Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Sad Case of Catholics Who Choose to Confirm Their Homosexuality

Following his talk at the Courage sponsored conference “Accompanying and Welcoming Our Brothers and Sisters with Same-Sex Attraction,” Joseph Prever was interviewed by “Catholic World Report;” he had this to say:
“Many of us emphasize the need to move towards self-acceptance and away from shame. For this reason we often stay away from the language of “disorder” and “brokenness” that often surrounds the issue, even though we understand the reasons for using terms like these.”
I have heard all of this many times before, for this sort of rhetoric comes straight out of the gay playbooks; in fact, two landmark works which I read back in the 1990s, curiously incorporated the two gay buzz-words Prever spoke about in his interview - “self-acceptance” and “shame,” within their titles: “Becoming Gay: The Journey to Self-Acceptance” by Richard Isay and “Coming Out of Shame: Transforming Gay and Lesbian Lives” by Kaufman and Raphael; both published in 1996. First, revolutionary psychiatrist Ismay, who literally wrote the book on modern gay shrink-theory, argued: “Internalized self-hate and homophobia can only be worked through by a process of confrontation of denial, self-acknowledgment, and ultimate self-acceptance.” This sort of gay “self-acceptance” is usually achieved by “coming-out;” as merely partaking in the sex-act is considered entirely secondary and wholly unacceptable to most in the gay community; as I once discovered that the greatest consternation in the gay bars and cruising areas was always reserved for the so-called “trolls’ or straight, often married, men who picked-up gay guys for quick sex. In a rather alarming admission, Prever himself bizarrely marks the anniversary of his “coming out” and observed that: “Well-meaning straight folks who say that Catholics should never come out: may God forgive you for the heavy burdens of shame that you help to bind on your brothers and sisters.” Here, this attitude and reverence for “coming-out” is strikingly similar to that found in the gay community; for instance, actress Jodie Foster was frequently castigated by homosexual groups for her refusal to publicly partake in this ceremony of self-admittance when she repeatedly pass up the opportunity to “come-out.” Only after she did so, though she had been living with another woman for many years, was she finally considered gay. Yet, even then, some didn’t fully buy it: gay columnist Andrew Sullivan took issue with how she “came-out” and that she didn’t explicitly say it as Ellen DeGeneres had done before her: “I’m with Ellen’s courage, not Foster’s retroactive defensiveness. No one needs to know about the details of Foster’s private life, by the way, which she deserves to keep private. All anyone ever asked for was acknowledgment of the public fact of her being gay.” Therefore, it’s not the sexual activity alone which determines the confirmation of the orientation, in fact – its superfluous, but the self-admittance, the act of “coming out” or as Prever says “self-acceptance.”

As for Prever’s second gay buzz-word, Kaufman and Raphael wrote: “Shame is the single greatest barrier to the realization of intimacy. Developing self-esteem and a secure self-affirming gay identity, along with integrating intimacy and sexuality, are central developmental tasks for gay individuals.” Part and parcel with “coming-out” is usually the simultaneous process of throwing off the shame. In my generation, that meant expelling once and for all the guilt we perceived as having originated with our Christian or, in terms of my circle of friends – Catholic, upbringing. In our stance against conservatism, we openly expressed our sexual identity – most flagrantly during the annual ritual of the Gay Pride Parade down Market Street in San Francisco; the first time I attended, at age 18 in 1988, was a dual exhilaration as I was visibly declaring my sexuality in the public forum while joyously celebrating my newly realized identity. Yet, this dropping of shame also left us rather clueless as how to fundamentally manage our lives; for this reason, gay sex quite rapidly descends into the most deviant sub-fetishes as all forms of social and moral constant have been removed which ultimately collapsed into AIDS. In terms of the homosexual inclination shame is a good thing, because, shame serves as the soul’s fail-safe mechanism – signaling to the brain that all is not well; that a wound, or as “The Catechism states,” a “disorder” is unresolved and actively influencing our reactions and desires. Pope Francis recently said: “But shame is a true Christian virtue, and even human…the ability to be ashamed: I do not know if there is a similar saying in Italian, but in our country to those who are never ashamed are called ‘sin vergüenza:’ this means ‘the unashamed,’ because they are people who do not have the ability to be ashamed and to be ashamed is a virtue of the humble…” With this in mind, Prever’s further comments about why he chooses to “stay away” from such terms as “disorder” and “brokenness” can be explained: because, when you have shame you are humble and able to acknowledge your own woundedness and “disorder;” you can also recognize that this disorder is a “strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil.”* So, if you are accepting being gay then you are also accepting an “intrinsic moral evil.” In the end, all you are left with is some confused sense of gratification that you came-out and that you are gay; hence, now voluntarily-imprisoned and locked into the orientation. And that’s sad.

“…the gravitational pull of our lives is weighted by the chains of the ‘I’ and the ‘self.’ These chains must be broken to free us for a new love that places us in another gravitational field where we can enter new life.” ~ Pope Benedict XVI

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Catholicism, Clarity, and the Gay Problem: An Answer to Dr. Janet Smith and the Current Courage Confusion

“We must search for the laws of its simplicity and clarity, for its power and authority, so as to overcome our natural lack of skill in the use of the great and mysterious spiritual instrument of speech and to enable us worthily to compete with those who today exert so much influence through their word by having access to the organs of public opinion.” ~ Encyclical Letter on the Ways in which the Church Must Carry Out its Mission in the Contemporary World, His Holiness Pope Paul VI (Promulgated on August 6, 1964)

