It's been a while since I've posted on this blog. It's not been because I haven't had anything to say, but more because of sheer task and information overload, I think.
For a while, I was really struggling with the Catholic church document on seminarians - primarily because it is a 20-year step backwards in understanding gay and lesbian people. I guess I was more irate for my gay Catholic friends who have been so welcoming to me, and who have been pretty wounded by that particularly toxic document.
From everything I've read, I believe the Catholic seminary document is simply an institutional insistence that gay Catholics who are called to the priesthood go back in the closet. For myself, I am terribly sorry for the loving, caring, committed members of the priesthood who are eventually going to have to make a choice. But if there's one thing I've heard time and time again from the men who helped shepherd me out of the closet, it's simply that going back in there is no longer an option.
That's why I found such strong identification with Andrew Sullivan's essay in the December 12th issue of Time magazine. I'm including the text here (and footnoting it, so you know it's not mine!). This article can be found here at the Time.com site, and Sullivan's other writings can be found here.
The Vatican's New Stereotype -
Why its new rules barring gay priests turn Jesus' teaching on its head
(Dec. 12, 2005 issue of Time magazine, page 92)
by Andrew Sullivan
The one consolation that gay Catholics have long had is that the church hates only sin, not sinners. Yes, many of us are far from perfect, and like most married, heterosexual Catholics, we have been known to have sex without making a baby. But we were, as the Vatican assured us in official documents in 1975 and '86, "made in the image and likeness of God." The condition of homosexuality was, for many, "innate" and not in itself a sin. Gay people were "often generous and giving of themselves," said the Vatican, and the notion that gays could not lead celibate lives was an "unfounded and demeaning assumption." The bar on any gay sexual intimacy was still firm--but it was the same bar that prohibited heterosexual couples from using contraception, or single people from masturbating, or any other nonprocreative sexual act. It was a coherent, if difficult, doctrine--and not bigotry.
In this confined and often suffocating place, it was still possible, though never easy, to breathe the love of God as a gay Catholic. Our love of the church helped us overlook its institutional rejection of the relationships we built and the families who embraced us as equals. For many of us, the presence of gay priests also gave immense comfort. Of my three confessors in adult life, all turned out to be gay, although I had no idea in advance. I have known many gay priests, and I'm in awe of their service--to the poor and needy, to the lonely and uneducated, to prisoners and parishioners who have all found grace through their ministry and sacrifice. Often, their outsider experience helped them relate better to the marginalized or the lonely or those taken for granted.
Recall the image of Mychal Judge, the chaplain for New York City's firefighters, carried away from the World Trade Center in the arms of the brave men he ministered to. Judge, a proudly gay man, gave his life for those he served. Under new rules from Pope Benedict XVI issued last week, Father Judge would never have been ordained. Nor would thousands of other gay priests and bishops and monks and nuns who have served God's people throughout the ages.
In the past, all that mattered for a priest, as far as sexual orientation was concerned, was celibacy. If a priest kept his vows, it didn't really matter if he were refusing to have sex with a man or with a woman. All that mattered was that he kept his vows and had sex with no one.
But that has just changed. Even if a gay priest remains completely celibate, his sexual orientation is now regarded, according to a Vatican expert, as a threat to "priestly life." A gay celibate priest, according to the new rules, is incapable of "sexual maturity coherent with his masculine sexual identity." He has "a problem in the psychic organization" of his sexuality, barring him from priestly responsibility. Gay seminarians can be spotted and rooted out because they allegedly have "trouble relating to their fathers; are uncomfortable with their own identity; tend to isolate themselves; have difficulty in discussing sexual questions; view pornography on the Internet; demonstrate a deep sense of guilt; or often see themselves as victims." No serious psychological data are provided to verify those assertions (and many would surely apply to countless heterosexuals as well). What the new Pope has done is conflate a sin with an identity. He has created a class of human beings who, regardless of what they do, are too psychologically and thereby morally "disordered" to become priests.
There is a simple principle here. The message of Jesus was always to ignore the stereotype, the label, the identity--in order to observe the soul beneath, how a person actually behaves. One of his most famous parables was that of the Good Samaritan, a man who belonged to a group despised by mainstream society. But it was the despised man who did good, while all the superficially respected people walked on by. Jesus consorted with all of society's undesirables--with tax collectors, collaborators with an occupying power, former prostitutes, lepers. His message was that God's grace knows no boundaries of stigma, that with God's help, we can all live by the same standards and receive the grace that comes from his love.
