Before I get to the point, I spent greater than half my life up to this point more or less hiding and simultaneously wrestling with a very major component of what makes me who I am. It’s neither the single biggest nor the foremost component, true, but to pretend it’s not firmly in the top ten at least would, in my view, be to continue being dishonest, both to myself and to the people I love. With that in mind, my frequent discussion of the topic of late is hopefully a bit more understandable. Also, compared to the challenges one faces after the fact, coming out is the easy part. Anyone can publish an online letter or use social media to announce their previously hidden sexuality, but the real question for those who do is, “Are you prepared to handle what comes next?” It’s important to answer that question honestly, otherwise a man might very quickly find himself in a situation he’s not quite ready to tackle.
I told people that had I been born in a more culturally progressive area and raised around more diversity-conscious and open-minded people, I almost certainly would’ve come out a very long time ago. In all honesty, a great deal of my resilience about becoming straight flowed from my fear of what would have to happen if I couldn’t “fix” whatever was “wrong” with me. If I did reach an impasse and couldn’t change my sexuality, then that would ultimately mean I’d either have to spend my life pretending otherwise–a hope-draining prospect–or publicly acknowledge it–a fear-inducing one.
There were a couple of people who, after I’d told them or they’d heard about my sexuality, more or less said to me, “Oh, you’re just confused. You’ll grow out of it.” Whatever good intentions might have been at work in those statements, that is potentially the single most condescending and offensive sentiment anyone has ever expressed to me in my entire life and, in the moment, I struggled to show them grace. Once people have spent years searching (with increasing desperation) for a way to change themselves to satisfy heteronormative cultural and religious expectations, then we can talk about how I’m “just going through a phase right now.” In case there’s any lingering doubt, rest assured: there is no way in heaven or hell I would have publicly acknowledged my sexuality and then put myself through awkward conversation after awkward conversation unless I was completely sure about what I was doing. Please don’t insult me by suggesting otherwise.
M.Y.O.B. DEPARTMENT: CELIBACY, AND WHAT I THINK ABOUT IT
Anyway, cutting to the chase now, there are a couple of important topics I’d like to discuss in this post, the first because it’s come up enough in conversation for me to realize that there are probably a lot of people wondering about it. But, before I do so, I’d like make sure everyone understands that these matters, even including my sexual orientation, are fundamentally no one’s business other than my own. So, while I might be answering your questions, please don’t feel entitled to those answers because you aren’t. The only reason I’m discussing them in a public forum like this is because I see value in doing so. I’m still a bit annoyed by the fact that gay people are so often expected to talk about their sexuality differently from everyone else, but I understand that just comes with the territory in this day and age. It’s a lot easier to be gay in 2013 than it was in 1913, but we’ve still got a long way to go toward equality.
So, to the point, I’d like to state right now, for the record, that I think celibacy is a truly wonderful and admirable thing to pursue if that pursuit is undertaken voluntarily. Many great men and women whom we remember as saints of the Faith lived lives of celibate service and God was glorified in and through them. I’d also like to state right now, for the record, that celibacy is not something I’m going to pursue, nor will I submit to any pressure to do so. I have neither the heart for it, nor the personal desire. To spend my life without the possibility of finding a loving relationship would break my heart and likely push me into bitterness toward both the Lord and the Church. That is a decision I have made for myself and, unless I change my mind, that is the decision that stands. I respect anyone’s right to disagree with that decision, but only insofar as they respect my right to not give a damn.
Why am I making such a big deal out of this? Because there are a lot of people who like to tout themselves as paragons of tolerance toward LGBT people and yet their tolerance is wholly (or at least partially) contingent on those people never being in a physical relationship. There are many churches and other communities of believers where the official stance is that it’s okay to be gay only if gay people aren’t seeing anyone; if they are seeing someone, well, then it’s not okay. Forgive me, but that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Either it’s okay to be gay or it isn’t. Gay people are not pedophiles, or murderers, or degenerates, so please don’t draw false equivalencies. We are people who, through no fault or request of our own, were born different. None of us asked to be gay. Our parents didn’t fill out a child requisition order and tick the box for “Gay” before sending it to God. It is not a “lifestyle choice” unless you also consider being straight a “lifestyle choice.”
SO A SPIT SHAKE’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU?
The U.S. Supreme Court heard two cases this week concerning gay rights, both concerning the very particular gay right of gay marriage. Marriage is, in my opinion, neither the only nor the single most important of the gay rights but it is, for better or for worse, the battle our community has chosen to fight now. Fortunately for us, public opinion, fickle though it may be, has swung decisively in our favor in the United States. Within a generation, the number of people who oppose LGBT rights will be a small (though probably disproportionately vocal) minority. Whether or not the battle for marriage is won at the Supreme Court this year, the war, as Jeffery Toobin has said, is already essentially won. While less likely, the prospect of the court affirming a nationwide constitutional right to same-sex marriage is a hope-instilling one. Sometimes America needs the courts to do what an elected majority won’t: namely to protect the rights of minorities. While the electoral victories won last November where voters chose to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington and Maryland were wonderful, I’m quite leery of the concept of putting minority rights to a majority vote.
Of course, into the fray come the social conservatives; the people who feel it’s the responsibility of the American government to uphold their interpretation of the Christian Scriptures because, after all, America was founded by Jesus, who will return one day to rule the world from Mount Rushmore. I really have nothing to say to these people. In reality, there’s very little (if anything) I could say to sway their opinions and I’m actually already growing tired of discussing this topic with SoCons. It’s just a function of the fact that I grew up in Oklahoma and went to school at Oral Roberts University that I know so many of these people (some of whom are good friends). The important thing for me is that people know where I stand; we don’t have to agree on every principle, but if we can agree to a truce, then we can get along swimmingly.
On the subject of marriage, here is what I will say: there is no prospect of marriage on the horizon in the near future for me. Could it happen one day? Perhaps, but that’s a long, long way off. One would first need a partner before that even became an issue in the first place, which is something I lack. However, if I do find someone and we decide together that we wish to marry, then we will. We will do so regardless of how offensive or disgusting it is to anyone. If you’re praying that I become straight or that I find a wife, you’re ultimately wasting your time. That said, it is your time to waste and I won’t begrudge you your right to waste it. Again, it’s all very simple: you have a right to disagree with me and I have a right to not give a shit. That’s apparently a tough pill for a lot of my conservative fellow believers to understand, since they seem to have been instilled from a young age with the belief that their opinions about how gay people should live their lives matter.
At any rate, I apologize for the somewhat desultory and combative tone of this post. My intent is not to add another voice to the “I’m gay… h8terz gonna h8” chorus, but to make it clear how I feel about these matters. I don’t intend to spend the rest of my life defending the decisions I’ve made or will make and if a person can’t look past that, then ultimately there isn’t much basis for a relationship. Until next time, cheers!