Christianity and sexuality

I Have a Boyfriend. Want to Talk About It?

2) Try setting aside your presumptions.

Many Christians fear LGBTQ issues. They just do. And while I don’t know all of the nuances of this fear for other Christians, I’m intimately familiar with the insecurities running through American Catholic Christianity. How do I love someone without compromising Church teaching? How do I challenge others without being unnecessarily judgmental or condemnatory? How do I create spaces for mutual, open, and honest exchanges with someone whose experiences and perspectives differ from mine?

I don’t have all the answers to these questions. We can only truly answer these personal questions at the personal level. But, for my Catholic friends (or for friends of friends) who struggle with the fact that I’ve decided to be in “a relationship” with another guy, I suggest considering:

1) Reading my blog. Also check out my book on these questions. I write because I want the Church to be able to explore these questions from an insider’s perspective. I also write because I sometimes tire of having the same conversations over and over again. (I’ve heard every possible rephrasing of: “How do you reconcile your faith with your sexuality?”) Our conversations about these questions can be more productive if you know some of the groundwork for my thoughts first. If you want to talk, consider some reading.

2) Trying to set aside your presumptions. Just because I’m gay doesn’t necessarily mean I’m a Democrat. Just because I’m in “a relationship” doesn’t necessarily mean I promote same-sex marriage. Just because I hold a guy’s hand (or kiss him) doesn’t necessarily mean we’re having sex, or that we plan to. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily not mean any of those things. But try to get to know me, rather than your expectations for me. Yeah, I know how “everyone else” might view or live out these questions. But I’m not “everyone else.” I’m me.

3) Trying to be empathetic, but not equating empathy with understanding. Yeah, you may be able to contemplate some of the difficulties associated with losing a job over your sexuality. But you don’t have to look at that hole in your resume every single time you apply for another job. I appreciate your empathy. Do try to imagine what it’s like to be me, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your hour of empathetic exercising means you fully comprehend my experiences.

4) Not assuming that my struggles are harder than yours. The gay Catholic thing is hard. But everyone struggles. You have difficulties that I can’t fully comprehend. My struggles are “special” and unique because they are mine and mine alone. But yours are “special” and unique for the same reason. You don’t need to patronize me for being gay and Catholic. I’m not better or worse off than you simply because of my sexuality. I’m not a “hero” for being gay and Catholic, and I shouldn’t have to be. Every life has a narrative of struggle. Every person’s suffering is a veiled mystery. We can see beneath the curtain only when we’re welcomed under it.

5) Not assuming I have all this figured out. I’m sure I’m wrong on all kinds of things when it comes to these questions. But all I can do is my best with what I’ve got. I’ll share my experiences. But my decisions and lifestyle and perspectives aren’t going to work for every gay person. (I do not recommend dating for everyone.) And some of my choices haven’t worked for me in the past. (I sometimes wonder whether my life is largely a series of unveiled self-delusions.) I’ve been wrong before. I may be wrong in the future. But don’t fault me for trying.

6) Talking with, rather than at, me. One of the biggest mistakes Christians make is believing that the arguments we find compelling are the arguments others will also find compelling. Especially when it comes to sexuality, we tend to use words that are projections of our own experiences, rather than inquiries into others’ perspectives. So Christians often speak in the general direction of gay people, rather than with gay people. To discover what your gay friend may find compelling in Christianity, you can’t just speak at him. You can’t just listen to him. You have to dialogue with him over an extended period of time. You have to get to know him.

If you speak without listening, you run the risk of saying things that make Christianity less attractive and compelling to him. You risk simply projecting your own vanity and vain ideas about faith on others, rather than evangelizing in the vulnerability of friendship. On a related note, your impersonal Facebook arguments about “natural law” often make Christianity–and natural law–less attractive to others. And I say this as someone who affirms natural law.

7) Knowing that these conversations are sometimes hard for me, too. It takes effort and discipline for me to stay charitable, honest, and faithful in these conversations, and I sometimes fail. I ask for your patience, forgiveness, and kindness as I navigate these questions. It’s a struggle. But let’s struggle together.

7 comments on “I Have a Boyfriend. Want to Talk About It?