The new Pope has now turned that teaching on its head. He has identified a group of people and said, regardless of how they behave or what they do, they are beneath serving God. It isn't what they do that he is concerned with. It's who they are. They are the new Samaritans. And all of them are bad.
Andrew Sullivan's blog, the Daily Dish, can be found at andrewsullivan.com
Monday, December 19, 2005
It's been a while since I've posted on this blog. It's not been because I haven't had anything to say, but more because of sheer task and information overload, I think.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Damien's post on Friday angered me beyond my ability to describe, for a while. Don't get me wrong - his writing was great. But reading the blathering and blithering of the representatives of the Catholic Church simply infuriated me.
I'm condensing this down to the simplest points - the quotes from the ZENIT article that Damien referred to are in italics.
The new Vatican document on homosexuality and admission to seminaries and holy orders is not an "attack on homosexuals," says Cardinal Georges Cottier. Rather, the document is an effort "to understand their situation" and sufferings, explained Cardinal Cottier, who until today was the theologian of the Pontifical Household.
You're both absolutely right and absolutely wrong, your Eminence. If I were to I tell you, "Don't go away mad; just go away," it would not be an attack on you. It would be a statement of preference - that I don't want you around. Period. So your statement, while disingenuous, is absolutely true. The Church has not attacked homosexuals; it is simply clarifying their erroneous beliefs and practices surrounding homosexuality and homosexual activity. Nothing personal, of course...
But the second statement is absolutely wrong - because the Church has failed completely to understand the situation of gay men. The Vatican document does nothing more than cauterize the wounds caused by priestly abuse and the failure of the Church administration to deal with that abuse in a proper and timely manner. The Church doesn't understand the situation of gay men; never has, never will. This document just rationalizes the Church's decision to simply excise them, like infected tissue, so that they don't infect the rest of the Church and hurt it any more.
Cardinal Cottier claims that the text is very thought out and says that he would underline its sensitivity.
But, as Damien points out in his post, this document abandons the position of the church which separated "homosexual activity" and the sexual orientation of homosexuality. The Cardinal talks about those who have "deep-seated homosexual tendencies," and those who have slight, "transitory" tendencies, linked to episodes in their lives, of which I would say they can free themselves. Therefore, there are degrees. The "degrees," then, are in whether one can free oneself of homosexual tendencies. If you can't free yourself - if you are homosexual in your being - then it doesn't matter what you do - it only matters what you are. And what the document says, in essence, is if that's how you are, you're out. Period.
All in all, a well-thought out and sensitive position, I'd say...
And I'd sure like to read the studies that support the Church's conclusion that homosexuality impedes, in a certain sense, "emotional maturity". That is so wrong as to be almost immoral.
How the hell have gay priests provided pastoral care, counsel, leadership of congregations and liturgy, and spiritual direction for years on end without "emotional maturity?" How have the overwheming majority of the gay Catholic priesthood lived and served with this so-called immaturity?
The Cardinal's interviewer said, In general, homosexuality is accompanied by this emotional immaturity. It is an affirmation that is going to be criticized, but that is based on experience. Whose experience, I wonder? Just the abusers?
You'd better bet that statements like that are going to be criticized...
Here's another one that just infuriated me: Inasmuch as representative of Christ, bridegroom of the Church, the priest is called to exercise a spiritual paternity among men and women. For this reason, emotional maturity is necessary, which implies a spirit of sacrifice and self-forgetfulness out of love for the other.
Excuse me, Cardinal...There are a whole lot of gay men who are priests. And these men have given up material possessions; taken vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. And the vast majority of them have lived up to those vows. Are you going to tell me that somehow their spirit of sacrifice and self-forgetfulness is somehow defective?
And you say this is not an attack against gay men in the Catholic orders?
Damien makes an interesting point:
He [the Cardinal] does not distinguish those who are sexually active from those who are not sexually active. One can argue that his silence about that distinction is only silence, not a signal one way or the other. Perhaps. Perhaps. One does wonder, though, why no one from Rome wants to issue a statement saying that chaste gay men are acceptable. It would seem so easy a way to stop the conflicting interpretations, assuming they want to do that.I believe the only reason no one wants to issue that statement is that the Church has concluded that if they don't have any homosexuals around, then there won't be any homosexual abuse, and the Church can stop hemmhoraging money and members. Just do a "clean sweep," cut out the infected tissue, cauterize the wound, and carry on.
And wait until the heterosexual abuse cases start to show up. So you can start throwing out the hetero priests...