Along with most of my friends, I grew up a lost and confused little boy in the 1970s; nothing seemed certain back then, not even my tenuous ideas about God. Just this year, Cardinal Wuerl of Washington DC had this to say about that indecisive time: “When I was a young priest in the 1960s and 1970s, there was much experimentation and confusion in the Church. Teachers and clergy were encouraged by some to communicate an experience of God’s love, but to do it without reference to the Creed, the sacraments, or Church tradition. It did not work very well. Catholics grew up with the impression that their heritage was little more than warm, vaguely positive feelings about God.” During the same period, I distinctly recall a priest at school saying that “good” Catholics questioned everything about the Church; a catechism teacher taught that God never judged us; another said that matters of right and wrong were exclusively determined by our personal conscious. Yet, inside, I always felt that there was something distinctly amiss, because – I was attracted to other boys. This was a rather universal phase of suffering and denial that I found widely experienced by the majority of those I later got to know as a gay man. As I subsequently learned, most of us grew up seriously lacking: a secure male figure in our lives, a feeling of masculine assurance, or even the basic sense of personal safety. Therefore, with the Church offering nothing of substance – most of us looked for answers elsewhere. Then, the only confident solidity seemed to emanate from pop-culture and the burgeoning gay rights movement. To a lonely kid confused about his emotions, the masculine solidarity displayed by The Village People broached the senses as a near heavenly vision rivaling an angelic choir. Suddenly though, disco was dead as AIDS seemed to destroy that near nirvana of gay liberation. Yet, in the midst of it all, a new Madonna signaled a return to confidence through the ritual of “safe sex.” Yet, it all came crashing down – and hundreds of thousands would die. But, what went so horribly wrong?

Interestingly enough, during my entire stay in the gay lifestyle, my closest friends were all men who had been raised Catholic. Even though there was a nearby “gay-affirming” Catholic parish, to varying degrees, we had all pretty much left behind that part of ourselves. The one hold-out, an always serious guy who became obsessed with John Boswell’s book about early-Christian same-sex “wedding” ceremonies. As for the rest of us, our lack of interest had less to do with any conscious decision to leave the religion of our youth, but in a growing awareness of its own ineffectuality. Even John Paul II admitted that many were led astray: “One must be realistic and acknowledge with a deep and pained sentiment that a great part of today’s Christians feel lost, confused, perplexed, and even disillusioned: ideas contradicting the revealed and unchanging Truth have been spread far and wide; outright heresies in the dogmatic and moral fields have been disseminated, creating doubt, confusion, and rebellion…”* With regards to homosexuality itself, the Church acknowledged that: “an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good.” And, though we rarely discussed it, each of us could vividly recall experiences with priests that ranged from dead silence at the mere mention of our orientation to something resembling envious admiration. I will never forgot how, during a failed dinner party intervention organized by my parents, the slightly tipsy priest they invited to set their wayward son on the right path – patted me on the back and said I was doing just fine; in reality, things had gotten pretty dark for me and I wasn’t doing fine at all, but, at that time, being gay was the only life I knew. As a result, overall, the Church seemed indecisive and confused. Therefore, we took none of them seriously. To us, the inevitability of another Madonna pop hit, the feeling of euphoria experienced on the dance floor when surrounded by a hundred near naked sweating guys, and the caress of another man – those things were real, they were tangible; the Church was a meaningless bloated entity filled with bickering eunuchs. Protected within their convoluted bubble of endless insular “dialogue;” why should we pay them any attention? Looking back, even twenty years later, it’s still difficult to recall what happened to those lost Catholic boys I once knew: by 1998, they were all dead. The hardest one to understand – the death of my bookish friend who always seemed to reach for the highest moral plane then available to a gay man: he eventually settled down with a life-partner, only to become HIV+.

Somehow, I barely survived and after a decade of living as an unapologetic gay man, the bottom (literally) feel out of my world. Too sick to even crawl, I was carried away to a place of safety; at the time, I was anemic from years of continuous rectal bleeding, my anus had recently prolapsed, my immune system was shot from too many antibiotic cycles that were becoming increasingly ineffective against a repeated string of STD infections, at 29, I had lost my looks and no longer existed at the center of attention in the bars and discos, but found myself relegated to the periphery – haunting the darkened and seedy halls and lavatories of the sex-clubs and bathhouses. Most of my friends had since died of AIDS – so, I had little left to live for. Only, for some reason I couldn’t even begin to comprehend, the Lord took pity on me; and, as he did with the woman caught in adultery, not to mention the countless other social rejects, lepers and hopeless demoniacs – He said little, but He saved my life with a simple gesture of kindness: sending away those who sought my destruction and forgiving me of my sins; instantly dispelling confusion with the promise of healing.

