My dear friends, if you don’t mind, and if you have the time, I’d like to chat with you for a moment. Turning points like this confront us in life from time to time and how we handle—or don’t handle—them can often shape the course of things to come in ways we seldom foresee. It may be that with the words I say here I will burn every single bridge of fellowship that’s been built during my brief life. I’m grateful that probably won’t be the case but, even if it were, it would be a small price to pay for the joy of being finally, truly honest about who and what I am.
What I’m about to discuss is no great secret and, in fact, I strove to be forthright about where I was—spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally—any time someone cared enough to inquire. It’s never easy asking someone deeply personal questions and it’s been my belief that if someone is bold enough to ask, I ought to be bold enough to answer. But first, and before anything else, I want you all to know something: I love you. The people with whom a man shares his life are his true treasure and I’m deeply grateful to have so many wonderful, generous, and kind people who I can call friends. It certainly makes what I have to say that much easier.
This letter is a lot of things. It’s difficult, that’s for sure. For many, it might be an utter shock. Some of you may have been expecting it for quite some time. It’s the culmination of exhaustive self-examination, often-tearful prayer and meditation, and invaluable counsel from many dear people, some of whom I might never meet face to face. To certain people, it’s an apology; to others, an admonition; to others still, an invitation. Parts of it are crow, which I will be more than happy to eat. This is a letter to anyone, and to everyone. That said, it is, in certain respects, written to very specific people, who will hopefully know who they are. I plead your grace and your understanding as it took a very, very long time to arrive where I am and it’s quite possible I told you something two years, a year, or six months ago that contradicts what I have to say now. Again, I will munch on that crow.
The simple, undeniable truth is that I am gay. Not only am I now, but I have always been and, to the best of my knowledge, always will be gay. This is the first time I’ve ever parsed it that way as, until fairly recently, “same-sex attraction” or “homosexual tendencies” were always dragons to be slain. “Gay” is, in certain aspects, anomalous to our era in history and a label that is still at an imperfect stage in its evolution. What I mean by saying I’m gay is that for reasons I don’t understand and will likely never know, I am sexually attracted to men in much the way that straight men are attracted to women. This might well be a deal-breaker for some of you—maybe you’ll never speak to me again. I do encourage everyone to keep an open mind but that’s obviously a personal prerogative and I’ll do my best to be gracious toward any who choose otherwise. For the rest, I invite you to hear my story, which I will share over the course of this letter, in the hope that perhaps you will know me better.
In any case, I don’t know why I’m gay. I certainly didn’t ask to be. Over the years, I’ve heard every theory under the sun: daddy issues, recessive genetics, “something in the water,” lack of male role models, demonic possession, et fucking cetera. More important though is the fact that I no longer care “why.” After all, knowing “why” won’t change a thing. I’ll still almost certainly be gay.
It’s perhaps somewhat unfortunate that in addition to a sexual orientation, the term “gay” has come to denote a cultural affiliation as well, which is really just a fancy way to say “a stereotype.” Most will already know I don’t necessarily fit the bill of the gay stereotype, and I posit that it’s primarily an outgrowth of a somewhat sexually squeamish, ill-informed, and repressive culture that there’s an entire population of people who identify themselves foremost by their sexuality. That’s unfortunate, since I feel like there’s a lot more to me than just my sexual orientation. All that said, I’m obviously very grateful to and for the gay rights movement, since I no longer have to worry too much about being lynched, shot, or firebombed for being a degenerate.
Because Americans in general, and the people I grew up around in particular, are so uncomfortable with meaningful discussion of sexual matters, I basically had to figure things out on my own, which is challenging for a pubescent boy. It’s one thing for worthwhile discussion of human sexuality to be repressed, but quite another when even the bits and morsels that did make it into my ears didn’t match what I was myself experiencing. And while thoughtful discussion of heterosexuality was largely taboo, “discussion” of homosexuality certainly was not. Saying someone or something was “gay” was an insult, or so thought my high school classmates. Homosexuality was an insidious plot to destroy the Church and the United States, or so the “godly” people said. Gay men were Satan’s attack dogs, with the lowest, darkest, hottest, and most excruciatingly desolate pits in Hell reserved for them, or so a pastor or two said. Imagine how it felt to be sitting in the pew at church and be secretly terrified that the wrath of God was hovering mere inches from my head, stayed only by his rapidly-dwindling mercy. A few of you might be able to imagine that quite well since you’ve been there (or are there) yourself. It is the fault of gays, as we’re led to believe, that San Francisco was destroyed by an earthquake and fire in 1906, that New Orleans was inundated by Hurricane Katrina, and that the polar ice caps are melting at an alarming rate. I suppose Colorado Springs was plagued by wildfires because of Ted Haggard, but it seems the Evangelical intelligentsia is still fleshing out a consensus on that one.