To me, the Church has said that people with a given ontology - my ontology, my essential being and orientation - are to be excluded from ministry. Homosexuality has gone from being a sin of action to a sin of being (or not-being, perhaps). Catholicism has always declared that the primary mission of humanity, apart from worship of God, is to procreate - and that anything that stands in the way of that procreation is "intrinsically disordered."
Just don't wonder why men of great faith, with servant hearts brimming with love and care, flee your churches, your cathedrals, and your seminaries, your Eminence.
And then stop and reflect on how sterile - and how crippled - your Church will be when they are gone.
The Vatican's document has rung the bell - and there is no way to unring it now. The Church's institutional pride has always prevented admission of error. That's why it took 500 years for them to apologize to Galileo...
This is the last time I'm writing on this, by the way. As Damien pointed out in this linked article, the pogrom has already started. The arrows are pointing toward the door, the door has been opened. The Roman Catholic Church has become an unwelcoming, irrelevant institution to the gay world. The only question remaining is how long it will take for gay Catholics to secede and form the "Rainbow Catholic Church," to preserve the beauties of the Catholic tradition for the GLBT community.
May it come quickly. It's a Reformation that is long overdue.
Posted by Steve at 12/04/2005 10:44:00 AM
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Some say a lie is just a lie, but I sayWell, evidently I qualify, br'er Simon. Take, for example, the response of one friend of mine from Kansas to my coming-out email...
Why deny the obvious child?
I'm sitting here with a little smile on my face having just read your letter. I wondered when a letter or phone call like this might arrive. And to think, I was concerned you were going to tell me something life shattering like you feel off the wagon or had AIDS! I've known for MANY years that this was a struggle within for you my friend. I'm very much looking forward to reading your blog on this one! And I'm sure this will make for some interesting discussions!!Now if I could only find some gay men to love my heart and soul, life would be really good...
Like the love of our Lord, my brother, I can love you no less for that love is not predicated on your sexual orientation but on your heart and very soul which is so beautiful to me!
But I have to admit, in amidst all the relief and acceptance, I find this annoying and haunting pair of questions:
What the hell was so obvious, that more than half the people I've talked to have said, "Well, DUH..."? And if it was so clear-cut to them, why wasn't it so equally clear-cut to me?and...
Why thehell did I wait so &$%#ing long to do this?There are lots and lots of promises spread through the 12-step recovery literature - and I've experienced a whole lot of them over the years. But the one that's been elusive (at least as far as my homosexuality is concerned) is the one that says We will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it. God help me, but I'm just not there as I look back on my three damn decades hiding in the closet. Intellectually, I know that it took every minute it took to get ready to come out. But there are times - like today - when it seems like such a hideous waste of time and life.
On the journey from work to my regular Thursday-night AA meeting, I stopped at the Istria Cafe', a little joint tucked under the 57th Street Metra station. My original intent was simply to pick up a cup of pretty-good coffee for the chilly walk from the train to the meeting. But since I was significantly early, I decided to just sit there sipping coffee and people-watching. And one of the people I was watching was the fellow who served me - a particularly-attractive late-20-something man with golden curly hair. It seemed so strange to be looking at him, suddenly realizing, "He's really good looking," and finding such freedom in just allowing myself to look, and to enjoy.
Yeah, I know...it's lame. But these are baby-steps from a person who thought he'd given up use of his legs.
By the by - if you haven't made the acquaintance of geek_boi, you definitely need to read this post of his. As Shakespeare wrote, so I say to you, brother: "All I can say is thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks."
Posted by Steve at 11/17/2005 01:11:00 AM
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
One of the hardest questions - one that I will wrestle with for a while - deals with "why even come out at all?" I wish this discussion could be a clean, sensible process - but for me, there have been multiple issues affecting my decision (or failure to decide), mostly based on irrational beliefs or fears.
(That's both humbling and aggravating to admit.)
Most of my struggles about accepting my sexuality came from my own poor physical self-image, and my own certainty that my physical appearance would be completely undesirable to another gay man. For so much of the last 15 years, what I would say to myself was, "Well, let's see - you can either be 'closeted' as an overweight, middle-aged, greying straight man, or you can be 'out' as an overweight, middle-aged, greying gay man. Either way, your chances of finding a partner are pretty well between nil and none."
So I believed my choice came down to being honestly-out, alone, and in line for prejudice and abuse, or dishonestly-closeted, just as alone, but abuse-and-prejudice-free. I told myself for years that absent the chance for a relationship, there just wasn't any percentage in coming out.
Of course, the fatal flaw in my logic was that so long as I was unwilling to be honest about who and what I was - so long as my own self-inflicted homophobia kept me closeted - there would never be even a chance of a relationship for which it would be worthwhile to come out.
