Friday, May 2, 2014
For All the Good Moms and Dads
I promised that I was going to write about "The Third Way." Tonight, I'm not going to give a complete review. I'm just going to address a single point.
It's a point that a lot of people sweep under the carpet, they say "Well, that's some people's experience, and you can't deny the right of those people to speak about their experience." True enough. Or they say, "The film had so much else right, and it didn't exactly say this..." Also true. But the point is not a little one. It's a very large one, and it's caused a lot of scandal and a lot of grief over the years.
It's the question of what causes homosexuality. "The Third Way" doesn't make any outright claims about this, but it subtlely advances a thesis that is deeply harmful: homosexuality is caused by poor parenting, a lack of love from the same-sex parenting, or else by sexual abuse which parents do not adequately address.
The film-makers had access to other narratives. I went to a lot of trouble to ensure that I didn't say anything in my interview that could reasonably be construed as supporting the "bad parents = gay kid" narrative. I did that for a very good reason. It had nothing to do with a political agenda, a soft succumbing to the pro-gay forces. It had everything to do with the fourth commandment. "Honour thy father and thy mother."
I'm gay. I've been gay since as long as I've had a sexuality worth speaking of. I remember back in highschool when all of the other girls had crushes on boys, and they asked me, "Who do you have a crush on?" Desperately, I surveyed the available males, chose one that seemed nice enough, and said, "Him." I later learned that girls think about the boys that they have crushes on, that those boys are important outside of the conversations where you have to have a crush or else...what's wrong with you? It's not that I didn't have a crush on anyone. I can recall precisely who I was crushing on at that moment. She was beautiful, with this enchanting upturned lip and the most soul-melting brown eyes. But obviously I couldn't have named a girl.
I'm gay, but I don't see any reason whatever to think that my parents are to blame. I'm the oldest of eight children. When I was growing up, my mother had an cross-stitch that she had made hanging beside the door as we exited our home. It showed a picture of a nest, and was accompanied by the words "There are two important gifts that we give our children. One is roots, the other is wings." My mother's entire parenting style is summarized in this simple proverb. Even though she was insanely busy when I was growing up (and she's still insanely busy now) I always knew that I was loved, that I was supported, that she was proud of me and that she was there for me no matter what I did, believed, or chose. Even though my father was busy trying to provide for a family of eight, I had a tremendous amount in common with him. We did things together, he recommended books to me, took me on skiing trips, and taught me how to build a deck. I'm close to all of my siblings, male and female. When I compare my relationships with my family to the relationships that my friends have with their families what stands out is not that my family of origin was lacking, but that it was exceptional.
I owe it to my parents to state this, clearly, plainly, and publicly. I'm not angry at the producers of "The Third Way," but I'm a little disappointed. I tried to make sure that I offered them an alternative narrative, the necessary material with which to say "Sometimes someone with an absolutely f***ing fantastic family ends up gay. And it's not because she was sexually abused. It's because...honestly? We don't know." We don't know. The Catechism has the humility to state this plainly and and honestly, but for some reason the Catholic media struggles to acknowledge that this might be true. We want a scapegoat, someone to blame for homosexuality, and in the post-psychotherapeutic cultural landscape parents are a perennial sitting duck.
So today I'm giving a shout out to all of the parents of gay kids. A lot of you are great people. Fantastic people. Ordinary saints. People like my folks.
Don't let anyone tell you that it's your fault.