Tuesday, December 5, 2017


Yo. We need to talk about something.

Over the last week or so this image from Cameron Esposito's Twitter has made the rounds of social media. Her tweet describes her "beaming" joy at seeing that her neighbors have put out their two-Josephs nativity scene, a clear reference to the reality of LGBT led families and relationships. I'm not here to ramble about how "sinister and wicked gayness is," as some others have done, and that really isn't my style anyway. But something else about this image, and the applause it's receiving, has really been getting under my skin.

There is no Mary.

Obviously there is no Mary in a nativity scene which involves a gay couple to parent Jesus, but the simple fact of Mary's absence here betrays a serious misunderstanding of the redemption we have in Christ. The natural question one is inclined to pose, if one has the time to comment on someone's obviously in-good-fun yard display (which I always have time for, because I am pretentious) is: Where did Baby Jesus come from? He couldn't have come from two Josephs. That doesn't make sense. And the obvious knee-jerk response to this question is "Oh! But where did he come from in the original story? Women can't conceive babies on their own! A virgin birth is nonsensical!"

Okay, that's fair, and true, and I'll not try to argue it. Because it's the freaking point.

Mary's conception of Christ by the Holy Spirit assisted by -- truly, enabled by -- her willing cooperation in the redemption of the entire human race is kind of where this whole Christianity thing starts. Listen, God spent the entire first half of salvation history sending messengers. He sent angels, he sent prophets, he sent clouds of fire and giant hungry fish. But the glory and beauty of Christmas is that, in Christ, he has given us all he has. He's given us his Son, and his Son in turn gives us his entire self, so much so that he becomes one of us. This occurs in the womb of Mary, after an angel receives her blessing permitting it to occur. Mary is the reason we freaking have Christmas in the first place.

Without Mary, there is no God-man.
Without Mary, there is no stable in Bethlehem.
Without Mary, there is no angel chorus flooding the sky to alert poor shepherds that their salvation has come.
Without Mary, there is no nativity scene.
Without Mary, there is no nativity.

The significance of Christmas is that Christ was born. Not sprung from the ground, not tossed from the sky, but born of a woman. For nine glorious months Jesus moved and grew and took nourishment from a woman, a woman who risked her actual life to bring him into the world. And Joseph is great, but he isn't Christ's mother. Joseph did not agree to give his own body over to the redemption of humanity. Joseph did not risk being stoned to death by growing his midsection. Joseph did not feel the pangs of labor as the God of history moved from the safety of his love out into the world that would kill him. Joseph did not give his body, again, to feed a newborn God of ages. And Joseph could not have ever accomplished any of these things -- not even with the help of another Joseph.

Erasing Mary from the story of Christmas is erasing Christmas. Not to mention, erasing a woman's contribution to the salvation of the whole of humanity is kind of, like, mildly sexist, dudes.

Two Josephs could not have done what Mary did. We at the very least owe her the respect of allowing her to appear in a depiction of the birth of her Son.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Answer

I wrote this last year and came across it again today. I needed it today, and maybe you did, too.

Sometimes when I lay in bed, all I can do is look at the image of the Sacred Heart on the wall by my pillow.

C.S. Lewis once concluded, after a struggle with God's apparent silence: "I see now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You yourself are the answer ... What other answer would suffice?"

I have been getting to know Jesus for several years now, and really, since the beginning of my life -- this "logos" of God, the living logic of the cosmos, through whom all things were made and for whom human hearts were formed. All good things which come to man pass through his will, and all agonies which befall men find their place, first, in his wounds.

Much has been written about this inexhaustibly mysterious figure from Nazareth, and at the same time, little can be said. We will inevitably find that the Word which is the origin of all things cannot be contained by poems or theories or songs.

But he comes to dwell in human hearts. Incomprehensible love makes himself fathomable to the senses -- first in audible cries from a soft and messy face, with tiny hands tightly wound around the fingers of his mother. He touched the untouchables, he interacted with outcasts, and he cried and laughed and sang and ran and danced.

This humble stranger in the streets was the singular utterance of the Father -- a response to the human question which words cannot adequately answer. He dwells in silence because sound will not suffice.

As if to say "Take everything I have," God hands over his Son. But even these words are not enough. Only one Word is enough. The question then becomes: what does this answer mean?

