My brother, Joseph Prever,
is a faithful Catholic who came out publicly as a celibate gay man the other day. (He says he got more flak for coming out as celibate.)
He'd told me and a few other relatives and friends a while ago, which prompted me to think very hard about things I'd scarcely ever considered at all. My thoughts about the entire subject before it touched me personally amounted to "Objective disorder!" and "Love the sinner, hate the sin!" I haven't changed my mind about either one; but it turns out there's a lot more to say. What follow are just the impressions of someone who's still working out what it all does and doesn't mean.
Here are five things that occurred to me:
1. He hadn't always secretly been someone else.
When he first told me and a few other relatives and friends, I was startled that I wasn't more shocked. It wasn't as if I'd always suspected something: the news took me completely by surprise. But here was my little brother (my six-foot-plus little brother), whom I'd known and loved for many, many years, and it turned out he'd been struggling with something I'd been completely oblivious to. That was what struck me most.
In other words, he hadn't suddenly revealed himself as an imposter, through and through. He'd always been my brother, and that's who he still was.
Maybe this is the kind of thing the American Bishops had in mind when they put out "Always Our Children" in 1997, addressing parents whose children had revealed a homosexual inclination. At the time I took the title to be evidence of mushy-minded moral indifferentism--an attempt to turn the reader's attention away from the objective disorder and towards their own irrational parental affections. Of course they're still their children, I thought--did the bishops really think the tiny fraction of parents dedicated enough to read through an episcopal document
were going to cast their offspring cruelly aside? Now maybe I see what they were getting at. He always was and always will be my brother.
2. He doesn't belong to a third gender.
A man with same-sex attraction is a man, not something else. Some people talk as if he's a separate gender altogether. This can make lots of wholly unnecessary trouble for the person in question and eveyone who knows him.
3. He's not a mascot.
This is something that disturbs me: women will sometimes condescend, maybe well-meaningly, to a gay man, feeling free to giggle with him, confide in him, or treat him as a sort of pet
--as if he doesn't really count as a man but is useful as a confidante, someone to vent at or play with. I can't believe this is good for anybody concerned.
4. He's not a walking disorder, any more than the rest of us are the various disordered passions that give us grief.
The same kind of conflation of person and condition (for want of a better word) crops up when someone says, "My son is A.D.H.D."
or "My friend is O.C.D." If we object--as we should--to the activists who treat gayness is something uniquely wonderful that constitutes your very essence, then we should likewise reject the idea that it's something uniquely horrible that exhaustively describes you.
5. On the other hand, this is not a minor detail, like being left-handed or blue-eyed.
As my brother points out, if you relate to both men and women in a way that's "a little bit different from what people expect," that's not a slight variation. It's not just a matter of acting (or not) on an occasional tempatation at the moment it appears. Of course tt's not the sole constitutive element of a person's identity, and it's one of the many disorders that can plague human beings, making life especially difficult in one way or another. Who would presume to judge it a greater or lesser hardship than, say, infertility, or clinical depression? But it's something with profound spiritual and psychological effects, no mattter how you approach it.
Well, that's for starters. I could go on. But what do you think?