It took a couple of loving and accepting men in AA (straight AND gay) who shared with me that it really came down to "out and honest and at least a chance for happiness" or "hiding and lying and no chance for honest joy whatsoever."
An unfortunate realization out of this process has been how much justification to stay closeted was the out of the desire to remain a welcomed part of a church community. The sad fact is that I believed it was more important to fit in with my church family than to be honest with myself (and everyone else) about who and what I was.
As much as I railed against the position of the Catholic and Methodist Churches (and so many other mainline denominations) I find I have bought into their party line for myself, even as I have campaigned actively against it for others. It's hard to admit, but I really did believe that my very existence as "intrinsically disordered," as inconsistent with Christian life and ministry.
Looking back, I can see that the wrestling I had with my acceptability to God came from this issue - it seemed I would be damned as abomination by God who was supposedly filled with lovingkindness, who knew the number of hairs on my head and yet somehow couldn't accept me as I've been made. Oh, sure, I could be acceptable to God as a celibate - and I did that for nearly 12 years - but don't act on any of those instincts of yours, Steve. That road leads to Hell, you know...
But even more than that - because I worked most of the way through that issue - I knew that the church communities of which I was a member would not have been welcoming to a gay man. Now, I know that most my close friends would have likely been willing to accept me (though several were particularly unsupportive of GLBT folks until they found out that I was one). But I also watched two different instances where a man was accepted, welcomed, and encouraged to participate in our church community - until they either came out, or were outed by others. And then things got decidely cool.
I've already admitted (at least to a degree) how much my own need for acceptance and inclusion by others made it impossible for me to be honest about my sexuality. It just was easier to lie when it felt like there was no consequence - that there was no downside to living falsely. It's just hard to also admit how much the church helped feed my self-imposed homophobia. They weren't responsible for it - but they certainly helped fuel it.
I also bought into the insanity (mentioned in my first posting) that (since I was convinced there would be no future relationship in the cards for me) that it would be more helpful to be an advocate for GLBT folks from in ordained ministry than to be excluded from both ministry and church by being out. I really felt quite noble in my celibate pursuit of service of God and church...
...that is, until the church told me that the issue that would keep me out of ministry would be my finances, and my indebtedness - and not my sexuality. Sadly, under the current rules of the ELCA, I could have been ordained gay - I just couldn't be ordained broke.
Ironic, ain't it....the only way I could be rigorously honest enough to face this, and really be self-honest and self-aware enough to be a minister was through the brokenness resulting from my spectacularly-failed run at ordained ministry...
Part of the first steps of dealing with all this was finding the Fourth Forum, the GLBT ministry of Fourth Presbyterian Church here in Chicago. The group did a weekly study on John McNeill's classic text Taking A Chance on God, which forced me to dig back into a bunch of my pastoral-care texts on sexuality.
Finally picking up Tex Sample and Amy DeLong's The Loyal Opposition: Struggling With the Church on Homosexuality (which sat on my shelf unread for five whole years...) helped a lot, too. But most beneficial of all was finding in the Fourth Forum members a group of gay and lesbian Christians who had come to believe themselves acceptable in God's sight - and taking lessons from them.
This has been a lot of writing - and frankly, it's not done, but I'm done - like dinner. There's probably more that could be said on every one of these topics. But the important thing for me to say is this: I am not where I once was. As I've quoted on so many other topics, the words of the old black spiritual come to mind:
We ain't where we wanna be;
We ain't where we're gonna be;
But thank you, Jesus - we ain't where we used'ta be.
Posted by Steve at 11/08/2005 04:46:00 PM
It was an eventful weekend, in some respects, and yet in others, not so much.
I decided to ditch the "pink tutu" Blogger template. I'm going to be playing with the design for a while (at least, as much as an HTML-impaired guy like me can...) but for now, this'll do. The other thing I did was ditch the pseudonym. I'm still pretty anonymous out here - but part of the question becomes, why would I still be hiding?
The "deafening silence" I wrote about in an earlier post has been broken - I really couldn't wait, and so I called my friend on Sunday. The conversation was a bit tenuous at first, but it seemed to thaw a bit over the course of the hour we talked. She doesn't realize it yet, but our conversation helped put shape around a series of questions that I know I'm going to be working on over the next days and weeks:
- Why are you coming out now? What's different now than 2, 3 or 5 years ago?
- If you don't have a boyfriend or partner, what does it matter? Why even bother?
