One day in my early teen years, my dad walked into the room as I popped a simple question:
“Hey Dad, what does being gay mean?”
At the time, I legitimately did not know what the word meant; I only knew that “gay” was a word thrown around by other boys as a major insult.
“No, you really don’t wanna know,” my dad said as he quickly turned from the room. I stopped him and told him I really wanted to know since I heard the word at school all the time.
“Okay, well,” he started. “It’s basically when men get together and they get all … kissey, you know? They touch each other, hold hands, kiss each other, and then they want to marry each other. It’s really gross and disgusting.”
“Oh,” I responded. “So, instead of what a guy and a girl do when they get married, it’s between two men or two women?”
“Ah, ugh, I see,” I said. “Yeah, you’re right. I didn’t want to know that. Thank God I’m not like those people!”
Before I go on, I do want to say that my dad is not a hateful, bigoted person. He’s always respectful with people he doesn’t agree with or who are different from him. Heck, he’s been good friends for years with neighbors who are liberal hippie types who secretly grow pot in their backyard.
What my dad said to me that day, I think, comes from a product of his times and not understanding the issue at large.
Sadly, my dad’s words on gay people would have a negative impact on the way I thought for years.
My teen years fell during the time when the American culture wars were at their ugliest. Liberal versus conservative debates raged about the Iraq War, abortion, and especially gay marriage. Brokeback Mountain was released in theaters, causing a firestorm of controversy.
Extremes on both sides screamed the loudest:
“The Bible says y’all are going to hell for being gay!”
“There’s nothing wrong with being gay! They’re just being themselves, you hateful ignorant bigots!”
Those were the two sides you had to choose from; there was no middle ground.
I had noticed my attractions to men, but I hadn’t put two and two together until I realized that I might be one of those people who my classmates taunted and at whom my dad expressed disgust.
I had been fantasizing seeing my attractive male classmates naked, and it dawned on me that I might be gay. It almost seemed like God was playing a sick joke on me.
“Oh, God, please tell me I’m not gay,” I said to the ceiling while lying on my bed in the dark.
The media always portrayed gay people as garishly effeminate and flamboyant, marching nearly naked with plumes of rainbow feathers in gay pride parades, promiscuously having sex with other men, and always being uber-liberal atheists.
I couldn’t be like these people. They seemed like the antithesis of everything I stood for. Finding out that the Bible forbade homosexual sex only fueled my self-righteous anger.
To assert my masculinity and avoid being labeled gay at all costs, I joined my other straight male classmates in mocking gay people and talking about how stupid and disgusting they were.
I openly mocked students who partook in the annual day of silence — those who came to class wearing signs around their necks describing incidents of people being killed or beaten for being gay, refusing to speak the whole school day in protest.
I acted this way while ignoring the fact that I had masturbated to images of naked men the night before. One day I was on an internet forum for geeky things when I saw a user’s profile picture with a man kissing another man on the cheek. His profile signature proudly proclaimed that he and his husband had been married for several months.
In a wave of self-important fury, I sent him a private message: Get that homosexual trash out of your profile picture!
He openly complained about my message on the forum, prompting many angry messages my way. People called me all sorts of colorful names, and some messages were more biting: People like you are the reason I gave up on my faith!
Over a decade later, my heart breaks looking back on this exchange.
As I came to terms with my same-sex attraction (SSA) years later, I realized I was angry with myself. Angry that I wasn’t normal like the other boys, angry that I couldn’t stop looking at pictures of naked men, angry that I didn’t fit in at school, angry to hold so many secrets, and angry that I was so full of shame.
I was angry no one loved me.
And I was scared.
I still believe the traditional Christian view that sex is to be between a married man and woman. Opening up about my sexuality to many friends has helped me come to the bittersweet realization that I’m not going to lead a normal life.
But confronting my issues and talking about them with brothers lessens so much of the anger and hatred I’ve held in my heart. Cutting through the socio-political BS of the homosexuality debate has set me free.
I’ve learned the meaning of Jesus’ command to love thy neighbor. While I still disagree with people in homosexual relationships, I no longer hold resentment toward them. They too have struggled like me and have been rejected, ignored, scapegoated, and cast out. I can understand why they have rejected the church and traditional sex ethics in droves.
Many of my “Side B” brothers have also been rejected from churches even while holding traditional sexual ethics.
It’s hard to look at people outside of socio-political stigmas and boxes. But we must look at others as beautiful creations and fellow children of God, not scapegoat them for our problems. Jesus was the ultimate scapegoat who took all our anger, hate, stereotyping, resentment, socio-political stigmas, and misunderstandings to the cross.
Have you struggled with anger or hatred for gay people behaving counter to your views on homosexuality? Have you experienced hatred or rejection for your sexuality?