‘The love that dare not speak its name.’—Oscar Wilde
A quarter century ago, in a conversation with a University officer about the role of Notre Dame Magazine and its editorial philosophy, I was told that any topic was fair game—except homosexuality. The topic is no longer taboo, and during the past two decades the magazine occasionally has dealt with homosexuality on its pages, and it has always incited a heated reaction. Some say the magazine is too timid in its treatment of the subject; others say this magazine is no place to discuss such matters.
In all this time—until now—we’ve never had an openly gay person write a piece for the magazine about his or her sexual orientation. I recall only a few stories submitted by openly gay alumni about homosexual-related topics in the nine years I’ve been editor, and these didn’t see print simply because they didn’t meet the magazine’s standards in terms of writing quality, style or approach. Of course, we didn’t go looking for gay alumni to write for us either—until now.
In some ways, that omission is probably akin to running stories about the African-American experience without letting African Americans speak for themselves. So we thought it time, probably past time, to take on the subject more directly and to open our pages to those who can speak with personal authority on the topic. It’s important to move stories beyond the hypothetical, conceptual and theoretical and give them a real, human face.
Homosexuality is still a subject that makes many people uncomfortable. It is also a fascinatingly rich subject that gets into human nature, love and sexual attraction; brings together science, psychology, sociology and religion; that involves family, morality and cultural mores; that raises questions of Catholic doctrine and the individual’s conscience. It is a complex subject from an intellectual point of view and yet is so emotionally charged that reasonable discourse is often jeopardized.
Of course, we have not presented here the final word on the topic. We have done what we always do—report what’s really happening on campus, let members of the Notre Dame family tell their stories, provide the forum for an engaging exchange of ideas, thoughts, beliefs and experiences in order to help us all understand our world, each other and ourselves better. Some issues divide us. Often these are the very ones that most deserve an airing. Often these are the very ones that come in shades of gray, defying black-and-white answers.
Sometimes it’s okay to explore the questions without arriving at absolute certainty. Sometimes the hope is simply to get people to listen and think about things in a way they haven’t before. Sometimes it’s right to speak of a love that dares to discomfort us.