My story: In the closet

You might wonder why I stayed completely in the closet until I was almost 35. Why I never breathed a word of it to anyone. Why I was celibate, a monk in the Order of Engineering.

My mother.

Not fear of my mother. Love of my mother. I could not break her heart.


My mother is uncompromising. She does not know how to compromise. She has never done it.

She would not let us compromise, either. She would never accept – would never let us accept – anything less than our best. Schoolwork, sports, morality, hygiene, household chores, summer and weekend jobs – all had to be done to our utmost ability. Learning by rote was unacceptable. I had to understand what I was learning, question it until I understood the underlying ideas.

She never had to tell me that. I just knew it.

Unlike many uncompromising people, however, she is tolerant of other beliefs and the failings of others.


My mother certainly does not compromise on religion: She is a devout Catholic. She raised us strictly in the Church.

My Catechism and confirmation classes sorely tested her belief that I should question until I understood. I questioned the priest relentlessly. It not only tested her belief that I should question, it tested her patience with me.

But she defended me to our priest and the bishop. She wasn’t afraid for my soul then; the disciples, the prophets and Augustine all had their moments of doubt.

It hurt her when I left the Church, but she never rebuked me. It hurt her more when I joined a Protestant church. She knew I would never return to the Church.


She could accept that I might be a heretic. But I knew that she could never accept that I might be a lesbian.

My greatest fear in the first 30 years of my life was that she would learn that I was gay.

I stayed resolutely in the closet. I never acted on – or even thought of acting on – my orientation. I withdrew into celibacy and solitude.

I came out to my minister.

I didn’t come out to my mother.

I met my Love.

I still didn’t come out to my mother.

My story: Ministerial acts

I met with the minister of the church I attended. I was not a member of the church. I knew nothing about him, other than that he preached to the text and that his sermons were conservative, thoughtful and tolerant.

I jumped right in:

“I am a lesbian.”

I had his attention. I told him my story:

I knew when I was an adolescent. I never acted on it.

I fought it by having sex with men. It disgusted me. I do not find men physically, emotionally or sexually attractive.

I buried desire under study and work.

I needed to confront my self and my faith. I had the sense that I was wasting my humanity and betraying God’s image in me.

“I am not depressed or suicidal. But I am tired of struggling with myself.”

Of all the things I thought he might say, I wasn’t expecting what he did say:

“Do you think it would be a sin to act on it? Maybe we should look into that.”

I was nonplussed, and a little irritated:

“I won’t edit scripture to justify my inclinations.”

He was amused:

“I would never suggest that you – we – edit scripture. I suggest that we study scripture. Frankly, this has never come up in my ministry. You are the first person to walk in my office and say, ‘I am a homosexual.’ I have never seriously thought about it. I know what tradition says, but we Protestants reject the authority of tradition. I would be interested to know myself. Shall we find out together?”

So we did. And I was reconciled to my self and God.

My story: Coming out

When I turned 30, I had an immensely satisfying, tremendously successful, career.

There can be few vocations more satisfying than engineering. When I complete a job, there is something there, something tangible and useful, something that serves mankind.

Something about which I could say, with pride, “I built that.” In a century, people might still ask, in wonder, “Who built that?”

But I could feel my life slipping away. I was almost halfway to three score and ten.

I wasn’t unhappy, but I wasn’t happy. In my early 20s, I had given up happiness to free myself of torment. I gave up even a thought of physical or emotional attachment to another person. The most I hoped for was contentment.

As I approached 30, I had the increasing sense that I was wasting my humanity, my capacity to love and be loved.

I had the increasing sense that my refusal to embrace joy and love or to evoke them in others was worse than whatever sin I was trying to avoid. I was betraying God, scorning the spark of humanity He had given me, refusing to embrace the essence of His image. My emptiness darkened. My pride in my accomplishments was fading into inconsequence.

But I could not see how I could break out of that emptiness and inconsequence.

I like men and generally find them attractive as human beings. But I could not find emotional or physical intimacy with a man. Emotional or physical attraction to a woman was a sin.

Finally, I made an appointment to see my minister. Perhaps he could help me find a way out of my physical and emotional dilemma. And, if not, help me to regain my pride and a measure of contentment.

