Writing is a Moral Act: On the Challenges and Rewards of the Blogging Life

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I started my first blog when I was 21. I was in the process of more deeply converting toward the life of Catholicism at the time, having spent about a year or two studying theology.

Learning about Catholicism as a young man in 2007, 2008 was a little complicated. The papacy of Benedict XVI had emboldened quite a few traditionalist Catholics in the blogosphere whose approaches to life and faith were anything but humane. Without a degree of wisdom and intellectual maturity, it’s easy to fall down that ideological rabbit hole and reduce a complicated, nuanced, messy entity such as Catholicism to a series of platitudes, tribal markers, and shibboleths meant more to placate and exacerbate anxieties over modern life than anything truly substantial. The fact of the matter is, at age 21, I was too immature to handle the Catholic blogosphere. The way it reduces human persons into receptacles and consumers of ideology, the way it gleefully denies charity to those who don’t fit a particular type or mold, the way it dehumanizes even those who fit within it – the bitter irony is that Catholic blogging was more toxic to my soul than even pornography ever could be.

Emotionally and spiritually exhausted, I deleted my blog about a year and a half after starting it. In the time I was blogging, I’d become a target for far-right Catholic traditionalists, and my “conversion” story had gone viral and become reified by zealous Catholic conservatives. My introduction into the social world of the Catholic blogosphere revealed that the only writings that catch any sort of attention are those that eschew nuance, push a strict orthodoxy, and, more than anything, serve as a cheerleading chant for the conservative Catholic tribe. As any google search for “Nathan Kennedy Catholicism” will demonstrate, though my blog itself is gone, some of my more regrettable work is still out there. I’m reasonably certain that if I ever get to Purgatory, a significant portion of my penance will be to go back and read everything I wrote at this stage in my life. This community wasn’t authentic. It didn’t allow for, or really tolerate, authenticity in any real way.

Once I was in that world, I couldn’t write or explore the things I was most interested in. Though at the time I accepted a great deal of Catholic teaching on sexuality, I wanted to explore further the experience of being gay and Catholic, even as a celibate. I wanted to articulate the experience of putting my faith into interaction with my sexuality. I felt that there was a great deal of depth and insight that could come from this process, and I felt that this was crucial to my living out the faith and my sexuality. How do you write on something vitally important, for which there’s no real “market” in your blogging community?

In November 2011, during my very last months as an undergraduate, I sat in the campus Catholic Student Center and started a new blog. This one was under a pseudonym, Kevin Aimes, and had a vastly different feel and focus. Believing that the only demons we have are those that stay in darkness, my posts were more infrequent but much more thought out. The scope was more intellectual and less polemic. But mostly, it was a blog about integrating a gay sexuality with Catholic faith. It gradually grew a modest following, and spurred a great deal of very fruitful discussion.

As I changed, so did this blog. I eventually left Catholicism and become queer-affirming. I came out. As I started grad school in 2013, my blog posts became even more infrequent. I waffled in describing my relationship to Christianity. I grew as a thinker and scholar, but more importantly as a person.

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Existential, poetic: One of the many incarnations of my blogging life

Starting the Kevin Aimes blog was a radical shift for me. Instead of blogging about “faith” from a supposedly objective, detached point of view, I started from the ground up: blogging from my experience, from the depths of my own person. Now, I face a new era of my life, and blogging takes on a new kind of importance in what I’m doing and where I am.

Now, I’m blogging from the depths of my own person for the benefit of a community, to which I’m accountable but by which I’m not wholly determined. The responsibility of being a “public intellectual” (quotation marks used for a contested term) of any sort or magnitude, small as it may be, has changed dramatically from the time I started blogging eleven years ago. The world has changed. I have changed. The threats that marginalized communities such as the LGBTQ+ communities now face are serious, real, and terrifying. The job of a “public intellectual” in times such as this is to help articulate a compelling moral, intellectual, and theological vision for civic life, and it’s a job I take seriously and for which I believe I have been preparing.

I see my task as being that of navigating a tricky sort of triangulation: my own personal experience, the experience and traditions of my faith and LGBTQ+ communities, and the shared experience of being in this chaotic, confusing, threatening world in this time in history. The practical theologian in me recognizes that insight, to be valid and fruitful – true wisdom, and the sense of meaning arising out of it – depends on honest and thorough introspection at least as much as it does outer investigation. The human heart itself is one of the primary theological sources for us to explore. Every so often, I feel like I get that right. The world changes so fast, and I change so fast, that it’s hard to keep up and sometimes it’s difficult to write because of those constantly shifting grounds. But sometimes, I find the right footing and the right positionality and channel something fruitful, thought-provoking, and nourishing.