Through happenstance I’ve discussed before, I wound up at ORU in Tulsa. That was quite some time after my family had caught me looking at gay porn and an equally long time after an enduring fear had been planted in me that if I didn’t find a way to escape the fact I was gay (or at least suppress it), then there was little hope for me, either in this life or the next. I sought relationships with women in college but none went anywhere. That really boiled down to the fact that I lacked a fundamental disposition to be romantically attracted to women and I pursued those relationships because the culture surrounding me said I was supposed to, with anything else being potentially damning. While I enjoy women as friendly company and while many of my closest friends are women, it would be profoundly unfair to any lady for me to pretend to be attracted to her in a heteronormative way simply to satisfy some traditionalist view of acceptable intimacy.
After returning home last year once I’d finished college, I had a lot of time to think. One day late this past summer in particular, I was in the middle of writing something, as I often am, when I started thinking about the future, as I often do. I was pulled once more into thoughts about marriage and kids and then began stressing about the fact that, try as I have, I cannot feel any sort of sustained romantic attraction to a woman–a bit of a necessity if a man hopes to marry one. In the middle of wondering how on Earth I was going to change my sexual attractions to meet the cultural and familial expectations heaped on me, a question popped into my head: “Why do you care?” Another: “Why does it matter to you?” Peretti aficionados might call those demon’s doing, but they really hit home and might even have constituted an epiphany. I stopped for several minutes, quieted my mind, and just thought about it for a bit. Finally, after several halting starts, I said aloud, “I… don’t care.” In fact, I have never cared. It’s never once mattered to me of my own volition, and the only reason it did matter was because other people said it did and should. People warned me that God would send me to hell if I didn’t fight to be cured of my homosexual desires with these people tending to be authority figures who held coercive power over me and who I feared and/or respected to varying degrees.
In a lot of ways, it would have been helpful if the Lord had been a little more forthright concerning how He really felt about sex between committed gay couples, on which topic Scripture is silent. That is, of course, excepting the Levitical Code, which no one follows save for the Haredim. Committed, long-term, consensual same-sex relationships between social equals were essentially nonexistent in Antiquity, both practically and conceptually. What the Bible specifically condemns in the handful of passages that mention “homosexuality” are, as John Shore has said, “promiscuous, predatory, non-consensual same-sex acts between heterosexuals.” I no longer buy arguments decrying homosexuality’s immorality “because the Bible says so” for the simple reason that it doesn’t. In a broader context, I can’t say with any certitude how the Lord feels about relationships between committed couples of the same sex—nor can anyone else righteously claim to do so. I could realistically spend the rest of my life wondering and debating the issue with myself and probably be convinced one way or the other, back and forth, over and over again. As a practical matter, though, the question no longer concerns me. At some point, a man has to live his life, to choose a path and take it. I have stood at the crossroads quite long enough and I’ve decided to follow my heart. So, I may not have asked to be gay, but I’m no longer asking to be anything else either.
As I’ve gotten to know the Lord over the years, I can’t, at this point, think of any rational prohibitive reason (Scriptural, spiritual, intellectual, eschatalogical, or otherwise) against me seeking a fulfilling, loving, and committed relationship with another like-minded individual. One thing I can say with assurance is that being gay will in no measure change my prayer, which will remain, as it has always been, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.” And if it should come to pass that I was wrong and one day stand before God to face His stinging rebuke and rejection, then it will happen that I probably never knew Him anyway and will resign myself, as best a frail human being can, to consignment in the outer darkness. To be sure, God will find no shortage of reasons, should He desire one, to banish me forever from His courts, as every specter of wickedness known to men and the powers will surely be found to lurk in my heart. Indeed, these very words will stand witness against me! If I should find myself in that dread state, it would then seem that I never knew Christ either and perhaps it will be that he was speaking of people like me as he said: “[W]hen your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!” For now, though, I truly don’t believe that will be my fate. I believe the fact that I’m gay will be the least of my concerns—if it is one at all—when I stand before God to account for my time upon this Earth.