Monday, July 31, 2017

Sex greed

I learned what sex was when I was in fifth grade. I remember our teacher telling us that, if we were uncomfortable, we were allowed to put our heads down on our desks and she would know not to call on us for questions. Practically no one in my class wanted to learn about sex, with only a handful of exceptions.

I have a memory of surveying the classroom from my desk during one of our Family Life lessons. With the exceptions of myself and another girl in the class, every student's head was face down on his or her desk. Our teacher spoke briefly about her experience as a married woman in love with her husband, and while I don't recall her mentioning any details of their actual sex life, I remember her looking wistfully upward with her hands crossed over her bosom as she sighed, and noted that "When you're happily married and in love, sex is incredible."

I can't honestly say that sex was ever sold to me as something shameful. My parents never spoke about sex in a negative light and the world we find ourselves in is particularly fond of sexualizing most anything. In fifth grade, I was excited to learn about sex. I wanted to understand the mechanics and the excitement and whatever it was about it that made people so happy. And happiness is key here. Growing up, I learned from my environment that sex is a good thing which makes people happy. Naturally, I wanted in on this. I wanted the freedom to be as happy as possible.

At twenty-five years old and engaged to be married this coming spring, I have not had sex since I was a teenager, meaning my memories of sex are exciting but also kind of weird. Even though my parents were never vocally down on sex, I am still human and I still didn't want them to know I was having sex. So the only sex life I've ever had was mostly one of quiet, awkward fumbling when it was convenient and when it was least likely, but still entirely possible, that someone would chance upon us. It was one of sore necks from cramped cars and sticky bodies from somehow sitting on a full fountain soda. Life was weird. Sex was weird. And even though sex was something my friends and I openly discussed and patted one another's backs about, it was never something freeing or mystifying. It's hard to feel free and lost in the moment when you're constantly hiding and looking over your shoulder.

In my mid-twenties, my friends and I still talk about sex, but mostly their own, though occasionally my lack of. My friends are married, or if they're not married they're shacking up, or if they're neither they're dating and having sleepovers, or hitting the bars and going into work with the same outfit and makeup they had on the night before. In the world of adulthood, sex is probably still weird, but it's also something expected, encouraged, and celebrated. And then, of course, there's me.

I work, I do homework, I occasionally throw back a few beers or a bottle of wine, I watch Netflix, and I sleep. I go home to a cat and a roommate that I love very much, but in spite of them, and in spite of spending 7 out of 7 nights a week with someone I care about be they friends or family or my fiancé, I go to bed alone. Having never actually *slept* with someone after fooling around, it was strange when it hit me how lonely I feel when I'm in my bed. And from there, I presume, sprouted the jealousy.

I'm totally jealous of my friends because they have active sex lives. Like, super jealous. I'm jealous of my married friends. I'm jealous of my unmarried friends. I'm jealous because they have something I had once and don't have anymore. I'm jealous because they have something I never had: the freedom to have sex without thinking about anything else, the freedom to be as happy as sex can make us. Sometimes when I think about it, I'm not just jealous -- I'm angry.

But I'm not angry with them. I was, once, angry with two of my friends who are married, because I'm an idiot and they were enjoying their sex life after waiting for one another their entire unmarried lives (jealousy is a hell of a drug), but I'm not angry with them anymore. I'm not angry at my friends because they have sex. I'm not angry at my friends because they have sex outside of marriage. I'm not angry at my friends because of the kind of sex they have, or the frequency at which they have it. Per usual, I'm angry at God.

I'm angry at God because I feel that he is withholding something from me, something that I am owed, that he is not withholding from everyone else. I'm angry that God wants me to not have sex, but doesn't care what anyone else does. Of course that isn't true, but when I'm in my feelings reason doesn't necessarily come naturally. I have this unconscious, underlying feeling that sex is something I should get, that everyone else is getting, and that's...bad. That's a very bad thing to feel. It isn't a conscious feeling. It's far too corrosive, I think, to have been a conscious thought. I don't sit up at night thinking to myself, "God is so mean. I deserve to have sex when I want, how I want." In fact, I'm not even sure how long this silent, hidden feeling has lurked around my heart. I only just noticed it yesterday.

