An Intimate Reflection on Homosexuality and Catholicism
By Melinda Selmys
Our Sunday Visitor Press, 2009
240 pages, $15.95
To order: (800) 348-2440
Melinda Selmys’ new book, Sexual Authenticity, is simultaneously a confession, a reflection, an apologia, and a literary tour de force. It is a confession of her longtime lesbian relationship, her adoption of atheism, nihilism and rationalism, and her flirtation with suicide.
To say that it was not easy to empty herself of these attachments would be an understatement. It is a reflection that is penetrating, insightful and often surprisingly wise. It is an apologia for the truth and the reasonableness of Catholic teaching. Finally, it is a literary romp that swings unpredictably from sarcasm to satire, from black humor to passionate poetry. But in the final analysis, she empties herself of the homosexual manifesto and drinks in John Paul II’s theology of the body.
If one is looking to highlight the memorable passages in Sexual Authenticity, one may soon find oneself highlighting the entire book. It would be prosaic to say that the heterosexual tradition is the cause of homosexual discontent and must continue to be attacked until that discontent disappears. Selmys says it much more vividly: “The dead horse of heteropatriarchy is still being flogged because the people flogging it believe that its death will bring about a brave new world — and as the brave new world is not here, the horse must not be dead.” Another nugget: “Ten percent of us were gay, and God help us if we didn’t get it figured out before we signed up for a life of self-delusion and internalized homophobia that would eat like a corrosive acid at the foundations of our psyche.”
Given the intensely imaginative spins she gives to her thought, Selmys may leave many of her readers gasping: Has she gone overboard? Should she go a little easier on the hyperbole?
The author knows what she is doing and asks her readers for forgiveness. She looks forward to writing a gentler second edition. This is ingratiating, and many a reader will find it easy to forgive her for the roller coaster of literary excitement she has given them. Moreover, it is easy to like a girl of 18 who, as a freshman at Queen’s University in Canada, attends a lecture on sex by Sue Johanson and is scandalized because this guru of sexology does not have a single intelligent thing to say on the subject. On the other hand, she finds that John Paul’s theology of the body and his Love and Responsibility “demonstrate a deeply mature, thoughtful, and often surprisingly frank understanding of sex.”
Her chapter on the “Family” is particularly insightful. Many homosexuals leave their families and create a family among their peers because that is the family they have chosen. But it does not work, Selmys explains, no matter how many superficial things they have in common, because, unlike the traditional family, it lacks “unconditional love.”
This is a valuable work, though some readers, having certain expectations about a book that Our Sunday Visitor Press publishes, may be taken aback by some of its graphic content.
Selmys provides a deeply personal revelation of herself. The power of her personality is present on every page. At the same time, she often exhibits a youthful exuberance and a mind that is so restless that it sometimes seems like a roulette wheel spinning its chips to who knows where. Her temper appears to be more suitable for fiction, and we may see her name on a novel in the near future.
Now married (to a man), with four children, Selmys’ story may seem to have a happy outcome. No doubt she does not think this way, and more than anything else, she would prefer the prayers of her readers for her family: that it be true to its mission and each member achieve personal authenticity.
Donald DeMarco is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario.