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Pretty soon here I’m going to slip up. I’m @stevegershom on twitter, I’m steve.gershom on gmail, but I’ve got “real” accounts on both of those places, too. This has been happening to me in meatspace, too, and not just since I started blogging here. I was at a party recently where a couple of gay guys were reminiscing about their coming-out experiences, and I almost jumped in with, “Yeah, when I told my family…” — forgetting, for the moment, that most of the people there might have been a little surprised.1

This is definitely a good sign. There was a time, not very long ago, when the thought that anybody might find out about me was more or less terrifying. Now I practically assume everybody knows. Not because it’s obvious, but because I’m much more comfortable with it.

I was talking with my friend Emily once — I was a heavy smoker at the time2, and she’s a social smoker, and we loved talking over coffee and cigarettes on Sunday afternoons — and something about “deep, dark secrets” came up. I said something to the effect that everybody’s got some deep dark secret. She said, quite simply, “I don’t.” And then peered at me in this way she has, like she was just about to start laughing.3

I was a little embarrassed, I think. I had said it as if it were an obvious truth. But she meant what she said: I don’t believe she has anything dreadful hidden away. It’s not that she goes around revealing everything on her mind all the time, but she doesn’t have the same instinct for concealment that I do.

I forget if this story had a point. Oh yes, I was going to ask you, readers, now that I have readers: what do you think about the question of anonymity? Is there any point to keeping hidden? Are there any drawbacks to letting it all hang out?4 I’d especially like to hear from people with personal experience in the matter.

1 Or, you know, maybe not. As my sister said when admitting her not-too-shockedness at my revelation: “I grew up with you, you know?”
2 Alas, no more. I loved being a heavy smoker.
3 Which she then did. Again: just because I like men doesn’t mean I don’t find women mysterious.
4 Can’t seem to stop speaking in double entendres on this damn thing. Sometimes I think my mind is just as filthy as when I was 12.

26 thoughts on “Going Public, Pt. II

  1. Stacy Trasancos

    Steve, I asked myself that a while ago and decided that not telling the full truth about myself was more about my pride than the glory of God, plus my brothers and sisters in Christ will know all my secrets anyway someday in Heaven. Even more, Christ already knows. What’s there to fear?

    The final nudge from the Holy Spirit was my realization that my story might help someone else who was in pain.

    So I talked to my husband and loved ones who should know before it went public, then I told my story. On my blog there’s a link to my conversion story in the About Me tab. It’s not pretty. But it’s ME. Now I can write from my heart and people know why I am so passionate about some things.

    Your Sister in Christ,
    Stacy

    Reply
  2. Dante

    “…plus my brothers and sisters in Christ will know all my secrets anyway someday in Heaven. Even more, Christ already knows. What’s there to fear?..”

    In Heaven all are perfected in charity and in the clarity of vision that is from, with, and in God. On earth even the best are still tainted by the stain of original sin and struggle for that charity which is God.

    So Steve, I would say: Let all your family in Christ know all about you…when they are you are in that fullness of light, love and community which is Heaven. Until then be wise as a serpent, gentle as a dove and practice the virtue of prudence which will inforn you as to who, what, when, where and why.

    Reply
  3. Amanda

    Perhaps many of the people you regularly hang out with already know without saying? I always knew my friend was gay and I once confronted him on it and told him I loved him no matter what–he denied it and came out years later when he was ready. (I wish I hadn’t done that.) Anyway, I would say pray about it and ask God what He wants you to do.

    Reply
  4. Therese Z

    Whether to tell (or ask) or not to tell (or ask) started fascinating me when I worked with a guy who was gay, without doubt. You could put together pieces of his life, his conversation, his choices, and come up with the pretty obvious conclusion.

    But he never said, he never “came out” at work. I kind of admire him for that. It wasn’t our business, he didn’t make it our business, we all lived our own lives. In response, I think some other “playahs” kept their mouths more or less shut, too, because nobody felt like they could talk about their conquests or adventures if he wasn’t talking. All in all, it worked for our office, and I hope it didn’t do too much violence to his feelings.

    Reply
  5. mw

    Just a thought- losing your anonymity early on in this process might open you up to getting more on your plate emotionally then you might want to/be ready to handle. For example, a lot of other young men who struggle with SSA might come your way to seek help but that might be not what you need right now for living chastity etc.

    Reply
  6. Nostor

    Steve,

    having experienced the situation myself, my advice would be to leave it exactly as it is now. There are two reasons for it:

    1. Your sexuality is something intimate. Why would you want to discuss personal and intimate points of your life with total strangers? I have to admit that I never understood the concept of “coming out”, as this is just the result of the modern tendency to discuss even the most private matters publicly. Did you ever meet someone who told you in the course of your conversation “I am straight, by the way”? In my opinion, the entire reason behind this coming out thing was always to make something special of a fact (the “SSA”), while claiming that it is nothing special at all at the same time. To me, that seems schizophrenic.

