Collect for the First Sunday of Advent

O almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Confiteor in Leather

We build in vain unless the LORD build with us.
Can you keep the City that the LORD keeps not with you?
A thousand policemen directing the traffic
Cannot tell you why you come or where you go.
A colony of cavies or a horde of active marmots
Build better than they that build without the LORD.
Shall we lift up our feet among perpetual ruins?
I have loved the beauty of Thy House, the peace of Thy sanctuary,
I have swept the floors and garnished the altars.

T. S. Eliot, Choruses from ‘The Rock’

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It’s been a strange year—not unlike 2013, though less skull-crushingly awful (for me personally). I can’t tell whether my spiritual life is cyclical in an ascending-Mount-Purgatory sort of way, or whether I’m just in a rut. Probably the latter.

Diagram of Purgatory from Dorothy Sayers' introduction to the Purgatorio.

I’m entangled in a great many things that I should leave behind; most of them have to do with a leather bar here in Baltimore that I go to a lot.1 Now, before you flip your lid, gentle reader, allow me to assure you that Fifty Shades of Grey has as little to do with my life as it does with yours, and that in my (limited) experience, men and women in the leather world are some of the most sweet-natured people on earth. Kind of like people who work at Hot Topic. That’s a big part of why I am thus entangled: that bar is full of my friends. I like them, I like being with them, I feel lonely and bored when I'm away from them too long. And, like most millennials, they have to work so much to make ends meet that hanging out with them while they’re both off work and awake is a challenging, rare prospect.

There are less creditable motives, obviously. I like getting drunk; I like looking at men in leather, or out of it for that matter; I like fooling around with them. I have no desire to paint myself as some kind of compassionately conflicted saint—or rather, I have a great deal of desire to paint myself that way, but it wouldn’t be true, which is what matters.

Take that, pedestal.

All the same, as shabby a witness as I am (how credible, exactly, is a guy who will dance around in a jockstrap and a harness but won’t eat meat because it’s Friday?), I worry that there’s no other Christian presence in the lives of a lot of these guys; and that does matter to me. Messiah complex, probably. Foolishness, certainly: it’s neither my job nor my business to save anybody, and God is perfectly capable of reaching them without my assistance or my embarrassment. Is it better to be a scandal, or not be there at all?

Theologically that question is easy. Better not to be there. God can reach them as he pleases. Living in sin is destructive, by its nature; they are not (as far as I know) transgressing their consciences, whereas I am, and I should cut that shit right out. We know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal.

Yet I can’t get St Paul’s other strange words out of my head: I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh. That can’t apply here—can it?

I loathe easy answers, and perhaps that’s the problem. I have a deep-seated mistrust of any answer that dissolves one of the parameters of a paradox; my whole life, I’ve found paradoxes to be built into the fabric of the universe at every level—scientific, social, theological, personal—and accordingly look for them everywhere.2 Maybe I’m more addicted to paradox than I am to truth? Or maybe I’m looking for the wrong kind of paradox here, more invested in a romantically dark conflict than in illumination and harmony. It wouldn’t exactly be the first time I made a bad decision.

Jesus embraced whores. He didn’t pay them, though. How do I become that person instead of this one?

Christ and the Samaritan Woman (St Photini)

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1It ain’t to hand out tracts.
2What confirmation bias?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Courtesy of Deep Heaven, Part VII: Decorum

A brother who had sinned was turned out of the church by the priest; Abba Bessarion got up and went with him, saying, ‘I, too, am a sinner.’

—The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, trans. Benedicta Ward

Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me … Verily, when I preach the gospel, I make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.

The First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians, IX.xiii-xv, xviii

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After a long intermission, I’d like now to conclude my series on the Anglican patrimony, the specially English spirit that the Ordinariates bring into Catholicism. Finding the root of that patrimony in precision, and moving from there to magnanimity, irony, hierarchy, republic, and largesse, I turn to the final quality on my original list, what I have chosen to call decorum.

It was difficult to come up with a name for this quality (decorum is by no means a satisfying one), because it’s rarely exhibited and still more rarely spoken about in American culture, and I don’t know that it’s much more commonly discussed in British culture. Nevertheless its flavor is quite distinctive; its peculiar blend of humility and sensitivity and tact is, to my mind, a uniquely charming and obvious expression of mutual submission among Christians.

