Yesterday, Tom Daley, the Olympic medalist in diving from England, came out in a short five-minute video on YouTube.
You’ll note I said, “came out,” which in current parlance can mean several things, but is most commonly taken to mean publicly identifying as gay. Indeed as this article in the Guardian points out, many major media outlets took it this way, describing Daley as having come out as gay. However, if you watch the video, Daley never claims a particular sexual identity (gay, bisexual, or otherwise), but simply says that he is in a relationship with another guy. Indeed, he adds that he still fancies girls and that his relationship with this guy seemingly took him by surprise. What do we make of a statement like this? And is it even our job to make something of it?
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.
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.
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.
Aaron Taylor recently wrote a critique of the use (or abuse) of the category of “disorder” in relation to homosexual acts here at Spiritual Friendship. To my mind, the most important of his observations was the following:
First, the claim that homosexual acts are disordered obviously entails the judgment that the inclination to those acts is disordered. However, this is usually heard as the Church calling the sexuality of gays and lesbians disordered in toto. Given that the Church teaches that sexuality “affects all aspects of the human person,” it is almost impossible for the layman to distinguish this from the claim that the entire personalities of gay people are disordered.
It seems to me that the core problem that this term has when it comes to the relation between the Catholic Church and the gay community is the oft-repeated inaccuracy that the Church teaches that gay people are disordered. When someone says this, I think it touches a good deal more directly on the “homosexual inclinations are objectively disordered” than on the “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” (though, as Aaron notes, the two are linked.)
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.
In contemporary culture, “gay” is the most common word for describing homosexual persons. This has become so much a part of the default language that Pope Francis used it as a neutral description of a person’s sexual attractions in response to a question at a recent press conference.
I think a lot of the language debates that go on around homosexuality make mountains out of molehills (I could link to examples, but why give traffic to posts I think are hurting the discussion?). I am more interested in talking about vocation, friendship, celibacy, and other questions which I think address more important needs.
Still, language can cause confusion, and stirs up a lot of debate. So I’m going to say something about it, even though I think the arguments have been blown out of proportion.
This is the first in a series of posts looking at my Catholic Faith, and how it relates to my life and my sexuality.
For a time now, I have been engaging in intense self-reflection, considering the direction that my life seems to be taking and the ways in which I can develop as a Catholic and as a human being. It seems to me that many Catholics today are confused about their relationship to the Church and its teachings about sexuality. Many are unsure of whether they can find a place in the Church. They feel alienated by misunderstandings, confusions, misrepresentations, unjust caricatures, and unfounded discriminations.
I count myself as among these Catholics. And I’ve realized that, if I am going to get past these obstacles, it is time for me to be open about myself and to reach out to others who are like me.
The main point of this post is the firm and frank admission: I’m gay.