Monday, December 30, 2013

The New Homophiles and the Old Uranians

Untitled, Henry Scott Tuke
The third way...

Austin Ruse wrote a very good article on the 'new' homophiles - gay-faithfully chaste and celibate Catholics who identify as gay.  Some of the new homophiles mentioned replied they were amused, disturbed, angry, at first - but then Austin Ruse politely replied to their objections, and/or concern, explaining that he was making forming his judgments based on the literature they have produced.  Indeed, I liked Ruse's approach and analysis, as well as his conclusion that this new 'movement' bears watching.

It gets so complicated when we discuss anything gay, queer, SSA -  it all becomes very tiresome.

Of course, there are good things being discussed and explored by the 'new faithful-gay-Catholics' who have written books and online articles on the issue of same sex friendship and non-genital intimacy.  It's quite good - although with some of the writers, the ordinary reader must wade through a great deal of intellectual-philosophical discussion - not unlike the complexity of research associated with Theology of the Body.  If they are writing for an exclusively academic audience, that is fine - but it becomes a tad esoteric, even gnostic for my gay relatives on the East Side of St. Paul, not to mention some of my Beauty School, Art and Design graduate friends.  They aren't interested in religion anyway, nor would they be interested in such research, so I suppose it isn't an issue.

Much of the discussion on spiritual friendship is quite good, but it seems to me it can at times, become unnecessarily complex.  Speaking rather subjectively, often times some of the writers from this movement lay out arguments how (their) younger generation are very comfortable with same sex friendships, just as they are with opposite sex friendships - that neither pose any danger to chastity or romantic intimacy.  Evidently some church people have said such close friendships can be an occasion of sin.  (Straight Catholics have the same issues BTW.)

Nothing new here.  The acceptance and practice of close, intimate friendships is not exclusively something younger people have discovered and excel at.  It is completely naïve, if not exclusive to make such a claim.  I grew up enjoying very close friendship with males and females.  We traveled together, slept together, lived together - no sex, no physical intimacy - no problems.  We are all still friends - some have families, others remain single, and since we live in different parts of the country, some of us no longer get together as we once did, but we keep in touch.  Some of us are gay, some bi-sexual, but the majority are heterosexual.  No one identifies by their sexual orientation.  Each is comfortable with their gender ... and perhaps there lies the difference between the new homophiles and the old.  But that's another post.

Speaking of old...

Ever hear of the Uranians?   (Not anything from Uranus, however.)  The new homophiles should be familiar with this late 19th century movement.  Like some of the prominent new homophiles, the 'prominent Uranians were trained Classicists'.

I know of the Uranian movement because of my art studies.  In my research I came across the artist Henry Scott Tuke and his figural work (shown at top).  He painted nude males, mostly adolescent, but his work is not homoerotic, though it is highly esteemed by gay men, both in the artist's lifetime, as well as today.

Tuke's work strikes me as rather innocent, he never painted erotic images and rarely painted boys showing genitalia.  In fact, what he does very well is that he portrays same sex friendship uncorrupted - and natural.  I find the life of Tuke interesting - though he had gay friends, I've come across nothing to suggest that he engaged in homosexual activity.  So I'm not sure Tuke would have considered himself to be Uranian, nor would he have intended his work to be pederastic* - I may be misinformed however.  If he did, I hope he repented like Oscar Wilde.

If I may, I'd like to suggest another possible reason why some gay Catholics seek to develop a particular gay-spirituality of same sex friendship, which may have something to do with a classic symptom in homosexuals (men) - that is, an inability or difficulty in forming healthy, nonsexual friendships with the same sex.  Natural, healthy same sex friendship is a source of healing and wholeness for those with SSA, and I think it should be encouraged, not discouraged.  Having a man-crush is one thing, and it's natural - pursuing it or fantasizing romantically about it is disordered.  But that's also another post.

"To have altered my life would have been to have admitted that Uranian love is ignoble. I hold it to be noble - more noble than other forms." - Oscar Wilde*

So what is it?  Definition of Uranian, from Wiki - for the sake of brevity:
Uranian is a 19th-century term that referred to a person of a third sex—originally, someone with "a female psyche in a male body" who is sexually attracted to men, and later extended to cover homosexual gender variant females, and a number of other sexual types. - Source
Today it is called 'queer'.  Queer is the third way.  There are queer Catholics who dissent from Church teaching and there are queer Catholics who are faithful to Catholic teaching and accept that homosexual acts are sinful.  Then of course, there are SSA Catholics who refuse to identify as gay or queer, and who live an ordered life of celibacy and chastity - just like the new homophiles, only the SSA's most often can be associated with Courage Apostolate, an organization the new homophiles are not comfortable with.  I could discuss that further, but I cannot take the time to do so right now.  Suffice it to say that many of the complaints about Courage suggest that well adjusted queer folk just do not need a support group, and so they formed their own - for normal gay people.

I've often speculated that gay people, especially gay Catholics like to think of themselves as a unique species - not unlike the Uranians, and within that paradigm, each person is a particular species - so no one may actually type them or generalize about them - unless they happen to be part of their movement.  It's difficult to ever pin them down however.

Their approach to spiritual friendship seems to me to tend toward the idealized and romantic, and in this they sometimes resemble another late 19th century movement, the Pre-Raphaelites, who imaged an idyllic chivalry.  At any rate, I can't help feel a few of the new homophiles are somewhat elitist and exclusive, not admitting challengers to their theory and research, and never, ever those 'parroting' traditional Catholic teaching.  Though they bend over backwards to be charitable, they can be rather condescending in their assertions.  That is not to condemn them, nor am I suggesting they are not having an impact for the good - insofar as softening the Church's official tone on homosexuality.  Gay Catholic dissenters have also had a similar impact, whether one is willing to admit it or not.  The 'new homophiles' have been rather well received by a number of churchmen - especially those who coincidentally, may not appreciate Courage Apostolate either.

Nonetheless, as Austin Ruse concluded in his essay, "The conversation is fascinating ..."

*Interestingly enough, the delectation for adolescent boys demonstrates something quite common to homosexual men, don't you agree?  Especially considering the sex scandals that keep popping up.  It is what happened to that monastery in Sketis...

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