A vulgar way of putting it would be that decorum means never pulling rank; a marginally smarter, still vague way of putting it would be that decorum means taking no advantage of the powers you possess through hierarchy. But, because decorum (as I here use the term) is so unfamiliar, it may actually be easier to approach through a negation.

For many years, I’ve been bothered by the use of the Filioque in the Creed1 at Mass. Now, to be clear, I confess and indeed insist quite fervently on it, from a doctrinal point of view—I don’t see how anyone could admit that the Son is the image of the invisible God and the express image of his person without admitting the Filioque too; and it seems like the most natural way to interpret our Lord’s saying that As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself. But the manner in which the Filioque was made binding upon the Church is, I believe, deeply objectionable; the high courtesy of the Church should have forbidden it. Let me explain.

The Nicene Creed, as the name implies, originated at the First Council of Nicæa in 325, and was altered slightly at the First Council of Constantinople in 381, to give a more explicit confession of the deity of the Holy Ghost. It was further agreed, at the Council of Ephesus fifty years later, that it is unlawful for any man to bring forward, or to write, or to compose a different Faith as a rival to that established by the holy Fathers assembled with the Holy Ghost in Nicæa. This could be read simply as a proscription of heresy, but it was taken back then, and for some centuries afterwards, to include a ban on any and all rewording of the Creed as it had been inherited from Constantinople; or, at minimum, that additions to the Creed had to be approved by the whole Church, gathered in council.

The reason the Filioque was put into the Creed at all was to strengthen the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity against Arian and Semi-Arian theologies,2 which remained popular among many of the Christianized Goths who ruled formerly Roman territories like Gaul, Spain, and much of the Balkans. Its earliest attestation in the Creed probably belongs to the Council of Toledo in 589, and was likely aimed at the Visigothic ruling classes of Spain, who long remained Arian. The Popes refused the interpolation, not doctrinally but liturgically, for centuries: in 810, Leo III, who pointedly declined to be pressured even by Charlemagne, had the Creed inscribed in its traditional wording in both Greek and Latin on silver plates and posted publicly in Rome. It wasn’t until the eleventh century that the Bishops of Rome finally introduced the Filioque into their recitation and chanting of the Creed.

Now, I am a fervent believer in the Catholic doctrine of the Papacy: when Protestantism had become intellectually and spiritually untenable for me, I considered Eastern Orthodoxy for a time, but ultimately I went to Rome, not despite but because of her understanding of the Petrine office. The Orthodox appeal to councils, lacking a defined reference point for which councils are to be considered authentic, was finally unsatisfying to me. Both the inner logic of epistemic authority and the actual words of Christ to Peter seemed to me to demand a single locus of authority and unity. So I do believe the Popes had the power to insert the Filioque without summoning an ecumenical council.

However. That doesn’t make pulling rank attractive behavior, and authority in Scripture pretty much always means authority to serve and to suffer for others, authority to wash the feet of the rest; God did not exempt himself from that model of leadership. It was a breach of courtesy of the first order that the Popes added the Filioque without resorting to a council; and courtesy, reciprocal submission, taking no advantage of one’s powers, is the spirit of decorum. Decorum would not deprive its fellows even of their ego, if it could help it; to cause pain or offense to another, even for a good and necessary reason, is dismaying to the decorous mind (though, if the mind is committed to precision as well, it’s still ready to do dismaying things when it has to).

For our powers (whatever they are) were not given to us for our own benefit. They were given to us for the practice of largesse, exchange, mutual self-gift. That’s why we’re annoyed when people pull rank in whatever way—not because they’re transgressing their rights (or if they are, what they’re doing is bullying, not pulling rank), but because they’re transgressing the delicate, usually unspoken code of respect that is a narrower and lovelier thing than simple justice. It’s offensive for the same reason honesty without tact is offensive.

And what makes this quality specially English, you may ask? Well, by way of illustration, look at the royal family: legally, the Queen of England has a quite fantastic amount of legal power, of which she makes no use whatever. And why? because there would be a revolution? because no one would listen? because she lacks confidence? No; I tell you with full confidence, she doesn't exercise her power because she is an Englishwoman.