I thank God that he brought this to my attention before I'm married rather than after, and I'm grateful to be at a more stable place emotionally than I was within the years directly following my (fiancĂ©'s) commitment to chastity. My hope is that I will be able to grow and learn from this discovery, rather than letting these feelings fester and rot in my heart. Especially since (I am not that naive) marriage comes with its own share of awkward and fumbly sexual encounters, not to mention curious children wandering in on all things good and holy at the least convenient times. This isn't something that will get better because of marriage. It's something that will get worse, if left unhindered.

So, I'll be reaching out to my counselor and to my spiritual director, in addition to the Blessed Mother and her most chaste spouse. I ask for your prayers, even if it is only a Hail Mary.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Jesus DID say it would be easy.

I know it's a thing to repeat ad nauseam that "Jesus never said it would be easy," but for the sake of all the souls of all my friends who have left the faith in the last year exhausted with tired cliches and platitudes and scandalized by these things coupled with a fervent defense of Donald Trump on behalf of the common American Christian, I just have to assert, very firmly, that Jesus most definitely did say that it would be easy.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; you will find rest for your souls. My yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

The simple fact of the matter is that Jesus absolutely said that following him would be easy. He said that in him, we would find rest. He said that the burden he would impose would be merely light, not heavy.

actual photo of me as a christian

Yes, he told us to take up our crosses. Yes, he assured us that we would suffer for his name. Yes, he insisted that only those who persevered to the end would be saved. He said all these and more. He never said it would be easy to follow him.

Except he did.

What are we to make of this? I honestly don't know. I just don't. I'm sorry, I can't help you with that one. I don't know everything. I don't need to pretend to know everything. And I don't need the constant mantra of tired cliches and platitudes clouding my walk with Christ. Perhaps we lack what made Christ's cross bearable: "the joy set before him." Or perhaps we lack the virtue of hope, or even true charity, in our hearts and in our minds. But shouldn't grasping those things be easy? Didn't Jesus say this would all be easy?

It isn't easy to be chaste. It isn't easy to believe half, if not more, of the people we love are living in mortal sin. It's hard to be anti-abortion. It's hard to believe marriage was ordained by God to be between one man and one woman. It's hard to believe souls go to hell. It's hard. It's hard to give up our pride and our flesh and our desires and our temptations and our friendships and our hearts and our lives. It's hard.

And he said it would be easy.

I don't have any Joel Osteen style sermon to offer. I thoroughly do not believe that being a Christian is easy. I believe that Catholicism is true. I believe that Christ died for sinners and rose to give us new life. I believe that to be united to Christ is to be united to him in his death. This doesn't feel easy. I'm tempted to offer yet another mindless teaspoon of empty comfort, something along the lines of "feeling easy and being easy are two different things," but that isn't true, is it? To be easy, something has to feel easy. And Christianity isn't easy.

But he said it would be easy.

I don't know. I have no other choice but to believe in the words of Jesus Christ. After all, to quote my patron, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." He alone. I love him. I trust him. But it's not easy.

"You have faith in God. Have faith also in me," he echoes through the tender pages of the blessed book of John. Okay. We will. But you said it would be easy. And it isn't. And people are leaving you for it. So what are you going to do about it?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Odd One Out: A Gay Agnostic in a Catholic Family

When I was three years old, I told my parents I wanted a puppy. They asked if I would rather have a baby brother or sister, and I said I wanted a puppy and a brother. When they forced me to choose, I said I would settle for a baby brother.

And so my parents, with the help of God, gave me the greatest birthday gift I have ever received: my baby sister.

On April 23, 1996, just five days before my fourth birthday, my family met Maci Janelle Long, the freshest member of our little corner of the world. I remember my mom telling me a few years ago that she was actually afraid to have a second child, because she didn't think she could ever love anyone as much as she loved me. She followed that with "But the first time I saw Maci's face, I felt guilty -- because I managed to love someone as much as I love you." My sister has been loved and treasured since the first moments of her existence, and I, naturally, was her biggest fan.

I'm the happy one.
My sister and I grew up in a home with a mom and a dad who both worked to put a roof over our heads, to put food on our plates, and to give us the best Catholic education money can buy in Southeast Missouri. My sister was a typical all-American tomboy, decked out constantly in ADIDAS shorts, Nike shoes, and a baseball cap (#CardinalNation #STLProud). She played soccer and basketball and was always one of the best players. She loved to skateboard, play with Bratz dolls, and watch Cartoon Network. We spent countless hours of our childhood playing at the neighbor's house or in our own unfinished basement, where our mother set up an adorable, huge playroom for us. For all intents and purposes, aside from a few hindrances here and there, from the outside looking in, we had a normal American childhood.