Later, during those first initial months after my rescue, I was immensely curious about everything related to Christ. All I knew was that somehow this strange man cared about me; but He remained completely mysterious. But, I didn’t know what to do next; as for the Catholic Church – I was rather terrified, would another priest patronize me and send me back to the Castro. Then, rather miraculously, I spotted the heavily sun-bleached spin of a book hidden amongst the numerous editions scattered casually on my mother’s bookshelf: “The Catechism of the Catholic Church.” A substantial volume, it felt sold and real in my hand. That first time I picked it up, I swiftly turned to those pages having to do with homosexuality; initially, seeing the rather short paragraphs, my first thought was: “Out of this thick book – That’s it!” But then I read through them: “grave depravity,” “objectively disordered,” “intrinsically disordered;” I said to myself – “Okay…Maybe a little difficult to comprehend at first, but it felt genuine and strong.” It was clear, simple, and the Truth. I took the book back to bed and slept with it for weeks on end. And, here I was lying upon my often blood-stained sheets, awaiting to go through a series of painful surgeries that would hopefully repair my damaged lower digestive tract, and the more I thought about it, I became convinced and I understood just how “disordered” I once was; part of the confusion that permanently marked so much of my past began to dissipate. Because, from that point onward, in my own ravaged body - I could plainly see in the mirror where confusion had brought me. What I found vastly more difficult to recognize and understand was how and why I became so open to disorder. For those physical wounds seeped and constantly drained blood, but the mental ones – though just as serious and painful, were buried within me. As a result, I grew conflicted. Almost on a daily basis, I wavered in between the worlds of solidity, represented by “The Catechism” and the more shadowy realm of conflict ruled by my still unresolved emotions. At an impasse, I self-resolved the problem: I could be chaste, but I was still gay; I may have been hurt, but I wasn’t broken.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, there appeared a newly ordained priest. I inadvertently met him while apparently happy and content with being Catholic, gay, and chaste. Only, he could see through all that. By then, the physical wounds were healing. But to those with a unique perception, a “discernment of spirits,” I still looked battered and bruised; I looked confused. When I introduced myself to him, he said only a few words, but was so kind and unassuming that I immediately wanted to trust him. However, I got sort of worried when he asked if he could pray over me. The years of confusion and uncertainty about the Church had built up a wall of suspicion around me, but, for some unknown reason – I calmly said: “Okay.” Part of my acceptance was that he also reminded me somewhat of Pope John Paul II; again, through “The Catechism,” my one lifeline to the Faith, and then George Weigel’s book, I began to appreciate this solidly built and immovably steadfast man; reading the immense biography – I cheered inside when the supremely masculine John Paul shut down “dialogue” amongst those constantly pushing for the ordination of women; it was a consummate triumph of order over confusion. In a strange way, this priest did the same – making me feel at ease while calmly turning off my relentlessly distracting inner-chatter. Away from everyone else, in a small room, only assisted by his biological father, the priest I had known for barely five minutes, put a stole over his head and began to pray. Next, for some reason, which I did not understand, he placed the end of the stole on my shoulder and I immediately fell to the floor; all at once, some unseen force was pulling my head from side to side and in between the weird grunts and barks that emanated from my mouth – I begged Father to help me; without hesitating, he kept praying. This went on for a while, but Father didn’t stop praying for a single moment. Slowly, whatever entity that still resided within me, the clinging spirit of my persistent confused gay self, was pulled out and finally expelled. It was over.

At one time, confusion sent me to the gay lifestyle; now, it was the simple strength of clarity, represented in this humble and faithful priest, which decisively brought me out once and for all. And, this is always what the Church has done best, as Christ Himself did, taking in the diseased, the unwanted, and the disregarded of the world – healing them, casting out demons, and imparting the simple message of Faithfulness and Love; bringing peace to lives of the confounded; most famously, even widely known among those without a Christian mindset, this idea is found in the axiom attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel - use words only if necessary;” what he more accurately said was this: “I also admonish and exhort these brothers that, in their preaching, their words be well chosen and chaste... in a discourse that is brief, because it was in few words that the Lord preached while on earth.” Nevertheless, the message is clear, truly exemplified in a once disoriented libertine who dared to comfort and tend the wounds of the broken, the poor, and the outcast. This exact sentiment was picked up hundreds of years later by Mother Teresa of Calcutta: “Spread the love of God through your life but only use words when necessary.” As Pope Paul VI stated, it’s this “search…for simplicity and clarity” in both words, and in actions, that Saved me; in opposition – the lack or absence of clarity breeds confusion, and, in the case of those I knew – death.

Sadly, many have gotten away from the simple message of healing and the simplicity of Christ’s Love for each of us; at a recent event: the conference “Accompanying and Welcoming Our Brothers and Sisters with Same-Sex Attraction,” jointly sponsored by the Archdiocese of Detroit and Courage International, a message of confusion has overshadowed the Truth and the fate of souls hangs in the balance. In fact, one of the organizers, Dr. Janet E. Smith, stated: “We knew there was a risk of some confusion arising, but we thought the risk worth it.” First of all, as someone who was once extremely confused about what the Church taught with regards to homosexuality, an especially heady problem in the days before the publication of “The Catechism,” I find her willingness to admit the reality of “confusion arising” and her complicity to just letting it happen, extremely alarming. Because, we must never lose sight of the fact that precious lives are always at stake: what we say, how we openly dialogue, or what we publicly discuss, does not remain in some academic vacuum far removed from the everyday struggles of gay men and women; someone is listening, and someone is being affected. For instance, the priest who essentially told me to go back to the gay lifestyle, in essence – he could have been telling me to jump into the grave, in retrospect, used a rhetoric highly influenced by the teachings of dissident former pro-gay priest Fr. John McNeill; through the years, no matter what else may have transpired with McNeill or the Church, those words survived. As will the current batch of misunderstandings and out-right departures represented by Eve Tushnet and Joseph Prever who inexplicably claim that being gay and Catholic is not an oxymoron; to help in their dispersion while acknowledging that they may cause “confusion,” is reckless at best, and, at its worst, sacrifices a few lives in the interest of intellectual curiosity. Secondly, Dr. Smith also feels that in her estimation, the risk of causing such confusion is “worth it.” Dear Dr. Smith, is it worth sacrificing one human life? And, who are you to make that determination? Because this isn’t just about simply: “listening carefully and charitably to those with whom we dialogue,” and it’s not about some theoretical exercise by which: “we wanted to establish the nonnegotiable foundational principles of Christian anthropology,” it’s about gay men becoming infected with a non-curable disease and dying as a result. What you are doing isn’t benefiting anyone, and words and ideas have consequences; my generation and I had to find that out the hard way.

