Going Public

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 Mine made me shy and withdrawn, and his made him brash and arrogant, or at least made him put on a brash and arrogant front.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!

1 Hm. Actually, that might be fun.

10 Comments on “Going Public”

  1. Dante says:

    You wanna know what I think? I bet you can guess. And about t-shirts…i saw two that were pretty good. #1 Winner: “No One Knows I am Gay”. #2 (risque but hey you know what kind of guy this is coming from) “I Used to Be Gay…Ask Me to Prove It.” 🙂 Drop me an email if you want my 2 cents.

  2. Bill Damas says:

    If you are so proud of being a celibate gay Catholic, why are you being anonymous?

    1. Hello, Bill. Can you think of any good reason why I shouldn’t be anonymous?

      Mainly the reason that I’m anonymous is what I say in the Q&A section of the site — my sexuality isn’t most people’s business. Posting here allows me to address important issues, without letting the whole world in on my personal life.

      Glad you stopped by.

  3. Melissa says:

    It just shows where our culture’s attitude is about sex that you are most ashamed about admitting your celibacy. I find it so odd that we live in a society where sex is deemed a “need” on par with actual physical needs (e.g. water, air, and food); thus, for someone to say that he/she is voluntarily living without it is tantamount to saying that he/she is embracing something unhealthy and destructive. It’s very sad. Good for you, though! You’ve inspired me to be more diligent and open about my own struggles with personal sins.

    1. Melissa, I feel similarly — admitting celibacy gets you looked at like you’re some kind of self-destructive sicko. An odd situation. Thank you for reading.

  4. Thomas R says:

    I have a congenital disability so I think it might be easier for me. I think people assume I’m celibate unless I say otherwise.

    Online I’ve become fairly open about having SSAs, although in my case I have OSAs almost as much, and trying to remain chaste per church teaching. In life I admit I’ve only hinted at it and not outright said it to anyone, including family. I’ve kind of accepted it’s there, and how I see it, but I’ve never felt like I could explain it right to someone else.

  5. Aggie says:

    Steve: Good for you! It is inspiring to see someone else capable to thinking these highly sensitive matter through with reason and faithfulness to the Church.

    On the ‘anonymity’ debate, I would make the following observation: The whole ‘coming out’ thing is a misnomer. The moment you buy into it you by the error of thinking that SSA is something you are rather than a proclivity; homosexuality is not an identity; it is an activity. It is odd to see, on the one hand gay activists push the notion of coming out because they have a vested political interest in the identity question. But some traddie conversations buy into this as well when see SSA folks as intrinsically part of some kind of conspiracy to undermine the family.

    I say, stick with the anonymous designation for the purpose of this effort. Speak more openly with people you can trust and who understand the complexities of who you are. And remember St. Paul’s insight in precisely this context: “…and such WERE some of you.” (1Cor.6:9-10).

    You’re a good man Steve. Stick with the Church.

  6. Patric says:

    Yes, this blog is a great step. It’s very helpful for me too. I’m with you!

  7. Jake says:

    Great blog! Just came across it. My dad and I were talking about how leading a chaste life is the gorilla in the room of popular culture. I am historian and I can give you some lessons about modern western culture’s attitude toward celibacy has been hostile for quite some time. It is a lot to discuss in a comment box, but I offer you this nugget. Draw from it what you will.

    In the late-1700’s and 1800’s throughout Europe it was not uncommon for various governments to pass laws forbidding celibacy. Many of the places in the Old World one would associate with being historical Catholic also tend to have laws against remaining uncoupled sexually. This is particularly true in 1840’s France and Germany. And, the goal really had more to do with anti-clericalism than anything else.

  8. Michael says:

    Celibacy isn’t really that bad. I was for about 7 yrs. Then there was a girl when “it” happened, and after that I have been again ever since, now 16 years. It isn’t really a struggle. It’s even better now, since I’ve started studying John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. That man was wise! I learned the term celibate for the Kingdom. It is my sacrifice for God. Sex is good because it was created by God. Married couples can have sex and share in God’s awesome power of creating life. Sex is held in such high esteem that when one is celibate for the Kingdom, it is recognized as a great sacrifice for God. Stay celibate. God appreciates your sacrifice.

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