Who Am I?
It seems that people are making a big deal about language, especially in the realm of sexuality. Well, I think that is GREAT! Why? Because the words we use matter. They form our perspective and help us paint our picture of reality. We can see this in every country music song, where they drive a “pick-up truck” instead of a vehicle, and drive down the “blacktop” as opposed to the highway, and visit the “preacher-man at the chapel” instead of the priest at the church. Well, in matters pertaining to sexuality and the truths upheld by the Church, the type of language we use can also greatly shape our perspective.
In my own life, for example, it was only after embracing the identity of being gay (in my heart) that I opened the door to the idea that maybe a same-sex relationship might be how I should pursue fulfillment. And it was only after embracing the identity of being transgender (in my heart) that I opened the door to the reality that perhaps I ought to pursue surgery (yes, that kind). However, just as the blacktop ain’t the same as the highway, the words I used to describe myself also influenced the picture I painted of myself and what might make me happy.
Today, despite same-sex attractions and transgender inclinations being a part of my story, self-identifying as gay, transgender, or even straight is something I choose not to do. I’ve made that choice because doing so would counter my whole pursuit of deepening self-honesty. Here are a few reasons why:
1. God First
When I choose to self-identify according to myself, I am not self-identifying first and foremost according to God or my relationship with Him. The fact is, after being convicted of my love for God, I no longer want to put anything before him, and that includes my identity and how I see myself as a person.
2. Clarity Matters!
Words like gay, transgender, and straight (and so on) don’t clarify whether I am talking about my unchosen attractions or my chosen way of seeing myself. Those are different things and, after I realized that, I became convicted that they should be spoken of separately. With that realization, I could now be honest with myself about the attractions/inclinations I was experiencing, while not having to embrace those types of identities. In that freedom, however, I still honor the beautiful gift of sexuality while offering it to God as a gift back to Him. And it’s a joy to give this gift to Him, because giving a gift that is special is an occasion for joy! 🙂
3. My Choices Matter
I came to realize that my life isn’t just about me, and how I describe and define myself does influence how others in my social circle approach this topic overall. I would hate to be the one responsible for depriving a person of the chance to realize that there is a joyful, fulfilling life beyond the gay/straight/transgender identities for those who choose to depart from them. Depriving someone of that awareness would be akin to me purposely allowing people to stay in the same state of despair that I used to be in when I believed that that was who I was and who I forever would be. Today, of course, I understand that I have a choice in how I see myself, and through that, I can choose to more completely align my identity with how God sees me; first and foremost as His beloved. Before, I “was” (in terms of perception of myself) only as gay/straight/transgender as I chose that to be the case. I have seen far too many people come to believe that because “being this or that” is “who they are,” it means they have to leave the Church, and or, it means they ought to conform to some societal narrative of what they must be all about. I have had friends tell me that their “coming out” was more of a “going in” (to a box, that is), because after expressing their self-honesty recklessly to certain people, they were never given a chance to be seen as anything outside of the narratives associated with those types of identity labels. As I write this, I am sure that some people who know me might do the same thing with me (which is why it is sometimes hard to write about this part of my life).
4. If Hamburgers Could Talk
The greatest breadth and expanse of truth of who I am is not encompassed by any identity that is less than being first and foremost God’s beloved (which spans from the moment of conception to after death and to even after our universe ceases to exist). This first occurred to me after picking up some late-night McDonald’s. It dawned on me that if that hamburger could talk, and it said, “I’m pickle” or “I’m gluten” or “I’m calories,” it would have reflected less than the fullness of truth of its beautiful self. When I self-identified as gay/straight/transgender, I was doing the same thing. That is, in pursuing deeper self-honesty about who I am, I realized that I was more than the sexual facet of my being.
5. Cheese and Macaroni?
I realized that if I were to say “I’m a gay/trans/straight Catholic,” I would be disordering my “ingredients,” or facets of my being. I’m a person first. Much like how we say “coffee and sugar” instead of “sugar and coffee” or how we say “macaroni and cheese” instead of “cheese and macaroni,” the order of our “ingredients” (facets) also matters. If we uphold order in this way in regard to food, then wouldn’t it make sense for us to uphold order in this way in regard to our personhood? What I mean is this: are we sexualities with a person, or are we persons with a sexuality?
While some of these reasons might seem silly, they all struck home for me along my pursuit of deepening self-honesty. All I wanted was to be happy, but I knew I couldn’t be happy unless I was fully honest with myself about these thoughts. This drew me to eventually take the leap of faith and let go of my attachments to my prior-held identities and the narratives associated with them. And yes, I joyfully pursue a heart of chastity (among other virtues), and no I don’t normally have conversations with my food, but I do believe that discovering truths in the simple things in life can give us insights about ourselves as we continue to grow.
For me, coming to these realizations has given me the freedom to see myself in a whole new light (and to open myself to God’s possibilities). It stretched me out of my previous comfort zones and safe spaces which needed to happen for me to continue to grow. It helped me understand the idea of abandoning myself to the Lord in a whole new way. Through that, my heart became open to the idea of departing from my prior deeply-held attachments to the gay and transgender identities and what I thought they meant for my life. Without realizing it at the time, it also began to draw me to reconsider the previously “untouchable” idea that I was “created that way by God” – which is an idea that simply no longer makes any reasonable sense to me after digging into this topic (which is something I invite everyone to do).
This transformation also allowed me to see that even though I am small, I can still make a difference by doing my best to radiate the joy and peace of Christ. I hope that that might be a reason why others might open their hearts more completely to God’s transformative love and deeper pursuit of truth. I want all people to know they can be received as they are, just as I was received, and that we can walk together towards Christ, holiness and virtue, and greater abandonment to our Lord through a joyful dying to self and to our attachments to this world. In striving to grow in these ways, I have found a whole new world beyond the gay/trans/straight way of seeing myself, and I know many others have as well. 🙂
And I found that new world in the Catholic Church… the last place that the secular world said I should ever look.
God bless and love you all!