My friends, if you’ve read this far, thank you for listening to what I have to say. Again, know that I love you, and that I sincerely hope my honesty isn’t a cause for any of you to cast our friendship aside. To those men who came to me seeking direction in their own struggles, I sincerely apologize for the lies I perpetrated to you and I humbly beg your forgiveness. It was hollow of me to parrot the worst falsehoods so typical of conservative Christianity’s reparative response to LGBT individuals as I never truly believed them myself. Fundamentally, I was simply hoping that if I repeated them enough, they’d sink into my own heart and become true. To those individuals, especially those—from popes to pastors to parents—in positions of spiritual authority, who continue to demonize, denigrate, or otherwise disparage the plight of LGBT people, stop. You have enough blood and bitter tears on your hands as things are and every drop cries out for justice. To all those currently wrestling with questions regarding their sexuality, you are not alone. The temptation to believe you are may be strong, but it is the greatest and most dangerous lie you could ever accept, so don’t. Be brave, find an ally, and remember that you are not called to find answers on your own. To those dear confidants who have been steadfast sources of camaraderie and counsel as I reached the place I am today, I thank you and I remain sincerely yours.
Ultimately, I simply want to love and to be loved, to know and to be known, to have someone to look after and someone to look after me. I neither wish nor intend to live a hermitic life. There is, perhaps, a great deal of spiritual value in it if pursued voluntarily but celibacy is a tremendous undertaking and I admonish Christians to cease imposing it as a precondition to full acceptance of LGBT believers within their communities—it is both unjust and profoundly hypocritical. I am looking forward in hope to the day when people on the whole outgrow this irritating tendency to harp on the “sex” aspect of being gay. Sex is a relatively easy thing to find–whether you’re gay or straight–but the daunting and delicate matter of finding one to whom you may entrust your heart is what makes the gay and the straight quest for love of strikingly kindred orders. It’s also my hope that we one day reach a point where expositions like this are no longer necessary. Maybe the Church will one day lay this issue to rest and welcome LGBT people who wish to live Christ-like lives in a community of faith as they are, without a catch-22. Maybe families will one day become, on the whole, reliably supportive environments where children can confidently express who they are without fear of abandonment or condemnation. Maybe I’m naïve, but we have come very far, very fast. Intolerance is a disease endemic to the human race and it may be that it’s never completely eradicated. I am, nonetheless, hopeful that perhaps, as Kennedy said, “if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.” Maybe such a culture of tolerance and acceptance could soon even envelop both the vast regions across the world and those little pockets of darkness in our own backyards where so many people continue to languish in fear and repression, allowing them to joyously be—finally, truly—who they are.
You’d better watch this. I spoke to a camera lens for seven minutes just for you. But first, a few notes. One, I originally intended to publish this letter after leaving for Korea; I’ve obviously changed my mind, but I didn’t want to re-record this video. So sue me. Two, I misspoke at one point: toward the end, I seem to contradict myself when I say we have to find the answers to questions about our sexuality on our own. What I meant to say is that while we should never attempt to resolve these types of issues in the absence of the support and insight of our friends and allies, it is ultimately the individual who’s poised to make the best judgment about who he or she is. People have been telling me who I am for most of my life and they’ve all been, in the aggregate, wrong.
Also, there’s one more reason I chose to handle this publicly that I didn’t initially think it necessary to state (and I still think it ought to be obvious) which is that I intend to own this aspect of my identity. I recognize that not everyone chooses to deal with issues like this in the same way–see, for example, my next-to-latest post where I discuss Jodie Foster at the Golden Globes. Nevertheless, I’m very happy with who I am and while I don’t intend to parade it about, neither do I intend to be furtive or secretive or absent from contemporary moral debate. Anyway, that’s all for caveats. Watch away.