I don’t like disagreeing with people. I tend to do it badly. Either I’m silent when I should be vocal, which makes people assume I agree with them when I don’t, or I rip somebody’s head off about something that doesn’t matter at all, like the other night when I badly hurt a dear friend’s feelings during what was supposed to be a lighthearted argument about the merits of Bob Dylan as a vocalist.
I’m also not, as they say, a joiner. Is that a personality trait or a personality flaw? People are supposed to be part of things. But being part of things makes me scared, because what if the thing doesn’t go the direction I want to go? Or what if it stays at a place longer than I want to stay and I am stuck? Or what if it drives badly? …I perceive that I am talking, suddenly, about carpooling in somebody else’s car, which I also hate. But it comes to the same thing.
I just got inked again, a big visible tat this time. Did I do that because I wanted it? Or was it one more way to say to the world, “Hah, I’m an orthodox Catholic but I’m all tatted up, too! Plus I’m gay! What do you think of THAT, eh!? YOU CAN’T PUT ME IN YOUR BOXES.”
Being a lone wolf seems really cool and independent and, like, brood-y, when you’re a teenager or, okay, a twenty-something, but eventually — I speak from the vast age of 30, at which point I have of course left childish things behind me, completely and forever — it turns out to have been a pose. Like how in seventh grade, Tim S. and I used to stand on the sidelines while other people played touch football, and talk about how we were superior to all those dumb jocks because we enjoyed intellectual pursuits and we weren’t like everybody else.
But actually I was just scared, and I bet Tim was too.
You would think that the one community I’d be okay with joining would be a community of outsiders like me: weird first because we’re Christian, weirder because we’re gay, and weirdest of all, maybe, because we’re those things and also celibate.
But as usual I’m hesitant and scared. As usual, there are some pretty good reasons; and as usual, those reasons aren’t a good excuse for standing on the outside.
I was 14 when I realized I was gay. I thank God that it didn’t take too long for me to find a mentor — my often-quoted Father T — who was kind, patient, sympathetic, and didn’t mind my ringing his doorbell at all hours to come sob on his couch. But before I even found him, I found and devoured Father Harvey’s The Homosexual Person.
I haven’t picked up the book in over a decade, but I remember what a relief it was to discover that maybe the unacceptable feelings inside me were based on something good and true and beautiful, even if that something had gone askew. In college, I read Alan Medinger’s Growth Into Manhood, and began to try to live my life more or less by its principles. A couple of years after graduation, I plucked up courage to attend the Journey Into Manhood weekend put on by People Can Change — if you haven’t heard of them, they’re an ex-gay organization that is mostly areligious.
I’m profoundly grateful both to Medinger and to People Can Change. I believe that they both blessed and damaged me. But I still think the former has been deeper and more permanent than the latter — which, it now strikes me, could be said about a great many of the things and people I have loved.
When the ex-gay movement imploded — which is, I guess, a Thing That Happened, whose apex can be more or less dated to the moment when Alan Chambers issued his apology — I felt like the metaphorical frog in boiling water. All around me the movement had been slowly getting discredited, and I knew it was happening, dimly, but in the back of my mind I still held on to most of its principles; and when more and more people spoke out about how badly they had been hurt by it, I didn’t ignore them, exactly, but I didn’t quite take them seriously, either. But suddenly the water around me was unmistakably boiling.
So I’m in an odd spot. I can’t give up the things I learned from People Can Change and their ilk, at any rate not yet. Their broad-stroke narrative about the genesis of homosexuality still seems true in my case, even though I no longer hold out hope for the kind of change they used to talk about. I still think my love for men has a sizeable chunk of misplaced desire for paternal affection, even if it’s not fashionable to talk that way anymore. And I still don’t have any problem with calling homosexuality fundamentally disordered, despite the panoply of blessings that have entered my life by that strange gate, and continue to do so.
I’m still working all this stuff out. I just hope the cool kids still like me.