Looking back, my mom says she doesn't remember ever suspecting my sister was a lesbian. My sister, on the other hand, has known something was different about her since she was close to puberty. While her friends were developing crushes on boys and male celebrities, Maci found herself crushing on female classmates. She kept it to herself, although she didn't think much of it. In fact, she wouldn't have a word for what she was experiencing until she was in high school. She tells me she always knew "being gay" was a thing, but didn't realize that the term referred to "people like her" until relationships with boys proved fruitless and more like friendships. At this point, she came out to her friends as bisexual, but further life experiences slowly revealed to her that she was actually homosexual.

Although she has lived, more or less, an open gay lifestyle since high school, it wasn't until recent years that our mom's big Catholic family got clued in, almost by accident, to that aspect of Maci's life. While she isn't alone in the LGBT corner of our family, she was the first to be "out and proud," as the cool kids say. Since that time, our family has been on a whirlwind adventure of being....completely normal.

(The following is a conversation between myself and my sister about her experience being a lesbian in a Catholic family, her views on religion, and her answers to some of your questions submitted to my blog's Facebook page.)

Tori: The point of this piece, I hope, will be to provide an effective, if anecdotal, review of how families can maintain their Catholic identity while loving and embracing their LGBT family members. We know as Catholics that respecting and caring for LGBT persons is not in conflict with our faith, and is actually demanded of us by the Church. To that end, I hope you will be honest about whatever struggles and hurts you have experienced as an LGBT member of a Catholic family, in addition to helping me highlight the ways we can best love and serve members of the gay community who are also members of our Christian families. With that said, how did you view yourself as a member of our family growing up?
Maci: The little baby sister! I never thought we were different from any other family.

Tori: I think you should say "I feel like I was the favorite while you were crazy in high school."

Maci: I was the favorite always.

Tori: I think so, too. You've always been a favorite not only in our immediate family, but also among the Beussinks [our mom's family]. Were you afraid of losing the affection of our family when you started identifying as gay?

Maci: Yes. I thought I would be disowned. Not by Mom and Dad, but by our extended family. Well, when I first came out I never planned on telling Dad. He was never going to know. I was afraid of hurting Mom. I knew she would be hurt, but I didn't think she would disown me. As for the extended family, I knew they would eventually know. I fantasized about bringing girls to family get togethers just like any other cousin would do with their significant others. I always wanted that to be normal.

Tori: Do you feel like that is something that will happen in the foreseeable future?

Maci: Hopefully. I already brought [redacted] to Mom's birthday party, and it went a lot better than I expected. Everybody hugged her and welcomed her. Nobody stared at me like I was some freak. It was really nice.

Tori: As we've mentioned a few times in this post, Mom's family is Catholic. I think it's fair to say we're a mix of devout Catholics, devoted (but not necessarily devout) Catholics, and former Catholics with Catholic sympathies. Do you feel like those of us who are more devout view you or treat you any differently than the others?

Maci: I always thought the older and more devout people would be more judgmental or not as accepting, but it turns out they're just as accepting as everybody else. At Christmas, Uncle [redacted] had my name in the Secret Santa drawing, and I know he's a devout Catholic, so it meant a lot to me when his gift was about acceptance and being myself. It was a bracelet that said "It takes courage to grow up to be who you are," something like that.

Tori: That was sweet. Since you went to youth group as a teen and were Catholic yourself up until a few years ago, you know the Catholic Church's teaching that LGBT people should be accepted with respect and compassion, even though we don't believe in or affirm gay marriage. A concern for a lot of Catholics today is that their acceptance and love of their family members ought to be tempered with catechesis and conversations about their disapproval and rejection of gay marriage. Have you ever felt like our family's kindness and welcoming attitude toward you has communicated that they are, in some way, not "really Catholic"?

Maci: No. Some of them aren't against gay marriage, and some of them are. Everyone has their own beliefs but I'm allowed to have my own, too, I guess. I've never really thought about what their attitudes toward me have to do with their personal beliefs, and honestly I don't care what your views on gay marriage are.