Decorum thus embraces and perfects the other qualities of the Anglican patrimony I’ve addressed: the precision which adheres only to the truth; the magnanimity and largesse that delight in giving; the hierarchical and republican sensibilities that delight in respecting; and the irony that delights in the contrast between all these ideals and the actualities of humanity, yet laughs with affection rather than scorn. All these paradoxical brilliances are caught, dimmed, and harmonized in the stained glass of the decorous mind.

Nativity window, Chester Cathedral, England

Ere by the spheares time was created, thou
Wast in his minde, who is thy Sonne, and Brother;
Whom thou conceiv’st, conceiv’d; yea thou art now
Thy Makers maker, and thy Fathers mother;
Thou’hast light in darke; and shutst in little roome,
Immensity cloystered in thy deare wombe.

—John Donne, Annunciation ll. 9-14

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1The Latin word Filioque literally means ‘and from the Son,’ and refers to the Catholic doctrine that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son as well as the Father, in distinction from the Orthodox assertion that He proceeds only from the Father. This was at first a contrast between Latin and Greek styles of theology, eventually becoming a quarrel, and finally one of the principal reasons (or pretexts) for the Great Schism, which arose in 1054 between the Patriarch Michael Cærularius and Pope Leo IX—or, more exactly, his successor Victor II. The papal excommunication of the Patriarch was delivered after Leo’s death, and was thus canonically invalid (since the cardinal who delivered it was there as a legate of Leo IX, not in his own right), whereas the Patriarch’s responding excommunication of the Pope and removal of his name from the communion diptychs (intrinsically dubious though these actions were, since there was little precedent for Constantinople to judge Rome and plenty of precedent for Rome’s claims of universal jurisdiction) would therefore have applied to Victor II, who acceded the next year.
2Arianism was the doctrine that the Son was not God, properly speaking, but the highest created being and the one through whom God the Father made everything else. Semi-Arianism was a version of this theology which stressed the resemblance between the Son and the Father, an attempt at compromising with the theological accent of the orthodox party without actually surrendering Arian belief. Although condemned at both Nicæa and Constantinople in the fourth century, Arianism long flourished in many parts of the Roman Empire, and was brought by Arian missionaries to the Germanic peoples of northern Europe, among whom it throve for centuries; it was only effectively stamped out in the seventh century.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Five Quick Takes

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The assault of Christmas has begun, complete with terrible music. I don’t hate Christmas music per se, but I find that the selection played in public is mostly of that segment I do hate. Generally I prefer religious to secular Christmas songs, not on principle, but simply because there are lots of religious songs in the genre that I like and few secular ones. (That, and some of the secular ones, like Baby It’s Cold Outside, are frankly creepy.) I strongly prefer something that has a mysterious, almost a haunting, note to it, something Mediæval; I’ve always found that note to evoke certain qualities of Christmas—the sense of nestling together with cold outside and warmth within, the traditional magical associations, and the grand mystery of God entering his own creation secretly in the dead of night—which the sugary, sentimental music about presents and Santa and family just fall so far short of.

The movie The Santa Clause, of all things, actually presented a surprisingly complex and winsome picture of the mythos that incorporated a sense of ancientry, that taste of spice and well as sugar, that even a secular Christmas needs in order to keep from being merely just another toothaches-and-hangovers festival. Loreena McKennitt’s enchanting album To Drive the Cold Winter Away does the same; my family opens presents to it every year.


And Thanksgiving also exists. I did a Thanksgayving celebration last year, with a small group of friends who lived away from their families. (My family usually observes the holiday on the following Saturday, since both my sisters are married and have large families-in-law, so the scheduling is a headache otherwise.) I’m not sure what I’ll do this year; possibly, bask in my lack of obligations.


I saw IT: Chapter One with a friend in Pittsburgh, near Halloween. I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know exactly how faithful it was to the source material, but it was a pretty good film; I give it a B+.