Since this nightmare began, in the US alone: over 300,000 gay men have died from AIDS. Isn’t that enough? Or do we need to slaughter more upon the altar of confusion? Shame on you Janet Smith, because you should know better. This argument is over, the “dialogue” is over, and, the confusion is over. It’s not worth it. One memory, I will always take with me – a dear friend dying of AIDS who looked up at me and said: “It wasn’t worth it.” “It wasn’t worth it.” As for the rest of my poor dead friends, and all those who lost their lives because of confusion, I think God will look kindly and mercifully upon them, because they “were but a few of the beaten and butchered and betrayed.”

I have addressed this problem twice before, read:

* (L’Osservatore Romano, February 7, 1981).

Friday, August 21, 2015

Coming to Terms with My Own Disordered Gay Brokenness and Realizing that Jesus Was the Only Man Who Could Fix Me

“God created us to love and to be loved, so it is our test from God to choose one path or the other. Any negligence in loving can lead someone to say Yes to evil, and when that happens we have no idea how far it can spread. That’s the sad part. If someone chooses evil, than an obstacle is set up between that person and God, and the burdened person cannot see God clearly at all.” ~ Mother Teresa of Calcutta

I may have an overly broad, or too narrow, interpretation of the previous quotation from Mother Teresa, but the phrase that rings most crucial in terms of homosexuality - is this one: “Any negligence in loving can lead someone to say Yes to evil…” From my own experience as a former gay man, and the countless others who sometimes desperately or even resoundingly shouted out “Yes…I am gay!,” the negligence she refers to is that which takes place during childhood in the lives of, using her word, the “burdened.” On this point, several studies have consistently found that adult homosexuals are significantly more likely to have experienced childhood abuse, neglect or feelings of estrangement from one or both of their parents (in gay men, it’s with the father) and or sexual abuse, physical violence, or intimidation from same-sex peers. (See notes 1-3.)

Therefore, those burdened by their defective or sadistic upbringings are often left as adults to fend for themselves: in terms of homosexuality, accepting the orientation and “coming-out” are considered acts of the courageous; any thoughts of healing are practically non-existent or disregarded as quack-science or psychiatric homophobia. Yet, gay men suffered a certain negligence – either by their fathers or because of rejection from other boys – resulting in a misapplied attraction towards those of the same-sex. Consequently, the longing within gay men for male affection and love is transferred to men; usually with a fantasy of male affirmation confirmed by the hyper-masculine father-figure; hence, the immense and perennial popularity of so-called “daddy” porn in the gay community. For this reason, it’s also not unusual for there to be a large age discrepancy between male same-sex partners; and for the younger partner to normally take on the passive role and the older partner to take on the dominant role. (See notes 4+5.) Furthermore, when questioned about why they willingly participated in known high-risk sexual behaviors, a majority of gay men mentioned: “anxiety, loneliness, depression…[and] as a way of seeking pleasure and emotional connection with other men.”6. Because you experience this immediate rush of masculine reassurance through sex, a young man, usually already extremely lonely and needy for male attention, as soon as he enters the gay world – embarks upon an often unbridled and ultimately self-destructive tour of sexual excess; because, finally, for the first time in their life – it feels like a long buried need is being satisfied; a study of young gay men and their initial sexual habits: “…were characterized by relatively high rates of unprotected anal sex and a rapidly expanding sexual repertoire.”7.

My own life, intricately fit this scenario of a lost and isolated boy who goes to the gay community, initially, not so much in search of sex, but simply looking for love; but, as Mother Teresa warned, never really understanding just how far this would all go. Only, because Man is made to love and to be loved, when we perceive that we did not give or receive love – we become increasingly restless and further inclined to do almost anything to make that happen; for this very reason, at the near height of the first AIDS crisis, I risked my own life in order to find the love I so desperately needed. Like most of my generation, I found myself with men over twice my age: at first, it was an all-new amazing experience to be liked and wanted by other men – after spending years on the side-lines, making friends with girls instead of boys, and hopelessly admiring male c from afar. All of a sudden, I was no longer an outsider; and, it felt right and good. It was as if my earlier life, filled with pain, loneliness and seclusion was decisively over: that being gay, and accepting that I was gay, began the fulfillment of who I was meant to always be; here, I thought I would find lasting happiness.

The only problem, sex is fleeting and associations and relationships in the gay world are usually transitory at best and then greatly susceptible to pervasive gay male sexual boredom that routinely necessitated “opening-up” the relationship to outside partners.8. Because, unlike heterosexual couples who grow old and comfortable with each other, agitation is often the rule in the prickly all-male relationships that continually tend to disintegrate as the newness of the first few sexual adventures together become routine.9. I found this the case over and over again; as my boyfriends, who were always older, especially during the first few years out, – sort of fulfilled my teenage need for male attention and encouragement; in a very sick way, I became stunted forever as a boy; for instance – you play along with calling him “daddy” during sex and you curiously start to feel confident and somehow recognized in your masculinity, only to later realize that this guy is not your father, nor is he the kid who teased you in the 1st grade, nor is he the straight boy you fell in love with in high-school – the one who didn’t even know you were alive; as a result, being attracted to men and having sex with them solves nothing; in fact, when we conform ourselves in the orientation we subscribe to the idea that these attractions are healthy, or at least proportionally benign, and that, although the vast majority of the male population is heterosexual, we are not unusual, but merely unique. Then, the pain from childhood gets pushed deeper inside with every subsequent relationship. Only, the longer you stay in the gay world, the quicker you seem to figure out that we are far from exceptional and that almost every other gay man shares a remarkably similar life-story to your own.