Tori: Are you looking to be affirmed [in gay marriage] from your family?

Maci: I'd appreciate it if people came to my wedding, someday. I don't think it's going to be a huge deal when I get married if people choose not to come, though. For a lot of our family it will just be "Oh, another person is getting married." I don't feel like there will be any conflicting thoughts in their head like, "Oh, should I show up?" I hope they'll show up because they love me and want to support me. That's what I want at least. Besides, my wedding's gonna be cute as hell.

Tori: Can you elaborate on it not being a big deal for people not to show up?

Maci: I don't think anyone in the family will think it's a big deal. Honestly, I'd love to say that it wouldn't offend me, but it would offend me if people didn't show up to my wedding because they didn't "condone" my wedding. I don't feel a need to force anyone to agree with me [on gay marriage], but I go to baptisms and I go to First Communions. Like, I've never written off a family event just because I don't believe in it or agree with it. I go to these things because I love my family, and it's still an exciting thing even if I don't believe in it. Like going to someone's birthday party. It's not my birthday, but it's still exciting for them, because it's their birthday.

Tori: Suppose that everyone in the family attended your wedding someday. Would you take that as a signal that the more devout Catholics who don't believe in gay marriage now believe in gay marriage, or are totally cool with gay sex?

Maci: Like, if they show up do I think that means they believe in gay marriage? No. [laughing]

Tori: Suppose some -- in fact, suppose many -- of the family members didn't go to your wedding because their conscience wouldn't allow them. That's something I've personally wrestled with in my own heart and mind. You said earlier that it would offend you. Would that be something you would be willing to work through, or would it destroy your relationships with those family members?

Maci: Well. [pause] It definitely wouldn't destroy our relationship, because again everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. It would be a little upsetting that they didn't come, but, [pause] I mean, that's what they believe. I can't change their minds.

Tori: Would something like that communicate to you that they don't love you?

Maci: [Pause] No. Not if they told me their reasoning for not coming, rather than just not showing up.

Tori: My understanding is that you hope to have children someday, and you've stressed that you want to have "your own" children, meaning sharing your DNA. Do you think the family would accept those children?

Maci: I would hope so. I feel like they would be a little skeptical of it at first, but after the kids are born they'll accept them like they'll accept any other kid. I don't think it will be like, "Oh, this is the in-vitro baby" or "Oh, this is the gay baby." There are lots of ways to "sinfully conceive children" in the Catholic Church, and I plan on breaking one of those rules [laughs], but I think the family would accept children no matter how they were brought into the world.

Tori: I posted on my blog's Facebook page several weeks ago asking what my followers would ask a former Catholic lesbian in a Catholic family. Are you comfortable answering a few of those questions?

Maci: Yeah, what I thought some of them were funny.

Question from Facebook: "I know a lot of people who leave the Church because of something that was said to them by someone in the church. I have had difficulties with pastors and people in different parishes. I just sought out another parish. I would like to know if she would be willing to go "Church shopping" to possibly find a better spiritual home or if she's given up entirely on the Catholic church."

Maci: Well, it wasn't like it was a big ordeal when I left [the Catholic Church] -- I didn't leave because anyone said something mean to me. I just found over time that I'm not a religious person. I did go to a local nondenominational church for services geared toward college-aged people for a few months with a few friends, because my friends go there, so I went to support them. But, I stopped going because I didn't agree with some of the things the pastor was preaching about. He was pretty much saying that every other church was wrong -- like "We're right," meaning that every other Church wasn't teaching the right thing. It was a really loving environment and I loved all the people there. I just felt like I didn't belong there.

Tori: I think that view is pretty common for Christian churches [laughs]. I believe the Catholic Church is right and every other Church is wrong about certain things.

Maci: But you're still accepting of other people's beliefs. As for whether I would go church shopping, no, I have no interest in that. That does not sound fun. It wasn't the Catholic Church that made me reluctant toward religion, I just don't know what I believe, I just know it isn't all that stuff.

Question from Facebook: "What does she miss about the Church, if anything? Does she have a spiritual home? Does she know she is loved (by God, by family/friends/self)? Mostly I hope she knows she is loved. What does she think of when she hears the phrase "made in His Image?" And please tell her thank you for opening up. People are afraid of what they don't know, and her willingness may be what's needed for someone else to open their heart."