- Why couldn't you tell me/us about this before now?
- What does it say about your conception of self, God and friendship that you couldn't be honest about this with yourself, with God, or the people who care about you?
- What does it say about your understanding of God to know that you desperately wanted to be "healed" of the way you apparently were made?
- You have at least one other friend who came out - years ago. What's the big deal? Couldn't you have talked about it with him?
This is certainly not an exhaustive list - but as Bob Barker would say, there are some big-ticket items on that list. And, I should note, I'm not looking for anyone else to provide answers to these questions. These are more like placeholders for some soul-searching and self-examination that's ahead of me.
The other thing that I'm probably not in any position to even address is a potentially uglier, more fundamental question. If I've been unable to be completely honest with myself or my closest friends about my sexuality, how can anyone trust anything I say about my motives with other male acquaintances? What are my motives - really?
I have a growing list of questions, but not many answers at this point. One answer I do know, however, concerning the "sex" part of my sexuality. I've been celibate for nearly three presidential terms - and I'm not going to change that until I'm much, much more solid in my understanding of myself and my relationships with others. That's absolutely bed-rock, at this stage of the game. I've waited this long...
However, that's also about the only thing I'm certain of - other than that for the first time in three decades, I'm headed in the right direction. For now, it's way the hell past time for bed. (I've got to start cutting off the caffeine earlier in the day...)
Posted by Steve at 11/08/2005 01:57:00 AM
Friday, November 04, 2005
Seems that I'm not the only one waiting until later in life to come out. A CNN article reports that George Takei - Sulu in the various Star Trek adventures - told the LA Frontiers magazine that he's gay...at age sixty-eight.
On the one hand, I could say I'm 20 years ahead of Sulu...but then, he has had a committed partner for the last 18 years. So I can't get too terribly smug, can I?..
Posted by Steve at 11/04/2005 02:40:00 PM
Thank you - all of you.
The comments and affirmations I've received in the short time I've renewed my journey out of the dark have been overwhelmingly positive - for which I thank God. But while this is gratifying, it is also not overly surprising. After all, the people to whom I've come out so far have been the folks I'm closest to, and the folks I've considered "safest." That was intentional.
After the guys in my AA sponsorship circle, the next group of "close" friends I decided to come out to were folks in my former church home in Kansas. Part of the weirdness of this process is trying to do this by email, since I have no plans (or funds) to travel to Kansas anytime soon.
A couple people have asked, "Why even bother telling those folks? They are 600 miles away - they're out of your life!" That statement, however, is only half true. Many of the folks back in Kansas were the ones whose prayers, phone calls, emails, and active financial support carried me in the months after my seminary career fell apart...and for months afterwards. They were a part of my life - at least, the 60-90% (depending on whose estimates you use) that I was willing to share, exclusive of my sexuality.
The first one of my Kansas contacts, my "adoptive grandma" and dear friend Sandy, was wonderful - I got a response back the same day basically saying, "Yeah, OK. So you're gay. You're still you - nothing's changed. I love you." Earlier this evening, the pastor of my former congregation responded, with virtually the same sentiment.
The third person, however, hasn't respond. Not that day. Not the next day. Not yet, in fact.
The silence has become somewhat deafening.
This whole process is proving to me how much I depend on the approval of others. At a basic level, I know I will be OK, regardless what this person (or any of the other people I get honest with) eventually decide. But at another level, I'm selfish enough that I want this person (and other people yet to be contacted) to be part of my life - to have them stay in touch with me, to wish me well, to pray for me. I have history with these people - after all, we laughed, cried, celebrated and mourned, prayed and worshipped together for almost 13 years.
Of course, a more rigorously-honest evaluation would be that I don't want all that life (and all that history) to become disposable or valueless because of my sexuality
- especially a sexuality that I haven't actually acted-out on in more than two decades.
Evidently I need an MP3 recording of "I Am What I Am" (one of the famous gay anthems from the Broadway version of La Cage Aux Folles) along with one of "The Way I Was Made" - preferably set to continuous looping. Wish I could justify the cost of an iPod - but unfortunately I have a whole list of expenses that way outrank that little expenditure.
"...and the beat goes on..."
Posted by Steve at 11/04/2005 01:08:00 AM
Monday, October 31, 2005
I want to live like there’s no tomorrowToday was an amazing, powerful day.
I want to dance like no one’s around.
I want to sing like no one’s listening.
Before I lay my body down
I want to give like I have plenty.
I want to love like I’m not afraid.
I want to be the man I was meant to be.
I want to be the way I was made.
