Gay Celibacy and Relational Capital

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I have a public service announcement for all the celigaybies* out there:

I suspect that at least some of my readers wrestle with how to keep their families and manage those family members’ expectations of them. I suspect also that there are many for whom the reasons they choose celibacy are cloudy sometimes. I resonate with that very deeply; I’m simply trying to turn on some fans to disperse the smoke so that others might see clearly.

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A Fulfilled Life

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“The task we have to face is the same, whether we are married or single: To live a fulfilled life in spite of many unfulfilled desires.” —Walter Trobisch

Recently, I finished reading the book Loves Me, Loves Me Not: The Ethics of Unrequited Love, by Dr. Laura A. Smit (Baker, 2005). She is giving me a lot to chew on as I think about my own journey of crushes, love, loss, and friendship.

One section which stands out to me addresses whether to tell someone you love them. Dr. Smit says:

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Gay Exhaustion

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Folks often ask me how I’m doing. It’s a safe way of starting a conversation that won’t stall out in small talk about the weather or degenerate into a shouting match about politics.

More often than not, I tell people that I’m tired. There are multiple reasons I’m tired these days. Anxiety causes sleep to be inferior. Also, anyone with as many friendships as I find myself having has a lot of relational strain to deal with because people are people and I’m me. If you know me in person and we haven’t had it out yet, relax. We will.

The type of tired I’m thinking about today is “gay exhaustion.” This is something I find working in tandem with all the other anxiety in my life. Here’s what I think it looks like:

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Gay Respectability

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I’ve been thinking a lot about gay respectability lately, due to a friend posting a meme in a Facebook group, asking folks to deconstruct it. Here’s the meme:

I think there’s a few things wrong with this, but let’s first give this the most charitable reading possible: “I want to be friends with someone who is pleasant to be with and talk to. I want to know the person behind the presentation.”

I think that’s a fine thing to want. The friends I have are folks with whom I can be vulnerable and they can be vulnerable with me. One friend works out a lot but isn’t some kind of self-absorbed muscle queen. Another friend is very introverted but isn’t self-absorbed.

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National Coming Out Day, 2018

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I grew up in a home where anything related to coming out was met with a sneer. “Why do they have to force their sexual depravity on us?” was a common refrain in discussions. From the time that I began actually dealing with the fact that my sexual attractions and my experience of the world just didn’t fit the narrative which my friends and relatives seemed all-too-comfortable in, I weighed the options of coming out.

For years, I refused. My freshman year of college, I was asked point-blank by a friend in marching band: “Are you gay?” I told him no. I had reasons, of course. Being a conservative Christian, I wasn’t actually gay because I wasn’t sleeping with men. I was same-sex attracted and was attempting to be free from the curse thereof through prayer, accountability, and just plain perseverance.

There is nothing at all wrong with any of those three things. It was, for me, a misguided attempt to grapple with reality as I found it.

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The Love of God

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St. Aelred lays out a template for Spiritual Friendship in his book of the same name. He cautions his readers that in order to have close, spiritual friendship, everything about the relationship must be founded upon the love of God. He cautions that we must be especially careful that whatever we build atop this foundation fits with it. Whatever doesn’t fit the foundation must be corrected, using that foundation of the love of God as a template. In other words, if the building hangs over the sides of the foundation, bad stuff will happen.

Recently, I was discussing this passage with some folks one evening recently and I asked, “What does the love of God look like in practical terms?” Continue reading

Two and a half years later

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More than two years ago, the interim senior pastor at the church I worked for sidelined me from ministry because I call myself a gay Christian. He criticized me behind closed doors, telling me that by calling myself a gay Christian I was uniting the name of my sin to the name of my Savior and bringing dishonor on the Gospel. He talked well about me in public, telling parents of kids in the youth group that I was living the single life better than most other single guys he knew, gay or straight.

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Romance and Friendships

A couple of years ago, I was out with a friend from another town. We ate at a sit-down burger & soda place within walking distance of my house and had a nice long chat. It’s been long enough now that I don’t recall the exact subject of the conversation, but I remember the broad swath of the territory covered. This guy and I have been friends since college and know each other super well. I was in his wedding and if I were ever in the position to be married, he’d be in mine.

At a certain point in the conversation, I made a comment which I had spent a great deal of time deciding how to phrase because, knowing him, I knew the push-back was coming. Push-back, he did…for 35 minutes. After debating whether or not my critique (no, the first sentence of my critique!) was valid, he acquiesced.

But then he said, “See? Why can’t my wife have a perfectly rational conversation like this? You and I can!”

And I looked at him and said, “If I had to sleep next to you, I’d have gotten up and walked out long ago. We can talk this way because I don’t have sex with you.”

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Mourn with those who mourn

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I think often of Washed and Waiting, a book which has helped me a great deal in the last seven years of my walk with Christ. In it, Wesley Hill talks about his loneliness even in the midst of the crowd. If one were to examine Wesley’s Meyers-Briggs against mine, I’m willing to bet we’d test differently. Wes’ and my personalities more than likely create situations where one of us might be drained while the other was being recharged. The experience of loneliness and desperation, however, are not tied to one’s personality. They are very nearly universal in the lives of those who are human. Continue reading

Friendship and Love

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I graduated from seminary in May, 2015, but I still live in town. I keep up with seminary friends who are still in classes, so a group of us get together regularly at a local dive bar for cheap beer and toasted ravioli. (If you’ve not heard of it before, it’s deep fried, breaded ravioli. Marvelous stuff. It’s a St. Louis thing.)

One of my friends told me about a guy who was going to come to the bar to hang out with the group. “He’s in his early 30s, gay, celibate, and a Christian,” said my friend. I have to admit that I thought, “Early 30s and celibate? He’s probably awkward and ugly.” Continue reading