It got me thinking about horror as a genre. What is it we go to horror looking for? I mean, to be scared, obviously, but why and how? I mean, you can read or watch true crime stuff, which is often pretty frightening yet clearly touches a different nerve; even when the antagonist of a horror movie is a ‘mundane’ threat like a serial killer, there’s always something else, some element of being beyond our normal frame of reference, that makes it more than just a story about a crime. Whether it’s a fantastic element like a ghost or a witch or a vampire, a sci-fi element like an alien or an AI, or merely a realistic yet unknown element like a cult or a lunatic, horror seems to appeal to our sense of being unprotected from an Other.

This, to me, makes it a perfect vehicle for exploring religion. Not only in the sense that sincerely religious characters make excellent horror villains (and excellent heroes, too, like Vanessa Ives and Ethan Chandler in Penny Dreadful), but in the sense that horror, I suspect by its nature, involves itself with some kind of intrusion into the known world by an unknown, which is very largely what religion deals in as well: certainly Semitic religion, such as Judaism and Christianity, and several varieties of neo-paganism as well. It’s said that the most frightening thing to the mind is the unknown, and there’s nothing more incomprehensible or uncontrollable than Deity.


I could do with prayer, Mudbloods. I’m not in great shape, spiritually speaking. I have no one to thank but myself, and in fact God’s arranged things so that I don’t have to deal with a tithe of the consequences of my actions; but I do need to work on my problems all the same, and one of those problems is not praying well, or much. So, I could use your help.


If my check on Friday is as good as I think it’s going to be, I’ll be able to afford not only Christmas presents, but my next tattoo. I want to get an IHC monogram (a representation of the name of Jesus as written in Greek letters), over my left pec. I have two already: on my left shoulder, the cross and M from the back of the miraculous medal, and on my right, my two favorite lines from Dante’s Purgatorio.1 The monogram would be my third, and I want the sign for Virgo as my fourth, maybe on one of my calves. I’d like to get a few more after that; we’ll see.

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1The lines in question are:
‘Sovegna vos a temps de ma dolor,’
Poi s’ascose nel foco che gl’affina.
These roughly translate to: ‘“Think ye betimes of how I suffer here,” / Then plunged him in the fire which refines them’ (Purg. XXVI.147-148); the words are spoken by a soul in Purgatory, coming to the edge of the purifying fires that sanctify the Lustful to beg Dante for his prayers, and then casting himself back into the penance that strengthens his love for God. I had the first line done in black and the second in red, in imitation of the instructions in a missal or sacramentary (text printed in black is what to say, and text in red is what to do). This doubles as an allusion to T. S. Eliot, another favorite author of mine, who quoted these lines in several of his poems.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Dr Esolen's Disastrous Advice

It’s easy to focus on the thing that feeds your neurosis, and pretend the other aspect of our relationship with God doesn’t exist, or focus solely on the aspect which comforts and corrects you, and look away from the part that too-easily sharpens in your hands. A lot of people’s spiritual journey within the Church is about realizing that the kind of spirituality that feeds their self-destructive tendencies isn’t the only kind there is—and what’s striking to me is that so many kinds of Christian spirituality can be so destructive, depending on what you yourself fear and what you tend to misunderstand.

—Eve Tushnet, Catholic Horror and the Two Theologies of ‘The Witch’

The room is on fire as she’s fixing her hair …

—Julian Casablancas, ‘Reptilia’
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Trigger warning: this post deals with, and includes footage of, violent parental abuse.

Last time I posted on Dr Anthony Esolen’s post at Crisis titled Open Your Eyes, Father Martin. Today I am writing about his follow-up piece, Talk to Your Father, which is apparently meant to be the first in a series. I doubt I will remark on the others. Going over this one is a dismaying exercise. But there are people who will either take Esolen’s word as gospel or at the least be influenced by it, and I’ve dealt with the aftermath of his kind of advice.

Now, to his credit, I believe Dr Esolen’s advice is given out of a sincere desire to offer hope and comfort to any sexually confused young men who may happen across it. His words have the ring of kindness; that is not the problem. The problem is that they’re bad advice.

