Every June, l am surrounded by rainbow flags. They appear uninvited in my email inbox, on the walls at my workplace, and whenever I’m streaming online television and film. June has made the celebration of homosexuality ubiquitous, and this year my employer even provided rainbow face masks to celebrate. Although in the past I would have been grateful for this “recognition.” Since my conversion, I no longer celebrate homosexuality as the truth of who I am.
Although homosexuality comes naturally to me, I rely on St. Thomas Aquinas who notes that even if something is “natural” to an individual, if it goes against the general natural order, it cannot be a good (St. Thomas Aquinas, supra note 8, Prima Secundae, quest, 31, art. 7, at 726). Despite living in the age of feelings, not in the age of reason, I cannot deny that God created order for a purpose. No matter how I feel about God’s order, my feelings do not change the truth of what it is. If homosexuality goes against the intended purpose of genital sexual expression, which is the union of a husband and wife and the procreation of children, then it probably isn’t something to be celebrated with rainbow flags and masks. A basic understanding of the intended end of God’s created goods contradicts the celebration of homosexual relations.
Yet these days logic and rationality are seen as threats, and whatever anyone feels is true in his heart is accepted as “true for him.” We have lost a sense of objective reality, of the hierarchical order created and sustained by a God who loves us. We are now “free” to create any order that suits our individual fancy, and to pursue all pleasures to our heart’s content. Yet again and again we see people who are no longer satisfied by their relentless immersion in pleasure.
My story of conversion was one such example. Traveling the world and pursuing my heart’s every desire only led me to spiritual bankruptcy, and a painful longing that could never be fulfilled. Returning to the Church, I discovered the proper order of reason over passion. I no longer pursue my homosexual desires because know that they will not bring me lasting happiness. I had to experience a variety of disappointments to stop acting out on my homosexuality. Thankfully, not everyone with same-sex attraction has to follow the same path I did.
Pride Month is part of an apparatus that fooled me into thinking I could find happiness in active homosexuality. Pride is founded on an organized body of ideas that I swallowed early on, listening to voices saying that I would only find happiness by embracing my same-sex desires. I, therefore, pursued same-sex relationships for many years, believing that because this was part of my nature from a young age, I had to express the “truth” of who I was. Every pride month brought me another round of pseudo-confirmation and encouragement, telling me that I would only be truly happy if I sought the sexual love of another man. Although same-sex desires will likely accompany me throughout my life, I no longer believe that acting them out will bring me peace. Instead, I now see that they bring me disorder and chaos.
Presently armed with a Catholic understanding of order and sexuality, I have found peace with my sexual desires. Although they can still appear as a temptation for me, I know that they do not fit in God’s ultimate plan for his adopted children. Although I don’t know for sure where my same-sex desires came from, and perhaps I may never know, I know that all disorder stems from the Fall. And I can see in full relief how my sexual desires do not fit into the order of Creation nor the plan God has created for me.
Instead of celebrating pride in my same-sex desires, I can embrace them as my particular cross. St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans that “if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory,” (Romans 8:17). We Catholics understand that we must share in the sufferings of Christ in order to inherit the kingdom. As he suffered on the cross, I can deny myself sexual pleasure, thereby suffering alongside him. Sexual self-denial in the interest of the greater order seems like a small sacrifice to become a co-heir with Christ.
The Pride month phenomenon is misguided, as it puts our sexual desires first and foremost in our identity. It circumvents our true identity as children of a loving God who created a rational and logical order for all of our passions and actions. Although it uses the language of accepting who we really are, overriding shame and guilt for something we instinctively know is wrong, it keeps us from accepting a hierarchical order imbued with truth, goodness, and beauty. Pride is presented as a good, liberating us from the shackles of the past, when instead it enslaves us to our bodily desires, making them the false cornerstone of who we are.
Once I started to appreciate the overwhelming beauty of God’s created order, it became easier to turn away from temptation. I thank my grandmother for her daily prayers for me, as I am sure they played a part in my conversion. I pray that all those who experience same-sex desire come to see them not as something to be expressed, but as a unique way of sharing in the suffering of Our Lord as we strive to inherit the kingdom. We work out our salvation with fear and trembling while trusting in the mercy of God. May this month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus bring many blessings to you and your families, and may he have mercy on us as we work to live holy and wholesome lives, imbued with his grace.