Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Letter to a Friend

(A friend commented that "Born This Way" is a crutch, birth certificates say "baby boy" or "baby girl" not "baby gay."  This is my response.)

Born This Way vs. Choice

The usual question is, “When did you choose to be heterosexual?”  If you did choose, then maybe you are not a heterosexual as you think.  Actually, research would say that most of us are not as heterosexual or homosexual as we think.  Kinsey would tell us that, for the most part, we all fall somewhere in the middle.  Most of us are primarily heterosexual or homosexual, but very few of us are totally one or the other.  Our society is stuck in this dichotomy and it tends to rub off on us.
Could I choose to be heterosexual?  I could choose to ACT heterosexual.  I could choose to date women.  I could choose to go through the motions of being heterosexual.  I could have gotten married.  I could have fathered children.  (I have many friends who are/were married and also have children.)  Does that make me heterosexual?  In some circles, yes it does.  Some circles will narrowly define homosexuality as solely what one does with ones genitals.
I find that definition, that our sexuality is based purely on what we do with our genitals, to be demeaning.  My relationship with my partner is more than just sex.  I would hope your relationship with your wife is more than just sex.  Generally, relationships that are based on purely sex don’t last.  Relationships have to do with love, companionship, care, and sacrifice.  We can look at many straight and gay relationships where this is present and these relationships have true staying power.  (I was able to celebrate a 50th anniversary with a gay couple.  They were bucking societal norms for a long time!  Their relationship has weathered things that most straight couples cannot comprehend.)  I am sure we can also find relationships, both gay and straight, that appeared doomed from the start.  A relationship is a relationship:  whether it is gay or straight has less to do with its longevity than the people who comprise the relationship.
Now, again, if we ask, “When did you choose to be gay?”  I would have to say, “Never.”  But if we modify the question to, “When did you choose to acknowledge that you are attracted to men,” then I have to give you several answers.  There really was not one day.  There was a FINAL coming out to myself, but it was not a “Eureka” moment.
For all of my life, I knew that I was different.  I was not like everyone else.  Did my parents do anything to me to make me this way?  I don’t know.  And, frankly, I don’t care.  I believe my parents did the best they could.  (As I believe you are with your children.)  And I do not think they did a bad job, I like the way I turned out!  I was never into football.  (But there are gay football players.)  I was never into baseball.  (But there are gay baseball players.)  I got along with girls as friends but I also had male friends.  I was more cerebral than most, but that doesn’t make me gay.
I do remember looking at the Sears catalog being fascinated with the men’s underwear ads.  I do remember not being so interested in the bra ads.  I remember the bulges in the men’s jumpsuits while watching Star Trek.  I remember thinking that women in leotards looked weird.  I remember (in detail) one of the first men I saw naked when I was around 5 year old.  (My father would never think of being seen naked.  I actually did not see my father naked until I was in my 30’s.)  When looking at my brother’s Hustler magazines, I remember being much more attracted to the naked men in the pictorials than the women.
So, is there anything that “made me gay?”  Is there anything that could have/should have been done that would have “made me straight?”  I can’t think of any.  I would pray that I would be like everyone else.  I would pray that God would provide a girlfriend.  I would pray that I could find someone and get married and make babies and live “happily ever after.”  I would pray and I would try and I would tell myself that everything that I was feeling was wrong.
I would date.  I tried to convince myself that I was in love.  I would try to figure out want I was doing so that I could do the right thing.  It was all weird!  I didn’t really want to make-out with girls, it sounded boring to me.  I did not understand what everyone else was talking about.  I had kissed girls, I even got aroused while kissing girls, but it just did not feel right, natural.  When I lost my virginity, I was drunk.  And it was a disaster.  And it didn’t suddenly make me straight.  I had sex with another woman and it didn’t make me straight.  I dated and just didn’t know what to do.  I didn’t get the signals.
I eventually decided that I was destined to be alone.  Relationships with women never seemed to work and, of course, God didn’t want me to be gay, so I would have to live alone.  I bought a house.  I bought furniture.  I bought dishes.  I decided that there was no way God was going to give me a wife so I should learn to live alone.
Now this God question needs to be addressed:  What was I to think when I prayed for the feelings to go away and they do not?  Part of me questioned if God cared about me.  I am praying and God is doing nothing; so God must not care.  Part of me questioned if I was being too pushy; maybe the right person is just not “ready” yet.  Part of me wondered if God was cruel, giving me these feeling and then saying, “Naughty, naughty!!”  I truly had to wonder, if God did not want me this way, why did God make me this way?  It took a lot for me not to give up on God, but I had always been taught that God loved me and God did not make junk.  So I was loved and not junk.  But I was going to have to spend my life sad, depressed, and alone?  What kind of loving parent would want that for their children?  The whole “Pray the Gay Away” thinking is definitely “crazy-making.”
The finally deciding to “come out to myself” moment happened when I was at Stony Lake.  I was cleaning the White House when a friend of mine said, “Where is a broom?”  I said, “In the closet.”  And I would swear he said, “That is not the only thing in the closet around here.” 
Well, I was pissed! HOW DARE HE SAY THAT!  Then I started thinking:  If I am fooling no one else, why am I trying to fool myself?  And that was my “choice point.” 
Of course, this had more implications than just deciding that I really was attracted to men.  I was suddenly dealing with the ELCA polity of being gay but not doing anything about it.  I could still be an ELCA pastor; I would just continue to be lonely and depressed.  I could lie to the congregation but that just did not feel authentic to me.  I could not tell people to trust in God’s wonderful creation of each person while hiding such a huge part of who I was.  So in deciding to come out, I was choosing to lose my call, lose my insurance, lose my standing in the church.  I was risking my home.  Risking my car.  Risking my family.  Risking my friends.  Some may think that coming out is an act of “throwing their sin in our faces,” but actually, it is quite an act of courage.  I could have said nothing at church, but I probably would have ended up leaving the ministry instead of just leaving the church, because you cannot hide that much of yourself and still be effective.
Many in the congregation supported me.  Some were angry that I was not staying around to fight an unfair rule.  Some people who normally would come out the center aisle started to go out the side doors so as to avoid shaking my hand.  (After three years of being in a congregation, you get to know people’s habits.)  The church, which normally is a place of support, suddenly became a part of the “problem” which is a very scary place to be.
So the question becomes:  Why would I “choose” this?
Why would I choose to lose my home, friends, family, and credit rating?  Why would I choose to have people hate me just because I share my life with a guy?  Why would I choose to (quite literally) place my life and livelihood at risk when I could just choose to have sex with women?  Yeah, doesn’t make sense to me, either.
That is because being gay is not a choice.  Living life with integrity is a choice.  Not placing some woman in the situation for being “instead of” is a choice.  (I think that “settling” for anyone in a marriage is cruel.  And marrying a woman that I didn’t truly love and desire is “settling.”  Marrying a woman just to “make me straight” is no reason to get married.  Would you want either of your daughters to marry a guy just because he HOPED she would make him straight?)  Choosing to celebrate your sexuality as a gift given by God is a choice.
I was born this way.  There is no other way I can think of it.


Will J said...

Well done.

Anonymous said...

Well said. I have struggled with gay feelings since college, I have kept them hidden to make things "easier". Your thoughts about God and gays and the "why would I chose this" dilemma were spot on.