29 thoughts on “This is Not Blue

    • I made the mistake of scrolling down to the comment section of Mattson’s post hoping to have a thoughtful discussion about this topic, but after reading the first few responses, it seems like trying to reach any level of consensus there will require way more energy than I have at the moment. Maybe we can start here, what specific parts of Mattson’s post did you agree with Jim?

  1. I think one of Mattson’s main flaws is that he thinks adopting the label “gay” means that one MUST find their main sexual identity in that instead of “man or woman”. The problem lies underneath the label, though. Someone can still find their main identity in their sexual attractions even if they avoid the label altogether, and someone can still find their main sexual identity as a “man or woman” even if they use “gay” to describe their attractions. What should be discussed is why we shouldn’t find our main identities in our attractions, regardless of how we label our experience. Mattson seems to assume that if he brings down the label “gay” then he will do away with people finding identity in attraction, and that just isn’t the case…he is effectively removing the real issue from the conversation.

    • I don’t think he’s saying that everyone must do anything at all. I think he’s saying that people have the option to describe themselves by whatever qualities they feel communicates an accurate picture of themselves as they see themselves. My being black – though less fundamental to my identity than other aspects of my life – nevertheless is a descriptor I am always forced to use when meeting someone who hasn’t seen me before in an airport, say, or meeting for coffee. It’s a heuristic. If it doesn’t work for a person i sincerely doubt that this clever illustration should inspire connotations which are intended to hold the force of law or cultural norm.

      • It seems to me that Mattson’s last statement is saying exactly what Nick claims. He ends the article by saying, “I am not gay. I am a man.” Whether it’s intentional or not, this implies that the two are mutually exclusive or at the very least in conflict which seems odd to me as, in my mind, sexual identity has little to do with gender identity.

  2. In his article, he says ….”they [Christians who use terminology like gay and celibate] fail to see the world and themselves as they truly are: as sexual beings, we are solely, and completely, male and female, ordered towards our sexual opposite, and have been such since the beginning of Creation. Sadly, in their own confusion, they are leading young people down a path of confusion as well.”

    I think he forgets about the fall and how it deeply affects. Yes, I am male and as a male, I should be attracted to my sexual opposite. But… I’m not. I view this a manifestation of the fall and my own personal brokenness. I tend to not to focus on whether I should use the term gay, SSA, or something else to describe my broken desires (I don’t find it really relevant to dealing with it). God has ability to remove this cross (or lessen it) but Let His will be done. This cross may remain for the rest of my life (like St. Paul’s thorn in his side that gave him “strength in weakness”). What this ultimately means for my vocation, I’m not quite sure, but God has given me many graces to overcome my trials (although I’m definitely not perfect).

    I think Mattson fails to see that we (whether we like or not) are all broken in someway or another due the manifestation of the fall (which leads to concupiscence). I don’t think it is wrong to acknowledge this. The catechism acknowledges that our own weaknesses and inclination to evil remain after baptism. They are the trials and tribulations we deal with on our journey with Christ. We can’t fight what we don’t acknowledge.

    ***Obviously I am coming from a Catholic perspective (Although I am still young and still trying to grapple and understand the full catechism of the RCC. Additionally, I acknowledge that other denominations may have different doctrine regarding fall and original sin).

    Hope I didn’t ramble too much. 🙂

    • I think that you are right in that you are coming from A [Roman] Catholic perspective. There are other Catholic perspectives and I very much enjoy the chorus of perspectives allowed by the moderators of this forum. It allows me to THINK as many saints, many of them Franciscan, would welcome as we ponder the great diversity of God’s creation.

  3. I do see Mattson’s point that we now identify particular sexual attractions in a way that we didn’t use to. I think that may be because of the Modern insistence both that sexual expression is necessary for love and happiness, and that children are optional, even with relations between two healthy, fertile people of opposite sex.

