Part 1 spans from my hesitant coming out to my best friend in high school, to a decade and a half of "out and proud" gay living, to meeting a woman named Theresa through a Catholic blog on same-sex attraction.
In March 2007 I had a spare ticket to Tafelmusik's performance of the St John Passion and offered it to the members of an informal Catholic reading group, first-come-first-served. It took me a moment to make the connection when Theresa, who I hadn't previously realized belonged to the group, phoned to claim the ticket.
She recalls that as we sat together in the balcony at Trinity-St Paul's she was seized by a wish that I would put my arm around her--though that would be crazy, because we'd only just met in person a few weeks earlier. Meanwhile, I myself had an impulse to put my arm around her--but how forward would that have been! So I didn't.
At the end of the concert, I did ask her if she would go for coffee with me, but she said it was getting late and we should get together some other time. It turns out she hadn't been keeping up with her regular evening prayers, so she was worried she would miss them again if she stayed out. If she'd had her wits about her at that moment, she would have asked me to join her in those prayers or at least been clearer that her suggestion to go out some other time wasn't just a polite way of turning me down.
Ambivalent as I was about getting involved with a woman, I wasn't about to go further out on a limb by asking her again for anything that could be construed as a date. I figured that she wanted to be just friends. Wrong! But she was uncertain how I felt towards women and, at least partly out of a conviction that not everyone who leaves a gay lifestyle is going to find himself attracted to women, decided for the time being to tread lightly.
Months passed, during which Theresa and I saw each other occasionally. Meanwhile, I was struggling with anxiety, which led me to think I might benefit from another round of therapy.
I'd had individual therapy while I was studying in London, England. Still upset that my parents had tried to pry me away from my gay identity, I was adamant that the therapist I chose would not try to "cure" me of homosexuality. Indeed my therapist appeared not to be trying anything of the kind, though I would sometimes be left disconcerted by a particularly acute observation of his and would wonder how sound my fundamental understanding of my sexuality really was. In any case, our sessions helped bring some measure of insight and integration to a life in turmoil, and it distressed me when they came to an end as I finished my thesis and returned to Canada.
During my first years back in Toronto, I attended a weekly insight-oriented therapy group, led by a psychiatrist, whose members were dealing with a wide range of issues. By this time I was a serious Christian and no longer averse to the idea of orientation change, but neither did I pursue it actively as a goal in group or, for that matter, talk much there about sexuality. I eventually decided to "graduate" from the group, having found it useful in its own way, but by 2008 it was becoming clear in hindsight that group therapy had not quite hit the nail on the head.
Courage men's retreat in January 2008 introduced me to the work of Conrad Baars, a Catholic psychiatrist who
placed a Freudian concept of repression in the context of Thomas
Aquinas's understanding of persons as having appetites, intellect, and
will. Somewhere here was the key to bringing emotion and reason into greater harmony. I began to look for a therapist, and only an orthodox Catholic would do.
In March 2008, I celebrated my birthday by going for Chinese food with several friends including Theresa and my buddy Vern from my old Baptist church. The three of us then headed from the restaurant westwards towards St Patrick's Church, where we were to hear a Tallis Choir concert. As we walked along Dundas, we passed a psychic shop. Theresa and I traded glances and immediately launched into saying the St Michael Prayer in unison. Dear Vern made a remark to me about how Theresa was a really good friend.
Later that month I began seeing my current therapist, a Catholic psychologist with a largely Freudian approach. In his view, homosexuality is a defence against castration anxiety. That is, in the normal developmental pathway, a young boy goes through an Oedipal drama of seeing his father as a dangerous rival for his mother's attentions. If the father-son bond is healthy, the boy gets over this anxiety by learning to identify with his father; otherwise, the boy may deal with his anxiety by turning the father figure into a love object.
Well, I've seen my share of theories about the origin of homosexuality, and I didn't have any particular attachment to this one, but I was prepared to work with it, so my therapist and I carried on.
For several months, nothing much seemed to be happening within the therapeutic relationship, and then quite abruptly some new anxiety emerged into consciousness, provoked in particular by my encounters with Theresa, with whom I'd been spending a lot of time since the summer.
This, according to my therapist's interpretation, was the Oedipal fantasy coming to be experienced directly instead of through the disguised form of homosexual desire. I found myself attracted to women in the usual way, and though at first this was very alarming, in short order the acute anxiety subsided.
My prayer life contributed to resolving the crisis, I'm convinced. Before or after my session with my therapist, I would often spend time praying the Rosary at the Cathedral. On most weekday afternoons there is an opportunity for Eucharistic Adoration. For non-Catholic readers, this is the practice of praying in front of a consecrated host (that is, a Communion wafer), which we believe is actually Jesus, in a special decorated stand called a monstrance. I can't articulate what went on as I basked in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord, but somehow I found healing for wounds I had carried since early childhood.
And I fell in love with Theresa.
Similarly to when I was being drawn into the Catholic Church, I moved very rapidly with her once the time was ripe. On our first official date, at a parish pub night in November, our friend Ann took this picture and then said, "Oh, you look really good together--you should get married and have kids." To which Theresa answered, "Okay!" and I said mildly, "We'll think about it."
The night next I phoned her to make sure she knew I was indeed thinking about it.