Let me now reassure any boy or young man who may read these words. Talk to your father. Do not talk to a gay man or to your school counselor. If the counselor is a woman, she will know as much about your feelings as I know about being pregnant. If the counselor is a man, he likely has stock in the whole sexual breakdown of our time. Do not talk to your friends, whom you cannot trust to keep your words to themselves. They are, after all, young, as you are, and prone to give way to the impulse of the moment. Talk to your father. … Be assured. You are the same. You are one of us. And your sexual feelings? Your arousal? Meaningless, and transitory, unless you put them into action. Don’t do that. Think: ‘This feeling is stupid.’ Do not take it too seriously. … If you have done something dumb, something you are ashamed of, by all means go to your father. You may be astounded by the old man’s wisdom. He will have seen a lot more than you will believe. Go to him. Do not go to the school counselor; do not go to any adult who has a vested interest in your failing. Talk to your father.

Urging an adolescent who’s having same-sex thoughts and feelings to talk to his father about them is not necessarily bad advice; reassuring him that he truly is part of the brotherhood of males, regardless of his feelings, is excellent.1 What isn’t, is the presumption that only fathers, and all fathers, will have anything worthwhile to contribute here.

Take the alternatives Dr Esolen categorically rejects. Whether a gay man would be worth talking to about sexual uncertainty depends entirely on the character and intelligence of the gay man in question, not on whether he happens to be gay.2 If he is hostile to Catholicism or Christianity, or considers chastity intrinsically unhealthy, or is eager to ‘claim’ people as exemplars of queerness, or doesn’t understand people very well—then yes, talking to him about same-sex feelings and thoughts is probably going to be a fruitless, and possibly be a demoralizing, exercise. Indeed, this holds true of any person and any subject. But if the gay man in question happens to be a devout, orthodox, chaste, and perceptive person, as sometimes happens, then he may be an ideal source of insight for these experiences. Dr Esolen himself might be astounded by the queer man’s wisdom.

The same criteria apply to school counselors: some are bad, some good, others yet indifferent. Lumping them all into a single category is not so much unfair (though it is certainly that) as unhelpful. I would also venture to point out that, while I personally have always preferred to talk with other men about sexual matters, my experience isn’t universal; and, as Simcha Fisher points out in her own response, we may surely suppose that a female school counselor might be able to grasp attraction to men at least as well as a male confessor could grasp the spiritual and personal state of a female penitent.

I would tend to agree with Esolen’s counsel against asking friends’ advice—teenagers are not, as a rule, fountains of wisdom, sexual or otherwise—but with two important, and related, caveats. One is that this must be treated as a rule of thumb. Depending on circumstances, a given teen may have peers who really are trustworthy, or (God have mercy) are at any rate less untrustworthy than anybody else available. And the other is that, while teenagers are rarely good sources of advice, everyone needs friends to confide in, not for direction but simply for company. And while they don’t have to be, friends are usually peers. The fact that they should be chosen carefully doesn’t mean they can go unchosen with no ill effects.

There are a few unintentionally hilarious moments in Dr Esolen’s piece, as when—continuing to push the ex-gay explanation of homosexual attractions, stating that all such feelings are really just about the need for male affirmation—he writes the following:

But your feelings are powerful. Well, flimsy bonds do not move mountains. Of course they are powerful. The football player you admire, he has those feelings too. But in his case, the feelings are satisfied by a powerful and normal and healthy object. He has his football squad, and that both affirms him as a man and clears up his confusions.

Which is why nobody has ever heard of an insecure high school football player, and why Wade Davis, Kwame Harris, David Kopay, Ryan O’Callaghan, and Roy Simmons never amounted to anything. But he goes further.

And your sexual feelings? Your arousal? Meaningless, and transitory, unless you put the feelings into action. Don’t do that. Think: ‘This feeling is stupid.’ Do not take it too seriously. … Your sexual feelings during the teenage years are on overdrive. A picture of Michelangelo’s David will set you off. Big deal. … Your real need is for masculine affirmation, so often expressed in a broadly physical way—think of a big bunch of coal miners showering after a day under the earth.

Which does afford us convincing if indirect proof that Dr Esolen has, to his credit, never watched porn.

Under the circumstances, the less said about Michelangelo the better ...

