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Being gay, being Catholic

Observer Viewpoint | Monday, April 5, 2004

The first time is always the hardest. It took me 14 months of hesitation before I told my roommate I was gay, and before that it took me six years to tell myself – though I had always known in some part of my mind. But the burning secret within me fought against a cold, if irrational, fear, and I pushed the date of my unmasking further and further back.In the end, it was not the hot pain of my old secret that broke through the ice; rather, it was respect for truth. For if I am to claim in any way to love the truth, then I must be completely honest to and about myself. Those who live lies cannot follow the truth. Those who live lies cannot be Christians. So – finally – I came out to my roommate, my closest friends and my parents. In coming out, I had to face many dirty realities. The fact is that a large cross-section of the nation does not understand, nor does it wish to understand, homosexuality and the issues that surround it. A significant portion of our nation cannot understand why a gay youth would choose to be open about himself, and immediately brands me as an attention-hungry showoff at best or some sort of lurid and sex-mad sodomy-evangelist at worst.The saddest truth is that a very small, but vocal, “Christian” minority hates me merely for existing, and if I were to wander openly in certain part of the country I might never wander out again. Their mantra and drumbeat, “God hates faggots,” pounds a steady rhythm in the back of nightmares.This is not an easy world to come out into, but coming out is too important to avoid. For what is at stake for me, and what is at stake for other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) students, faculty and staff on this campus is much more than politics. While I cannot pretend to speak for the entire GLBT community, even here at Notre Dame, I can speak to my own mind, and I think many would concur. What is at stake here is our identity.For you see, I cannot change the central tenets of who I am, no more than any other person, mightiest saint to lowliest sinner, can do so; nor should I be expected to. To reject my identity, to deny what God has – for whatever reason – made me to be, is both a grave sin against him, and against myself. Matthew 5:48, a Latin scholar once told me, is properly translated as this: “Be completely what you are, as your heavenly Father is completely what He is.” And yet it is precisely this rejection of self that society, and worst of all the Church, tries to force upon us.And yet, hurt as I am by this rejection, I also see the seeds of reparation, for I know this: God did not send his only son to use as a doctrine, or a law, or any scale of justice. He sent a human. This is the heart and soul of all Christian truth. All theology is incarnational theology, and all Catholic truth must be understood through the person of Jesus. For only through the person of Jesus does the law obtain life, only through the person of Jesus can one see that these are not simply issues of right and wrong to be judged and thrown away, a closed book soon forgotten. These issues have faces, and hearts, and souls. They live and they breathe, they love, laugh, hope, hurt, yearn. This is why, above all else – above justice, above “righteous condemnation” – the most Christian virtue of all is compassion.The birthright of every human is this: self-love, respect and dignity. But by calling homosexuality an “objective disorder” – a useless term which has never been formally defined – it is immediately implied that we have no right to be happy in who we are, no right to be joyful (yes, joyful) that God made us gay or lesbian. For this is what we are and every person has the duty to love himself for what he is. The other road leads only into darkness.For this reason, the most insulting arguments are those that would deconstruct this debate down to questions of pure sex. As if life is a two-bit pinball game of who gets to screw whom and how, as if we are so petty that we cannot see beyond our genitals. Sexuality is not as clear-cut as that; it is holistic, complicated, messy, far reaching and confusing. Far more than an act performed with another person, it is a large portion of what it means to be a human, and it turns up in many places that are not classically understood as “sexual.”This is why we struggle for acceptance; this is why we struggle for formal recognition. This is why we have a sea of orange. A thousand whispered glances and a veil of intolerable silence have stolen our intrinsic dignity from us. For recognition leads – eventually – to understanding, and understanding leads to acceptance and respect. And the day will come when it does not take a young man six years to come to terms with himself because all he could see was a road paved with pain. The day will come when homosexuality is no more remarked upon than a love of music or the ability to sing well. At least, this is my deepest conviction. Time will tell if I am wrong.

This column appears as a guest column. Lance Gallop is a senior living in Keough Hall. He can be contacted at [email protected] views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.