So you were at this Fourth of July thing…
So I was at this Fourth of July thing. Sometimes at these family things I can forget myself and just play with the kids, just be joyful with them, be everybody’s fun uncle. This wasn’t one of those times. By the time the fireworks were done, I was deep down in this hole of self-pity. Not a good scene.
So while I was driving home, I was thinking about my commitment to celibacy. People would ask me sometimes, “When did you decide to be celibate? What did that decision look like? How did you reconcile yourself to it? What was your reasoning?” Etc., etc.
And that was the only question I ever got asked where I felt like I had to scramble to make something up. But my answers sounded less and less convincing to me. Finally I started telling the truth: I didn’t decide to be celibate. It wasn’t a decision. I’d just never allowed myself to consider anything else.
Well, I mean, how could you? You’ve always believed what the Church taught.
I know. It’s a dilemma. Actually, that dilemma is bigger than just the gay question. Gil Bailie says somewhere that growing up Christian is like learning all the answers before you’ve learned to ask any of the questions.
And you love to ask questions.
I love to ask questions. But it feels strange to ask questions when you know beforehand which answers you’re supposed to arrive at. And it feels shitty to be stuck in a way of life that you never actually chose, especially when it’s a way of life that seems less and less worthwhile all the time.
So how did you go from feeling rotten about your life to making the decision to date?
I don’t know. William James has this really great image of what a religious conversion is like: he talks about a many-sided die which gets nudged and nudged, and each time it rocks a little and then rocks back to where it was. And then one time it gets nudged just far enough that its center of gravity shifts, it tilts just a little too far, and it comes to rest on a different face. It’s still the same shape as before, but its whole orientation to space is different now. What used to be its base is now dangling up in the air somewhere, and what used to be peripheral is now central.
I just know that when I got into the car in New Hampshire, I was oriented one way; and when I got out of it two hours later in Massachusetts, I was oriented a different way. I knew what I was going to do, even though I don’t remember exactly when I started knowing it.
So this was a religious conversion, for you?
Not religious, I don’t think, but certainly some kind of conversion, some kind of metanoia. Something shifted really deep. That was almost two years ago, and it has shown no signs of un-shifting, and I really don’t want it to. Even if I end up deciding to remain celibate for life, I don’t want to be the same kind of celibate I was. But I’m still trying to make sense of the world from this new viewpoint.
What do you mean, “same kind of celibate”? How many kinds of celibate are there?
I have no idea.
But where do you see this all ending? And when?
I have no idea.
You don’t have a plan?