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I just met with my new shrink for the first time. When I told him I was Catholic, he went “Oh boy” — and said that he was, too, but that the Church’s teaching on homosexuality was something that he struggled with. He gave me a hard time when I described my same-sex attraction as “something wrong with me.” During the course of our 50 minutes, he also used the phrase “who you are” in reference to my SSA; and observed that it must cause me conflict to know that I can’t ever marry a man because “the Church says no.”

Responding the last part, I laughed and said, “That’s a funny way of putting it.” I won’t marry a man, but it’s not because “the Church says no.” In a sense, it’s not even because God says no. Even though both of those things are true. It’s because I’ve thought it through, and the idea of marrying a man makes no sense to me. It doesn’t square with anything that I know about the world. I can’t take the credit for this — I see the world the way I see it because my parents, and all of Catholic tradition, have taught me to think for myself.

That being said, he had a point. It’s not healthy for me to think of myself in terms of what’s wrong with me, and he’s right to steer me away from that kind of thinking. He also said that he isn’t planning to try to steer me towards accepting a homosexual relationship as a possibility. I believe him.

But, folks, same-sex attraction is something wrong with me. It’s not a wrongness that goes to the core of me, but it is a defect. If someone had never heard of homosexuality and I told them the things that go through my head when I see a good-looking guy, they’d say: You want to put your what in his where? It’s common sense. Gay sex makes about as much sense as eating chalk, and pica is still recognized as a disorder by the APA1. Last time I checked.

So. We’ll see how next week goes. Dissent aside, he also showed compassion, understanding, and a good amount of intuition. But if this guy tries to — as the saying goes — impose his value system on me, I’ll be taking my business elsewhere.

1 In case you didn’t feel like clicking the link: “Pica is a medical disorder characterized by an appetite for substances largely non-nutritive (e.g., metal, clay, coal, sand, dirt…ash, gum, lip balm, etc.” Makes me think of Isaiah: “Why spend your money for what is not food, your wages on what fails to satisfy?”

14 thoughts on “Go Shrink Yourself

  1. Leila

    This is so honest, and so interesting to me. What do you think of the calling it a disordered attraction? I have taking to calling things “ordered” or “disordered” sort of in a natural law way.

    Also, if you can believe it, my daughter wrote a college paper explaining why homosexuality is a disorder along the lines of pica! She was nervous, as she goes to a large secular state university, and the folks there are none to happy with any hint of “homophobia”. Turns out, the liberal professor actually thought her paper was excellent! My daughter was shocked and so was I. But I think it makes sense, and I appreciate that you see the comparison as well.

    Your doc sounds pretty decent (dissent aside, ha ha).

    Reply
    1. Steve Gershom

      Leila, that’s probably a better way to say it than “something wrong.”

      I’m impressed by your daughter’s courage and her professor’s openmindedness!

      Reply
  2. anon

    I think pica is caused by a nutritional deficiency. So, for example, if you are not getting or absorbing enough calcium, you crave chalk. So the craving is disordered in its manifestation, but not at its root. I’m just wondering if you intended the analogy to go that far.

    Reply
    1. Steve

      Can we pretend that I did think it through that far? I dig it. I think this idea is what is meant by the “reparative drive” theory of homosexuality.

      Reply
  3. Jordan Gray

    I was directed here by a commenter on another blog, and I confess: I’m fascinated to have found someone who has “bit the bullet” by accepting what I consider to be the only rational perspective a believing Catholic can take on homosexuality. Few people have the bravery or clarity of thought needed to accept the more challenging consequences of their beliefs. You are somewhat remarkable, and I respect you for it.

    That said, I am in complete disagreement.

    When I first realised for certain that I was gay, I can’t say I was happy about it. I had visions of being rejected by my family and friends, and was convinced that it was a serious problem I should wish to have taken away. For various reasons, I had a lot of internalised homophobia, and realising that I was gay was pretty nightmarish.

    Now, I think turning out to be gay is one of the best things that ever happened to me. I’m glad, because it gave me the impetus and the courage I needed to question myself and the beliefs I so casually accepted. If I weren’t gay, I wouldn’t just be a different person; I’d probably be a worse person, because without that opportunity I can’t imagine I’d be half the man I am today.

    “[S]ame-sex attraction is something wrong with me. It’s not a wrongness that goes to the core of me, but it is a defect. If someone had never heard of homosexuality and I told them the things that go through my head when I see a good-looking guy, they’d say: You want to put your what in his where? It’s common sense.”

    Common sense is often anything but sensible. In this particular case: so far back as I can remember, the thought of heterosexual intercourse made me feel utterly repulsed, and it seemed bizarre that anyone would ever want to do that. It was one of the biggest clues as to my orientation; most of my friends figured it out first when I confessed how nauseated I was by the idea of sex.

    It isn’t surprising that a heterosexual person would understand the appeal of heterosexual intercourse, but not homosexual intercourse. Why would you expect anything else? More to the point, why does their opinion matter? Because there are more of them? Because their opinions are “common”? I am an uncommon person, and it does not disturb me that I have uncommon views. As an uncommon person yourself, I doubt you see any more reason to accept “common sense” than I do.

    “Gay sex makes about as much sense as eating chalk, and pica is still recognized as a disorder by the APA.”

    As an earlier commenter pointed out, pica is often a symptom of nutritional deficiencies. Indeed, eating at all is the attempt to gain nutrition. Personally, I am quite clear on what I “require”. Like most human beings, I am driven to seek love, stability, sex and companionship. Most people are sexually attracted to the opposite sex, which naturally guides them towards fulfilling these needs with a partner of the opposite sex, but I sought—and, until his sudden death last month, had found—a partner of the same sex.