And like the words of John the Revelator, I see the things unfolding around me and within me and heed the command “Now write what you have seen, what is, and what is to take place after this” (Rev. 1:19). I suppose that’s the imperative dimension of the old writer’s maxim “write what you know.” Writing is a participation in revelation. It is interpreting the signs, making sense of the world around us through the light of experience, faith, and who we ourselves are.

Writing is resistance.

Writing brings forth life.

Writing can turn a person and the world inside out.

Writing is a moral act.

Homophobes Aren’t Good Enough to be Called Gay

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Stop me if you’ve heard this joke: A raging homophobe with a clear history of animus and hatred toward gays really must be suppressing his own homosexual desires, because, apparently, the only “real” motive for homophobia must be self-hatred. I’ve heard this joke thousands of times. Mike Pence. Omar Mateen. Jerry Falwell. Tony Perkins. James Dobson. Vladimir Putin. Chris Cooper’s character in American Beauty. Backwoods Appalachian hillbillies raping grown men in Deliverance.

It’s an old one for sure, but this joke is total bullshit.

It’s also been around for longer than most of us have been alive: in reaction to the nonaggression pact agreed upon by Russia and Germany that year, a 1939 comic panel mockingly depicts Hitler and Stalin getting married with the caption “Wonder how long the honeymoon will last?” Yet, like any old, humorless joke, this one persists. In the wake of this week’s Helsinki Summit, the same tired imagery of two buffoonish leaders emerges calling upon homoerotic, Dom/sub imagery. The shaming of gay sex is alive and well, it being considered shameful enough to paint villainous world figures as repressed gays with kinky tastes.

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I can’t for the life of me figure out why gay men go along with these jokes. Somehow gay sex scandals such as those of Ted Haggard, Larry Craig, J. Edgar Hoover, Mark Foley, and their ilk remain an inexplicable source of vindication for gay men, who somehow believe that their repressed desires cast gays in a good light. These jokes often blur the line between homoerotic desire and child sexual abuse, subjecting abusive priests to the same punchline. This is not a good strategy in our public discourse, nor is it doing us any favors when it comes to learning how to deal with homophobia.

41000011The harsh reality these jokes seem to resist is that some people really, truly, thoroughly hate us. People really do want us gone, invisible, or even dead. This isn’t some pathology born out of repressed homoerotic desire but an honest, earnest, deadly serious belief that some people hold. Attempts to pathologize, displace, and distort the motives of homophobes in the end do us gays a disservice. It suggests that our own desires are capable of wrenching the soul into a murderous monstrosity. It performs the same logic as those who raise the specter of “black on black crime,” blaming gays for their own victimization. It deflects the responsibility of heteronormativity for the harm caused by its totalizing, violent, and insidious agenda.

Let’s instead put blame where it belongs, and call out the heteronormative bullshit that underwrites this rhetoric. Not only are homophobes not worthy to be called gay, they’re not worthy to unlace our boots. Being gay is magical. There are things that we know, things that we understand, things that we experience that these sentient bottles of Axe can never approach. Our sex is off limits to them – they’re not worthy of a fuck, not with us, and not even with each other in our jokes and our memes. They deserve the shame, isolation, celibacy, and fear that they’ve forced on us ever since they built us opposite their image. Calling Trump a fem sub bottom or a drag queen is blasphemy, because fem sub bottoms are the priests and drag queens are the prophets of our gay religion.

If we are to weaponize our sex, let us do it the right way. Let us take it back from those who gawk and gack about how “the parts don’t fit” and force them to approach it with the respect and reverence it deserves.

What’s funnier – anal sex, or not thoroughly wiping your own ass because you’re afraid it’s too gay?

Or, what’s funnier – sucking cocks, or telling your bros how you’re so straight, you eat your hot dogs from the middle?

And again, what’s funnier – being a sub in a BDSM relationship, or getting married and being so miserable you end up making endless, only half-joking references to your wife as your “warden” or “the old ball and chain”?

Our sex is not your punchline, but by God, your homophobic neuroses sure as hell are ours. And that’s exactly how it should be.