I want to write this short piece on authentic witness and I'd like to begin from looking at 1 Peter 3: 14-16.
If, after all, you should have to suffer in the cause of right, yours is a blessed lot. Do not be afraid or disturbed at their threats; 15 enthrone Christ as Lord in your hearts. If anyone asks you to give an account of the hope which you cherish, be ready at all times to answer for it, 16 but courteously and with due reverence. What matters is that you should have a clear conscience; so the defamers of your holy life in Christ will be disappointed in their calumny.
I am sad to say that since beginning writing this blog, which has attracted nearly 2,000 hits already, I have received harsh criticism (as well as moments of generous praise). I have found myself criticised on the Right for attempting to construct a theology around homosexuality that might serve to highlight the particular experiences of, and existence of, LGBT people in the Church; I have attempted to reconcile secular categories of being with the authentic teachings of the Church I am told; and on the Left I have found myself even more harshly criticised as an apologist for the Vatican and its conservative teachings on homosexuality. Apparently, it is not enough to merely represent the experience and existence of LGBT people within the Church's theology, I need to be advocating marriage equality and sex between those of the same-sexes. In other words: both the Right and the Left see me as selling out, or as one man put it to me in a rather harsh Facebook e-mail:
And it is bizarre to see you espousing incessantly the tenets of gay activism while simultaneously espousing positions in Roman Catholic doctrine exclusive to Roman Catholicism and, frankly, nuts to everyone else in the Church Universal.
I was promptly deleted.
I thought about this on the way to University to-day, and despite yesterday receiving a Facebook e-mail from a very kind Mexican man which read pertinently:
I read your blog and I have to say thank you in name of many Gay Catholics around the world, for your writings and what you said,
I still found myself wondering whether I should give up whilst I am ahead (or, behind, as it were?). I thought about this and then I thought about the verse that I have attached above: and by the grace of God I shall readily and willingly give an account of that hope, that belief that is in me, and I shall happily stand up (or, begin typing) and attempt to bear witness, authentically, to myself and other gay Catholics like myself in the Church. This is a difficult and often thankless task and the act of asserting a particular position is always going to polarize others (I had put up a Facebook post about an intriguing conversation with a transgendered person I was discussing matters with to find the Provost of a well known Oratory accept my friend request: oh dear, I thought; this is going to be awkward reading!). We must bear witness though: to Christ, to our Faith, and to who we are, embodying all these things as we do.
I realise that the Right are always going to feel mildly uncomfortable around me: I'm a gay Catholic academic who was raised by lesbians and has been variously involved in queer and gay activist work alongside having served and promoted the Latin Mass(!); and the Left are forever going to bemoan me: yes, I'm a f****** Papist! What I must do though is to be honest: to God, myself, and my readers, and perhaps, just perhaps, some of you might connect with my own experiences.
I am going to leave this here...I realize that I am yet to convince others about my usage of the term gay as opposed to homosexually attracted or same-sex attracted and I have been at pains to provide a clarification of this, which I'll do briefly here:
First, no-one has the automatic right to police the identity of or terms of engagement of others. You may not like the term gay and indeed you may equate it with a secular mode of being but that doesn't mean it must be disowned by Catholics as a pre-requisite of membership. Gay will be used in a variety of ways and its naive to attribute one particular set or series of meanings to those that identify as such.
Secondly, for many people gay is about more than just a patterning of desire but is about community, belonging, and the particular patterning of affections, intimacies, and loves that constitute day-to-day life. When I identify as gay I am acknowledging a particular set of peoples and relationships, thinkers, writers and ideas, and sub-cultural capital (as Pierre Bourdieu would put it) that has been formative to my own sense of being in the world.
Third, when I identify as gay I am placing myself within a particular cultural language; I am acknowledging shared suffering and bullying (yes, I've been called poof, faggot, and bender) and standing in solidarity with all those that continue to suffer this bullying because of their relative queerness; and I am also providing a critique, highlighting that gay people can be religious, chaste, and happy without having to fit into conventional norms and relationships. I identify as gay because I shouldn't have to disown this aspect of my person or being-in-the-world.
Finally, homosexually attracted is too instrumental and refers only to the issue of desire (when in-fact gay for many people refers to both sexual attractions but also affection, intimacy and love: gay highlights one's non-normative positioning in an otherwise highly regulated and policed society). Same-sex attracted, or SSA as it is otherwise put is too redolent of pathology and the days where homosexuality was thought to require treating: I have no interest in laying bare the origins of my sexual dispositions any-more than I do your own: I am interested in the redemption of and transformation of said desires in Christ's sacramental mystery.
I am going to leave this here and wish you every blessing in Christ. In my next blog post I'll look at some of the intellectual drawbacks of gay, particularly as reinforcing a binary narrative of human sexuality (which has serious repercussions for how we think about bisexual, queer, and trans* folk).
Ora pro nobis, Sancta Dei Genitrix.