Thursday, June 7, 2012
Open to Scorn Just Like Me
The decision to see myself as queer is not something that happened overnight. There had been cracks opening up in the shell of my putative heterosexuality for some time, and I'd been increasingly frightened and conflicted about that. On the one hand, Leonard Cohen said, “There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in,” on the other, accepting my own queerness meant relinquishing a comfortable position within the Culture War, it meant stepping out into the unknown, and it meant being really honest with myself in a way that was both humbling and scary.
I remember reading a post by Joshua Gonnerman about “owning” our Christianity; the idea that at some point we have to stop trying merely to conform to a simplistic cultural construct, a card-board cut out of sanctity, a stereotype of the “good Christian.” The teachings of the Church have to become real, they have to imprint themselves on the personality in such a way that they are intertwined with it, married to it, so that Christ becomes me and I become Christ but without losing my own identity.
This is a frightening process because the path that Christ followed is not a safe one. There are plenty of places along the way that are homey, welcoming, cozy, and secure, but the temptation is to believe that truly doing the will of God involves arriving at one of these way-houses and then staying put. It's the same spirituality that prompted Peter to suggest that they put up some tents on the Mount of Transfiguration, the same spirituality that caused him to plead with Our Lord not to go to the Cross. It's a spirituality of fearfulness, a natural fearfulness to be sure, but a fearfulness that prevents us from becoming what we are truly called to become. It's a spirituality which says, “Oh. I've never heard that before. I've never seen that before. This makes me uncomfortable. You're playing with fire.”
It was a spirituality which, this winter, I realized I could not afford. I realized that by calling myself a “former lesbian,” the term which I had uncomfortably compromised with in order to describe myself in the propaganda for my book and other various commercial productions of myself, I was trying to eke out a comfortable identity. “Former lesbian” implied an “ex-gay” narrative, but it tried to shilly-shally away from the political implications of that. It made me acceptable, predictable, safe, but at the same time, somewhat dishonest. People on both “sides” of the debate consistently believed that I was peddling some sort of “orientation change,” that I was claiming to have been miraculously delivered from homosexuality. And in a sense, in spite of all of my caveats, circumlocutions, and nuancings, I believed that too.
This winter, I realized that it was definitely untrue. I was not a “former lesbian.” I was a queer girl who happened to have had a stroke of extreme good fortune: a wonderful straight man, a man who loved me for who I was rather than for who he wanted me to be, decided that he was going to court me. He spent four grueling years working his ass off to try to break down the various defences that I had surrounded myself with. He made it clear that I could trust him. He asked me to take him in, without asking me to change. There was no reason for him to think that this would work, nothing but a fool's hope to keep him going, and yet he was sure that I was the one. That love was the only thing that set me apart from any other homosexual woman. I hadn't been changed, merely saved – not saved from homosexuality, but from the loneliness, isolation, sexual frustration, and homophobia that other same-sex attracted Catholics face all the time.
When I realized this, I saw that my choice to eschew a homosexual “identity” was not founded on a devotion to truth, but on a kind of pride. I used to tell myself that this was the Catholic way, that having a “gay” identity meant identifying with my sin – but now I realized that refusing to identify with my sin actually put me in the position of that Pharisee standing at the front of the Temple praying, “Thank God that I'm not like all those queers...” It allowed me to believe that I had left my homosexuality behind, that I had fixed myself, that I had achieved the impossible miracle which so many others hoped and prayed for: I had bent down, and by the strength of my own will I had pulled the thorn from my flesh. Yet the truth was, I had done no such thing. I was not a “former lesbian,” but a homosexual woman, still standing in constant need of Christ's grace in order to make straight my queer ways. To deny that I was queer was to deny that I was same-sex attracted, to deny that I was just an ordinary sinner: beautiful, beloved, fallible, fumbling towards redemption with my little wild bouquet clutched tightly in my hand, broken and imperfect, waiting for the Bridegroom to return.
(Part 7 of 12)