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The silent twenty-three percent

The silent twenty-three percent


Though originally appearing in Voices of Integrity in 1999, this article by Louie Clay captures an issue that has remained relevant even amidst the vast changes in the culture and in the movement towards greater equality and inclusion for LGBT persons.  In coming across it, we felt it was worth looking at once again.


By Louie (Crew) Clay


“Please don’t bring that subject up at dinner.  He gets obsessed and then won’t sleep well.”  Thus the wife of a retired bishop advised a friend of mine who was their guest.  “That subject” was the issue of homosexuality in the church.


Many years ago that same bishop speaking to me in his office, shifted into a more earnest tone, moved to look me directly in the eye and said with full conviction, “Louie, xxxx (our mutual friend who is a seminary professor) tells me that homosexuals cannot change, but I tell you with absolute certainty, I *know* homosexuals can.”


A short time before that occasion, the wife of a priest in his diocese asked me, “Louie, I don’t like to pry, but is my bishop gay?”   “That has never even occurred to me,” I replied.  “I should surely hope not.  He is so anti-gay that he must be in great turmoil if he is afraid of homosexuality in himself.  Why do you ask?”


“You’ll never understand since you are not a woman, but most men who are heterosexual reveal their sensuality in very subtle and very innocent ways — not as a come on, not as something rude or aggressive, just as a gentle part of who they are, by the way they stand, by the way they respond to a woman in their presence…..  The signals are not foolproof, but fairly ubiquitous.  Yet the bishop has never once manifested a heterosexual presence.  Several other clergy wives have commented on it as well.  You know I am not opposed to gays:  you are my dear friend.  It’s no big deal, but I am just curious.  So much of life is a mystery.”


In 1976, when Integrity was only two years old, I met with the sexuality commission of the Diocese of Atlanta.  One member of the Commission was the mother of two boys to whom I had taught bible in prep school fifteen years earlier.  We had been members of the same parish back then; she always made the communion wine.  When the Commission took a coffee break, she took me aside:

“Louie, they’re not hearing you, you know.”

“How so?”  I asked.

“They’re afraid that since you are so candid with matters they have never heard talked about, you might ask them to be just as candid.  They’re not ready for that.  The truth is that Mary hasn’t had sex with her husband for years and is battling alcohol.  Father H. is happy that his son is no longer dating the girl that he and his wife did not like, even though his son is now living with a girl he’s not married to. They like the second girl better.  Sarah is ….”


I try hard not to divide my world into “enemies” and “friends.”   I respect and am friends with many who argue cogently against full inclusion of lesbigays.  I grieved when a friend wrote me several years ago:  “Louie, you need to know this, and unfortunately it means I’ll have to tell you a sad fact about myself too.

Occasionally I go to public cruising areas.  Recently I saw xxxx [one of these antagonists] at one of the raunchiest places, where men typically come only to have anonymous sex.  He was in town for a meeting of the conservative coalition.”


I have never confronted my conservative friend with this report.  I want not to believe it.  I value him and his wife.  My gay friend has always been very trustworthy, nor did he tell me this with any effort to take action against the journalist, but only for my information, that I might be able to discern where some of the antagonism derived.


A heterosexual friend recently told me: “I love my husband very much.  He is a fine man.  I suspect that he has on at least a couple of occasions had sex on the side, gay sex, and frankly, I can live with that since if it is so, I believe that he would have had it as recreation, not as desire for a rival relationship.  But what really troubles me is the risk.  I’m terrified of AIDS.   I want to practice safe sex, yet to ask him to wear a condom would mean that I have to reveal my distrust about our level of communication.   He probably is scared too, but he would never tell me.  I don’t want to find out when one or both of us turn up HIV+.  And on top of that, all my suspicion may be unfounded, just in my head.”


In 1948, long before the various sexual revolutions, Kinsey documented that one-third of all males had experienced orgasm homosexually, but that only ten percent of all males grew up to have the majority of their orgasms homosexually.  (Kinsey’s figures about females are much more sparse and inconclusive.)


What are those in the 23 percent thinking when we talk about same-sex unions?  What are they imagining when we speak of gay or lesbian priests?  Did they learn empathy or fear from those experiences?  How open are they to dialogue, lest candor prompt candor?  If in a conversation, does their past and largely covert homosexual experience prompt openness or superficiality?  Does that experience speed closure to dialogue?


If they have moved to heterosexual unions, do they make idols out of their own choices?  Do they perceive everyone as having an opportunity to make the same choices?  And needing to make the same choices?


I am opposed to outing, but I am concerned about personal consequences for everyone when we participate in discussions in which almost one-fourth of the participants are under constraints not to respond to candor with candor. It is bad news that much of our dialog about sexuality occurs in space not safe enough for the candor required for wise decisions.


The good news is that before God all hearts are open and all desires known and from Him, no secrets can be hidden.


Hear a poem read by the author inspired from theses same concerns:



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Ann Fontaine

Still true – sad to say.

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