    With sex being supposedly so vital, it becomes necessary to make distinctions that just weren’t relevant during times when being childless was considered a tragedy, and sexual relations were just one way people might show love and intimacy, and not necessarily even the best.

    It makes me think of the complicated racial system in New Orleans, where there were actually different words for people with different levels of black ancestry. I seem to remember quadroon (I think that referred to someone who had one black grandparent).

    Is having one black grandparent a real condition? Sure. Is it central to one’s core identity? It could be, but probably shouldn’t be. But in New Orleans during a certain time period, how does it help to refuse the use the term when it is a constant factor in your social life?

    I see the term gay and all the “letters” similarly. It’s a categorization that should be unnecessary if we give sex its proper place rather than seeing it as a necessity for love and happiness.

    When you look on the vocation of marriage as being for the raising of children, and helping your spouse to heaven, then it doesn’t really matter if you’re usually attracted to the same sex. You just need to be attracted enough to one member of the opposite sex to procreate. Sure, such a couple’s sex life might not be the best, but it would have been seen as a much greater tragedy to be married and not have children than to have an unsatisfactory sex life.

    But this is where we are now. Because sex is made the only possible source for love and intimacy, it becomes necessary to over categorize it, and so we have. And thus, we will have to use terms like “gay” or “SSA” or whatever the world understands so we can talk about it, as long as the world continues to be more concerned with our sex lives than our love lives.

    The teen boy experiencing same sex attractions should see them simply as a temptation to sin, which may or may not go away. He should not see them as an absolute impediment to a real marriage, and certainly not as an impediment to a full, love-filled life.

    But we’re not there yet. And not talking about it won’t keep that boy from calling himself gay. It’ll just lead him to believe his choice is between living according to God’s will, or having love.

    • I completely agree that our culture (both secular and Christian) has overstated the importance of sex in our lives. I think I differ a bit in my view of why people go to such lengths to categorize themselves distinctly and accurately, though. I see it as a means of gaining self-awareness. I think it’s just human nature (or at least the nature of some) to want to search within themselves and be able to accurately describe their thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a way that allows for better understanding of who we are and therefore how we relate to God and others.

    • I think there’s another essential point that Mattson ignores: we now know much more about sexual orientation than we have in the past – especially recognizing the innate and mostly immutable nature of it. Where before, one could simply chalk gay sex acts up to a lustful, perverted choice; now we understand that gay intimacy flows from LGB orientation and can be expressed in life-giving or destructive ways (just like straight orientation).

      The cultural context in which we form and examine our beliefs has been transformed by new information. To deny the existence of sexual orientation, as Mattson and other traditionalist Christians are want to do, is the relational equivalent of young earth creationism.

  4. I can see your point. One of my favorite pastimes is analyzing things. I think there are many different ways we can categorize ourselves, which can lead to self knowledge. This is one of them.

    Another could be native language. For example, English speakers have a much more precise system for indicating time than many other languages. Other languages have ways of indicating all the different time distinctions, but English requires you to make them where other languages do not. Similarly, Japanese requires you to be aware of a much more complex degree of social relationship just to speak it – verbs actually change based on relationship.

    Now language, for most of us, effects us at least as much as sexuality. There’s no problem with self knowledge. The problem I see is when a certain categorization leaves the realm of categorization of self knowledge and is taken out of proportion.

    In Mattson’s example of the teenager, in my generation we would have been less likely to categorize ourselves as gay at that point ( I think ). But it would be still have become an issue by adulthood, which postponement doesn’t necessarily seem a bad thing to me. But with kids being sexually active way earlier, they are called to make unnecessary distinctions way too early too.

    And then they assume these distinctions have many implications that need not follow at all (no love, no soulmate). That’s why it looks to me why people are so anxious to find their “letter”. It’s not just a question of knowing something important about yourself. It seems to become the most important thing to know about yourself because it seems to be a question of whether you can love and be loved or have any joy in life.