    2. Do whatever you want, you’ll find yourself put in certain categories if you go public. They will range from “hiding your true self (as if your true self is determined by your sexual attraction)” to “guilt ridden” etc. It is just not worth bothering. Your close friends might or might not understand that and why you chose to be faithful to the Church, but don’t expect that you can gain anything by going public (besides your blog, but the encouragement you give here won’t change by not being anonymous anymore). The people who don’t want to hear won’t hear, and frankly, it simply isn’t worth bothering.

    Reply
  7. Dave

    I wouldn’t go public if I were you, for precisely the reasons Dante has given. In a culture like ours, it is way too easy for an “out” gay to be waylaid. It’s important to do what you’re doing with this blog, but it’s definitely not important to put yourself at risk by giving a real name while doing it.

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  8. Bill Genereux

    I suspect there is little to gain in losing your anonymity. I follow blogging educators, particularly those controversial bloggers who wind up in trouble because they spoke their mind and someone in authority didn’t like it. I realize the parallel here is tenuous, but I think there is something to be said for keeping your privacy these days. It can be liberating to just be yourself, and less complicated, as you alluded to. I just think you might consider waiting a while to see what path this adventure takes you. And definitely pray about it. Your perspective is valuable to many. As long as you’re anonymous, there’s little to prevent you from continuing this indefinitely.

    Reply
  9. ET

    From over at the Catholic Bubble, Florentius had this interesting contribution, which I do not know if you had a chance to read:

    “Excellent article, Steve. Thank you for writing it.

    However, I would take some exception to the notion that you are “gay”. “Gay” implies more than just someone who has same-sex attraction. It implies a lifestyle which you have rejected (Deo gratias). It would be the equivalent of a man calling himself a “Swinger” just because he experiences the temptation to commit adultery.

    You are not “gay”. You are a man and a Child of God–and quite a noble and good one based on your posts.

    May Almighty God bless and keep you always.”

    I would subscribe.

    Reply
    1. Steve Gershom

      Thanks for passing this along. Leila responded by directing the commenter to the q-and-a section of my site. Although maybe this merits a post, too. Still developing my views on this topic.

      Reply
  10. Amanda

    Excellent points, so far. I would also add that whenever one chooses to follow the Church’s teaching on a hard subject like sexuality, there will be a lot of misunderstanding, confusion, and ridicule coming from the world. I couldn’t keep it a secret that I am pregnant (again). The most common response coming from the world is, “have you two figured out what’s causing this???” It’s as if this baby is not as welcome or valuable to the world as my first, or second, or third because I have reached my allowed “quota” and my carbon footprint is getting out of hand. I know this is not an exact analogy to what you deal with, but being open to life is something that is sometimes difficult in our world, just like choosing to be celibate would be. It goes against the grain of secular society. Honestly after many of the reactions I’ve received from people on my current pregnancy, I wish I could have kept it a secret.

    Reply
  11. Amanda

    I also just want to quickly add that This Cross I Embrace left a sweet comment for you (mixed in w/ all the other stuff) that said she relates to you and will be praying for you…her cross is infertility and she feels the temptations of the outside world on things like IVF…but she follows the Church’s teachings and she’ll be praying for you and hopes you will pray for her, too.

    Reply
  12. Dante

    There is an idea that has been around for awhile that the term gay = active in the lifestyle. Not so for everyone, not so for me. Its a clean short easy term that informs someone of my sexual orientation if s/he needs to know that information. As far as I can tell this agitation against using this term can be traced to conservative straight Catholics (such as in Courage) who did not find it suitable for themselves. And that’s fine. To each his own. But it sure bugs me the way so many Catholic crusaders start informing us of what we whould or should not call oursleves. I am sure its well-meaning in its intention but its awfully arrogant and annoying (just like I find the gay designation of “breeder” for str8 people to be arrogant and annoying).

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  13. Dante

    Clarification: I know that Courage is for gay Catholics, the straight ones I mention in affiliation with Courage is meant to refer to their chaplaincy leadership and other non-gay participants.

    Reply
  14. Ruth

    I currently blog anonymously because my Husband is not Catholic and doesn’t understand this part of me. Also, I feel like being anonymous gives him an added layer of protection from anything I might say that he doesn’t agree with as well as protects his privacy. It is hard staying anonymous, and there may be a time when anonymity should be laid aside. However, once you quit writing anonymously, you can never go back to being anonymous, so don’t make the decision hastily.

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  15. Anon Moose

    Personally I think you should blog about this anonymously because the internet space can become exceptionally personal and downright nasty. People are going to be very challenged by your life and your beliefs and I think being able to walk away in the future might be an opportunity you may want in the future.

    I became Catholic but my friends are liberal and my public stance supporting the Church has cost me some friendships because they hate the moral positions of the Church. Being pro-life and believing that marriage is between a man and a woman has meant that I have had some abuse and a lot of disagreement.

    Of course the people who are my real friends have stuck by me, but it’s still been hard to defend what I believe is right.

    I’ve had friends say in private that the abuse I receive is horrible, but none have publicly said that. It’s got to the point now where I keep my head below the parapet. I’ve changed tack and I am just trying to avoid social discussions. When I see my friends bag the Church I just walk away, or rather I hide the post on Facebook. I’m not going to change their minds or hearts no matter how I try and reasonably explain the Church’s teaching. (And I always make sure I’m being polite and calm and try not to inflame discussions.)