Maci: How. CUTE! I like that one. I definitely miss youth group. That was fun. I liked youth group, and Steubenville for sure. I don't miss going to Mass at all. I don't really feel a need for a spiritual home. I can be spiritual without being religious. I know that I'm loved by my family and my friends. I'm not so sure about by God or by myself [laughs]. I'm very iffy about whether I believe in God or not. I've pretty much come to the realization that if there is a God, my tiny human brain is not going to be able to comprehend something that huge and detailed and intricate. If there is a God, that's cool, but if there isn't, that's cool. I don't know if God would love me or not, because of my tiny human brain. I don't know the dude. When I hear "made in His image" I think of everyone looking exactly like Jesus [giggling]. I always thought that was really conflicting, because God as a being doesn't have a body, I guess? It just doesn't make sense to me. And, you're welcome. I'm an open book. Follow me on Instagram.

Question from Facebook: "I have met people that are attracted to their same sex, but they are abstinent due to believing that unwed sex between two people is a sin (regardless of who they are attracted to) what is her opinion regarding this?"

Maci: I don't care. You do you, pal. It's a beautiful thing to abstain. I have a friend who is waiting until marriage, and he and his girlfriend have the most beautiful relationship I've ever seen. I think gay people living in abstinence is actually pretty common, contrary to popular belief. I think it's possible to be gay and Christian and abstain; it's not a foreign concept to me. I don't see being in a celibate gay relationship as different than a straight couple abstaining. Just because people are gay doesn't mean they have to have sex. Not for me, though.

Question from Facebook: "Was she ever a 'practicing, Eucharist-receiving Catholic?' ... Does she hope the Catholic Church will one day change its teachings?"

Maci: Yes, I was a practicing, Eucharist-receiving Catholic. I was all about that Catholic life, yo. I'm not anymore because I'm gay and it was a very conflicting thing for me. I had a lot of different beliefs than the Church and it didn't feel right to say I was Catholic and not believe in what they teach. I don't hope the Church will change its teachings. I don't really care about that, because I'm not Catholic. If people want to be Catholic they will, and if they don't they won't.

Question from Facebook: "What's her favorite color? Ok but really.. ask if she feels the Church specifically excludes her because of her sexual orientation. Not just doctrine or "rules," but Catholic people. Has she encountered Catholic people who thought of her differently and treated her differently when she ..I guess, left the Catholic Church?"

Maci: Royal blue, thanks for asking. I do feel the Church specifically excludes me, but I don't want to be included, so it doesn't really matter to me. About Catholic people... In [our Catholic] high school, I felt really accepted, even though a lot of people didn't agree with the lifestyle. I don't think all Catholic people necessarily exclude me because we disagree. But I have encountered people who treat me differently now that I'm not Catholic and date women. There are people I just don't talk to anymore, not out of malice, but just because our lives are so different now. There isn't much common ground left. I'm okay with that.

Question from Facebook: "What is her favorite Christmas movie, and why is it Die Hard?"

Maci: I hate Christmas. [pause] I don't get it, why is my favorite Christmas movie Die Hard? I don't understand what that means. I am not trendy.

Question from Facebook: "What is the attraction of defining oneself by one's sexual partner as opposed to defining oneself in Christ?"

Maci: Dumb this one down for me.

Tori: There's a common Christian sentiment today that identifying as "gay" misses the mark of how we should identify ourselves. Some Christians take it so far as to say "there is no such thing as 'being gay', there is only being a child of God." The idea that gay people make it the whole sum of their identity. I think the question is meant to ask why you identify as gay instead of as a member of Christ.

Maci: I identify as gay because I'm gay. It's not the whole sum of my identity. Who I am is Maci. I'm really funny, and I like hugs, and I like going to the park, and I like dancing. There's more to me than being gay, but it is an adjective that describes me, so I use it. I don't define myself in Christ because I'm not religious, so that particular way of describing myself doesn't apply to me.

Tori: Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule [hearty, deep laughter, LOL] to meet with me and help me write this. If there is one thing you could say to Catholics about loving their gay family members, what would it be?

Maci: Cash me ousside howbow dah

Tori: Okay. Anything else?