(Chris Tomlin, The Way I Was Made,
from the CD Arriving)
Recently, I'd been hearing a song by Christian song-writer and worship-leader Chris Tomlin - and it had been pushing me to actually take some action about the coming out process I started way the hell back at the end of last year. Then my dear friend (and coming-out advocate) Tom S. posted this powerful article about coming out - and I really started to realize how much I needed to stop talking about getting ready to think about preparing to come out, and just get "into action," as the text of recovery says.
So today, I came out to two of my AA sponsees - both of whom I had hoped would be open and affirming, but I just didn't know, you know? One I had known and sponsored for a year - in fact, I came out to him on his one-year sobriety anniversary. The other I've known for just a few months - but I really had not wanted to even discuss my orientation until both of them were on somewhat solid ground in their sobriety.
Both guys were completely cool - it was gratifying in powerful ways. Funny part was, unbeknownst to me, the one-year guy actually had another AA member out me over breakfast after a meeting last December (though I'd never actually come out to him), so it was a complete non-event. It was particularly gratifying to hear the words, nonetheless - I'd actually steeled myself to have either of them say, "That's fine for you, no problem - but I need to find another sponsor." I didn't prepare myself for that because I wanted it to happen - but I was expecting the worst, even as I was hoping for the best, I guess. Anyway, it was proof of the AA truism - I've lived through thousands of struggles and tragedies - most of which never actually happened.
In talking with Tom and his partner afterwards, it turns out that several other folks in our AA circles had already pegged me as gay, without saying anything. While I'm not overly surprised, I guess I am a little surprised...it's not like I'm walking around humming Barbra Streisand or anything. And I'm definitely the least in-shape, most fashion-impaired gay man I know...so it will be interesting to see what set their gaydar off.
There's loads more to write - but it's way too late to do it. So (early this morning) I just thank God for friends who encourage, and friends who accept, and a God whose love follows throughout this "great adventure."
Posted by Steve at 10/31/2005 12:12:00 AM
I've only been in my new job two full weeks - and yet on Thursday, I found out that my new temporary employer, Hewitt Associates, has been named in the Out & Equal Workplace Advocate's Outie Awards for a "Out & Equal Award for Significant Achievement." The Out & Equal press release says:
Hewitt Associates has contributed significantly to making the world a better place to work for its LGBT associates by working at creating an environment safe enough for anyone who wants to be out to do so without any fear of repercussions to their career advancement. The Affirmations exhibits have been a highly visible, high impact, bold way of doing this.I'm sure it's just a coincidence that October 1st, there was less than a 50% chance of me going to work there; that only on October 14th, did I know for sure that I was starting on the 17th; and that by October 25th, the "Outie" press release was out.
Posted by Steve at 10/31/2005 12:02:00 AM
Sunday, March 20, 2005
This is my letter to the WorldThis is the blog I never wanted to write. For years, and years, I never wanted it to come to this...I never, ever wanted to speak or write these words. But I no longer can hide them, no longer can deny them. It feels so silly to be admitting this now, when I am (as a kind friend said recently) "pushing fifty." But there are parts of my life that just are not going to heal, and parts of my faith life that will never really be true, unless I can be rigorously honest about me - all of me.
That never wrote to Me -
The simple News that Nature told -
With tender Majesty
Her Message is committed
To Hands I cannot see -
For love of Her - Sweet - countrymen -
Judge tenderly - of Me
- Emily Dickinson
There's just no easy way to say this:
I am a gay man. A gay Christian man.
And yet, there it is.
Acknowledging that has been a long time coming...thirty-four years, at least. If not forty.
For some of those who know me, this is no surprise...in fact, it's been a little embarrassing to learn how poorly I concealed my secret. And for some, this will be a big surprise, evoking all kinds of reactions. For now, all I can say is bear with me - I'm working through this slowly, step by stumbling step. This posting is an ever-evolving document to help me - and perhaps, those who have known me - to understand why I'm finally talking about this now.
I've tried to be so open about so much of my life (especially my struggles in recovery) but somehow I never found the courage to take the last step of rigorous honesty, and "come out" to anyone - even the people I love. There's a lot of reasons for that - many of which I'll explore in other writings here. But the two main reasons I've never come out are simply
- I never wanted to be gay, andEver since I've known I had this orientation, at least one silent prayer has always been, "God, please - make me straight, heterosexual, whatever the hell "normal" is. Help me desire what people tell me is Your natural order, OK? If being straight is really Your will, then please - let it be done, and let it be done quickly. I'm ready to go. I'll suit up, show up, and try to play the part - fake it 'till you make it, they say. OK. I'm ready when you are..."
