s more to life than being gay.
I have an essay that has been published over at Ethika Politika today, a combined response to four recent articles pushing the “don’t say gay” claim.
In it, I explore the meaning and value of gayness from a historical perspective in conversation with two queer intellectuals—Michel Foucault (a lapsed Catholic atheist) and Marc-Andre Raffalovich (a devout Catholic convert from Judaism). Here is a brief taste:
History always involves a certain amount of anachronism, of reading the past in light of the present, precisely because history is something constructed in the present. Despite professing to be an attempt to raise our level of moral virtue (and I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of this profession), the “don’t say gay” claim, applied to history, robs gay people of almost all of the great examples of moral virtue they have. By ripping up our current cultural framework for the understanding of sexuality, we might legitimately claim that men like Hopkins and Raffalovich weren’t really gay at all, but at what cost? Once you’ve redefined faithful, orthodox gay Christians out of existence, and once you’ve erased them from history, the claim that you can’t be gay and a good Christian simply becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
You can read the rest here.
Many of you have likely seen this picture that Nevine Zaki posted in 2011, depicting Christians in Egypt protecting Muslims during prayer:
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) recently established an online resource entitled Marriage: Unique for a Reason, to educate Catholics on why marriage “should be promoted and protected as the union of one man and one woman.”
Done properly, this is an important task. But it must be remembered that the debate about gay marriage is less about homosexuality than it is about the nature and purpose of marriage as an institution and as a sacrament. Precisely because we are in need of sound teaching on this topic, it is disappointing to see the USCCB’s website—whose posts are written by anonymous “staff” rather than by bishops—used not to teach about marriage, but as an opportunity for promoting half-baked theories about homosexuality.
I wanted to talk about the difference between a narrative of “orientation change” and one of “mixed orientation marriage,” and how I see that from a Catholic perspective.
I’ve struggled for a long time with the notion of “sexual orientation.” In some ways, the Courage party line, that there are no homosexuals, just heterosexuals with same-sex attraction, is true. Ontologically, theologically, it would seem to be a justifiable statement. The problem is, no one really talks ontologically in daily life. We say “I’m depressed,” not “I am a human being who is experiencing depression,” or “I’m a Liverpool fan” not “I am a person with Liverpool Football Attractions (LFA).”
The difficulty with this in terms of the “gay” debate, is that a lot of people do intend the term “gay” or “queer” ontologically. Today this is perhaps less true than it was in the 90′s, but the basic meme “I’m gay. That’s who I am” is still alive and well and living in San Francisco. This means that if someone like myself, or Josh Gonnerman, says “I’m gay/queer…and Catholic, and chaste,” it raises some eyebrows. Do I mean that I’m “queer” in the depths of my identity, that I am a queer child of God, or am I using language casually, I’m “queer” in the same way that I’m a board-game geek?
My friend Fr. Stewart Ruch III, the newly elected Anglican (ACNA) bishop of the Diocese of the Upper Midwest, was recently interviewed about a sermon he gave on celibacy. For many years, Fr. Stewart has been the rector of Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, Illinois, and in this interview he draws on several conversations he had with celibate members of his parish.
Here’s a taste:
I wanted to talk about a larger issue than just human marriage or singleness. I wanted to talk about the very goal of human personhood. God in Christ wants to marry humanity. He chose spiritual marriage, the great marriage of our souls with God, as a kind of beatific vision, the end goal of all of our personhood. Marriage with God is a dramatic biblical metaphor for God’s relationship with his people.
The concept of “singleness” can’t do justice to this. For one thing, no one is autonomous or truly “single.” When we realize this, we begin to see that every person is profoundly connected, and has the ultimate destiny of absolute communion with God.
Often, the problem in the church is that “singles” get left behind. We subtly communicate that marriage and raising a family is the “big deal” of Christianity. That’s incomplete. Celibacy, just like marriage, points us towards the real big deal—the marriage of God in Christ with humanity. A celibate Christian can be a sign of living faithfully into that marriage. Celibacy is a far more rounded, nuanced, positive word to say what our theology calls us into. I call those embracing this lifestyle “celibate” because they’re actually being called to live in full marriage with God as a picture of what we’re all going to be when there’s no giving and taking of marriage in heaven.
Read the whole thing.
Last week I had a great lunch w/another gay Christian woman. We differ pretty strongly on how one follows Christ, both in terms of communion/church (she’s a Protestant) and, relatedly, in terms of chastity. But the difference which I found most striking wasn’t a difference in belief; it was our respective emotional responses to some of the terms people use to describe “my side” of the Christian discussion of sexual orientation and chastity.
My new friend described me as “single,” which for her was a neutral to positive term. “Celibate,” which is the term I usually use for myself, sounded really negative to her. I wish we’d talked about this longer, since I don’t know exactly what she associated with “celibacy”: repression, frigidity, spinsterhood, perversion? I do know what I associate with the term “single,” though: stressed-out straight women made miserable by the unhappy prospect of dating (or, and this is sometimes even worse, not dating) straight men.
In my last post, I pointed out the way that some Christians have exploited the ambiguous meaning of the word “gay” to make misleading promises (like “You don’t have to be gay”) to others.
Today, I want to look at how the word is sometimes used to mislead others—including other Christians—about the speaker’s own life and experiences.
Consider, for example, the sad case of Dr. George Rekers. He helped co-found the Family Research Council, and was for many years a member of the board and scientific advisor for the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). He was a leading opponent of gay rights and advocate of reparative therapy for several decades.
In 2010, he hired a man who worked as a male prostitute to accompany him on a trip to Europe. Allegedly, his travel assistant provided him with daily sexual massage services during the trip.
When these accusations became public, Dr. Rekers denied that he was gay.
This is the fourth in a series of posts looking at my Catholic Faith, and how it relates to my life and my sexuality. Click to see the first, second, and third installments.
The term “gay” can be both descriptive and constructive. It can be used as a term to describe particular emotions, sentiments, orientations, and actions. Or it can be used as a means by which one identifies oneself and one’s relation to the world. The word “Catholic” is always both constructive and descriptive. It describes one’s religious affiliation, but it is also a means of identification and construction; it becomes a center upon which one builds one’s life. It is not used merely to describe one’s beliefs. Rather, it dictates a way of life and has a command and affect on how we view ourselves. An identification with “Catholic” implies radical change and carries constructive force.