A year has passed since I accepted God's will and pledged to banish sodomy from my life. It's a complicated, painful odyssey of spiritual recovery designed to liberate me from old ways of thinking. I have accepted the embarrassing truth about my homosexual urges, which I now realize are illusions — disordered manifestations of abuse and abandonment. Overall, I'm making good progress. My resolve is fortified by the many thousands of prayers, letters and reading suggestions I've received from generous and wise readers all over the world.
And yet, there is a creeping strangeness in my life that makes me feel like an impostor in it. I am observing a steady trickle of little changes in myself — subtle adjustments to my behavior, temperament, tastes and habits. I can't explain them; they have no obvious connection to the demons I am battling, and I'm not making them on purpose. The changes seem universally for the good, but they have left me feeling disorientated and impotent. In the early hours of the morning, I wake up thinking about itching but not itching, on some level convinced I am in someone else's skin. This must be how the transgenders feel. No wonder they're always in such a mood.
The good news is that dogs have stopped barking at me. That's not a joke. I was, for the first 36 years of my life, one of those people around whom dogs go berserk, possessed by a frenzy that renders them deaf to commands from their owners. This might strike you as a mere minor inconvenience, but the reaction from some dogs was so strong that it risked serious injury to the dog. So this minor inconvenience yielded debilitating social consequences. I couldn't ever visit friends who had dogs. I became a liability and an annoyance at public houses and hunt meets. Plus, of course, aside from the practical considerations, it was upsetting because I like dogs, and I want them to like me.
Then, one morning, shortly after the life-changing vow I made, the hex was lifted. I woke up dog-friendly. It's even swung the other way: They seem to like me the best out of everyone they meet and never want me to leave. How are we to make sense of this bizarre-but-true state of affairs? Personally, I am inclined to believe that dogs have a nose for demons. They pick up whiffs of sulfur at levels far too subtle for human beings to detect. Anyway, what I'm saying is that no one can tell me why, all of a sudden, I don't trigger psychotic reactions in dogs anymore. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad the barking has stopped. But I remain queasy about the whole thing, absent a good explanation. I invite the Church Militant audience to weigh in if there is some occult domain expertise I'm lacking.
There are other changes happening to me, more personal, and, therefore, terrifying — but which make more sense. Over the past 12 months, I've noticed many of my tastes, preferences, sensitivities and even habits shifting, as if reorganizing themselves, without any conscious effort from me, and, occasionally, in the face of some resistance. For instance — you'll laugh, but let me explain — I have started to care intensely about movie spoilers. I said don't laugh! I'm telling you this for a reason.
So long as I can remember, back into childhood, I never understood why anyone cared what happened to fictional characters. It baffled me. I watched movies and read books for color, texture, pattern, theme and atmosphere, and I assumed everyone else did too. I sought out writers like Oscar Wilde and painters like Mark Rothko — artists who encode meaning wryly, in surfaces; Wilde with witty aperçus and elegant syntax, Rothko with multiple thin coats of paint designed to produce a hypnotic, shimmering effect.
The impression of movement on Rothko's canvases is so arresting that the building Rothko's last works are housed in calls itself a chapel instead of a gallery. But beyond these powerful illusions and superficialities, neither Wilde nor Rothko has much to say. (They weren't even reliably good on the surface stuff: Wilde had shockingly bad taste in interior design for a homosexual, judging by the speeches he gave on the subject.) I guess I never cared, and lazily, perhaps conceitedly, figured everyone secretly agreed with me but didn't say it out loud, which, in my defense, happens to me a lot.
To test my theory that spoiler alerts were a confected grievance, one day in 2015, I posted "HAN SOLO DIES" on Twitter. This was about a week after Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened in theaters. It was Christmas, so almost nobody had seen the shocking patricide in question — they had no idea it was coming. The reaction was apoplectic: I lost 2,500 Twitter followers instantly. I wasn't troubled by the follower-loss because they were Star Wars fans and, therefore, homosexuals and probably also communists. But I became convinced that, perhaps, in some sinister way, I wasn't like other people since I couldn't find a single person who thought I was right.
Now, I'm the guy who'd be unfollowing and losing my mind online. God sure has a sense of humor. I can't any longer imagine posting a spoiler in such a wicked fashion. It seems churlish and cruel, almost a kind of burglary. Nope. I've learned my lesson. The next time I ruin a major movie launch for cringe nerds, it will not be motivated by spoilers, I promise. It'll be over something else — like the fact that they are 40 years of age and still getting overheated about Star Wars, because they're cringe nerds and, therefore, in desperate need of a dose of virtuous bullying.
What has changed since I sent that mean-spirited tweet? I can tell you that, these days, when I read a book or watch a film, I do find myself caring more about how the plot resolves itself than ever before. As the fog of my disorder lifts, I find myself able to appreciate more about art and literature than shallow pyrotechnics and the temporary effect on my emotions. I am no longer using books and movies as stopgap therapeutic tools to fix my mood or to help me blot out the world. Instead, I am encountering them complete and whole, as if for the first time.
I've given this a lot of thought, and I can't help but wonder whether my locus of interest shifting, from color and tone to story, is because I have, at last, stopped running from the ultimate story — our universal origin story, the story of the eternal mysteries of the universe. It took me a long, long time to get back to church and almost as long to show up to Mass regularly on Sundays. My brain still stubbornly refuses to commit even basic prayers to memory. My brain is an addict and a seditionist, so this is likely a desperate, last-ditch effort to break me so he can return to those halcyon, dopamine-chasing days of emptiness and despair, which most people just refer to as "2018." But it won't work! I will not be deterred.
The other reason I care what happens in stories now is that, for the first time in my life, I care what happens to me. I have melted off my rainbow manacles and placed myself beyond the reach of the disease-ridden, abusive comorbidity of "gay life." And now, I feel the first flickering of hope for a wholesome normality I had previously written off, hope that I can build a good life and save some souls — perhaps even hope for a family, a dream that was utterly out of reach until really just a few months ago. I have accepted the truth that Almighty God cares what happens to us. He cares about the story, about what is true and false and in what order it happened. We know this because He, Who exists outside of space and time, created and entered into our reality.
For 36 years, I considered myself "gay." I avoided making changes I knew were necessary, even though I said a lot of the right things in public. I was living in a fantasyland constructed by my cowardice, a self-indulgent unreality to shield me from the grueling business of recovery. Today, I feel called and confident to look past the distracting beauty of surfaces — for so long, the primary preoccupation of my life — to the eternal truths and mysteries beyond them. This is no easy feat, especially for a recovering homosexual with expensive taste. But there is no other option.
The one true Faith we share isn't a series of pretty sounds and textures to be admired and then discarded when fashions change. When you say the prayers, you have to know what they mean. I hired a Latin tutor a few months ago. I intend to be fluent in the language of the Church within a few years — precisely so I can reach in and engage with the substance. Our Faith is, at its heart, a plot: the story of Jesus Christ, His sacrifice and His Resurrection. Ours is the only story whose conclusion readers are blessed with ahead of time, so they don't need to panic about who lives and who dies. We already know it has a happy and just ending. This also, of course, makes it immune to spoilers — which is probably for the best.
As I apply myself faithfully and diligently to the work of recovery; every crooked, every wretched and every poisoned and dead thing in my life accordingly shows signs of renewal and regrowth. All is being returned to its rightful place and proper condition. And now that I can see how ripple effects from unchecked early trauma first created disordered urges, which ultimately resulted in patterns of self-sabotage and sin, I'm relaxed about making a few changes. And I think, "No wonder I feel disorientated." Until June of last year, I'm not totally sure I was even alive. Pray for me?