“Why celibacy?” is a natural first question people ask when they find out a bit more about our relationship. So we thought we’d spend some time talking about why we’ve chosen this route.
Many people encourage LGBT Christians to live a celibate life based on the idea that gay sex is something that absolutely, positively, and without a doubt must be avoided at all costs. Within these circles, there is a lot of talk about what constitutes sex and very little talk about what constitutes celibacy. To these people, celibacy is understood as the absence of sex. We’ll spend some more time talking about what we think celibacy is in a future post; but, for now, we will say that we resonate very much with Eve Tushnet, who says that you cannot have a vocation of “No”.
As for us, we both have felt called to celibacy for some years. Sarah started to explore the possibilities of celibacy around the age of 19 as Sarah witnessed the profound ways nuns loved and served the world. The way nuns lived in the world offered a different pathway to holiness than the paths associated with marriage. Lindsey came to the idea of celibacy a bit later, around the age of 25. For Lindsey, exploring celibacy began as a way to integrate faith and sexuality. Yet, a lot of talk on these topics seemed detached from the practical experience of daily life, so Lindsey sought out many different kinds of people living celibate lives. Watching people live out celibacy challenged Lindsey to cultivate a life in which prayer facilitated hospitality, hospitality created connection, and connection empowered people to come together and share life. While both of us explored the possibility that we might have a religious vocation (i.e. living in a monastic community), we both felt that God was not asking either one of us to commit our lives to a specific religious community.
We are not coming to celibacy from the place that we are afraid and have never experienced the other side of sexually active relationships. And we are not coming to celibacy from a place that regards LGBT sexual activity as the unforgivable sin. We’re unique in that both of us have past experience with sexually active relationships. Sarah does not bemoan past relationships that have included sexual activity because these relationships taught Sarah a lot. From Sarah’s vantage point, it is partly due to the fact that Sarah has experienced such relationships that Sarah came to discover the vocation of celibacy. Sarah hopes to write more on this in the future. Lindsey’s experience of sexually active relationships came more from the challenges associated with drawing “the line” about which forms of intimacy are appropriate. In Lindsey’s view, so much of the material on sexual ethics comes from heteronormative situations where Lindsey has a natural struggle appropriating the existing material on sexual ethics to the particulars of LGBT relationships. We both appreciate learning that extending grace to oneself and others in all areas of life is an essential part of growing in Christ. Grace is a critical touchstone of the Christian faith; and, we’ve found that extending grace is tightly linked to offering hospitality to others.
Together, we have created a space where we can explore celibacy as a couple. As individuals, we have had chances to visit many different celibate communities. Every community we have visited over the years is different. We enjoy trading stories (of all kinds!) with each other. We naturally talk about what we have learned from different celibate communities and frequently discuss how to cultivate our shared vocation to celibacy.
To sum up, the answer to the question “Why celibacy?” boils down to the statement that we feel God is asking us to live our lives in this way. We are grateful for the ways that God continues to teach us about celibacy and look forward to continuing to explore our vocation together.
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