  1. Ron Chandonia

    I have been very critical of the work of Fr. James Martin on the “bridges” issue because I think he is dishonest about both his motives and his goals. But I do think the controversy he has engendered has brought out critical points for discussion. One such point was raised by reader Jim Englert in AMERICA a few days back (in response to Bishop McElroy’s defense of Martin). I am wondering what you think of his observations (which I have divided into paragraphs he did not supply):

    “I think part of the value that Martin’s attempt to initiate a more respectful conversation here is that it might well point out aspects of standard Catholic moral thinking that are problematic. I’m thinking of your concluding question, which presumes that ‘homosexual sexual acts’ necessarily belong to a single category. To get at what I mean, just change the question to pertain to ‘heterosexual sexual acts’. Does Catholic moral theology approve of such acts? Well, yes and no, of course. This, it seems to me, is the fundamental blindspot of traditional Catholic moral thinking here, namely, that it is incapable of distinguishing between (a) promiscuous behavior and (b) stable loving relationships committed to fidelity and permanence.

    “Most of us, I suspect, who think of this in terms of people we know well, that we love dearly, can’t help but find it absurd not to be able to posit real moral difference here. What do we make of that difference? How do we talk about it in terms that are not utterly discordant with traditional moral thinking? I don’t know, don’t have those answers. But I do have that question. And most gay persons, as well as most straight persons, I suspect, know almost intuitively that there is a real moral difference between those two states in life, (a) and (b), in their/our own lives, as well as in the lives of others. Unless and until the Church grapples with that distinction, all our talk about ‘approval or disapproval of homosexual sexual acts’ will remain highly suspect. Indeed, should remain so.

    “I think there’s a clue in the Catholic tradition of analogical reasoning. It’s common in our culture, I think, to make too little of real, substantial difference between sexually-differentiated and same-sex sexual love. As it is common in the Church to make too little of real, substantial similarities. Most straight couples who are close to gay couples, either as friends or family, find ourselves nodding knowingly at such similarity, in very concrete situations, at very concrete moments, some of great joy, some of overwhelming sadness, most pretty darn mundane. Talking about realities in terms of similarities-in-the-midst-of-difference is analogical speech. And we Catholics used to be really good at it. We should get good at it again. Maybe we’d get somewhere on this. But that will never happen as long as we try to come up with answers to your question, rather than realizing that it’s the question itself that leads us up one more blind alley, and locks us in there.”

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  2. Hello Chris! I posted a comment to your youtube lecture at Notre Dame. Pardon me if these comments come off as more critical than supportive. Actually, you are doing great, giving the circumstances of the Church today. I just want to understand what you mean by homosexual acts being intrinsically disordered. You stated that all sex outside of (sacramental) marriage is disordered not just the above mentioned. These means homosexual acts are no more sinful than two heterosexuals engaging in “fornication”. I guess masturbation (without a partner) may fall in the same category, though not so sure here (wait perhaps even with a partner, it may go against the Catechism, since it precludes conception and so would oral sex).
    Alrigjt, but your point is actually key – leave the gays alone, they are not sinning anymore than the rest of you, every time you go home to your rooms.
    That is an important message. It means there is nothing inherently repugnant about these same-sex acts in the eyes of the Lord, relative to other acts between consenting adults. This is really the lynchpin of the debate, as the only solution here is to stop singling out LGBT people, as people do of you. What you and your boyfriend do is really not anyone’s concern, you really need not even defend yourself. Orthodox Judaism has taken a similar approach, with a prominent Rabbi stating there is no need to single out LGBT folks, as if they are the only ones breaking the rules regarding what is considered permissible between two adults.
    But there is a heteronormative gaze that polices our every action, which is what we need to move away from.
    For me, this is what Amoris Laetitia gets at, the notion that we ought not to judge, but let our own moral compass work.
    Good night and I wish you blessings for this new year, on the Feast of Our Mother Mary.
    P.S. A better solution would be bless the unions of LGBT people, or recognize them to some degree, but we are still far from that.

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  3. Hello, can you please remove this comment, LOL,

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  4. Pingback: Damian: “On Writing Wrongly” | Strength of His Might

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  6. Pingback: Stop Being “Celibate,” Stop Apologizing – A Blog by Chris Damian

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