cover-gay and catholic

There’s a certain catch-22 in writing about celibate gay life. If you write about the joy you find in fidelity to Christ and the Church, you may sound Pollyannish, defensive, or callous toward others’ suffering. If you write about the difficulties, you can be accused of self-pity and masochism. I hope that this book is honest about the suffering that comes with this form of life in Christ but is also quick to note the joys it can bring.

Meet one of the hardest books I’ve been asked to read and one of the most important books I’ve read and one that should be a must-read for everyone today.

Being gay isn’t just a hot topic, it’s a hard topic. I mean, who am I to speak of it? But then again, who am I to keep quiet?

This topic affects us all: it impacts those who face same-sex attraction, whether they’re the ones struggling with it or the people on the sidelines watching and (hopefully) supporting.

So the bigger question isn’t, “What is the origin of homosexuality?” or even, “What is the origin of my sexual orientation?” — questions with many possible answers and no definite ones. The bigger and better question is, “What can we gain from investigating the possible origins of our own sexualities?”

The answer to this question is even more complex than the answer to the first ones. Many people will find that the answer is, “Nothing.” If you have no particular interest in the reasons you’re gay or none of the origin stories resonate with you, I don’t think there’s any reason you should push yourself to find or imagine some hidden psychological trauma. This quest for trauma damages relationships between parents and children — parents blame themselves, children blame children.

Tushnet has, in just over 200 pages, given us a glimpse that’s raw and challenging. It’s not easy to read, in part because, wow, she’s not so different from me, is she? It’s honest and raw and it will make you examine assumptions you might not have even known you were carrying.

But just as marriage and friendship carry their own forms of loneliness, so vocations that appear more painful may carry their own joys — if you let them. One theme of this book is that celibacy is not enough for gay people and that we must cultivate an outward looking spirituality, which seeks to love and serve others. It’s OK to get “bachelor weird” if you live alone, but don’t get stuck in your rut, turned in on yourself and isolated. That will not only keep you from supporting others and therefore make their lives more difficult, it’ll make your own life more difficult too, since you will miss out on some of the joys that are offered to you in a celibate life.

While the title may lead you to think that this book only applies to your reading list if you are gay, know someone who’s gay, or have an interest in the topic, let me toss you this: I gained as much insight about my own vocation as a married woman as I did about Tushnet’s vocation as a celibate gay. There was a relational quality in her writing, one that acknowledged the others in her life. Her self-awareness extends and invites us in, forcing us to consider who we are.

This book is not light reading, but I couldn’t put it down. It’s a book you deserve to read.

You can read an excerpt, see a video interview, and read what smart people are saying about Gay and Catholic over at the Patheos Book Club this month.