Not long ago I reconnected with Keith, an old college friend. I’d always found him sort of intimidating. He’s a big guy, sort of a jock, and comes across as extremely confident — three things that, in college, terrified me and made me clam up. We hung out with our mutual friend Molly, one of my oldest and dearest, who’s known about my SSA since about ’04.
The next day Molly called me up with the news that Keith had asked her if I had “come out.” Whuh? I haven’t made my SSA public, although I’ve toyed with the idea at various times. One of the reasons I haven’t is Fr. T, who argues that if I let it all be widely known, people will get the wrong idea; they’ll label and categorize me; they’ll assume things that aren’t true. Revealing my secret only to a close friend here and there allows me to make sure I’m understood.
There’s also this: it can be hard enough as it is to keep from obsessing about my sexuality. Wouldn’t it be harder if it was public? It can be hard to remember that my identity, first and foremost, is that of a son of God, not that of a gay man. Wouldn’t it be harder if that was the way other people thought of me?
The other side, of course, is the freedom. If the subject came up in conversation, I wouldn’t have to look blank and wait for the topic to pass. It would be scary, certainly — however much secularists talk about tolerance, the one thing that’s impossible for them to tolerate is adherence to the Church’s doctrine on the subject — but fear is never a good reason to keep quiet. And, thinking unselfishly for a moment, it would be quite a witness: one hears so much from gay activists, and so little from the other side.
Anyway, I gave Keith a call and let him know what was what. We met for dinner and drinks, and ended up having a long (and slightly beery) conversation in which he opened up to me about some of the darker things in his life — not something he does often, I gather, and I was a little floored at some of the things he said. It’s funny how different people respond differently to emotional wounds. Mine made me shy and withdrawn, and his made him brash and arrogant, or at least made him put on a brash and arrogant front. But we’re brothers under the skin, in a way I didn’t suspect.
The whole thing has made me think again about keeping this all a secret. Yes, my family and most of my close friends know, and that helps immensely. No, I’m not about to go around wearing t-shirts that say “Ask me about why I’m gay, Catholic, and celibate!”1 Actually, as Eve Tushnet points out, I think I’d find the admission of celibacy more embarrassing than the admission of homosexuality.
I dunno. It certainly bears praying on. For now, this blog is a big enough step. One thing at a time!