Title: Coming Out Catholic
Author Name & Publisher: Alex Dunkin (Torquere Press/Prizm Books)
Publication Date: May 27, 2015
Like all good Catholic boys I care what Jesus thinks. Jesus the man, and the faith. Following him make me happy. There’s just one issue… I think I’m gay. Well, it’s hard to be sure going to an all-boys school. It could be simply liking what I know and really, oh so very, liking what I see all day, guys. Being gay and Catholic can’t possible work together. Can it?
Coming Out Catholic follows a year in the life of a private Catholic school student as he comes to terms with his sexuality. Armed with sarcasm and his best friend Mark, he prepares to take on the school thug and the awkward social encounters plaguing his late teenage years.
Confronting himself and his family are just the beginning of his trials. He learns he must find solace with his sexual desires without surrendering any of his faith. He loves both too much but when the time comes he will have to know which one he has to give up or prepare to succumb to a life of denial.
Here I am, on my knees in front of this man. Anyone would think that by sixteen this act would come naturally to me now, but it doesn’t. I’m a bit bothered by the submission implied by my position, but I’m told this is what makes the experience so powerful. My knees ache, my back grows stiff from the monotonously repetitious back-and-forth movement, and all for this one half-naked man in front of me. I look up at him, try to make eye-contact, but his face is averted. Everyone says that I’m supposed to get something amazing out of this too, but I never feel it. All I feel is the wood I kneel upon. Seriously, who uses so much wood when building a place like this? There’s not even a cushion. God, it hurts more now. When I have my own place one day, every room will be carpeted, no question about it. Lots of carpet and fine rugs to soften the place. No wood.
I’m over it now; I just want it to be over. I can’t pull out now though, because people will talk. I know my reputation isn’t a good one, but I can’t afford for it to get worse. I keep rocking back and forth, hoping it will be done soon. I can tell it won’t be long now from the rising vocals – not a word I can decipher but still so full of meaning. I can feel the tension growing, feel something rising up within. Wait for it. Almost there. I forget the pain that infuses my knees with the thought that it is close to over. Almost there… at last. I ready my tongue in preparation; taste the life essence from the flesh of my savior in my mouth. I swallow it quickly, feeling dirty.
The last echo dies from the room, and then: “Amen.”
And then it’s my turn. “Amen.”
Thank God that’s over. I hate communion at the best of times, and it’s even worse at school. Sure, it’s fun to mock and fool around with Father Donovan in religious education classes, but his sermons leave a bad taste in my mouth. It doesn’t make me want to purge my sins, just my breakfast. But I’m glad now that I can dust off my pants and wander back into class to daydream of a world outside of my own, and usually about my classmates. Our school is all boys, so understandably most of my close friends are guys and I’m more comfortable with the thought of interacting with members of my sex, but in the dreaming something else lingers in the back of my mind. Something strange and enticing tickles the back of my mind and hijacks my dream onto awkward yet exhilarating sexual encounters with guys from my class. I’m not sure if that’s normal. I haven’t spent much time around girls to see if they would venture into the daydreams just as naturally as the guys do.
The proper teachers quickly usher us onto our next class. By ‘proper’ I mean they actually went to university and studied education to learn how to teach from someone other than God. Not that I’ve turned apostate – I keep faith in his wisdom and his grace – but I can’t bring myself to believe that a loving God intended his Word to be exactly like how the priests preach it. Until they iron out the crinkles in the fine print in the Bible I think I might listen to the actual biology teacher who knows about evolution, even though I’m not sure I understand it myself, but look how Mark’s short blonde spikes always seem to be in the same place every day. And I’m happy to believe my physics teacher when he tells me about the Big Bang, although Mark’s hair is always perfect, never a hair out of place. Then there are his striking blue eyes, bright to the point of glowing. And he always smells so good. He’s like one of the those plants I am sure the teacher is talking about now, that looks beautiful from a distance, luring in unsuspecting prey, and then capturing them as soon as they get too close, digesting them slowly. What was I talking about again before I got side-tracked… oh yeah. I’m going to hell. At least that’s the deal according to the priestly teachings. And so maybe that’s the best way to describe Mark, a beautiful trap and a hell of a best friend. The more time I spend with him the more my feelings towards boys are confirmed, but I couldn’t allow myself to fall into a trap that meant losing my friends, my family, my beliefs… my entire life.
I’m in the tenth grade now and these feelings have been growing (I like to think of it as blossoming) for quite some time. My feelings towards other guys, I mean. I think I like guys, and in a special kind of way. These feelings excite me, but they scare me more, and I don’t think I can follow through with them. The faith I was raised in prevents me from even considering the possibility that I might like guys. How can I live a good Catholic life, and have a family and children, and be accepted into heaven if I like guys?
Most boys my age constantly think and talk just about sex, and in an all-boys college there’s plenty of opportunity to share stories. I have heard some wonderfully graphic tales about their conquests, who pandered to the every sexual desire of a few of the guys in my class. And while I was vaguely aware most of it was boasting to cover that their first, three-second sexual encounter still blew their pubescent minds but still left them feeling inadequate, I’m honestly in no position to judge. I’ve never had sex, let alone good sex.
Alex is a PhD candidate in language and linguistics at the University of South Australia focusing on Italian literature and initiating the movement of cannibale literature into a new cultural space. He has previously worked as a journalist for LGBT publications including blaze magazine and Gay News Network and writes in a volunteer capacity as an arts critic for glamadelaide.com.au. His creative publication history includes the short stories Inside Out and A Threepence Remaining published with Gay E-Books and poems selected for publication in the Piping Shrike anthology series. He has been awarded the Youth Prize in the Mardi Gras Literature Competition and received High Commendations in numerous other competitions.