On Gay Behavior, Wherever

January 15, 2009

The AP is reporting that a Vatican study shows less gay behavior in seminaries.  Interesting: I wonder how they measured that?  The article doesn’t address their methodology, although it does note that diocesan-run seminaries were more “successful” at preventing gay behavior than were seminaries run by religious orders.

But what is “gay behavior” anyhow?  They probably are thinking about sex between men.  For me, you don’t want to know how long it’s been since I had sex.  My “gay behavior” is more about cooking a great dinner and having a passing knowledge of high and low culture.  My “gay orientation” is a matter of the heart, not the sex organs.

But what do I know?

Back in the day — I’m talking about the 1980’s here — I knew a few gay seminarians when I lived in the Washington, D.C. area, and I knew a few gay priests, too.  I’ve often thought that if I had been born ten or twenty years earlier, I might have become one, too.  Joining the military, like some of my siblings, was not an option.  Back in a certain place and time the priesthood was an especially viable alternative for young gay Catholic men.  After all, you didn’t have to explain to anyone why you didn’t have a girlfriend, or why you never got married…

Curiously, “Father Tony” reports that he first heard the expression “to read one’s beads” (or variants) back in the seminary in 1972.  That was toward the end of the era of gay men finding refuge in the Church.  I remember “Father Chris” appearing as celebrant at a Diginity Mass sometime in the 1980s in satin pink robes for the Third Sunday of Advent, asking the rhetorical question “Do you like my drag?”  The congregation answered in a very loud, “Yes!”

I think I first heard about those “beads” when I read John Rechy’s City of Night.  Another place, another time.

Knowing about the “beads” is a gay behavior, even if you don’t use the term.  But a lot of gay people don’t know this.

A lot of us don’t even know any men who call other men “girl,” “sister,” or “Mary,” although my partner does at least two of those things regularly.

Gay behavior.

Really.

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