William Shakespeare wrote the following poignant and perpetually intriguing question in his play Romeo and Juliet:

What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

The famous question by Juliet, who rejects the age old feud between her family and the family of her new found love, is usually interpreted as: what matters is what something is, not what it is named or called. For numerous years I have thought about this essential question. Is the essence of something more important than the name by which it is known? 

A single object can be known by numerous names in various languages and yet it remains the same object.  A person can have many attributes, statuses and roles and yet he or she is the same person. I have a particular and personal reason for being interested in this question.   

My last name is Partykevich** – which in Ukrainian, where my grandfather was born – is rendered as Партикевич.  However, this is not our ancestral name.  My grandfather changed his last name by one letter to make it “more Ukrainian”. Our ancestral last name used to be Partakevich and my grandfather changed his last name by one letter. The letter – the “a” became a “y”.  The “a” letter was too Belarusian sounding for him, and so to make it “more Ukrainian” he changed it to a “y” or in Ukrainian, the letter is “и”.

I can hardly judge my grandfather.  He lived in a very difficult time period.  He first fought in the Tsarist Russian army as a conscript, and then he enlisted in the forces to liberate Ukraine from foreign domination in the early twentieth century. It was a time of the flourishing of Ukrainian culture and language after a long period of dormition under hostile domination. To change his name, even by one letter, was a symbolic act of liberation and defiance. It was an act of joining the cause. However, no matter what my grandfather changed his name to, he was the same person who would have the same fate.  For no matter what you call yourself, you are who you are.

A few years ago, someone asked me when did I become a homosexual? At birth, I said, that is how God made me.  I turned the question back to this presumably heterosexual man and asked him, when did he decide to be straight?  You could see the light bulb going off in his head. I know that it is a common myth that LGBT people choose their sexual orientation at some time in their life.  Still others want to believe that gay people are the tragic results of an act of sexual molestation or a distant parent. This is overwhelmingly not the case. Just as humans do not choose their gender, people do not choose their sexual orientation or identity.

And so no matter what I call myself or what term or label I use to identify myself, I can’t truly change who I am. There have been numerous times in my life when I choose not to reveal my sexual orientation, whether out of fear for my life, or my position in the Church or my occupation, or even out of some misguided shame for who God made me to be. But even in those troubling times, I was still the same person, a man who happens to be gay. And so even though I have been called by many names, the truth remains that:

I was born a gay male. 

I was a gay male when I was baptized, chrismated and first communed.

I was a gay male when I went to confession for the first time.

I was a gay male when I entered the Seminary.

I was a gay male when I was ordained to the deaconate and priesthood.

I was a gay male when I tried to faithfully serve the parishes to which I assigned.

I am a gay male who has listened to the voice of God, the voice that has encouraged me to rejoice in His creation and accept His gift of my sexuality as well as the capacity to love.

I am a gay male who tries to live honestly and openly, in awe of God’s creation, pleading to live a life of compassion and forgiveness.

 

One can deny the Creator and/or His creation. Call and label it what you will.  But the diversity of creation, like a rose, still smells as sweet.

 

**The transliteration in English of my last name was done by my father when he came to the United States.  Technically it should be written in English as Partykevych since the fifth letter and the ninth letter are the same letter in Ukrainian.

Add A Comment