The New Homophiles, I Guess

Gabriel Blanchard of Mudblood Catholic has a splendid piece at Crisis that clarifies a few things about what we “Side B”1 gay Christians believe, and why we are not Trying To Ruin Everything.

The piece is in response to a pair of pieces by Austin Ruse, who is very proud of himself for coming up with a term, albeit a sort of squicky one, to describe our odd little group. Ruse’s piece made sort of a kerfuffle in the Side B blogosphere: a lot of us thought Ruse’s piece was unfair, and some of us just objected to, in Joshua Gonnerman’s formulation, being squinted at as by an anthropologist (although Gonnerman points out that it is “old school anthropology, the kind where you didn’t ask the people you were studying what they were on about, but just developed your own explanations, which you relayed to people who were more distant than you, and coined names for them yourself”).

I’m really impressed with, and grateful for, the way Mr. Blanchard has stepped up to the plate. Here are some of my favorite bits from his piece, with some emphasis added by me.

Homosexuality does not exist in the abstract; it only exists in people. The Church’s doctrine of sexuality is precisely a doctrine about people, and about proper modes of relationship among them…If our sole mode of engagement with self-identified gay people is in the spheres of the culture wars, and not as people that we know, I believe that we have already failed the task of evangelism. For in that case, the truth we speak has no connection to the people it is about. A truth that costs us nothing will always feel like a counterfeit to the people who have to pay for it.

Damn. And I’m indebted to him for explaining why I, and many like me, tend to not worry too much about using the word “gay” to describe ourselves:

Take, for instance, the controversial word gay. I use it to describe myself, because I know from experience that if I use same-sex attracted instead, it puts up the hackles on my gay friends, for whom the phrase has the baggage of ugly psychiatric experiments and denial. I also know from experience that virtually none of them assume I take any specific view of the origin of homosexuality, or assume anything about my sex life or lack thereof, just because I use the word gay. The odds of misunderstanding, then, are so low (in my circles at any rate), and the risk of scandalizing people — that is, moving them away from God — with a PC-for-Catholics term is sufficiently high, that I find gay preferable. Not that there is nothing to be said for PC-for-Catholics terminology; but in this case it is a bad evangelistic tool, because it is ignorant of — or deliberately ignores — its actual effects upon the audience.

I’m reminded of one of my worse days as a teacher. I had spent hours preparing a particular lesson, and I was pretty excited about it — but for some reason, when I taught it, it fell flat. The students were bored and restless. My reaction then was anger, because it seemed to me that the very fact that I had put effort and thought into the lesson meant my students owed me their interest.

Years later, this seems to me a very self-absorbed attitude. If only a couple of students are bored and restless, the lesson is a good one and those kids are bad apples. If everybody’s bored and restless, it’s a bad lesson, no matter how hard you worked on it. This is, I think, exactly the kind of ignorance of one’s audience that Mr. Blanchard is addressing.

My own position within the Side B world is, I think, a little weird. Ruse’s piece made me uncomfortable and annoyed, largely because it made us seem more heterodox than we are. Some Side B stuff, on the other hand, makes me uncomfortable and worried, because bits of it bear the smell of, or the smell of the danger of, self-deception: the line between “my homosexuality is a gift and a blessing because of all the gifts and blessings that have come with it” and “my homosexuality, per se, is a gift” is blurrier than I’d like. In some cases it’s not blurry at all, but just nonexistent. I don’t think I’m okay with that, but I have yet to formulate exactly why.

I’m still torn about how much to post, and where, about this stuff. This blog has always been personal rather than conceptual or political, and I’d like to keep it that way. But I’m conscious, too, of my desire to just skip the whole conversation; and I suspect that desire is born more of sloth than of principle. We’ll see. Till then, peace.

1 We here in the gay Christian world find it useful to distinguish between “Side A” and “Side B” gay Christians. Side B folk believe that homosexual actions are always immoral. Side A folk believe otherwise.

9 Comments on “The New Homophiles, I Guess”

  1. Gabriel says:

    Thanks, mang! I have to say I was super bummed by the way they edited the first paragraph, since it screwed up my opening simile and removed one of the Scriptural allusions I’d made. Also, very much seconded on the squick factor of the name. I haven’t come up with a good alternative, but Ruse’s coinage just doesn’t seem attractive at all.

  2. ARM says:

    Actually, I think you’ve formulated your reasons eloquently in the past, but I’m not sure where so I can’t quote you to yourself. But I personally find you more lucid on this point than anybody else I’ve read. I think you said something essentially along the lines of, you don’t see how you can glorify the desire for something if the fulfillment of that desire is wrong.

  3. Babs says:

    I get the gift part the way I get that a disease or disability can bear good fruit and thus be see as a gift. What we as humans fail at expressing is that the gift is actually the fortitude to endure and embrace our sufferings, it isn’t our sufferings themselves. God is too good and too loving to make us suffer, also He is too good and too loving not to help us embrace, endure and conquer our weakness.

  4. Aspie Girl says:

    How different the discussions in the comments underneath G.Blanchards article are from the discussions on this blog.
    I really shouldn’t read comment sections.
    Most of the internet is a cold and terrifying place.

  5. I was wondering what your thoughts on all this would be. As a straight woman/youth minister who tries to advocate for the LGBT community and the Church’s understanding of sexuality and homosexuality I have found the entire conversation fascinating. You know how God does weird things? Yesterday, because of this discussion, I spent the majority of my morning on the timing is excellent, because this Wednesday, I have perhaps the most important workshop I have ever given on the topic for the Archdiocese of Detroit. A lot of the themes presented were already woven within our presentation…but I was excited to see scholarly fancy people, and some celibate gay persons- have some of the same thoughts I talk about!
    Anyway, I am sure it is sometimes tiring to write about, but I just wanted to remind you how helpful you have been to people like me by sharing your experience.
    So. Thanks 🙂

  6. markanthony says:

    I have followed your blog off and on for a few years now and, while I have always appreciated the personal nature of the blog, I don’t believe you do your readers justice by only engaging this small piece of Austin Ruse’s writing, if you are going to mention him at all. I only became aware of him through a relatively recent Daily Caller piece he authored on the Russia laws. It was a disturbing article and nothing I have read by him has elevated my opinion since. I hope, in whatever format you choose to to be appropriate, you do engage Ruse in the totality of his writings.

  7. Tiffany says:

    I hate to be the class clown (and this is all sincerely stirring, eloquent) — but again your deft footnotes, and my slow uptake, has given me funny pause. I totally thought you were referring to yourself as a “Pope Benedict the 1st gay Christian” and I was just so puzzled for a while!

  8. ACMS says:

    Thanks for this blog! I am also uncomfortable with Austin Ruse’s piece and look forward to reading more of your thoughts on the matter. All best and prayers.

    1. Nice to hear from you, ACMS. Congrats on your (sort of) recent Life Event. 🙂

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