This weekend, the New York Times, under the auspicious heading of “Beliefs,” published a piece entitled, “A Gay Catholic Voice Against Same-Sex Marriage.” The piece profiled Eve Tushnet, “the celeibate, gay, conservative, Catholic writer.”
I had a number of concerns about the publication of this piece, but let me start by writing a little bit about Eve.
The foundation of everything Eve writes and says about homosexuality is her Catholic belief that same-sex sex is wrong. This belief is offensive, damaging, and frankly just plain stupid. If she wants to be Catholic, fine. If she wants to be celibate, fine. But if you’re going to be a public writer and encourage people (smugly) to repress who they are, then you are a Quisling and a menace.
Tushnet argues that she encourages “sublimation,” not repression. She allows for what she calls Romoeroticism, suggesting that people with same-sex attractions can still have close, meaningful connections without falling into the sinful trap of gay sex. So if I play a lot of tennis, love God, and just hug my boyfriend, then my sexual desires will be appropriately sublimated to the likings of your beliefs? Bollocks.
(By the way, I love the imagery of the photo the NYT used of Tushnet. She’s so focused on blogging about her self-hating beliefs that she is looking away from her own reflection. It’s a profound portrayal of her “sublimation.”)
In a piece she wrote for InsideCatholic (which she proudly links to often from her blog), she concludes her argument with a plea for humility:
Doubtless no matter how many models of chaste same-sex love the Church offers, many contemporary gay people will still reject its hard teachings. But it couldn’t hurt to try. So often I’m asked questions that boil down to the angry or anguished plea, “Is there anything in my love and desire that the Catholic Church can respect?” I’d be shocked if as much as five percent of gay people who grew up Catholic even know that there’s precedent for their lives, and faithfully Catholic beauty available to them. I’d be shocked if anyone had ever even suggested a vision of a world where God, Church, family, and community could celebrate their love while still requiring that this love express itself as chaste friendship or mystical approach to God rather than as gay sex.
In a world of Gay Pride, the Catholic Church offers a unique opportunity to celebrate gay humility. Maybe we should start telling people about it.
Yes, it can hurt to try. The long-term psychological effects combined with an accepted sense of self-demonization can be severely damaging. I can’t help but wonder if Tushnet is just begging for others to cover up their PDA so it doesn’t make it so damn hard for her to repress her own sexuality.
I was glad to see that she opposes the ex-gay movement, oft quoting my friend and podcast partner, Peterson Toscano. However, her own motives don’t seem so unfamiliar. Her promotion of sexless affection has echoes of loony ex-gay therapist Richard Cohen’s nonsense “touch therapy.” Her suggestion of sublimating desire through “a mystical approach to God” isn’t so different than trying to channel homosexual desires through heterosexuality and faith in God. The comment she makes about her attendance at a NARTH conference seems to belie the connection she does see between her own views and those of ex-gay therapy:
During the entire nine hours of the conference, none of the speakers I heard discussed how to live chastely while experiencing same-sex attractions. The focus was entirely on the goal of switching sexual orientations.
Both perspectives demand that gay sex is bad and avoiding gay sex is good. Regardless of the approach, the repressive damage has been done.
Tushnet unflinchingly defends Catholicism (chosen) and works to somehow contort sexuality (unchosen) to fit it. In a recent post, she promoted a Catholic support group for the parents of gay kids. It’s named after a US bishops’ document that recognizes that for parents, a child’s coming out “may be one of the most challenging in their [the parents’] lives.” How horrid! A gay kid. Don’t worry! Catholicism is here to help you demonize them!
In other words, I don’t have much respect for Eve Tushnet’s beliefs or the garbage she spews in defense of an archaic oppressive institution that I oppose at a very core level.
So, given that, you can imagine why I might be struggling with the fact she got a very uncritical profile in a major mainstream newspaper. The article gives her a national platform to promote a Catholic platform for marriage. If anything, the article should raise huge red flags about the danger of Catholic indoctrination:
“By the time it was real enough to be threatening,” she says of her conversion, “things had gone too far. I didn’t see it coming.”
That sounds pretty scary. And now look at the powerhouse of self-hate she’s become!
But I have a serious problem with the NYT here too. Besides giving Tushnet a huge platform for her nonsense, it also validates her belief and her views. Look at the headline: “A Gay Catholic Voice Against Same-Sex Marriage.” I might rewrite it to say, “Hey, look! It’s okay to oppose same-sex marriage because here’s a gay Catholic that does too!” And not only that, “but for her, life is joyful.” See? There’s no underlying hate! There’s no perpetuating of disgust! There’s no demonization! If more gays could just admit their desires are abominable like Eve Tushnet, then we wouldn’t have all this drama about “gay rights”!
Ugh. I expect better from the New York Times. Eve Tushnet might be an interesting topic of study, but I think the danger of her words demands a critical study, not a flowery portrait.
And for the record, while I haven’t been published in magazines (yet), it sounds as if I have about the same readership that Tushnet has (and I would definitely claim that my readers are at least as “learned”). I might forgive the New York Times if they’re willing to profile me and my nonbelief support of queer liberation as an antithesis to the pedestal they offered Tushnet’s delusional drivel.
At the end of the piece, Eve quips:
“I really think the most important thing is, I really like being gay and I really like being Catholic,” she says. “If nobody ever calls me self-hating again, it will be too soon.”
Hey Eve, ever think we all might be onto something?