After over ten years in the gay lifestyle, and, after unintentionally, but nonetheless rather methodically, reenacting almost every trauma that happened in my childhood: from my pre-pubescent obsession with porn to my overwhelming sadness at being rejected by many of the men in my life, I subconsciously understood that nothing was working anymore, and, I became increasingly desperate and willing to take even bigger risks. Strangely, I still sought salvation in another man; whoever that damaged boy inside was – he just got pushed further into the background. In my head – the answer still remained outside of myself, somewhere within the reality of my gay orientation; for that reason – I still required a man and had to be loved by him; at times, the fixation was so strong that I would drop everything and rush to the nearby porn-shop or bathhouse to meet any available faceless stranger. It was careless and sad, but at least it was something. Yet, this attitude goes part and parcel with the gay lifestyle: as the longer you stay in it – the more you become trapped; you inevitably get used and dumped by your first few lovers, you get a few STDS, you grow increasingly bitter and suspicious, the torment of childhood returns as you begin to feel discarded and forgotten by men, you may even become HIV+, at that point – it seems you have little or nothing to loss. Towards the end, there was practically nothing I wouldn’t do in order to once and for all settle this ache in my heart – even if I had to die trying.

Just before that, I helplessly watched as my friends fell to AIDS; one grew up utterly unloved by his father, the other - suffocated by his abandoned mother, and another - a victim of horrific child abuse; each of us, I suppose, coped as best we could. One day, ours paths converged in San Francisco and we collectively thought we found our city upon a hill. When they died one by one, looking back, my reaction was rather odd: I never quite mourned, but plodded ahead towards my own objective; proudly, I thought I was going to be different. Only, I ended up sinking into the same pit of desolation and darkness as they had. But, despite it all, I still believed: the gay dream never died in my imagination. Somehow, somewhere – over the rainbow, this burden would miraculously fall away; it didn’t. Slowly, I returned to the isolation of my youth: friends and lovers passed away, a few of the living got into bizarre fetish scenes, others coupled up out of anxiety and intermittently invited me to join them in a sporadic three-way. Gone was the blast of excitement that I felt as an 18 year old boy when I first got approached during my initial outing to a gay bar; now, I instinctively knew that no one was going to save me. I didn’t know what to do, for I had nothing else to believe in; so, I did nothing. I couldn’t see any way out: I was gay and there were no other options.

Why I was spared and so many that I loved were not – I do not know, but I was no different from them; because I would have staid. However, seemingly out of nowhere: there appeared a Man. At first, like all the men I had encountered before, I yearned to be with Him, but feared Him as well. In my still twisted sense of cosmology fused with a perception that related everything to gay sex – I thought to myself: is He to be my new “dad,” my new Father, but wasn’t He also the Son? On the contrary, Christ transcended all of that, but also strangely transformed and fulfilled it. For, when Christ touched me, He did so as both Father and Son: as the compassionate, protective, and strong figure that I spent all of my life looking for; however, He was also the Son – in that Father-Son relationship, elevated to the Divine, I underwent a process of healing by which I shared with Christ his boyhood and journey into becoming a Man; it began with my adoption as “the son of Joseph;” “Is not this the son of Joseph?” (Luke 4:22) This was probably the most painful, and fulfilling part of the healing process - accepting the role and importance of fatherhood and masculinity in my life: how many things went wrong in my childhood, including feelings of inadequacy, male rejection, and the often overwhelming desire to receive approval from other men – and, why these conflicted and painful emotions ultimately led to believing that I was gay and my eventual entrance into the homosexual lifestyle. Throughout this early journey, a constant presence was the masculine archetype represented by St. Joseph – someone who was strong and silent, but patiently caring; enormously manly, yet only reaching a state of completion by giving love to the Son: in Jesus Christ – this Love reaches its fullest affirmation; finally, consummated and received through the Holy Spirit; then, there was decisive healing when I heard the words: “Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22) In Christ, I found the one Man who could fix me: who could heal the scared little boy inside; the one who couldn’t throw a ball; who got beat up at school; who felt unloved; who thought he was gay – He took away that burden and gave me something new: He showed me that no mere touch from a human male would surpass, or even replace, what God already ordained: that I infinitely shared in the complete Love of the Father for His Son.    

1. “This retrospective study compares memories of the father-son relationship between lifelong socially well-adjusted, non-patient homosexual and heterosexual men. No homosexual subject reported the presence of a reasonably intact, positive relationship with his father or father surrogate during preadolescent years, whereas 12 of the 17 heterosexual men did. Previous investigators have hypothesized that a constructive, supportive father-son relationship precludes the development of homosexual orientation. This hypothesis stemmed from investigation of men who in general suffered from significant global psychopathology. The data in the present investigation supports the notion that a meaningful association, which is not attributable to confounding psychopathology, exists between quality of father-son relationship during early life and male sexual orientation.”
“Fathers, sons, and sexual orientation: replication of a Bieber hypothesis.”
Friedman RC, Stern LO.
Psychiatr Q. 1980 Fall;52(3):175-89.

2. “Homosexual/bisexual men reported higher rates than heterosexual men of childhood emotional and any physical maltreatment (including major physical maltreatment) by their mother/maternal guardian and major physical maltreatment by their father/paternal guardian. In contrast, homosexual/bisexual women, as compared to heterosexual women, reported higher rates of major physical maltreatment by both their mother/maternal guardian and their father/paternal guardian. Differences among individuals with differing sexual orientations were most pronounced for the more extreme forms of physical maltreatment.”
“Reports of parental maltreatment during childhood in a United States population-based survey of homosexual, bisexual, and heterosexual adults.”
Heather L. Corliss, Susan D. Cochran, corresponding author and Vickie M. Maysb
Child Abuse Negl. 2002 Nov; 26(11): 1165–1178.