He was the first person to whom I came out of closet.

My story: Teenage

I was in Seattle, on the street with my mother. I was in junior high school. I had always admired women.

We saw two ordinary, well dressed women holding hands as they walked down the street. They stopped, kissed each other – chastely but affectionately – and separated with a wave and a laugh. Something I had seen thousands of times between married couples. A tableau of real affection, of love.

My mother said, in disgust, “Lesbians.”

Then I knew what I was. My heart went out to them, even as I knew that they were damned.

It wrenched me to the core. These were ordinary women. They weren’t strange or depraved. They were just like my mother. Except that they were in love. With each other.

And what of me? I had that same feeling for women; was I objectively disordered?  Was I in sin?

To prove to myself that I was not a pervert, I forced my virginity on a boy. It was quick, sordid and painful. Everything about it was disgusting. I was sick with myself for days.

I became a slut in the hope that I might be converted from my shameful inclination.

I became isolated.

I could not bear to be with girls. Girls did not want to be with me, a slut.

Boys didn’t want to be seen with me. They did want to be with me, unseen.

Everything about sex disgusted me. It had no meaning for them; its only meaning for me was degradation. I loathed it even as I went back to it, again and again, trying to exorcise the other depravity.

I threw myself into school work. I graduated at the top of my class. My first-choice university accepted me to its honors engineering program.

Good Friday

And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.

But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?

And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.

And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.

And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

Losing my religion

I was baptized, raised and confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church.

I lost my faith in the Catholic Church without losing faith in God. I have always known His presence, even when I believed that I was a sinner beyond His grace.

I began to question my faith in the Catholic Church at the time that I began to realize that I am gay – but realizing I am gay did not lead me to lose my faith in the Church. It did not even influence my loss of faith.

First, as long as I did not act on my attraction to women, the Church did not condemn me for it. The Catholic Church calls gays to chastity. I was unchaste, but not with women.

Second, I still believed that my orientation was sinful long after I left the Church. Even after I recognized the distinction between orientation and act, I for many years refrained from homosexual acts in the belief that they were sinful.

What then led me to lose faith in the Church?

My issues with the Catholic Church ran deeper than trying to excuse my orientation. I did not know it until later, but my differences with the Catholic Church were those of Luther and Calvin, centuries before.

Discovering the Protestant – and particularly the Reformed Protestant – confessions was a thunderbolt to me. The Reformers carefully, systematically and thoroughly delineated everything I was naively and blindly groping for.

The priesthood of all believers:

Christ’s apostles call all who believe in Christ “priests,” but not on account of an office, but because, all the faithful having been made kings and priests, we are able to offer up spiritual sacrifices to God through Christ. … The priesthood, as we have just said, is common to all Christians.

Solo scriptura, the rejection of tradition and authority other than scripture and the inward illumination of the Spirit:

The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word.

And, most important to me, a wretched sinner, salvation by His grace:

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
’Twas grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
‘Tis grace will lead me home.

 

Catholic doctrine

The Catholic Church distinguishes between homosexual inclination and homosexual acts. While homosexual inclination is “objectively disordered”, it is not in itself a sin. Homosexual acts, however are “acts of grave depravity”, “intrinsically disordered” and “contrary to natural law”.

Roman Catholic interpretation of the scriptures on homosexuality is expressly based on its tradition and its interpretation of natural law (a fundamental concept of Catholic theology).

In accordance with the tradition, “Love the sinner, hate the sin”, the Church condemns discrimination against gays.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church:

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

The law and the prophets

Does homosexuality violate God’s law?

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

I will take Jesus’s word for it. “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Do I fail to love God with all my heart, with all my soul and with all my mind? Do I fail to love my neighbor as myself? Yes, I am a sinner.

But I love God, and my neighbor, more because I love this woman. He made her in His image. I feel His grace in her. She makes me a better person, makes me try harder to love God and my neighbor.

Metaphoric Fundamentalist

I’m a fundamentalist, in the sense of the Westminster Confession:

The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word.

I’m not a literalist. The Bible is the whole counsel of God, but it speaks to us through metaphor and poetry.