Our blogger Peggy has unsurprisingly become the target of some GLBT-blogger accusations recently. Their half-truths and claims simply fly in the face of what she has actually stated. And I can’t help but think, “How can I read the same post and get something completely different out of the piece?” Some will say “Easy, you don’t have same-sex attraction; you don’t really know any gays or lesbians and you’re just a big, mean bigot.” One of the three accusations is spot on. I’m straight.
Some of my most beloved friends have same-sex attraction; only a couple of them are practicing Catholics. But they are all amazing, lovely people. I’ve seen the “coming out” journey through some of their eyes and have wanted so deeply to have them finally feel comfortable in their own skin and to feel God’s love and unique plan for them.
As with my heterosexual friends, my friends with same-sex attraction range in spiritual beliefs. My beliefs often differ from my friends — of whatever orientation — regarding how the use of our bodies and sexuality affect our relationship with God and our broader communities. Interestingly, it’s my Catholic friends with same-sex attraction (not my non-Catholic heterosexual friends) who strengthen and inspire me to live out God’s plan for me joyfully.
Catholic teaching doesn’t discriminate. As a single, Catholic heterosexual woman, I’m expected to walk the exact same line as my Catholic friends with same-sex attraction when it comes to chastity. (In fact, married men and women are expected to exercise chastity, too, but that’s another post.) I say “walk the line,” because, make no mistake, it’s tough and seemingly impossible without God’s grace.
I’ve had my fair share of mistakes and I’ve “changed” too, like many of my Catholic friends with same-sex attraction and otherwise. I’ve had to learn the hard way that my Church’s teaching on sexuality is much more freeing than what our over-sexed whenever/however/whomever cultural keeps telling us.
And I think the increasing number of faithful Catholics with same-sex attraction who are speaking up about their own spiritual/sexual journeys should and will be increasingly seen as models for the many heterosexual Catholics who could use a swift kick in the “spiritual formation” butt. (See Patrick Einheber, Steve Gershom, Eve Tushnet, Melinda Selmys)
So if you want to label me or name-call, like some people are doing with Peggy, you could maybe say I’m an “ex-barfly,” “ex-hypocrite,” or “ex-cafeteria Catholic.” I do have a friend who could be considered an “ex-neo-pagan feminist goddess”? But, none of these labels do justice to our spiritual journeys — spiritual journeys that will continue for a long time to come.
In case you hadn’t noticed, this is going to be an intensely personal blog post.
I’ll just kick it off with the juicy stuff so you don’t have to wait around: I haven’t had sexual intercourse in almost four years. Now, this is not to say I haven’t done anything I wouldn’t do if Jesus were in the room. I am not perfect. But for the past three and a half years, in the ball park of my love life, there have been no home runs.
I admit I am not a virgin. I am also not sexually repressed. I am not, like the virgin adult character on “Glee,” a frigid obsessive-compulsive with serious psychological problems. I am also not, as far as I know, completely repulsive, although if there’s one thing I’ve learned from observing the world around me, it’s that if you are female, it doesn’t matter what you look like; somebody thinks you are juuuust fine, and that somebody probably has an ad on Craigslist right now.
I simply made a choice, for ethical, moral, and religious reasons, not to engage in baby-making activities, and I have stuck to that decision for well over three years.
You are probably asking yourself, “Self, why on earth is she telling me this?”
Good question. I have thought about writing this post for a couple years. I always held back. It is an intensely personal subject, obviously, and a natural squeamishness about sharing something so intimate with the world at large is part of the reason why it took me so long to publish this.
Then there is the fact that I am in a relationship with someone, and revealing this tidbit about me incidentally reveals things about him. Fortunately, I have learned he “couldn’t care less.” (His words.)
I personally believe that the best way for a child to come into the world is being born to two people who are married — that is, committed to one another in the eyes of God and man. Therefore, I decided, to paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi, that I was going to be the change I wished to see in the world. I was going to put my money where my mouth was and stop engaging in baby-making activities until I was in the situation I felt was best for baby-having activities.
