1. Publicly declaring that I am “straight” counts as ‘too much information.’
I’ve been asking myself what is the real point of coming out as “straight”? Is that really the kind of thing other people are really interested in? Don’t we all have a vast range of sexual impulses and attractions? Does my deeply personal effort to respond chastely to my sexual attractions really qualify as something I should share with others? To what end? Lots of questions about this—if we’re all human and all doing our best to cope with our own call to chastity, why does it matter whether anyone else knows that my particular discernment has to do with my attractions to the other sex? Rather, it would seem more conducive to personal holiness to strive to align my responses to sexual attraction by seeing a confessor or spiritual director. The parish or the general public? Not so much.
2. “Straight” is an imprecise designation of the “group” I find attractive.
Do I find all women sexually attractive? No. With about 3.5 billion females on the planet, if one arbitrarily assumes I find even five percent of all women sexually attractive (about 175 million), what does that really tell me? “Straight” merely states that we find the other sex attractive—not even roughly “how many” of the other sex we find attractive. Does that nebulous fact really make any difference to anyone—including me? Since sexual attractions arise prior to being willed (meaning that we all get to deal with them in the same way—one at a time), what difference does this vague foreknowledge offer me personally?
What happens if one day, after decades of other-sex attraction, I suddenly experience a surge of sexual attraction toward another man? Does that make me “not straight” or at least “not straight enough”? Does it change the fact that I have to make a choice in my will, each and every time I experience any surge of sexual attraction, to either willingly engage that attraction or say no to it?
3. My sexual attractions are about the “one,” not the group.
“Straight” emphasizes a false target for sexual attraction—the experience of sexual attraction is about finding “the one,” not focusing on the five percent I arbitrarily mentioned above. Or, more importantly, sexual attraction is not about what sexual “values” trigger that attraction—if it’s all about an abstract desire for certain types of body parts, rather than a real and human attraction to a concrete, living person, then it’s really a waste of time!
4. “Orientation” is an impoverished category that stops short of sexuality’s full maturity.
There is something decidedly immature about calling one’s self “straight.” It belies a certain lack of awareness that all the experiences of sexual attraction going on inside us have to do with finding our spouses. Discovering “the one”—a future spouse—is made possible through properly discerning our sexual attractions all throughout the building of our relationship with “the one.” And this proper discernment must continue once married, too. “The one” grows old with me, meaning that all those abstract “group” attractions are what I say no to. The sexual attraction I say yes to is to my spouse, my beloved, regardless of whether she is physically different at seventy than she was at twenty! Sexuality’s full maturity means precisely that we have enough self-mastery to set aside those attractions toward others and focus not on the group but upon “the one.”
5. Sexual attraction is ordered, in me, toward making me what I’ve become: husband and father.
But wait—what about meeee! Isn’t at least some of this about what my sexuality means to meeee?
Well, here’s the irony—my “sexual identity” is not rooted in the word “straight.” Rather, it’s rooted in the word “man.” And this identity is not supposed to close in on myself but is instead expressed in terms of how my sexual attractions have assisted me in becoming a true gift to others. This means that “I” live for “Thou”—the beloved, committed to letting that love overflow through our children. My attraction to “the one” allows me to say yes to being both a husband and a father. This changes who I am, fundamentally, shaping how I am called to love and be loved.
And in becoming that self-gift, I cannot say yes to any sexual temptations or attractions that could compromise or diminish my being husband and father. How I express that gift must remain in accord with God’s plan. Which is another compelling reason to say a resounding NO to the label “straight”—it’s a label that inherently and vividly pulls me away from the person I’ve become as husband and father.
“Straight” represents something that no longer matters to me. It can’t matter to me. There’s too much giving to do to be preoccupied or distracted by it.
It turns out my sexual attractions, sexual “identity,” and sexual “orientation” really aren’t about me, after all.
To read “Why I’m Not a ‘Straight’ Catholic (Part 2), click here.