A few decades ago, there were basically two options for people who wanted to follow Jesus but were attracted to the same gender: They could either throw off religion and embrace their sexuality, or they could remain in the faith and hide their sexual orientations. Today, there are other options. Some–like Matthew Vines and David Gushee–are attempting to make a biblical case for same-sex relationships. Others–such as Julie Rodgers and Wesley Hill–are leading a movement of celibate gay Christians.
Among the second group, Eve Tushnet has risen to prominence. She has a popular blog hosted by the Patheos Catholic Channel and has created a stir with her book “Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith.” Here we discuss why it is important to her to self-identify as a lesbian and whether she’s missing something about the uniqueness and importance of erotic intimacy.
RNS: You self-identify as a lesbian but some Christians say that defining yourself by your sexual orientation isn’t helpful. Why does this label matter to you?
ET: My deepest identity will always be “child of God.” But identifying as a lesbian is a succinct way to honor my experiences in gay communities. In these places, I learned a lot, confronted my own privileges, and met some amazing people. I don’t want to reject those people or experiences. I also always think of the teenager just starting to acknowledge his or her feelings. Almost everybody in that position is going to think in terms like, “Wait–when people say ‘gay’ I think they mean me….” I want those people to know that there’s a life and a future for you within Christianity.
RNS: Your book’s subtitle proclaims that you’ve “accepted” your sexuality. But you’ve decided to live a celibate life based on your faith. What do you say to people who might counter that this isn’t acceptance at all?
ET: Self-acceptance, to me, means being honest with God and (where possible) with those around you about who you are. It means honoring and serving God through your sexuality, rather than trying to repress it, deny that it exists, or “switch” to heterosexuality. Some people mostly serve God through sacrifice of their sexual desires, pouring those desires out like oil over the feet of the Crucified, uniting their sacrifice to Christ’s. Others mostly sublimate, “acting on” our sexual desires by translating them into other forms of devotion ranging from mystical relationship to God, to friendship with others, to artistic creation. I mostly sublimate, I think, but everybody has to sacrifice their sexual desires at some point–regardless of your orientation.