Let’s Talk About Things Other Than Sex, Baby: A “Gay and Catholic” Book Extra

A few times here I’ve used this phrase “sexualization of gay Christians,” and I think by now it’s fairly clear what I mean by it: Lots of well-meaning people of many different beliefs focus on sexual problems when they think about gay people. This post from Sarah at A Queer Calling is my favorite example:

…After hearing the names of these two saints repeated one after the other for weeks, I finally asked someone, “Why do you think so many people are advising that I take either St. Mary of Egypt or St. Mary Magdalene as my patroness?”

Seemingly puzzled by my lack of insight, he replied, “Because they’re both women who repented of serious sin.”

Having spent years reading and learning about the lives of the saints, I pressed further, “That’s true for many holy men and women the Church recognizes. What’s so special about St. Mary of Egypt and St. Mary Magdalene in that regard?”

He took a moment to stare at his shoes. Then, in a muted tone he spoke, “They repented and overcame their passions. They asked God to rid them of lustful desires…something like what you’re doing with celibacy.”

more

But there are plenty of other ways to sexualize gay Christians. People assume that our biggest spiritual problems are about being gay (and/or being celibate, if we are). People assume that if two gay women live together, they’re a) a couple, b) into each other, and c) constantly tempted by lust. People assume that “spiritual problems related in some way to being gay” or “difficulties with celibacy” = lust or sexual desire, as opposed to, for example, resentment of married friends; confusion about one’s future; anger at homophobia in the Church; coping with our families’ lack of understanding of either our sexual orientation or our celibacy; etc etc. People assume that parish ministries for gay and same-sex attracted Christians are meat markets. People assume that having a same-sex friend is a near occasion of sin. (But being alone isn’t?)

People speak as if sex would solve celibate people’s problems (rather than creating its own set of problems–which may be better problems to have, I’m not arguing about that here, I’m just noting that sex of all things doesn’t ease or simplify life, nor is it meant to). People suggest that unrelated problems or painful life experiences, like abuse or struggles with faith, are obviously a cause/symptom of either homosexuality or celibacy depending on which “side” you’re on.

I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface here.

The good news is that this problem is really easy to address. You are really unlikely to inappropriately inject sexual issues into your relationship with an actual gay Christian if you, like, listen to her. I’ve mentioned before that my first spiritual director generally takes a really different approach toward homosexuality from my own–but he was able to put his own opinions and assumptions aside completely, and listen to what I was telling him about my spiritual life. Moreover, this is the kind of problem where naming it and acknowledging it makes it much, much easier to avoid. If you ask yourself, “Am I assuming that gay people’s problems are all or preeminently sexual?”, you are 90% less likely to sexualize us. <–scientific fact

You can still sexualize this, though. If you dare:

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About Eve Tushnet