    Not saying that folks here are doing that. In fact, I like this place because you seem to me to have your priorities right. And I’ve learned a lot from your stories.

  5. I did a little fiddling with my screen properties, Jeremy, and you’re right: it isn’t blue.

    Moral: If you think you’re gay, you just need to go to “Settings”, toggle a few things, and you’re golden. Bingo!

  6. I see only one difference between how Mattson categorizes himself (“I’m a man”) and how people at SF categorized themselves (“I’m a gay man”). Mattson focuses on his original God-given nature, the one that God created for us before the fall. The guys at SF focuse on their fallen nature, the one that we all have as a result of the fall. None of this categories is theologically wrong. In fact the Church that Mattson loves (and that I love too) teaches that we have both.

    God bless

    • I would argue that Mattson does focus on his sexual orientation; he’s just not explicit about it. The Church’s valorization of heterosexual desire as “natural” stands in stark contrast to earlier teaching and in stark contrast to Paul. Matron doesn’t have to say “straight man” because he has the luxury of operating in a church environment that suggests that heterosexuality is implicit in the categories of “man” and “woman.”

      I’d be content to drop the descriptor “gay” if the church would be content to extirpate the heterosexist errors from its theology.

      • That’s probably not how I’d phrase it, but more or less, yes.

        I believe that the revisions to the RCC catechism made the mistake of accommodating certain interpretations of sexuality that had more to do with modernist thinking about sexuality than anything particularly Christian. This has led to the unfortunate situation where the Church ends up categorizing heterosexual people as “natural” and homosexual people as “unnatural.”

        This use of the terms natural and unnatural flows from a modernist romantic use of the terms, and has little basis in the Church’s historic use of natural law (e.g., Aquinas).

        I would largely agree with Michael Hannon’s pieces that appeared in First Things last year, where “natural” and “unnatural” refer more to whether our conduct comports with God’s holiness than whether our desires comport with the way that we think the natural world works. Historically, when the church refers to “natural law,” it is referring to the former, not the latter.

        So, we have an unfortunate situation where the church has improperly redefined marriage along modernist lines, i.e., as something of an expression of heterosexual desire. Thus, those who lack robust heterosexual desires are forced either to lie or to avoid marriage. That was never the case in years past, when we generally construed sexual desire as rather incidental to a successful marriage. So, I think it’s incumbent on the church to reclaim that older view of marriage. So, by identifying as gay, I’m laying claim to a political status as someone who has been improperly excluded from sacramental life of the Church, so as to encourage the Church to see its errors and correct its course.

  7. Let’s clarify a little… As I said in my previous post I believe that you can identify yourself using your original pre-fall God-given nature or you can use the post-fall falling human nature. Chosing one or the other has intrinsically theological value and helps in one or another way towards spiritual development. But I place very little value at identifying oneself for political purposes.

  8. I think Jeremy makes a point. I am going to try to be as clear as possible. The argument, as I see it, is trying to differentiate whether to us AN adjective to describe something versus trying to use THAT adjective to describe something.

    If I understand Jeremy’s point, he is saying that Daniel Mattson states we can’t use certain adjectives to describe something. Would we describe the picture as just a square, or would we describe it as a blue square? Obviously, blue would be a characteristic, an adjective, to describe what type of square it is. The same argument can be made to the word “gay”.

    In Mattson’s explanation, he states that the word “gay” is different than other adjectives and then gives an example of a fifteen year old boy that agonizes because he is hungry. He then states:

    “Replace “hungry” with any of the other adjectives in Chris Damian’s list of identifiers and only one of them is a label that causes a young person to question the sort of person he is at the very core of his nature. This difference is obvious to everyone. “Gay” is far more than just one adjective among many a man might say about himself. It’s not a question of grammar—it’s a question of identity and one’s self understanding of the sort of person one is. No one has ever agonized about coming out as INQUISITIVE. I never suffered sleepless nights in adolescence because of wondering if I was STUDIOUS.”

