Note: The following post is reprinted from Rising Up: Reflections on Gay Culture, Politics, Spirit, a book available as an inexpensive ebook or a print-on-demand paperback from Lulu.com. It was first blogged on my now-defunct blog Rising Up on January 9, 2006.
I don’t usually write about the antigay messages of conservative religionists. Everyone knows religious traditionalism and antigay bias go hand in hand, so it’s not exactly a man bites dog story.
But it’s nice to be able to occasionally find examples of religious conservatives pointing out another conservative’s antigay bias and offering constructive corrections. While it’s not exactly a heartwarming tale of conservatives losing their bias to soothe my liberal heart, it does speak to the ways that individuals can make a small difference by speaking out.
A popular Roman Church priest tells his parish that he’s gay but celibate and abides by the Roman Church’s teaching. So conservative Roman Church blogger Mark Shea opines:
But as a layman, I am no more interested in the fact that he is a celibate SSA [person with same-sex attraction] guy than I am in knowing whether the guy in the pew next to me made love with his wife last night. It’s not information that concerns me and it’s not information that my kids need to be subjected to in a homily. Priests who use the homily as a chance to engage in True Confessions like this seem to me to be engaging in a none-too-subtle form of narcissism.
There the traditionalists go again—always making the attributes of the previous developmental stage of egocentrism the preeminent bugaboo of our age, and then misinterpreting higher-stage responses from that warped perspective. Shea’s remarks prompted a comment box reply from Courage Man, a conservative Roman Catholic struggling with same-sex attraction:
Assuming the complaint is “Too Much Information,” then the proper analogy to the guy in the pew next to you would be the priest saying he abused himself last night. At the level of personal disclosure and specific information, the priest is doing nothing more than the guy in the pew next to you does by wearing a wedding band or introducing “my wife.”
Excellent point! Now to hear this comment from a typical gay man would be expected, but to hear it from a conservative Roman Catholic is most encouraging. I advocate the approach of combating homophobia in social institutions by using strategies grounded upon divergent rationales. Among religiously conservative institutions, that means arguing against homophobia by challenging bias without necessarily challenging the orthodoxy of the institution.
If a church teaches that homosexual sex is sinful, then religious conservatives can avoid challenging that assumption while focusing on other areas such as combating negative stereotypes and double standards. Persons who self-define as “ex-gay” or “living with SSA” are among those religious traditionalists leading the way in this sort of important transformative work. Their internalized homophobia and alienation from the mainstream gay culture buys them invaluable credibility in the eyes of the leaders of the institutions where change from within is most desperately needed.
A STEAM-based perspective to fighting homophobia within conservative institutions must include and strongly encourage the ameliorative efforts of folks like Courage Man. We must encourage people to take the little steps at correcting bias when they happen upon it in ordinary life. If mainstream gays don’t like where conservative religionists like Courage Man are coming from, that’s our problem, not theirs. Although conservative views of homosexuality may be repugnant to those of us who see the world from a more complete lense, serious change in religious institutions cannot happen without religionists on the inside doing what they can to discourage homophobia given the limitations of their institution’s strictures. Folks like Courage Man who are closer to the belly of the beast are in a far better position to effect positive change than most of the rest of us.
P.S.: April 2007. As careful readers of Until will notice, this blog post used to be distributed as part of a “free sample” of my ebook Rising Up. As of today, I have discontinued offering the free ebook sample on Until. The reasons are too numerous and dry to bother enumerating at this time. Suffice to say that readers who want the content from the sample chapters of my book can (a) spend a few bucks to buy the ebook or book, and/or (b) search the Internet archives (you know where to look for those, don’t you?).