Misconceptions: A “Gay and Catholic” Book Extra

Misconceptions: A “Gay and Catholic” Book Extra September 27, 2014

So I initially planned to write this post listing the many weird personal judgments people project onto me when they hear that I’m gay and celibate for religious reasons. I’d then go through the different misconceptions and point out how they’re false w/r/t my own life and/or that of other gay celibate people I know.

But then I asked myself, “What are you hoping to accomplish with this post?”

These projections or Internet diagnoses reflect the fact that for many people my witness lacks credibility. I just finished reading Love Is Our Mission, a sort of mini catechism prepared by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in advance of next year’s World Meeting of Families–of which more soon!–and toward the end the thing says, “Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI both had occasion to quote a passage from Paul VI’s apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi: ‘Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.'” But of course one doesn’t gain personal credibility by asserting that one has it.

Besides which, a lot of these judgments mean different things to different people, or they can be endlessly sliced ever thinner. So if I say that celibacy has been super hard for me in some respects, e.g. lack of accountability or longing to “come first” for someone, but hasn’t been super tough in terms of loneliness or sexual need, it’s easy to dismiss the pain I have experienced if it isn’t a type of pain you can relate to or care about.

So instead let me try this: I’m going to list the misconceptions I frequently run into about celibate-for-religious-reasons gay or same-sex attracted people. Then I’m going to list the misconceptions I frequently run into about gay people who believe gay sex is morally neutral, i.e. ethical in exactly the same circumstances where straight sex would be ethical. (You guys can email me if I miss some, lol.) And then I’ll riff a bit on how I hope we can relate to one another better in these conversations.

First, stuff people say about me and other celibate gay people! A.k.a. a list of hilarious falsehoods.

You’re really just asexual/You must have a low sex drive.

You’ve never been in love.

You’ve never really suffered/You’ve never really suffered due to celibacy/You’ve never really suffered at the hands of Christians.

Man, your family must be awful.

Oh I get it, you were raised a relativist so you fled into fundamentalism.

ETA: You’ve never doubted your beliefs. You prefer to shake hands with angels, rather than wrestle them. Your faith is a form of certainty, untouched by doubts or fears.

Probably couldn’t get a date.

Most obvious virgin.

And now, a list of stuff people say about gay people who disagree with me on the religious/moral value of gay sex. A.k.a. a list of falsehoods I actually find way more depressing, because it comes from people I “agree with” in terms of sexual ethics–and because I know I’ve done a couple of the more philosophical-sounding ones:

I used to be really horny too, when I was younger.


Hasn’t tried this one kind of therapy that this guy I know’s brother’s cousin’s parrot’s former owner tried, it totally healed him.

Basically a relativist, come on.

ETA: Basically a Protestant, come on.

It’s so sad that she’s scared of men–I wonder what happened to her.

Places subjective desire over objective truth.

Doesn’t understand the meaning of sacrificial love–she thinks she’s a Christian but really she’s a materialist utilitarian, who thinks suffering is the worst thing that can happen to a person. [Combating this specific misconception is one reason I’m so insistent with my whole “the sacrifice God wants isn’t always the sacrifice you wanted to make” shtik. It’s false and insulting to assume that somebody rejects the possibility of sacrificial love just because she isn’t sacrificing in what you believe to be the best way. Plenty of gay marriages are relationships of sacrificial love. Pointing to the Christian path as a better one shouldn’t require denying that fact.]

Man, your family must be awful.

We all feel super judged, I think, and super aware of exactly which misconceptions about us others seem determined to cling to. And yet for every guess you make about someone’s personal situation, background, or character, there is at least one person on “the other side” from you who does not fit the profile you’ve created for your opponents. Why not assume that you’re wrong in your judgments, and ask yourself how you’d respond to the person’s claims if you knew for sure that he wasn’t what you initially assumed he was? As Henry Kissinger possibly said, it has the added advantage of (often) being true.

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