Ontology I

I've been thinking a lot lately about AIDS, about Same-Sex Attraction and about "being" gay. This is going to be a longish series... these are just notes. They may be edited. They may be ignored later. This is part one. I welcome thoughts on thes topics in the "comments" section.

What does it mean to "be" anything? The often-quoted line that God made them "male and female" doesn't allow for anything else, not race, not orientation. The assumption that men are for women and vice versa while correct, falls short of the full meaning: ontologically there are just men and women. Beyond that we've no testimony in the Tradition for any other mode of being as "divinely created".

The Tradition also makes it clear that the early humans, before the fall, were not subject to the passions. Their body wasn't like ours - subject to heat and cold, death and pain. Neither was it subject to wants or lusts. It was a spiritual body; such as we'll have after the resurrection of the dead on the Last Day. Our bodies - here and now - are not what was planned. Rather they are the result of our first parents' sin: like can only beget like. And so when our parents fell into these mortal bodies, subject to the passions, they could not pass on to their children anything else.

We are locked, say the Fathers, into a cycle of pleasure and pain: we are attracted to pleasure. We run to it. But pleasure comes at a cost - pain. We run from pain to more pleasure. But it is a vicious circle and at the end of our life we have spent it all running from one thing to another, only to be confronted by the thing we've been trying to dodge.

The thing of it is, this pleasure-seeking principle is what got messed up in the fall: the heart seeks "pleasure" because it has turned from the One Thing that could satisfy it. Originally our heart was to be tuned to God. That was our only pleasure, and in our willing assent to His Love there was no pain. But now we assert our self will, we demand, we plough ahead manfully unmindful of the one thing that should turn us back - our drawing further away from His love. We ignore the warning signs, too: in His mercy, the pains are there to make us stop and redirect our eyes to Him. But we go regardless even of the pains, mindless of the One to Whom we should turn, willing only to seek more pleasure, despite all the pains the search - and the finding - may inflict. We "follow our bliss" even though it mean only rolling a stone up the hill to have it fall down again.

Those of us who experience same sex attraction do so only because another part of our pleasure-seeking principle is taking over. We may have other ideas of "pleasure" than the majority, but it is still the same thing. It is the drive to do what one wants, when one wants, to satisfy in an enjoyable manner some sort of an internal desire. Please understand that this, alone, doesn't make it "right" or "wrong" as such. All pleasures, sought in and of themselves, come with "payback". In one sense a man and a woman, united in matrimony, have to also pay for their legally gotten pleasures: the marriage is a sacrifice of self; children, the God-willed result of love-making, is also a way to "pay" for pleasure. The joys of the marital bed, partaken of without the self-sacrifice implied in the marriage and child rearing, would be just exactly as sinful as any other sex act.

But it is the action of seeking pleasure, per se, that makes it an error. Even more, it is the act of seeking pleasure as a buffer against pain - the pain of loneliness, self-pity; the need for self-affirmation, for validation; the quest for one more exciting time to stave off boredom for yet another weekend; the eventual drama that may come from emotional attachment and so avoid another boring year; the desire to seek in someone else the worship of "me" as much as I worship them even if only for the evening. These are the ways in which we use pleasure (in this case, sexual pleasure) as a sinful act - it is one of idolatry: putting that person over there on the throne reserved for God, even if only for the night.

Several recent studies have talked about the promiscuity of the males who embody an active response to their felt same-sex attraction. Much is made of these studies to indicate the immorality of the "homosexual lifestyle". But more honest "straight" males of my own age and younger (including ex-roomies) are clear that they wouldn't mind having sex as frequently as the gay others are rumored to. The opportunities, however, are not present. Women, you understand, have different priorities in this department than do men. But as was remarked to me by someone who wished women were as "free" as men: "When you get a bunch of men around who want to have sex, dressed up to have sex? Well, they're going to have sex."

That was several years ago, and long before I realized anything was wrong. But it was my first clue. What if this really is all about sex? But there is more to it than that - "sex" is only the list, if you will, the visible things that an outsider can "check off" as "what's happening". There is, from the inside, the things mentioned above: staving off pain, loneliness, self-pity, etc. Seeking of pleasure in numberless ways. Yet, it seems to me that many of my friends who engage in fornication with members of the opposite sex also live in such dramas. The gender issues of men and women and "metrosexuals" and the roles that God have assigned to us take second place in light of the seeking after pleasure. Yes, those other things are important - and even crucial - in some lights, but in the category of "being gay", I think it important to note that, at least in my own experience, those other issues are not as important. I wasn't out to "gender bend". Drag queens and effeminate men embarrassed me - still do. I'm never sure how to relate to transgendered entities. These are not part of "what Stonewall means to me." It may be the freedom to do "what I want when I want", but I never wanted to be RuPaul.

"Being gay" as a category of Revealed Ontology doesn't exist. We are men and women. But as a category of distorted ontology, or fallen ontology - the things into which we are drawn - it is a real category. Those who experience same sex attraction may find in themselves the exact same patterns as others who engage in sex outside of the bonds of matrimony, indeed, as those who engage in matrimony. The pattern is only "tweaked" if you will, by the direction in which one is drawn to have sex. The seeking after that pattern is then faulted by our gender: homosexual relationships are painted by our genders. Women tend to be domestic and caring and two women tend to fall into a odd pattern of "too much home". There is much truth to the old joke, "What did the lesbians bring on their second date? A U-Haul." Equally, for men, even long-term relationships tend to drift into polyamory. The lack of a domestic and stable influence - a woman - creates "open relationships" where even the most "monogamous" of men are allowed to "play" when they are away from home. A lesbian relationship can seem like the "inner circle" one met in High School, but could never get inside. A gay male relationship can seem, even in their most stable - like a night out with the college fraternity. Equally, "straight" men and women, when looped into non-sacramental relationships find themselves replicating the patterns of marriage anyway" the gender dance is created even without the "blessing of the church" or without the "having a piece of paper".

Because we who experience same-sex attraction are in the same dance as the rest of you, because we are not dealing with something strange, alien and unknown, but rather with something predictable, seeable and no more strange than that for the rest of you, "gay" doesn't exist as anything more than a distortion of who we really are: men and women.

None of this is to make light of the sin of sexual activity outside of marriage. It is to note that our "being" as men and women is what we are. Where our sins take us does not undo this. So here's the rough conclusion of the first part of these notes - the pleasure seeking principle is distorted in all of us. For those of us who experience same-sex attraction, it is equally distorted in seemingly the same ways with only one or two minor changes. We are pleasure seekers, the same as any others. By that I mean we are sinners, the same as any others. Thus I reject the classification of "being" gay. There is no such thing.

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