Making Music with a Leper's Bell

by Louie Crew

First appeared in Fellowship 51.12 (December 12, 1985): 13 © 2004 by Louie Crew

Homophobia, the irrational fear of homosexuals, is no garden-variety blight but a lethal social disease. Hear its power in a letter from a nongay friend and colleague who holds doctorates in religion from both Harvard and Oxford:

"My brother called to tell me my nephew had committed suicide. My brother was never very close to him. Of 6 children, M--- was the artist, the intellectual, the most sensitive of the family. He had been to Vietnam and was sickened by the stupidity of the war. He worked as a set designer. He was found in his Volkswagen squareback dead from carbon monoxide poisoning, at 33. I suspect one of the pressures that pushed him to the precipice of life was his being gay. In a more supportive society it could have been one of the factors that would have made him say yes to life."

In the same post I learned that another talented colleague had entered a psychiatric hospital for manic depression, so fierce was his struggle to hide as a head of an English Department after he broke up with his secret gay lover. A local farmer called that afternoon to tell me that his new lover, a farmer nearer Milwaukee, had hanged himself in the barn, apparently unable to reconcile his new relationship with the guilt his priests had instilled.

Very often I get requests from frantic parents who recognize their children's incipient homosexuality and want to help the children prepare for the inevitable culture shock of being an outcast in this society. More often I hear from children who know that their parents will themselves be the chief ones to cast them out if they learn the truth. A Hong Kong student just called today to say that his female friend wants to cure him so bad that she had volunteered to live with him as a non-sexual wife for as long as it takes! Last week she tried to commit suicide when her mother entered an asylum for a third time, so we can perhaps appreciate her irrationality. We cannot respect the fact that she wants to expose him to his family so that she can get help with her plan.

If research has discovered anything for sure about homosexuality in the last three decades, it is that we establish our sexual orientation, hetero- or homosexual, very early, normally before we are 5 or 6. Scholars still disagree whether we inherit or learn it; but the point is moot, in that we already are likely to be either gay or nongay long before we or the adults around us can discover which. Orientation is largely involuntary. One does not choose to be aroused, but can choose only to act on arousal, delay action, sublimate, or suppress arousal.

I do not believe that God turned out the lights when She made Eve's vagina. I believe that God rejoiced when He matched Adam's penis with His own. Genesis records that God liked creation. The Church too often perverts this truth.

Many people talk about mind and body as if mind is superior to and ultimately separate from the body. To them sexual drives seem inferior to intellectual drives. Theirs often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as they devalue sex and cut it off from intellect. These have no integrity, no wholeness.

When we remove their perverse fig leaves, understandably some gawk at what was previously covered. That is why porn houses overflow after churches let out.

Far healthier is it to rejoice at the entire statue, the full person, with members no longer at war with one another.

I wasted over 35 years hiding from myself, denying the facts of my own body chemistry, fearful of relating openly to anyone, even to myself.

I would not have chosen this struggle. I am not a masochist. Given the choice not to change the world but only myself, I would choose to be a white, heterosexual, male millionaire, not because they are better, but because they have it easier. Nevertheless, I rejoice in choosing what in fact I can choose: to try to become the most integrated, caring gay person that I can be.

It has been far easier to face 12 years of constant hate, public heckling, telephoned threats of violence, collegial devaluation...than I found it to face those 35 years of self-abuse. It is easier to preach in Ninevah than to ride in the belly of a whale.

My black male spouse and I have rejoiced in these dozen years together, knowing that the Creator affirms us, that the Creator does not redeem junk, that the Creator does not make rejects.

We are not set back by bibles that open to only six obscure passages that allegedly condemn us. We prefer Jesus's test, to match all commandments against the big two, that we love God with all our hearts and that we love our neighbors as ouselves. Many of our heterosexual neighbors apparently have not attended this commandment.

In June 1982 I visited my father in his nursing home. Mother had died there in January. He had been in constant pain for over 5 years. We three were very close.

"Dad, I know that I have not been the son whom you wanted, but you need to know that I love you very, very much."

He struggled 3 minutes pulling himself to the rails to look at me directly, intensely. "Oh but you are completely wrong: you are the son that I wanted and I love you."

Am I to imagine less love from my heavenly parent whom Dad joined five weeks later?

We should choke down the Church's stone bread no longer. Gays too are the Church. Only through gay witnesses will some folks learn that God really doesn't give a damn about Respectability, that God has more serious business, helping everyone to be whole.


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