3. “Results indicated that homosexual seminarians feel more emotional distance from their fathers than heterosexual seminarians. Whether these accurately reflect the emotional distance between the father and seminarian during earlier childhood is not definitive. Attachment theory (Bowlby, 1969, 1973, 1980) and family of origin theory posit that the structure of relationships with one’s parent is lifelong, a ‘straightforward continuation’ (Bowlby, 1969, p. 208) of attachments in childhood. More recent studies suggest that attachments can be modified through ongoing interactions (Bartholomew & Perlman, 1994; Shaver & Hazan, 1993). These findings are consistent with the ‘weak father’ theory of the etiology of homosexuality, however, cross-sectional associations do not directly address the underlying causal role of emotionally absent fathers. These findings can speak of a lack of childhood male role model (Bieber et al., 1962; Socarides, 1990), especially in the area of intimacy and relationships, or they could speak of the poverty of a present satisfying emotional connection with the father, needed to promote the development of a healthy sexual identity (Alexander, 1997).”
“Emotionally Absent Fathers: Furthering the Understanding of Homosexuality”
Ray A. Seutter, Martin Rovers
Journal of Psychology and Theology
2004, Vol. 32, No. 1, 43-49

5. “Do differences in age between sexual partners affect sexual risk behaviour among Australian gay and bisexual men?”
Prestage G, Jin F, Bavinton B, Scott SA, Hurley M.
Sex Transm Infect. 2013 Dec;89(8):653-8.

6. “Assessing motivations to engage in intentional condomless anal intercourse in HIV-risk contexts (“bareback sex”) among men who have sex with men.”
José A. Bauermeister, MPH, PhD, Alex Carballo-Diéguez, PhD, Ana Ventuneac, PhD, and Curtis Dolezal, PhD
AIDS Educ Prev. 2009 Apr; 21(2): 156–168.

7. “Early male partnership patterns, social support, and sexual risk behavior among young men who have sex with men.”
Glick SN, Golden MR.
AIDS Behav. 2014 Aug;18(8):1466-75.

8. “Specifically, 45% had monogamous agreements, 47% had open agreements, and 8% reported discrepant agreements.”
“Relationship Characteristics and Motivations behind Agreements among Gay Male Couples: Differences by Agreement Type and Couple Serostatus.”
Colleen C. Hoff, PhD et al.
AIDS Care. 2010 Jul; 22(7): 827–835.

9. “As relationship length increased, the proportion of couples who disagreed about their current agreement type increased. No direct trend was found for recent adherence to an agreement; however, the likelihood of ever breaking an agreement increased as relationship length increased.”
“Aspects of gay male couples' sexual agreements vary by their relationship length.”
Mitchell JW
AIDS Care. 2014;26(9):1164-70.

10. “…36.0% reported participating in at least one GSE [group sex event] in the prior year. In multivariable logistic regression analysis, attendance at a GSE in the past year was significantly associated with older age, full/part time employment and being HIV positive. Of the men who attended a GSE, more than half reported condomless anal sex (CAS) with at least one of their partners (insertive: 57.7%; receptive: 56.3%).”
“Engagement in group sex among geosocial networking mobile application-using men who have sex with men.”
Phillips G, Grov C, Mustanski B.
Sex Health. 2015 Aug 10.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

7 Facts About the Gay Lifestyle They Don’t Want You to Know

“Over half (51.4%) reported an experience of sexual abuse.”1.

“Compared with heterosexual respondents, gay/lesbian and bisexual individuals experienced increased odds of six of eight and seven of eight adverse childhood experiences, respectively [e.g., physical, sexual and emotional abuse, neglect, exposure to domestic violence, parental discord, familial mental illness, incarceration and substance abuse]. Sexual minority persons had higher rates of adverse childhood experiences compared to their heterosexual peers.”2.

“Compared with heterosexual men, MSM evidenced greater all-cause mortality. Approximately 13% of MSM died from HIV-related causes compared with 0.1% of men reporting only female partners.”3.

“Self-reported identification as non-heterosexual (determined by both orientation and sexual partnership, separately) was associated with unhappiness, neurotic disorders overall, depressive episodes, generalised anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobic disorder, probable psychosis, suicidal thoughts and acts, self-harm and alcohol and drug dependence.”4.

“Compared with their heterosexual counterparts, lesbians and bisexual women demonstrated a 3-fold increased likelihood of substance use disorders, and gay and bisexual men showed twice the rate of anxiety disorders and schizophrenia and (or) psychotic illness…”5.

“MSM were more likely than non-MSM (those reporting female partners only) to have first sex at <15 years (31.9% vs. 17.3%), have > or =10 lifetime sex partners (73.6% vs. 40.8%).”6.

“A total of 2.2% of men reported same-sex sexual partners. These men evidenced greater lifetime prevalence rates of suicide symptoms than men reporting only female partners.”7.  

1. “Sexual Abuse is Associated with Negative Health Consequences among High-risk Men who have Sex with Men.”
Rusow JA, Fletcher JB, Le H, Reback CJ
J Gay Lesbian Soc Serv. 2014 May 15;26(2):244-257.

2. “Disparities in Adverse Childhood Experiences among Sexual Minority and Heterosexual Adults: Results from a Multi-State Probability-Based Sample”
Judith P Andersen, and John Blosnich
PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e54691. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054691. Epub 2013 Jan 23.

3. “Sexual orientation and mortality among US men aged 17 to 59 years: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III.”
Cochran SD1, Mays VM.
Am J Public Health. 2011 Jun;101(6):1133-8.

4. “Mental health of the non-heterosexual population of England.”
Chakraborty A, McManus S, Brugha TS, Bebbington P, King M.
Br J Psychiatry. 2011 Feb;198(2):143-8.

5. “Sexual orientation and its relation to mental disorders and suicide attempts: findings from a nationally representative sample.”
Bolton SL1, Sareen J.
Can J Psychiatry. 2011 Jan;56(1):35-43.

