Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Little Bit About Myself

I was going to include all of this in the first post, but it's probably better to separate it out. Because I am just that interesting of a person. No, but that first post was getting a little long. As I said, I am interested in anonymity (a post on why later), so I doubt I will revealing much about my life that would be recognizable to friends and family. At the same time, I'll include any detail I think necessary (and answer anything I left out in the comments).

As I noted in the last post, I am in my late 20's, and I have, as far as I know, been gay my entire life. It's of course difficult to know this, as, who knows what they're sexually attracted to when they're very young? At the same time, I knew I was different at a very young age. I plan on doing a post discussing the origins of homosexuality later on, but I want to get a few things out on the table.

One, I can remember no significant moment in my life where I felt heterosexual. I can remember enjoying flirting with girls at an early age, and I remember it being fun and different, but I knew I wasn't getting excited about it like the other guys. I can remember one time at a summer camp thinking to myself, "I think this is what it's like to like a girl?" Of course, if you're asking yourself those sorts of questions, obviously something is different about you.

Two, I was most assuredly not sexually abused as a child. Every person in my family has always loved me with unending love. I often hear people say things like this, that all gay people were sexually abused when they were younger. I find this strange for a couple of reasons. One (I apparently only like to write out arguments in list form?), it's an incredibly unscientific assertion. It seems at least plausible (or so I imagine people making this claim might think) that there are homosexuals who have not been sexually abused. It's at least something one might want to look into, considering how bold the statement is anyway. Similarly, it's never clear how the connection works exactly. What counts as sexual abuse? How much of it counts? Is there some sort of precise triggering moment? Which leads into number two. The people who make this claim are usually pretty conservative (though I'm not sure this word is ever really used properly) and would normally laugh at armchair psychology, especially as it concerns sexuality. (Imagine if you told such a person that he was sexually attracted to his wife solely because of the pre-pubescent relationship he had with his mother, for example.) But these type of people are often the first to make claims like this. A fascinating thing. (I don't say this to necessarily criticize these people. I think it's how people try to understand really complicated issues. I just throw this out here to foreclose any major discussion of it, because it won't be fruitful, at least in my case. Now, I am not claiming that sexual experiences in youth have no effect on adult sexuality. I think there is a connection, though one that is hardly understood. I am just very skeptical of the direct and simple connection to male homosexuality. I'll write more on this in a later post.)

Three, I have no control over my sexuality. That is, I have no control over what I am sexually attracted to, at least not in any significant way. I am very much in control of what I do with my sexuality, but at no point in my life have I been able to will sexual attraction to members of the opposite sex. When I see an attractive man or a sexual image of a man, the reaction is purely visceral. When I see an attractive woman or a sexual imagine of a woman, there is nothing really sexual about it. I imagine most other homosexuals have similar experiences.

These are basic but necessary things to start with. On to my own sexual experiences. To be honest, this part is not very interesting. I have had no sexual experiences with either men or women, and I have been in no serious relationship with a man or a woman. I quasi-dated girls in junior high and maybe early high school, but those things never went anywhere. At least nowhere interesting. But this is not to say that I did not have sexual experiences. No, like most males growing up today I had a very healthy pornography and masturbation addiction. I can remember websites, at a young age, where there would be an option to choose which type of porn I preferred (gay or straight). I can remember convincing myself that I was just looking at the gay stuff because I wanted to see what it was like, not because I enjoyed it. All that is to say, I was never in any sort of denial (at least past a certain age) of my sexuality. I knew I liked men. I was perhaps in denial that I wasn't able to like women, but I accepted the fact that I liked men at a very young age. It takes a great deal of self-delusion to think that masturbating to images and fantasies of men isn't at least a sign of something.

And this is how it stayed for the majority of my life. I just wouldn't date and would self-medicate with pornography and masturbation at home. To be fair, I don't think I'm particularly unique in this way, whether gay or straight. I am only different in that I didn't even seek out sexual experience in any way outside of myself. In a lot of ways I preferred it this way. (This, incidentally, is a sign, I think, of a serious problem.) This addiction (and I think it appropriate to use this word; more posts on this later) lasted until a couple years ago. When I was around 25, I realized I was going to have to deal with this. And by this, I mean my sexuality. When I was 25 I had just finished graduate school and was taking a year before starting law school. I was living by myself with nothing to do. I had lived by myself plenty of times before then, but I always had school and friends to distract me. This was the first time, I think, I was ever faced with the reality that sitting in my room by myself, looking at porn, would be my entire future. It was the first time I ever really thought it plausible to start an actual homosexual relationship. I hadn't before for the same reasons anyone else wouldn't: it felt wrong. But those people were at least happier, even if just in the temporary sense, even if I thought they were wrong. This meant something.

