Inspired by a twitter thread. My thoughts on “mixed-orientation marriages” and “romantic celibate partnerships”… let me show you them. Will I regret this? Almost certainly!
MOMs first. These are marriages in which one or both spouses ID as something other than straight, usually gay but also sometimes bi or queer or whatnot. The term is generally distinguished from like ex-gay marriage stuff because the not-straight spouse is upfront about their orientation, usually was upfront about it before the wedding, and there’s no expectation or intention that their orientation would change. It’s always bad to have poster children, but if you want a name, Nate Collins, one of the founders of Revoice, is in a mixed-orientation marriage.
I don’t talk about this much as an option for gay Christians with *~*a traditional sexual ethic*~*. There are multiple reasons for that. First of all, I don’t get it, so I don’t think I have much to say about it!
Second, if you spend a lot of time in the gay Christian world you’ll run into so many people who at one point or another tried to marry someone of the opposite sex, or hoped to marry them. There’s enormous internal pressure to become “normal,” to have a normal marriage, and there’s also often intense external pressure from parents, pastors etc. In the face of that pressure, people make terrible decisions that end up hurting themselves and the people around them. People hoping desperately for marriage lie to themselves, to their prospective partner, to their priest–just oceans of fear and shame. Rejecting the tantalus hope of opposite-sex marriage is, for so many people in our community, a movement away from a false concept of the self and into truth. And so if I’m being honest, imho the most urgent thing I can say about mixed-orientation marriage is that you are probably facing more pressure to do it than you realize, and that pressure will not help you make good decisions about your future and your vocation.
And yet… life is weird, you know? Sexuality is weird. People find one another in unexpected ways, and end up in vocations they never thought they’d experience. I’ve seen MOMs fall apart and I’ve also seen them last and grow. When people tell you that they have found a path of love that works for them, it’s okay to believe at least some of them.
(The question of whether you should just take everyone’s self-report at face value is pretty complex imho and you need both humility about your own inability to read souls, and a kind of bracing awareness that it’s hard to be totally honest about something you want desperately. And lol for the record, I do realize that that’s how lots of gay people who reject the Catholic sexual ethic view my claim that I’ve found peace in celibacy, too.)
As for “romance”–you guys know that I always talk about “same-sex love.” In Scripture, in Christian history, in contemporary Christian life. And there’s a reason I use that specific phrase. It seems to me to focus on what matters most. God calls many people to a life-shaping, devoted, committed love of someone of the same sex! There are models for this, both ancient and recent.
Are these relationships “romantic”? Lol what does that even mean. “Romance” isn’t a Scriptural term. It’s a cultural construct; it seems to refer to a kind of intense sweetness and also urgency in love. People long for that sweetness and urgency because it’s beautiful, and the urgency specifically provokes us to take deeper risks, to give ourselves more fully and sacrificially. “Romance” usually connotes sexuality in some way, but it turns out that this sweetness and urgency isn’t restricted to relationships where there’s sexual desire, you can tell by the way our culture keeps coming up with terms like “bromance” and “Galentine’s Day.” (Sexual desire itself isn’t always on one side of a bright line; desire is sometimes fluid, sometimes sublimated into art or prayer or friendship, or reverse-sublimated from those expressions of our longings into sexuality; desire is weird.)
I’m pro- expressing the sweetness and urgency of your love. Lol I’m also pro- living out your vocation in a way that “looks gay.” Challenging your church culture to accept the full depth of your same-sex love and commitment is good #actually.
This is true regardless of the sexual orientation of the people involved. Many straight people also long for same-sex love, it’s like a basic longing people have. The Scriptural models include David, who had both a spouse (…etc) and a covenant friendship, as well as John the Beloved Disciple, a virgin made kin to the Virgin Mary by his devotion to the Virgin Jesus. For some people, a devoted friendship with one of Our Heterosexual Brethren and Sistren will be a good life path; Wesley Hill has, of course, written beautifully about this path. For many of us, our call to same-sex love will be lived out with another queer person. We share experience and understanding. We also, frankly, may have more of the urgency that would lead us to live counterculturally, founding our lives on Christ the Rock even when others don’t understand. Another gay person is more likely to understand what you want and long for, and more likely to want to give it to you; more likely to be willing to explore how to love both obediently and ardently, in harmony with your faith and in commitment to your life. That isn’t the only way, but it can be a good way.
I think that’s what I’ve got to say here. I assume I’ve now resolved all controversies and brought universal peace. You’re welcome!