    Instead I’m trying to pray more but it’s hard.

    If you do decide to reveal who you are in real life, may I suggest that you try to get to daily Mass and confession once a week, just so that you are strengthened by the grace of the sacraments. (You may do this already so sorry if I’m saying stuff you know.) This is not just a philosophical battle here on the net, it’s also a spiritual battle.

    Good luck and God bless you.

    Reply
  16. Julie Robison

    One of the big reasons I am no longer in journalism is precisely because of privacy. When I had the opportunity to work in a high profile job, I realized I didn’t want to because of the way people dig into other people’s personal lives. Some people have no shame of exploiting every personal detail in order to make a point. When my Dad asked me what dirt anyone could possibly dig up on me, I pointed to my cradle, orthodox Catholicism, conservative upbringing and college, and the other publications I write for. Nothing damaging, but it will paint a picture people think they will know. Then again, I’m still writing, and will continue to (just not on the statehouse beat anymore; politics can get so sticky).

    When I get married, I wonder if I’ll legally change my name but keep my maiden name as a pseudonym, so as not to expose my family. It’s a great question, Steve. I say, do whatever you are comfortably with– no one needs to clamor for you name. As John Proctor said at the end of The Crucible, when asked why he refuses to sign the confession, he says, “Because it is my name! And it’s the only one I’ve got!”

    God bless! :)

    Reply
  17. ET

    I found Florentius’ words on using “gay” as self-designation useful, partially because, when using it, this designation tends to swamp everything else, reducing the persons who use it to only one aspect of their being, namely the sexual attractions they feel. In a way, I fear that using it can thus become a manner to trap oneself; if I define myself as “gay,” while trying to live “against it” – well, I might trap myself into thinking that I am trying to “live against myself.” In fact, this is the argument against chastity from many persons with an active homosexual lifestyle.

    Well, it depends on what my understanding of “myself” really is. In other words, it depends on what I really think a human being is. What is a human being?

    What am I, in fact? I am a person – a full and complex human being, created by God – as Florentius said, God’s child. That’s what I am. The sexual attractions I feel are just one aspect of me, together with many others. This understanding, I think, puts things in the right perspective, reducing sexual attractions to what they are, not more, and not less. It is not about diminishing their importance, but situating them in the right context.

    And what is my meaning, then, as a human being? The full meaning of a full human being is to love God, and live a life leading to God. This is why I am happy that this is the meaning I see you following, Steve, and God bless you in this – because this is truly your meaning, as a human being. The rest is part of it.

    As I think you mentioned it, indirectly, this is why chastity is such a stumbling block, both in the case of consecrated people, but also of lay people. It is rooted in a mistaken understanding of what a human being is, and his/her true meaning. This is not about demeaning sexual attraction, but about understanding it in its right context. That it is part of a greater meaning, and thus, together with all our faculties and traits and vulnerabilities, has to be put in service of our true, greater meaning.

    Anyway, that’s why I found F’s comments valuable. I apologize in advance if I worded things in ways that might be inappropriate. I am an outsider, but I am not that either, because, as some of the people commenting here already stated, living according to your true meaning is almost always controversial, and often a stumbling block to the world -whether you have six kids, or can not conceive kids but would not use IVF, or are celibate etc. Doing that is often hard, but it has its rewards, the greatest of which is that we are truly living according to our meaning – which is, God. (Just like you mentioned, Steve!)

    Reply
    1. Steve Gershom

      And I wasn’t expecting to find courteous, reasonable people on the internet. So neither of us has been disappointed! Do stop by again when your eyeballs feel better.

      Reply
  18. Dutch

    I have been considering how to do a blog and whether to disclose my identity.

    Anonymity, all the way!
    1. Potential employers won’t be able to find anything about you to dislike/disqualify you (on the ‘Net).
    2. It’s what you are writing that matters.Self-identification does not enhance that. So you are a VTer or NHite, eh? (I-89).
    3. You can say “outrageous” things without anyone calling you out on it to your face.
    4. You can never un-disclose yourself, once done.
    Worse than a tattoo!
    5. Exposing an SSA just adds to the over- sexualization of our culture.
    6. Exp … SSA pigeon-holes you, puts you into a corner, stereotypes you as whatever whomever thinks “gay” is. And they are not likely to let you be other than they think you were BORN.
    7. Exp … SSA could well be an imposition on others, those who would rather not have to think about it, discomfiting them to no good purpose.

    Thanks for “making” me delineate my thoughts on this!

    Dutch

    Reply
  19. Gordon

    Not having had a chance to read all other comments, and guessing this is perhaps repetitive, but I think, in essence you can give a real live example of how the Church calls those with SSA to live. I came to your sight by way of Greg Willits who has a radio show, man I’m sure you would be an interesting guest on his show and many Catholic shows.

    Reply
  20. Michael

    Like Jesus said in John 21:22, “what is it to you?” If it’s not a person’s business, they don’t need to know.

    Reply

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