6. “Men who have sex with men in the United States: demographic and behavioral characteristics and prevalence of HIV and HSV-2 infection: results from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2006.”
Xu F, Sternberg MR, Markowitz LE.
Sex Transm Dis. 2010 Jun;37(6):399-405.

7. “Lifetime prevalence of suicide symptoms and affective disorders among men reporting same-sex sexual partners: results from NHANES III.”
Cochran SD, Mays VM.
Am J Public Health. 2000 Apr;90(4):573-8.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

"To those who say I am gay..." - Summer Outreach in the Castro

To those who say: ‘I am gay,” I proclaim that – “There is another way!”  
I am often asked what I talk about with the gay men and women I meet at these outreaches: it’s actually very simple and requires just a few sentences and only takes about a minute or less to say. I tell them I lived right there in the Castro for many years , was an openly proud gay man, did some gay porn, got tired of watching my friends die, and I left because I found the life shallow and ultimately very lonely. Done. At that point, most will immediately walk-away, but a precious few want to know more. Here, sometimes eavesdropping bystanders or incredulous friends of the person I am conversing with accuse me of telling gay people what to do and how to live; my steadfast response is: “I cannot tell anyone what to do…let alone make them do what I want; every man or woman has their own personal journey to Christ that is exactly like no one else’s; someday – they have to make the decision; but, don’t they deserve to understand that there are options.” Because so many gay men and women feel that there is no other life for them outside of homosexuality, that they were made this way, and that this is their lot and they have to make the best of it - I always end with: “You don’t have to be gay.” 

Note: When I am in the Castro – I often play the Fool for Christ (hence my partaking in the hula-hooping contest); also, notice the marquee at the Castro Theater – read my earlier blog about the sad gay male obsession with the “The Wizard of Oz.”

Monday, August 17, 2015

Band-Aids on Bullet Wounds: Where Faith Based Approaches to Homosexuality Have Failed

When the Lord first Saved me from the sad and lonely world of homosexuality – I quickly realized that my problems, past, present and future, would go way beyond just the struggle for any enduring form of chastity. Actually, in the beginning, chastity was rather easy for me; it was like this: when I was a kid, a few times, usually around Easter or Halloween, I would get a hold of a large quantity of candy; unbeknownst to my parents – I hid a huge amount of the stuff and ate until my heart’s content. Subsequently, I was sick to my stomach, the thought of eating candy again was revolting; and, for a while, I stayed away from it altogether; and, I didn’t miss it. It was like that for me and sex; at least for a few years. This freedom from concupiscence made me want to delve deeper: I knew I could be chaste, but I needed to know why I became gay in the first place.

Upon returning to the Catholic Church, I noticed an immediate emphasis on chastity, especially with regards to any outreach with the gay community or those wanting to leave the homosexual lifestyle. That was fine; after all, an alcoholic who wants to quit drinking, or a heroine addict who wants to stop shooting up – must end using immediately; you don’t go from two bottles of vodka a day to one bottle, or you don’t cut your heroine intake in half, all who have experienced addiction know that such weaning is a set-up for disaster; what you do it quit cold turkey, go through the withdrawals, and then start anew; and as all recovering addicts know – this is where the real work begins. Gay icon and chronic life-long addict Elizabeth Taylor, after reemerging from being dried-out at the Betty Ford Clinic, once said: “I had to face things at Betty Ford I had never had to face before. I learned that I had spent years squelching my real feelings…All the years of covering up the pain and keeping it quiet had created a lot of scar tissue.”

Yet, there is no Catholic Betty Ford Clinic – and my perception was that the Church, with regards to its gay outreach, seemed to leave homosexuals as sort of dry-drunks; still gay, just not having sex anymore. For myself, that was completely inadequate. First of all, how could I control or master an impulse, same sex attraction, if I had no idea where is was coming from; second, chastity without healing felt forced and unnatural – with my gay orientation still intact, I always perceived that I was denying myself; that God, and the Church, took something away from me, that they were imposing their will; thirdly, I was still in pain – I was outwardly chaste, but I wasn’t happy. Like Taylor, I had a lot of scar tissue and I didn’t really even understand that I had it (see notes 1-5). Because, for the most part, I suffered, as do many gay man, from something called Anosognosia, or the inability to understand that you have a serious mental illness; about a half of schizophrenics have this condition. With that in mind, all the talk about chastity, the importance of prayer, and the need for fellowship and support wasn’t going to mean anything until I could finally admit that I was sick, that I was damaged, and yes – that I was “disordered.”6 And, herein lies the problem with some faith-based outreaches, because there is often some quibbling as to this point; for instance: “—the attraction is disordered, not the person.”

Following that rational, the disordered inclination is then perceived as something which exists entirely outside of yourself; next, the choice to remain chaste becomes an endless battle against an invisible haunting force; with the effort as incredibly noble, but ultimately exhausting and habitually prone to relapses, discouragement, and an eventual return to homosexual activity. This cycle of recidivism and Confession often locks men into the orientation because the source and cause of those deeper wounds which created the homosexuality are never fully examined. Without this painful dip into the fragile psyche, efforts to address the problem of homosexuality remain focused on “…homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity” while ignoring the equally important statement that: “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.”* Therefore, in order to literally reorientate ourselves towards Christ – the faith-based approach must include the healing of the body, mind, and spirit.