- I was waiting for God to heal me - to fix me, to make me "right."
And up until recently, if I had the choice, I still wouldn't have chosen to be gay. Let's face it - on the surface, given society as it is, and the consequences of living as a gay man in it, who the hell would?
(As you'll see, I'm coming, slowly, to feel differently. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly...)
For more than three decades, I prayed that "fix me!" prayer. And the only thing that has happened is that I ended up more lonely, more sick of living a lie, and more desperately "apart from" the world than I have ever been. To be honest, at first I just got tired of waiting on what I thought was God's provision. Now, I'm coming to understand that "waiting to be fixed" is not part of God's provision at all. And I'm tired of despising myself in the process. (And, to be honest, if an angel showed up with a magic pill today, I'm not sure I'd take it....but more on that later.)
For seven long years, as I experienced a true call to a life in ministry, I was ready to give it all up. Really...it sounds stupid now, but at the time it made perfect sense. I'd deny my sexuality, abandon any hope of intimate relationships just as a priest would, and just continue to live the lie that I'd been working on my whole life. For all those years, I really, honestly felt that it would better to live acting as a gay-friendly member of the "straight" clergy (who might be able to build bridges and soften hearts) than as an openly-gay clergyman (who would just seem to be pushing his own agenda). After all, the rules of my faith community insisted on celibacy outside of marriage - so either way, sex was out. So why not be of service, eh?
Well, that road is closed, for now - seemingly for good. (And for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with my sexuality. According to the rules of my denomination - if not their standing practice and tradition - I could have been ordained as a celibate gay man. We can argue later about how likely that might have been...)
Regardless, I'm coming to believe that God is healing me (though so far, that healing is coming in a much different form than I ever anticipated). I'm gingerly exploring a radical idea: that God gave me this faith, this knowledge, this training, and this "time apart" to face the truth of my homosexuality, to come to accept myself as His child in this way, and to find a way to be a voice for the untold numbers of gay Christians who are tired of hiding, tired of living in the shadows, tired of denying what God would have them be.
I don't know when I "knew" I was gay...but I certainly knew something was different with my sexuality at 14, when guys I knew and trusted were talking about making out with girls, and I wasn't gettin' it. Thank God, I never actually asked any of my buddies, "What's the big deal?" - but I thought it a lot. Soon enough, I figured out that I should be feeling something different - and wasn't. God knows, I tried to act and feel different (and left a lot of emotional wreckage in my wake in the process). Sometimes, I thought it was working - but in the end, it never did.
So at this late stage of the game, I can testify to this: no matter how much I have tried, no matter how much I have wanted it to "work," I have never, ever had even a naturally-occuring thought of true sexual attraction to women...ever. Now, I have tried to manufacture those feelings - with friends, girfriends, my former wife, you name it. I tried desperately, and often. And I really, really, really wanted it to work - and often made myself believe that it had worked - but it never truly did.
Nope. Not once. Like I say...I have tried. A lot.
If that's true, that also means there has really never been a moment of my life when I have not been homosexual. I never "abandoned natural relations with women" (Romans 1:27a, NIV)... because I never had anything to abandon. I was never, ever "there" to begin with. As rigorously honest as I can be, I am coming to believe I began life this way.
I don't think that the majority of Christians can even conceive of this as a possibility - much less believe it.
That's why I'm taking these ever-so-gentle first steps through the closet door - because I find I can no longer remain silent. In the war of words and ideas on homosexuality, there seems to be two main sides:
- the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, & transgendered) community, many of whom are in stable, committed relationships (or want to be), who are not sex-&-drug-crazed "circuit boys," who simply understand that they are different, and just want the chance to live and relate to each other openly and honestly, like the rest of the world; and on the other side,In reality, there are probably at least three other groups:
- a significant majority of Christians, who seem convinced that homosexuals (a) have chosen this orientation, (b) have chosen "the homosexual lifestyle" (including indiscriminate sex and drug abuse), (c) are going to hell because of it, and (d) are determined to take all of decent society with them.
- Christians and non-Christians alike who either do not have an opinion, or who agree with the gay community, but don't want to get in between the first two groups (for any number of reasons);For years, I consciously chose to be a member of that last group. And that's why I'm writing - and praying - about all of this.