“It’s religion!” some of you are screaming at your monitors, flecks of spittle flying. “It’s an arbitrary misogynistic rule of your stupid backwards dumb antiquated oppressive patriarchal religion!”
First of all: calm down. Second: kind of. I mean, it’s both. Moral law is based on natural law. The reason God gave us all these pesky rules is because they’re good for us. When people follow the basic tenets of Judeo-Christian sexual morality, they lead better lives. They lead lives of loving responsibility in which they react to positive pregnancy tests with tears of joy, hugs, and excited phone calls, as opposed to panic-barfing and fear-sweat.
I know this because I’ve lived the other life. I was never what you’d call promiscuous, but nor was I what you’d call sexually moral. Because of my willingness to give of myself completely to men who weren’t willing to give me the same, I lived a life of heartbreak and confusion. Finally, about four years ago, I noticed that every time I gave my heart away, I wasn’t getting it all back. Every go-round, there seemed to be less and less of my heart to give. I was becoming less open, more guarded, even bitter. I could feel a wall growing around my heart, and it was thick and it was high.
I knew that one day, God willing, I was going to have a husband. Did I want him to end up with the leftovers, the dregs? Did I want him to have to mount a high wall to get to my heart?
Meanwhile, I was quite simply losing my self-respect.
I decided then that I was done with that life. But the personal, emotional factors were only part of my decision.
I am not the world’s most responsible person. Ask the people to whom I owe medical bills. (And while you’re at it, tell them the check’s in the mail.) I forget to floss. I am 300 miles overdue for an oil change. I don’t know my exact bank balance right now. You get the idea.
But even I, the girl who once went a whole year without washing her car, can decide to live in the way I encourage others to live. It’s only fair. I rant at you people day in and day out about how irresponsible it is to engage in non-procreative sex. What kind of a hypocrite would I be if I did it myself?
So, even though my crisis pregnancy days are long behind me, I practice what I preach. I’m 32, I’m in a loving relationship with a stable, responsible man in his 40s, and if I were to get pregnant we would be excited and happy. But! We personally believe having babies should be the exclusive privilege of married people, so we make sure we do not even inadvertently make a baby.
I want you, whoever you are, to see and to know that it is possible to make a moral decision, even in these times. Everything you see and look at and read and hear is going to tell you that it is abnormal and/or impossible for a healthy, red-blooded man or woman to abstain from having sexual intercourse. They are wrong. I am healthy, and last time I checked my blood was red.
Don’t submit to what Chesterton called “the degrading slavery of being a child of [ones] age.” Make your own decisions. Don’t buy the giant lie that if you stop having sex your unmentionables are going to shrivel and drop off from disuse. And don’t believe them when they tell you you’re weird, frigid, sick, or backwards. Even as they accuse you of leading a deprived live, they are a prisoner to their impulses, inviting in unplanned pregnancy, STDs, abortion, heartbreak, loss of self-respect, and more.
I walked away from all that, and I couldn’t be happier because of it. I have felt my heart heal, and I know that the next time I give myself to someone; it will be on my wedding night, to someone I trust, who has given himself to me in turn.
Furthermore, I know that when I do have a baby, it will be in the best possible circumstances, so that I can give that child the best possible life. I owe that to myself and my future family.
What I want you to take away from this is not “Oooh, look how awesome Kristen is.” Quite the opposite. I am an ordinary woman with ordinary feelings. What you should take away from this is something like, “Even Kristen can do it. So… I guess so can I?”
Of course the hard part of being abstinent is it means whoever you’re with has to be abstinent, too. But the hard part becomes the easy part with a simple realization. You see, at some point, if you’re lucky, you realize: If the person I am with says he is in love with me, but won’t wait for me, that person is lying. Plain and simple.
I had to ask myself: Do I want to be with someone who will only be with me if I sleep with him? Is that love?
For me, the answer was no. And no.
So what’s your answer?