This must start with the acceptance that what I am feeling is wrong and that those affections, even though I do not act upon them, are disordered. With that sort of simple clarity, it becomes obvious that in order to remain chaste – the reason for those disordered desires must be explored. At this point, a lack of willingness to enter our own dark hearts often marks a prideful clinging to old ways and a refusal to acknowledge that the gay orientation itself is the ultimate source of the problem; this concept of gay denial has currently materialized in the tendency of some Catholics to still self-identify as gay while simultaneously extolling chastity. Yet, in order to move on, we must Trust in Our Lord Jesus Christ; this is frequently difficult because, as gay men, we carry the sorrow of having been betrayed and broken by others, sometimes by those closest to us, making it a scary experience to allow someone inside our little sheltered world of make-believe safety. Yet, at some point in every gay man’s life, we did let something in – usually it was the unwary promise of happiness by just admitting that we were gay; call it a homosexual demon, but we did accept it and we did let it in; later, a perfectly courageous priest finally freed me of this horrific possession.

In my own experience, following exactly as Christ taught us to “become as little children,” in order to heal – I had to do just that: go back to all the turmoil, abuse, and hate of my childhood. In general, this collective gay trauma has been subconsciously acknowledged by the homosexual community with the “It Gets Better” project which recounts the terror then speeds to the fantasy of lasting contentment only achieved through gay self-realization. In actuality, going gay only buries the pain. For many years, I did that. And, rather quickly, often covered over by the thickening haze of the porn that filled my head from age 8 onwards – I began to forget that it even existed. Now, I had to remember, because those buried memories were controlling my life: often directing my actions and determining my attractions. In fact, most gay men who experienced some form of trauma during childhood later act out the abuse in a vain attempt to somehow normalize it.7. For instance, when I was a little kid – a very mean-spirited and aggressive boy incessantly made fun of the way I talked, how I moved my arms, and my overall general air of timid sissyness. Much later, when I got heavily into bondage and disciple, the last ultra-perverted stop in the already kinky world of gay sex, all these once submerged humiliations from my childhood returned. Ultimately, reenacting it only helped for a few moments; in the same way – merely embracing chastity, just seemed to suppress the pain as well. Only, when I no longer feared what I would find in my past – did I allow Our Lord Jesus Christ to heal me fully. On my near death-bed, I simply called out to Jesus – and He Saved me; after much struggle, I understood that God didn’t want to leave me chaste and gay: “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.” (Acts 3:16)

1. “Gay and bisexual men were more likely than heterosexual men to be diagnosed with at least one of the five mental health disorders assessed in the MIDUS, after we adjusted for possible demographic confounding. In particular, gay and bisexual men were 3.0 times more likely to meet criteria for major depression and 4.7 times more likely to meet criteria for a panic disorder than were heterosexual men. Further, nearly 20% of gay–bisexual men overall were comorbid for two or more disorders, a prevalence exceeding that seen among heterosexual men. Differences observed between gay–bisexual and heterosexual men were unchanged when effects associated with treatment for HIV or AIDS in the prior year were considered…”
“Prevalence of Mental Disorders, Psychological Distress, and Mental Health Services Use Among Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Adults in the United States”
Susan D. Cochran, J. Greer Sullivan, and Vickie M. Mays
Published in final edited form as:
J Consult Clin Psychol. 2003 Feb; 71(1): 53–61.

2. “Meta-analyses revealed a two fold excess in suicide attempts in lesbian, gay and bisexual people. The risk for depression and anxiety disorders (over a period of 12 months or a lifetime) on meta-analyses were at least 1.5 times higher in lesbian, gay and bisexual people and alcohol and other substance dependence over 12 months was also 1.5 times higher.”
A systematic review of mental disorder, suicide, and deliberate self-harm in lesbian, gay and bisexual people”
Michael King, corresponding author…
BMC Psychiatry. 2008; 8: 70.
Published online 2008 Aug 18. doi:  10.1186/1471-244X-8-70

3. “The 7-day prevalence of depression in men who have sex with men was 17.2%, higher than in adult U.S. men in general…Depression was also associated with histories of attempted suicide, child abuse, and recent sexual dysfunction.”
“Distress and depression in men who have sex with men: the Urban Men's Health Study.”
Mills TC et al.
Am J Psychiatry. 2004 Feb;161(2):278-85.

4. “Lifetime major depressive episode (MDE) affected 33.2% of the youth. Lifetime conduct disorder (23.6%), alcohol abuse/dependence (19.6%), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD; 16.0%), and nicotine dependence (10.7%) were also common…Most participants with mental disorders never received treatment, and comorbidity was common.”
“Mental health disorders in young urban sexual minority men.”
Burns MN et al.
J Adolesc Health. 2015 Jan;56(1):52-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2014.07.018. Epub 2014 Oct 5.

5. “Gay, lesbian, and bisexual young people were at increased risks of major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, conduct disorder, nicotine dependence, other substance abuse and/or dependence, multiple disorders, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts…Findings support recent evidence suggesting that gay, lesbian, and bisexual young people are at increased risk of mental health problems, with these associations being particularly evident for measures of suicidal behavior and multiple disorder.”
“Is sexual orientation related to mental health problems and suicidality in young people?”
Fergusson DM1, Horwood LJ, Beautrais AL.
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1999 Oct;56(10):876-80.

6. “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

7. “Childhood sexual abuse is associated with high-risk sexual behavior in men who have sex with men…Results indicated that men who have a history of childhood sexual abuse were more likely to: engage in high-risk sexual behavior (i.e., unprotected receptive anal intercourse), trade sex for money or drugs, report being HIV positive, and experience non-sexual relationship violence. Results of this study extend previous research to show that men who have sex with men and who have a history of child sexual abuse are more likely to be at high risk for HIV infection.”
“Trauma symptoms, sexual behaviors, and substance abuse: correlates of childhood sexual abuse and HIV risks among men who have sex with men.”
Kalichman SC1
J Child Sex Abus. 2004;13(1):1-15.

* “Letter on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons” (1986).