The fact that Don’t do it is the most obvious, and therefore the most useless, advice to give someone struggling with a desire they’re conflicted about, apparently goes for nothing. The fact that for some people, homosexual thoughts and feelings never go away regardless of whether they’re acted upon, is either unknown to or ignored by this essay. The facts that the whole psychogenic theory of homosexuality has a legion of problems,3 that there is some evidence that biology plays at least some role in sexual orientation, and that attempts to deliberately change orientation have failed so dramatically that many of the organizations and individuals who had the most stock in it have publicly renounced it, are not so much as hinted at.

None of this is a counsel of despair on my part. It is a counsel not to decide too hastily what your orientation is (since after all, people do pass through phases, especially in their teens); and also a counsel that, if it turns out that your same-sex feelings stick and opposite-sex ones fade or never take shape, that’s fine. Difficult, if you want to live according to the Church’s teaching, not that there’s any easy version of living according to the Church’s teaching; and, yes, the decision between living in transgression of the Church’s teaching on sexuality, attempting life as a celibate in a disconnected society, and embarking on the dangerous and surprising experiment of Christian marriage without one of the normal ingredients of such a marriage, is an unenviable trilemma. I haven’t solved it myself.

But being gay is not a moral or personal failure. It’s just there. What to do with it is something we have to discern over time, and that process of discernment will be by turns scary, exciting, dismal, humdrum, infuriating, lovely, and weird; but, in my opinion, it will rarely if ever be solved by simply dismissing the problem.

But the most terrible flaw in this essay is the one that Esolen betrays no inkling of: sometimes, tragically, it is a really awful idea to talk to your father. Because your father might be irrationally afraid of or hateful toward gay people, and being his flesh and blood might be no protection. This is why I so often harp on the need to preach against the sin of homophobia just as much as we preach on Catholic sexual mores: because this sin has victims, and they are not infrequently the victims of Christian parents. This is horrible enough in itself; but it also calls to mind the frightening text, The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you. A Church so wary of scandal can afford to have a little more wariness about this scandal.

Here is what happened to nineteen-year-old Daniel Ashley Pierce when he spoke honestly with his father, mother, and grandmother in 2014. (For those who can’t play the video at that link or don’t want to, I’ve included a partial transcript of about the first four minutes—partial, because I can’t face transcribing the fifth.)

Grandmother: Daniel, I want to tell you before I say anything else, that I love you. Now I know that you’re not gonna believe that, but it is true.
Daniel: Oh, I believe it.
Grandmother: So … and I have known that you were gay since you were a tiny little boy.
Daniel: Mhmm. Then, you would know at this point it’s not a choice.
Grandmother: And you have made a choice—
Daniel: I have not made a choice.
Grandmother: —evidently, from what you’ve told your daddy.
Daniel: I have not made a choice. I have not made a choice. I have been—from the moment I come out of my mother’s uterus, I have been that way. Probably long before I come out of her.
Grandmother: No.
Daniel: Yes. Mhmm.
Grandmother: No, you can deny it all you want to, but I believe in the word of God, and God creates nobody that way. It’s a path that you have chosen to choose.
Daniel: Mhmm.
Grandmother: Alright, you believe it the way you wanna believe it, ‘cause I cannot change that.
Daniel: This is the way I’ll put that part. I have taken basic biology, and psychology—
Grandmother: Uh huh.
Daniel: —and it’s determined, within the first six weeks of birth, what your personality’s gonna be, and that’s part of your personality, and you cannot change it, and it’s a scientific proof. Not—not based off of the Bible.
Grandmother [overlapping]: Well—well—you go with all the scientific stuff you want to, I’m going by the word of God.
Daniel: Well, scientific proof trumps the word of God.
Grandmother: No, it doesn’t in my opinion.
Daniel: Well, in my opinion it does, ‘cause there’s scientific proof. That’s why it’s called a scientific proof.
Grandmother [overlapping]: Well—you—okay, I’m not gonna argue that point with you. But I’m gonna tell you: since you have chosen that path, we will not support you any longer. You will need to move out, and find wherever you can to live, and do what you want to, because I will not let people believe that I condone what you do.
Daniel: Okay. Well, I’ll—I will be out by Thursday night at midnight. How about that?
Grandmother: Alright.
Daniel: I’ll be completely out and you’ll never, ever have to see me again.
Grandmother: If that’s the way you choose it, that’s fine.
Daniel: No, that’s not what I’m choosing, I’m doing what you’re telling me to do, and you’re disowning me. So that proves how much of a person you are. In fact, can I live in your basement, since it’s your house, and you’re my mother? [Pause] Really. So all of that support that you told me about …
Mother: Oh, I support you. I don’t support what you do—
Grandmother [overlapping]: And we don’t support your habit. No.
Mother: And I have a lot of friends that are gay. But they’re friends.
Daniel: See?
Mother: They’re not related to me.
Daniel: That’s not what you told me that day on the couch. That doesn’t seem very motherly to me.
Mother: And to summon your dad, and telling him that he’s a racist, and that your dad didn’t raise you—your dad’s gone to bat for you for the last twenty years of your life. That man’s put a roof over your head, he’s put food on your table—
Daniel [overlapping]: That’s diff—that’s not raising me.
Mother [overlapping]: He’s clothed you. Him.
Grandmother: Well, wait a minute, what—
Daniel: None of these people have raised me!
Mother [shouting]: You’re full of shit! And you told me on the phone that you made that choice! You know you wasn’t born that way, you know damn good and well you made that choice! You know, that this man has done everything he can to raise you, and you told me right on that damn phone that that was a choice you made, he didn’t need to blame himself! So don’t fill these people full of bullshit, Daniel!
Daniel [shouting]: You’re twisting my words!
Mother [shouting]: You twist everybody’s words!
Daniel [overlapping, shouting]: You are a completely different person!
Mother [shouting; camera swings erratically]: Let me tell you something, you little piece of shit!
Daniel [mixed with sounds of fighting]: No! No! No, you’re not gonna fucking hit me! [Indistinct cries and words]
Father: You son of a bitch!
Daniel: Get off me! Bitch! Get off me!
Father: Let me tell you something!
Daniel: No! [screaming]