    Of course, I don’t think any disagrees that the word “gay” is different from the words “hungry, inquisitive, or studious”. The adjectives describe different things. That’s the function of an adjective, to compress words or characteristics that describe an object. And no adjective is exactly the same. The word “hungry” describes a person that is in a physical state of being due to bodily processes and interpretations in the brain. Whereas the word “studious” describes the actions or behaviors a person takes toward a certain endeavor. These are both adjectives that describe a person, but they are not the same. Why would it be any different with the word “gay”? When someone is using the word “gay” we know they are trying to describe some state of a person’s sexuality. So is “gay” just another adjective? I would say yes, because no adjective is exactly the same nor used in the same way and they all serve to describe something about an object. But I don’t think the guys at spiritual friendship is trying to make the adjective take the place of or eliminate the object that it is describing, as evident by their use in the phrase “Gay, celibate Christian.”

    Now I am not arguing now whether the word “gay” is the best adjective to use or not. That is a different argument. To some it equates to “a person with same-sex attraction” and to others it may involve more than that. Therefore, there has to be clarification and clarity in language. But that shouldn’t mean we shouldn’t use adjectives to try to describe a state of being. Of course we are human beings, men and women. But those words can’t describe what kind of men and women we are.

    I think this can also be used with the word “Christian”. Some use the word as both a noun and adjective, so if someone says they are a Christian, what they are really saying is that “I am a Christian man or woman.” In this case “Christian” would be an adjective that describes a man/woman, that they are a follower of Jesus Christ. But if take Mattson’s argument (as I understand it), then an adjective that describes a core part of someone’s life should not be used, and one should only say that I am a man and not a Christian man.

    All this to say that I think Mattson’s argument against the use of the word “gay” as an adjective is weak. Hopefully I wasn’t confusing. Thoughts?

    • I think “gay” is freighted in a way that “inquisitive” or “intellectual” aren’t because the Church has worked diligently to stigmatize people who are gay.

      • Ford,

        I would largely agree. The current freighting of “gay” is largely of the church’s doing.

        When the church elected to accede to the culture’s improper redefinition of marriage along the lines of sexual desire, it had to concede its primary argument against sodomy. So, it responded by trying to stigmatize homosexuality in a way that would have been unnecessary but for the concession to modernist views of marriage and sexuality. Now that the stigmatizing has lost its power, the church’s nakedness and weakness has been exposed.

        Frankly, I doubt that Christianity will come through this mess with much of its former glory intact. For example, I still count myself as a conservative Christian. Even so, I haven’t been to church in months, and only attended 5-6 times in all of last year. It’s not that I’m opposed to attending; I just see an institution that’s been exposed as something of a fraud, and that is fighting like mad to avoid conceding the obvious. Frankly, I’m content to let it burn. For only then can we build something with sustaining.

      • Yeah, I think you’ve understood me pretty well. My primary point was that all the arguments he makes (or cites) of the form “X is not gay, because X is fundamentally Y” (where Y is a noun) are utterly ridiculous. This is particularly true because he claims to be responding specifically to Spiritual Friendship, which means that the definition of “gay” we use here is what should be understood.

        If he thinks that “I am a man” somehow works against the claim of “I am gay,” then he truly isn’t grasping how we are using our terminology. This isn’t just an excuse on our part; he really just isn’t getting it at all.

        I think Ford1968 is correct in that stigma is one of the primary reasons “gay” works differently from the other adjectives cited. I suspect that if it were considered unacceptable to ever be hungry, we’d see a lot of the similarities pop up. I think it’s disingenuous to ignore that.

        There’s another discussion to be had about how central this adjective should be to our identity, but as Nick Roen correctly points out, that isn’t really a discussion about what word to use.

  9. Pingback: Identity salad | Res Studiorum et Ludorum

  10. Pingback: How to Evade the Real Issues | Spiritual Friendship

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