Occasionally I do pull out the gay card. The gay card, of course, is a conversational trump, as in: “You say homosexual acts are wrong? Well, I have a gay cousin!” This is exactly as logical as saying: “You think Cheetos aren’t nutritious? Well, I love Cheetos!” Probably true, but totally irrelevant — unless you expect me to tailor my principles according to who they’re going to offend.1
I use the gay card in the opposite way, as in: “You say I call homosexual actions immoral because I don’t understand what it’s like to be a gay man — well, I’ll let you in on a secret.” Sort of a cheap trick, really, and I’ve only used it twice. And, come to think of it, alcohol was involved both times.
The first time I used it was about seven years ago, in an argument with a Catholic woman I knew from college. She was a dissenter, and who could blame her: if I grew in her house, I’d probably think all Catholicism was as toxic as her parents’ brand apparently was.2
I was arguing that being gay meant being stuck in a kind of perpetual self-absorption: if the opposite sex is an image of otherness, and if one of the natural purposes of romantic love is to draw us out of ourselves — towards the other, towards that-which-is-not-us — then being oriented romantically towards your own gender is, by definition, narcissistic. My conclusion was that gay men, therefore, don’t know how to love.
I was arguing from theory, and she from experience: she told me that she knew gay men in loving relationships, whose unselfishness towards each other was something that anyone could learn from, and something that she only infrequently saw in straight couples. Gay men taught me how to love, she said.
Well, that was a long time ago. I stand by my fundamental points — you can’t ignore the built-in symbolism of the sexes, can’t pretend that it doesn’t exist or that it’s meaningless — but my conclusion was utterly bogus. Things are rarely that simple — or rather, truth is always simple, like white light, but it gets refracted and scattered somehow when it enters this world.3
The short version of what I’m about to say is: It’s not that gay men don’t know how to love. It’s that nobody does.
It’s easy for us (maybe especially those of us with SSA) to get so hung up on the Church’s teaching about homosexuality that we miss the bigger picture. The Church proposes an ideal for human sexuality that nobody fulfills: “There is no one who does good, not even one.” Being gay doesn’t guarantee that your relationships are thoroughly selfish, any more than being straight guarantees that they are thoroughly unselfish, and the Church has at least as much to say to straight couples as she does to gay ones.4
The tricky part, unfortunately, remains: a homosexual romantic relationship, unlike a heterosexual one, has no potential of coming to its proper fulfillment as a romantic relationship — that’s like saying an acorn could ever come to its proper fulfillment as a banana tree:5 it just doesn’t have it within itself.
That doesn’t mean a homosexual relationship doesn’t have its own potential, and its own proper fulfillment — it just means that that fulfillment isn’t marriage. There are men who begin as lovers and, as their love for each other deepens, end up as friends; when they discover that that’s what their relationship meant all along.
But I’m writing, as usual, of things I don’t fully understand. We’ve got some heavy hitters in the comboxes these days. Have at it, y’all.