You may be astonished by the old man’s wisdom.

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1One thing that fascinates me about male psychology is how important being masculine is to us, when I’ve never had the impression that being feminine was nearly as important or universal a concern to women (though obviously this could be my own myopic understanding of women at work). I have a half-baked theory that part of the reason St Paul directs wives to respect their husbands and husbands to love their wives, is that respect is a sort of currency among men, in a way that affection is a sort of currency among women; and that the apostle was thus directing each spouse to be careful to give the other the kind of love that that other would intuitively appreciate. All this is generalized and conjectural, but I tend to feel there’s something in it
2It should be unnecessary, but isn’t, to repeat here that the word gay as used by most people (LGBT people included) just means ‘erotically interested in the same sex.’ In the vernacular, it indicates nothing about a person’s beliefs, ethics, behavior, or socialization. Insistence that it does mean such things amounts to telling other people what they mean when they speak, which is insulting, ineffective, and rather silly.
3I’ve written on the subject before; here, I’ll content myself with an incomplete précis of its difficulties.
(1) If gayness is caused by an unmet need for male affirmation, what causes this unmet need to be interpreted sexually by the psyche? I have heard it asserted that this happens, many times. I have heard it explained zero times.
(2) Ought we to apply this consistently, and assume that heterosexuality is caused by an unmet need for female affirmation? Will a child who is adequately and appropriately loved by both parents become asexual? And in both cases, if not, why not?
(3) Given that many gay men have good relationships with their fathers, their peers, or both, and that many straight men have bad ones, what made the first group gay and kept the second straight? Or, looking to further development, is it reasonable to suppose that a gay man who comes to enjoy a better relationship with his father and/or other men will experience a correlated decrease in his attractions? I know from my own experience as well as others’ that this correlation is far from universal, if it exists at all.

(4) Where do lesbians fit into this? I’ve come across ex-gay sources that attribute homosexual attractions among women to: excessive identification with the father, masculinizing the psyche; a distant and/or abusive father, producing fear and distrust of men; a failure to bond with the mother, creating an unmet need, as with gay men; or a mother who was abused, leading to a desire to dissociate the self from femininity. That so many causes should have the same effect, and yet not necessarily have the same effect since there are also heterosexual women who meet these criteria, makes one wonder whether the causes and effects have been properly related to each other by the hypothesis.