- Loving, committed, faithful Christians (both straight and gay), who truly believe that actively gay and Christian are not incompatible, and who are willing to speak out about it; and
- Closeted members of the GLBT community who truly want to believe that their homosexuality, their faith, and their lives as equal members of the world community are real, valid, and intimately intertwined. These are people who feel they have to live their lives hiding in the church while trying to find a way of life and faith, but unable to even ask about the topic - for fear of "outing themselves," and being cast from the community of faith.
I'm still a Christian. I'm still an alcoholic in recovery. I'm a middle-aged former corporate slave who ditched his former life to come to seminary in Chicago. (For a number of reasons - none having anything to do with my sexuality - I had to drop out for the forseeable future.)
And I'm a gay man.
Coming from the 12-step communities (primarily Alcoholics Anonymous), I've found this truth: you can argue with my ideas, you can argue with my philosophy, you can argue with my dogmas and concepts and beliefs. But in the end, the only absolutely concrete thing I have to offer is my experience, strength, and hope. You may not like my experience; you can choose to ignore or deny my experience. But in the end, the only reality I have is contained in my experience - and my faith. And that's what I'm going to try to share in this digital "great adventure."
Now, at this point, I have heard non-Christian people say to other gay friends of mine, "Hey - haven't you been listening to your so-called 'Christian' friends? Your so-called faith says that you are an abomination, and that you should be cut off from the world, you stupid moron. How can you have a faith that claims that you should cease to exist? Why bother?"
It's a valid question. It's one I've wrestled with ever since I started going back to church. And it's at least one reason why I've stayed in the closet as long as I have. There are many, many answers to this - but here's a few, for now:
First, I'm not doing any of the things that would get me labeled "abomination." In fact, as of this writing, I have not "lain with" anyone - male or female - for eleven long years. My only sexual experiences with a man were more than 20 years ago - and the person involved was so ashamed, he ultimately committed suicide, rather than doing what I am doing right now. So let's clear one thing up: I am not "coming out" because I've found some hot guy to "do the nasty with," or because I have found some special someone to skip down some gay "lovers' lane." Tragically (again, at least for now) nothing could be further from the truth.
Second, and more importantly, as a Christian, I have affirmed the Bible as the inspired word of God. As a seminarian, I affirmed the Bible as the inspired word of God - first, to a specific community in a specific time, and second, as a guide to faith and action. But there are enough valid questions about the translations and intentions of the texts I quoted, and others (even by straight theologians, who have no percentage in "perverting Scripture") to give me hope. I'll be exploring those as I go along.
Thirdly, as a gay Christian, my homosexuality calls into question beliefs about the very nature of creation, about God's power and goodness, about the nature of sin, the essence of humanity, and about God's love for all creation (even me). How can I be an abomination and yet be fearfully and wonderfully made?
John 3:16 (that phrase that so many folks spout at the drop of a hat) says that "God so loved the world" - not the straight world, but the whole world.
Regardless what Pat Robertson, Fred Phelps, or anyone else says, I am a child of "the world" that Jesus came to save. I am a part of the created order of the world. I didn't choose this; I have just been this way - forever. And I am slowly coming to believe that God can and does loves me, and desires me to have a relationship with me - just as I am. I've been told - by people who seem to know - that God wants me to be "happy, joyous and free." I don't believe that God wants me denying what I am, rejecting sexuality as I am drawn to it, and hiding the truth about who and what I am from the world. I cannot believe that I would be created homosexual, and then told to abstain from "that sinful life." Even though I have done just that, out of fear...for decades.
The 2nd step of the 12-step recovery program says that we "came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." A friend recently told me that he'd heard "sanity" described as the ability to work, play, and love - successfully, and in balance. So it seems that my adventure will be to discover how a a gay man can reconcile the love of God and the promise of salvation in Christ as revealed in the Bible with the ability to work, play, and love as a "practicing" homosexual.
Ultimately, some will say this is impossible. But I have to believe that the God of my misunderstanding is way, way bigger than that.
As of the day I first wrote this, I was a long, long way from "out." For another while, I could count on both hands the number of folks who knew that I'm gay. Now I'm out to a few more people, but still struggling through the closet door. So forgive my fear and struggling - but for the time being, this will be an anonymous blog. I long for the day when I can strip that cloak of anonymity away - but for now, this is just survival, one day at a time.
If I've sent you the link to this site, you know who I am...and I'd ask you to help me preserve that anonymity, until I'm ready to break it. No one else can - or should - be "outing" me until I'm ready to do that. (I'm not silly enough to think it won't happen - but I can at least ask...)
If you're still with me, welcome to the journey.
Judge tenderly of me...
(last updated November 20, 2005)
Posted by Steve at 3/20/2005 03:32:00 AM