My friend Daniel Quinan made an excellent observation on my recent post about coming out, the people who advise against it, and the reasons they give for their advice. I thought it was worth sharing here (with his permission).
I’m not exactly sure how to put this into words (although I’ll give it a shot)… but I think there’s an even deeper-level critique of Fr. T’s advice, beyond the “constipation theory” problem:
re: “When Father T worried about my being pigeonholed, he was pointing to something real.”
Yes, it’s real, but… it shouldn’t be. In which case, it is good for gay people to live more openly and allow their existence to challenge that mindset, if and when they are personally comfortable doing so. The whole concern about being “pigeonholed”, however well-intentioned, is thus completely backwards: because it makes the “social stigma” (not sure what else to call it) question primary, while punting on the deeper philosophical question of whether or not that stigma ought to exist in the first place.
The parallel example of being Jewish, but hiding that fact due to fear of anti-Semitism, highlights this clearly. There’s an example of something that very clearly should not incur a social stigma, and ought to be pushed back against whenever reasonably possible.
If the culture is deeply anti-Semitic, and the individual is not personally comfortable making himself visible, then fine: that could be a personal, prudential decision in non-ideal circumstances.
But under no circumstances would it be legitimate to advise your Jewish friends: “I think you shouldn’t draw attention to yourself, because it might make things more difficult for you.” That’s not your decision to make, it’s theirs, and if they want to push back against the culture and be more visible (an objectively praiseworthy goal), then your job is simply to support them in carrying that burden, and work to help erase the social stigma.
Fear of “incurring” a social stigma is absolutely no excuse for not doing the right thing, absent grave dangers/difficulties. And fear of “being pigeonholed” strikes me as a manifestly minor and therefore stupid reason to advise someone to stay hidden, however well-intentioned. We are called to bear witness to the truth, and if that means making the world uncomfortable, so 👏 be 👏 it 👏