I have noticed something troubling over the last year or so, and I've seen it bubble up in a more pointed way recently in regards to events which took place over the last week or so. Maybe you've noticed it, too, or maybe you haven't. Regardless, I've decided to talk about it, recognizing that some people may not like me for it in turn. That's okay. I still want to say something.
Why is it that every time someone dares to say, "God loves gay people," or "Here are some ideas on how we can better understand and minister to gay people," five thousand Catholic SJW's descend upon the comment section, the blogosphere, the whatever, to remind us all that we shouldn't stake our identity on who we are attracted to?
Now, let me say, very quickly, before anyone accuses me of thinking otherwise, that I don't believe anyone should stake their identity on who they're attracted to. (Point of note: I don't believe anyone should stake their identity on, really, anything besides the love of God which is the source of our identity.) And yet, sometimes, I call myself "gay."
I try to use it sparingly, when relevant and appropriate. I don't go around meeting new people and saying, "Hi! I'm Tori, and I'm gay." I find that my state of life causes the word to confuse many people, and to open up conversations I don't necessarily want to have with people I don't know very well -- I have a boyfriend, and when that's combined with "I'm gay," you can bet people are confused. I get that. Sometimes it confuses me, too. In fact, I've made a point of not mentioning it much on my own blog, because I don't want to be pigeonholed or questioned relentlessly.
But, that's okay. I'll say something today. I don't know how much more I'll say after this post, how often I'll bring it up, or if I'll ever bring it up again. But today, I'll talk. Because I'm worried.
There are -- it seems, many -- people in the Catholic internet world who believe that referring to myself as "gay" is the same as declaring that at the very core of my identity being attracted to women is who I am. I cannot even begin to fathom the connection here; it is such a mighty leap. Adjectives don't necessarily denote identity. No one would say, "Oh, you call yourself blonde? That's horrible; you should think more of yourself than your hair color." No one would say, "Oh, you call yourself left-handed? That isn't a healthy way to view your identity." Yet the responses to someone calling himself or herself "gay" are all but identical.
Why are we so uncomfortable with this adjective? What do people think it means?
Well, I have some ideas. I know some people have expressed concern to me that for people who experience same-sex attractions to refer to ourselves as "gay" means identifying ourselves by our sin. This is, very simply, not true (or fair). It is a long-held Catholic position that being attracted to the same sex is not a sin -- and even if it's acted upon, the sin is in the action, not the attraction. "Well, okay," some people say, "but calling yourself gay is associating yourself with a gay lifestyle." How? In what way? In what way is a description of who a person is attracted to connected to their individual activities? I don't understand.
And in what way, dare I ask, is "same-sex attracted" any different?
I have, actually, a suggestion: why not ask these people what they mean when they say "I'm gay"? It is simply imprudent to assume every gay Catholic living a chaste life who calls themselves "gay" does so for some heinous or unhealthy reason.
In the world we live in today, to be "gay," if you ask most people, very simply means to be "attracted to the same sex."
And as someone attracted to the same sex, let me share with you my experience of seeing this constant debate regurgitated over and over again:
It is exhausting. And I worry that we're losing opportunities to win souls as a result.
I can't speak for anyone else, but I know many of my friends who are also attracted to the same sex feel the same way:
Every time I see something about stepping up our game in ministering to and being compassionate to and understanding the LGBT community, I experience a serious overdose of hope! People suffer, many through their entire lives, for fear of what their family, friends, and Jesus would think of their secret attraction to others of the same sex. And here comes a message of hope! Jesus LOVES you! Jesus WANTS you! Jesus is not disgusted by or afraid of you!
And then, almost immediately every time, that hope is crushed, or at least, forgotten -- because I become irritated that yet again a conversation about helping people has turned into a conversation about what the people we are supposed to be helping should call themselves.
Why are we so worried about it? I know it sounds rhetorical, but I'm serious. Why are so many Catholics so worried about the word "gay"? What is it about an adjective that concerns you so much about people, about the future?
Help me understand. Because I don't.
And if you'll help me understand how you're thinking about this, it may help me better communicate to others who feel the same way as you what my experiences are and my perspective on them.