Commentary
1:31 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

Neither A 'Sissy' Nor A Saint: An Offer Of Priesthood Prompts A Coming Out

Originally published on Fri August 22, 2014 5:09 pm

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And now a story about a spiritual matchup - one that wasn't quite the right fit.

MICHAEL ARCENEAUX: I used to think Jesus and I were BFF's, but in hindsight we were more like Whitney and Bobby - dynamic together but not especially healthy for one another.

SIEGEL: Writer Michael Arceneaux grew up Catholic in Houston.

ARCENEAUX: My mom taught me about using faith as a place of solace, given that we lived in a home that was a mixed cocktail of rage, substance abuse and depression. Fortunately I also learned how to use religion as a crutch. Now I knew boys made me giddier than girls by the time I was eating Happy Meals. But that knowledge spurred misery. I'm a gay black man from the South. There's a uniqueness there given the hyper masculinity society forces upon black men.

I couldn't be a sissy, so I tried to act like a saint to suppress my urges. I was great at my act, so much so that the priest asked me to consider the priesthood when I was 20 during a routine confession - questions about the role Jesus plays in my life, with little reminders that Catholicism could use more people of color. After acing the impromptu Q and A segment I'm then told, I see a priest in you.

That conversation forced an internal debate. Would I become the kind of man everyone around me says God wants me to be, or would I be a man made by his own definition? No matter the sales pitch, there was no way I was going to join the priesthood. I just don't believe in a sexless life. No shade to team chastity.

But what this conversation showed me was that I used spirituality as a tool for suppression, and if I continued to do so, I'd lead a life that wasn't my calling. Sure, it would be an easier life. I could say no to the priesthood, but I could say yes to a wife, some kids, and we can go to church, and I'd make everyone, especially my mama, happy. But I would be chasing a lie for the rest of my life and that ultimately felt to taxing. It sounds like a line from, like, a terrible Instagram word meme, but if you can't love me for who I am then you really don't love me at all.

Jesus and I these days - we have a relationship similar to Beyonce's with the former members of Destiny's Child - no hard feelings, but I'm not going to your birthday party. That may still disappoint some people in my life, but God-giveth free will.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAY MY NAME")

DESTINY'S CHILD: Say my name, say my name. You acting kind of shady, ain't callin' me baby. Why the sudden change.

SIEGEL: Michael Arceneaux lives in New York, where he writes regularly for Ebony. He shared his story as part of our series on men's lives.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SAY MY NAME")

DESTINY'S CHILD: Say my name, say my name. You acting kind of shady, ain't callin' me baby. Why the sudden change. Say my name, say my name. If no one is around you say, baby I love you. If you ain't runnin' game. Say my name, say my name. You acting kind of shady, ain't callin' me baby. Betta say my name.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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