But I did not start a homosexual relationship. (I honestly wouldn't even know where to start; I find most homosexual dating scenes really embarrassing.) I decided I had that the only way to really deal with the issue was to understand it. And that is what led me into sexual morality and eventually to the Church. At that point in my life I was a Christian, at least for the most part. I was always very interested in religion and philosophy as a child. (This is no doubt what led me into my graduate degree.) But I was never really a part of any religion. My parents took us (my siblings and I) to a Catholic church, but I was never really a member or anything. Most of the kids who were looked a little dorky to me anyway. (It's not particularly cool in my family to be part of anything really.) But I understood Christianity well (usually better than most active Christians), and I did my best to live appropriately. And in a lot of ways I succeeded, at least in what I thought Christianity was. I always had a good moral intuition, and this is probably what kept me from most sexual depravity, but I never had a really developed sense of sexual morality.

So, that is what I focused on for that year. I had to figure out if and why homosexuality was actually wrong. I think it's easy to take it for granted when you're straight. That is, it's easy to say "well, homosexuality is wrong, obviously" when you have a girlfriend or a wife and kids or whatever. And you don't have to rely on that assertion because it has no affect on your life. But for the homosexual (especially the religious one), it's completely different. The homosexual is expected to give up any hope (he thinks) at happiness just because of some undeveloped idea, a hunch. But I am certainly here to tell you that a hunch is not enough to control something like sexuality. It obviously hasn't been so far (see, for example, pornography). Little did I know at the time that my attempts to understand sexuality would lead me to reevaluate everything I thought I knew about morality in general, and moreover, what I thought I knew about life.

So, off I was. At a certain point during that time, I think I reached a point where I felt like I didn't know anything at all. In some ways, I think this was a good thing; in other ways, I got lucky. Someone that morally fragile is hardly in any place to make good decisions. At that time I was a staunch libertarian. And I was a libertarian on moral grounds. This is the reason I liked libertarianism so much. It was so heavily concerned with absolute senses of morality. That is, I would make claims like "a person's right to life or liberty can never be infringed upon." Of course, I completely took for granted what a "right" was and where it came from. So that's where I started, where I thought I knew something. I soon realized I didn't really know anything at all and had to start from scratch. This led me to, what I thought, was one of the best defenses of libertarianism I'd found so far: writings by Edward Feser. I thought he was spot on with most of his stuff. So, I started reading his blog. Eventually, I came to realize that he really wasn't a libertarian at all anymore. His work opened me up to modern writers like Philippa Foot (though I came across her when I was evaluating abortion) and Elizabeth Anscombe and, more importantly, to philosophers like Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. Never in my life had I been more impressed by a person's work than when I read Thomas. The man was a giant, and he had the most incredible answers to so many questions. Including questions about sexuality.

This process completely changed who I am, I think. I guess it could be said that Thomas drew me to the Church. I never took Catholicism seriously, even though I respected it from afar. When I finally stopped to read what was going on, to see the philosophical background the Church boasted, most other Christian religions looked embarrassing by comparison. I think the philosophy of religion is far beyond the scope of this blog, but it was surely this experience (and particularly Thomas' brilliance) that led me to joining the Church.

Before I did, though, I had to get myself right, to match the moral arguments that had convinced me. I had my answer to sexuality (which, again, I will write a great deal on later), but I was still completely and utterly addicted to pornography and masturbation. The process was difficult, but I succeeded (at least for the most part). I haven't done those things in about 2 years (I think this February), and I can't encourage people enough to stop themselves, regardless of their philosophical or religious orientations. Nothing is more freeing than to have the ability to not have to do something. It was during that 2 year transition that I told people about my sexuality. But I did not tell many people (only about 3 close friends, one of whom was a girl who very much liked me), and it is something I debate constantly with myself. On one hand, it's always better to have your family and friends know who you really are. On other other hand, not everyone is in the same place at the same time. It doesn't always work. (More on this later.)

But this is where I am now. I am happy with my life. Sometimes I get depressed (like everyone does), but I am happy and proud of who I am. I'm not completely sure what's next, but no one really is anyway.