Maci: You don't have to compromise your beliefs to love someone. Families accept people all the time who don't agree with everything, so why should this be any different?

Monday, February 13, 2017

In Which I Address Everyone's Favorite Offensive Question To Ask About My Sex Life

As you probably already know, I got engaged to the wonderful Tyler Oswald on Christmas Eve, just a few weeks ago. Tyler is great, and we've been together for 8 1/2 years. We started dating when I was 16 and he was 18. We have been through almost everything there is to go through. He stayed with me through the worst times of my life so far, and I've likewise stayed with him through the worst of his. We are completely, madly in love and absolutely everybody knows it. That is, until they find out we don't sleep together. Then they don't know anything about either of us anymore.

For years since coming back into the Church, I have hesitantly answered many a question about my living situation -- no, I don't live with Tyler. Yes, we know we're in our mid-twenties and yes, we know how long we have been together. I have hesitantly answered many a question about my fertility -- no, we don't plan on using contraception and yes, we are aware that sex makes babies (were you aware that is, kind of, the point?). I have answered questions about what we "do" -- once people learn we don't have sex, they typically want to know what we do instead -- and no, we don't do anything "instead of" sex with our genitals together. If the point of what you're thinking of is to obtain sexual relief and/or achieve orgasm, no, we don't do that, and God-willing won't until we're married next April.

These are questions I hesitate to answer, not because they make me uncomfortable at all, but because of the response I usually get. People are weird about Catholics, and it's probably because Catholics are weird. Nonetheless, questions about sex and intimacy don't offend me. Not usually.

There is one. When people find out we don't sleep together, they become concerned, and make faces like these:

Look at these freaks. I bet they never get laid.

"What if you aren't sexually compatible?"

People who care about us seem occasionally inclined to worry about whether we will enjoy sexual intimacy together in marriage. Their concern is twofold: (1) our disappointment will devastate our relationship and (2) we'll be "stuck" with each other per our marriage vows.

Instead of hesitating to answer this question, I try to simply not answer it at all, except with a determined "I love Tyler." And I do love Tyler, so much, and that is the precise root of the offense I take to this question. The implication that I would allow awkward, painful, or boring sex to unwind everything Tyler and I have built together for the last almost-decade is, frankly, repulsive. What I hear when this question is posed to me is "Is Tyler really worth it?" Of course the answer is yes. We haven't had sex for just under a decade. I think we can survive a few hurdles of figuring things out, if there is anything to figure out.

I've had sex before, and I will say that what I have with Tyler is something I would choose over and over and over again before I would have all the sex in the world with anyone else. He is the most beautiful person I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and I can't wait to spend a lifetime getting to know him more and more. Sex is great, and it's something I greatly look forward to, but we've got a lot of other stuff going on between us, too.

For example, I trust him more than anyone else. He makes me feel safe, and he can make me laugh when I'm angry. I have never loved anyone else the way I love him, and I am amazed that a heart so darkened and weak as mine can hold so much affection. We cook together, and have yet to be disappointed with a result. We binge watch Netflix together, and waste hours picking apart shows and sharing observations no one else would care about. We talk about politics, philosophy, religion, social trends, music, and bras. We set goals together and sometimes we even achieve them.

I already "know what I'm getting myself into." I'm getting myself into a lifetime of unity and shared mission with the most important person in my life. I'm getting myself into decades of growing and learning with the man I hope will be the father of my children. I'm getting myself into the most precious title I will ever hold: Tyler's wife.

He's a human being with an endless mystery of "self" to explore. There is no need to "test drive" something we'll have the rest of our lives to practice and perfect anyway. There is no need to test drive a person. How repugnant, really.

When, God-willing, Tyler and I stand before God and everybody and profess our commitment and love to one another, I'll feel like the most blessed person in the whole room. I'm the only person who will ever be Tyler's wife. In a room full of people who held him as a baby, watched him grow, kept his school pictures on their refrigerators and in their wallets, saw him graduate high school, and still even remember getting the call that he was going to be born, I'm the one who will be standing before him hearing him tell me and God that he vows to be mine for the rest of our lives, that he vows to be open to the gift of children with me, and that he vows to love me all the days of his life.

I assure you, sincerely, that no amount of awkward or boring, which I doubt will even be a problem, will ever overshadow that moment for me.