    You compare this to a disorder that causes one to seek things that are unhealthy; on Leila’s blog, you described it as seeking nourishment from sand instead of food. All I can do is speak from experience. I felt incomplete until I found my partner. For the nine years I had him, I felt safer and more complete, and so did he. Now that he’s gone, I acutely feel my need for him. He nourished me. Without him, I am back to feeling… deficient.

    Doubtless you compare my source of satisfaction and happiness to eating sand because you occupy an entirely different frame of reference, and I hold no animosity towards you for that. You have found your own nourishment. I regard you with a similar fascination and admiration as I might a vegan. Similarly, I wonder if, perhaps, you have needs that are not met by your diet, and if you might not be in some sense anaemic. You live in opposition to needs and drives that are quite fundamental to most people.

    Hopefully you find this no more insulting than I find your analogy to pica. You are strange to me, and perhaps I am strange to you. For my part I’m glad to be strange, and I think it is the best thing about me.

    Reply
    1. Steve Gershom

      Hi Jordan,

      Thanks for writing, and for making the effort to see things from my point of view.

      “turning out to be gay…gave me the impetus and the courage I needed to question myself and the beliefs I so casually accepted. If I weren’t gay, I wouldn’t just be a different person; I’d probably be a worse person, because without that opportunity I can’t imagine I’d be half the man I am today.”

      I feel the same way! I think everyone needs a “waking-up” moment, when they stop taking things only on authority and start thinking for themselves.

      “Common sense is often anything but sensible. In this particular case: so far back as I can remember, the thought of heterosexual intercourse made me feel utterly repulsed, and it seemed bizarre that anyone would ever want to do that.”

      I see your point, but I didn’t mean to refer to subjective repulsion — I just mean that some of my desires don’t make a lot of sense, just because…that isn’t what those parts are for.

      “I am an uncommon person, and it does not disturb me that I have uncommon views.”

      Me neither. Actually, I find celibacy to be a much more “uncommon” idea than homosexuality.

      “As an earlier commenter pointed out, pica is often a symptom of nutritional deficiencies. Indeed, eating at all is the attempt to gain nutrition…”

      I like the point you’re making here. I see my own same-sex desires as a drive to get some of the things that, for one reason or another, I missed early in life — acceptance and affection from male peers and elders. I’ve been learning to get those things in a healthy way, because you’re right, we all do need that kind of nourishment.

      “All I can do is speak from experience. I felt incomplete until I found my partner. For the nine years I had him, I felt safer and more complete, and so did he. Now that he’s gone, I acutely feel my need for him. He nourished me. Without him, I am back to feeling… deficient.”

      I’m sorry for your loss. I don’t doubt that your experience is what you say it is. I don’t think, though, that feeling good about a thing is always a good indicator that that thing is good. Still — and this is one of the areas in which I’m trying to clarify my own ideas, in my own head — I don’t doubt that you were good for each other at least on some levels.

      “Similarly, I wonder if, perhaps, you have needs that are not met by your diet, and if you might not be in some sense anaemic. You live in opposition to needs and drives that are quite fundamental to most people…Hopefully you find this no more insulting than I find your analogy to pica.”

      I’m not insulted — I appreciate how frank you’re being — but don’t misunderstand me: I know how much I need love from other men. The more I learn to get it (but in non-sexual ways) the more peaceful I am.

      Hope my response has been coherent. Had sort of a rotten day, one thing going wrong after another, and trying to keep up on correspondence. Again, I really appreciate your frankness and your respect — you have mine too. I’d love to keep the conversation going, here or by email, whichever you prefer (though email is easier for me to keep track of).

      SG

      Reply
  4. Jake

    Folks don’t like to hear anything about something being wrong with someone else. I wager that’s why folks stare at physically deformed people and then guiltily look away quickly with the littlest one gazes in their direction.

    Two things I learned about SSA folks who are trying to stick with Christ. One, they are icon of being alone on a cross. Two, they are fantastic icon of the devil sowing noxious weed seeds among the wheat seeds. God, gives us the command not to tear up the weeds because good wheat might be torn up with it. Weeds stifle the wheat and malform it, but this gives the wheat a need to send out deeper (spiritual) roots than would other stalks of wheat.

    Reply
    1. Steve Gershom

      Hey, just like the Gospel last Sunday. Our pastor made the point that we tend to compartmentalize our faults from our virtues when we think about them; but that really, our faults and virtues often lie in exactly the same places.

      Reply
  5. Diane

    easiest way to talk about my SSA is to say that it is not rightly ordered, as opposite-sex attraction is….it is DISordered and simple physiology suppports the undeniable truth that men go with women sexually.

    Reply
  6. Nina

    Hello, I enjoy reading what seems so honest and important, on something I have thought about. Here is a short reaction. I have experienced attractions to persons of either sex, and followed the attraction where it took us in what I think of as a responsible way, although there was not life long commitment. I cared deeply for the person and extending that to sexual contact was not strange. From my perspective, the more serious issue (than same sex or other sex) is all out intimacy with another person, aiming for no falsity. Experiencing this kind of union is what we have the potential for, through sexuality. In some other sex contact, new life also comes from this union, but full union can also happen between persons of the same sex or of different sexes where no procreation happens. So my conclusion is that “defect” is a very unhappy and in a sense ungrateful way of naming this experience. It is just another way of rejecting the gift from God of love and attraction.

    Reply
  7. Ann

    Sexual actions exist for the sake of creating children. Now, yes, it is true that as human beings there is more meaning, a psychological purpose of relationship. But the biological truth still remains

    Reply
  8. Ahab

    just tuning into this website years later apparently.

    question then:

    isn’t celibacy just as “unnatural” as you claim homosexual sex to be?
    if the parts were truly “made” for reproduction, celibacy would be like anorexia in your pica analogy, would it not?

    Reply

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