11 comments:

  1. Thank you for telling your story. Although I am not gay, I am able to relate to two important aspects of your story. I too was drawn to sexual morality and Catholicism through the works of Aquinas. I also struggle with a pornography and masturbation addiction from which I have only recently began to emerge. I commend you for making it two years. I would be impressed if I could make it two months.

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    1. Thank you for the comment; I really appreciate it. I plan to write a pretty comprehensive analysis on masturbation, including information on its effects, its meaning, and how to kick it. It's a big deal, and I know it's hardly ever really talked about in any sort of meaningful detail. You're hardly alone in your frustration anyway, and you'll be rid of it soon enough. Always be encouraged.

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  2. Oh no, one more blog to follow obsessively. (Take this as a compliment. The "Oh no" part was related to my lack of time and already too much time that I already spend on the Internet).

    Anyway, I am also gay, Catholic, and have strong philosophical interests in an aristotelian-thomistic direction. So this is going to be very interesting for me and I appreciate it very much. It is really great that somebody started writing about all this. I expect, however, I will rarely comment, because I struggle a little bit with writing in English.

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    1. Don't worry; your English looks great to me! And welcome! I am glad to see there are people interested (and people like me, no less). I hope you enjoy the blog, and I hope it proves helpful in whatever way it can.

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  3. Hello, Joe.

    What do you think about the possibility of changing your sexual orientation?

    When I was younger, I also had an addiction to gay pornography and masturbation. I still thought of myself as a heterosexual, but perhaps a frustrated one. In attempting to explain my habits, I thought I was attracted to what these other men possessed that I did not possess: natural beauty, confidence, etc. Sexual fantasy with these men was my way of obtaining those things. Was this delusion? I think there is quite a bit of truth to it.

    As I came to learn more about sexual ethics and the larger metaphysical view from which it springs, I changed. I think the beauty of the Catholic view changed me. Beauty changed my perspective, and a change in perspective can be a powerful thing. It can change how you lead your life, and, before you know it, you have become this new person. You develop new attitudes, and, most importantly, new habits. It this habits that determine your character and destiny.

    So is change possible? Well, I am attracted to women - very attracted to them - where I was not before. There is still a lot of residue from my old days, but it is slowly disappearing. Now, some may say I was a late bloomer or really a bisexual, but I wonder, then, how the "homosexuality as immutable" hypothesis is falsifiable if those who turn from homosexual attraction where never "really" homosexuals.

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    1. Hey Shy,

      Thanks for the comment. I plan on doing a whole post (if not multiple posts) on this topic (sexual orientation change). If you would like my quick opinion on it, and I am not an expert on the topic by any means, I think that homosexuality is like any other (physical) disability, and I think it unlikely that a person could be healed with the current state of medicine, especially since I think it probably concerns brain development---which, from what I know, we know very little about.

      But I don't doubt the things you say about yourself. I just know my own experience, and in my experience, I have always been attracted to men, and I have always wanted to be attracted to women. Is there a psychological or spiritual process that can change something like attraction? I am very skeptical, but it would be nice. To me, it's similar to making a colorblind person see colors appropriately. I'm not sure any spiritual or psychological awakening would have any effect on his ability or inability to see colors. Now, of course sexual orientation is way more complex than sight, but I just mean the underlying principles seems similar to me. It is, just in my undeveloped estimation, a defect like any other.

      I actually think a lot of conversion therapy (and this is not what you are identifying, I know) is premised on the idea that our souls are somehow really separate from our bodies, in some sort of separate-substance sense. So the idea goes that if we can heal the soul (through spirituality) we can change our orientation (which is really an aspect of our souls, etc.). I am definitely not claiming that you are subscribing to that idea, but I think that's often the case, especially as it concerns (mostly) Protestant conversion therapy. I think there's sort of a natural inclination to see sexuality as spiritual and to separate the spiritual from the physical. I think this is really ingrained in us.

      But this is just a really quick overview, and there is a lot to talk about with respect to this issue. I hope you return to see what I have to say about it in detail. Anyway, I wish you the absolute best, and thank you for sharing your story. I hope to see you around here more!

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  4. I found your blog via a link on Patheos. I am looking forward to reading your thoughts. I am a Catholic heterosexual woman but I am interested in understanding homosexuality better because of the issue of gay rights and same sex marriage and what it means for sexual morality in our society.

    I find your reference to homosexuality as a disability familiar to my own belief. I am a (sober) alcoholic/drug addict. Have been since my first drink/drunk at age 15 and the first time I took a prescribed narcotic for pain at the same age. There is clearly something in my brain or genetics that causes me to be unable to drink or use a drug without getting high. For me, being an addict is not a moral deficency, it is just part of who I am. The morality comes into play through whether I choose to indulge it or not.

    I think homosexuality is similar. But harder in that you have lots of voices telling you that you should indulge your desires and there is something wrong with you if you don't. The behavior has respectability and legal protections now. There are no voices telling addict/alcoholics that indulging their urges is good or respectable and no one suggesting that employers should accomodate it or celebrate it, or refuse to discriminate, etc. Frankly, it would be much more difficult to abstain if I could get as much of my drugs of choice that I wanted and if I had society telling me I should do whatever I feel naturally. The problem is what comes naturally to me is destructive to my well-being.

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  5. Hi, I'm slowly working my way through your blog. Your writing is clear and non-inflammatory, and I thank you for that breath of fresh air. Topics such as these tend to reduce participants' apparent IQ by 50 points in most other forums, judging by the flames flying both ways.

    I have been studying the possible causes of homosexuality (from genetic to uterine environment to modern day chemical exposure to childhood deficits or traumas) and I took note that you stated you were never molested. I don't think anyone ever claimed homosexuals have to be molested to become homosexual, it is probably just one of a number of theories on possible causal factors.

    I am curious if you had any of the other theorized possible factors present. I'm not saying any such factors really can cause homosexuality, especially in isolation, but these are the factors generally proffered as possibilities. Factors such as: adolescent trauma by the opposite sex (such as excessive rejection); being the 3rd or higher son by the same mother; absent father; aloof father; unloving father; emasculated father; excessively doting, clingy or needy mother especially in later childhood; early exposure to pornography, especially homoerotic; exposure to estrogen-mimicking compounds such as bpa (non-modern plastic baby bottles; soothers); high milk or soy intake as an infant (especially if not exclusively breastfed) or by pregnant mother; and any/many aunts/uncles/cousins who are homosexual.

    Certainly if there is a "why" to be found, one would think a thinking man would want to find it.

    Thank you, and I look forward to reading the remainder of your blog.

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    1. I don't mind answering this, as I'd love to know myself. I'll answer what I can while remaining mostly anonymous. The only factor I can say for sure that is or was present in my life, from your list, is being the 3rd or higher son by the same mother. Everything else, I was like anyone else, I think:

      I never really asked girls out (because I didn't really like them), and when I did, they usually said yes. My father is, and was, great. I am actually (generally speaking) much closer to him. I did spend a lot of time with my mother growing up, but that had nothing to do with a lack of desire from my dad. Busy circumstances and multiple kids and all. All of my siblings tend to be a little closer with my dad actually. You could Possibly say that my mother was a bit needy, but nothing that would make a Lifetime movie or anything. I think I was exposed to pornography around the same time as most other males. (Early teens?) Actually probably later in some case. I didn't have great internet access when I was much younger. I do not know when I saw my first homoerotic pornography. But I feel like, with porn, I was focusing on the men from the get-go. I believe I was exclusively breastfed. Supposedly a cousin of mine's kid is gay. I don't believe it though. I think it's sort of an act (is this hilarious coming from a gay person?). I know of no one else in my family, extended or otherwise, who is gay.

      But yes, I would absolutely love to know why I'm gay. I try to read about it as much as I can, but to do so, I always have to wade through political nonsense. It's not exactly a non-controversial issue and all.

      By the way, thank you for visiting the blog and extending such kind words. This issue is not an easy one to talk about, in any context. Anyway, let me know if you have any more questions; I'm happy to answer.

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    2. I have a couple. Touchier ones.

      First - if there were some pill you could take that could give you a heterosexual or even a bisexual sexual orientation (assuming, of course, no horrible side-effects), would you take it?

      Second - what if the 'causes' of homosexual attraction were identified, say with epigenetic issues during pregnancy, that could be easily addressed. Would you support the use of such technology?

      One thing I always wonder about is, assuming there really are genetic or pregnancy environmental factors involved in someone being gay, what is going to happen when/if technology hits a point where we can go, 'Oh, sure, we can change that just fine.'

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    3. 1. Yes.
      2. Yes.

      Of course, I don't think it's quite this simple (and I wanted to do a few posts on the subject (specifically, what makes a homosexual a homosexual, and if changing his sexual orientation would change a lot of other things about him---and what this would Mean)), but short answers, yes. And that final question deserves a post of its own as well.

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