Words of wisdom from Popeye the Sailor Man.
The friend I mentioned before came over the other night and I told her I was gay… after two hours of stalling. The problem, of course, is that there is rarely a natural segue into coming out… you know… “It’s interesting that you mentioned your husband – he’s a man, right? You like men? Well… funny thing…”
Wouldn’t work. It always has to come right out of the blue. So, after she and I had played pool for an hour and a half (she won all three games… I’m going to blame it on the fact that I was nervous), she was about to leave and I just said “There’s something I need to tell you.”
She freaked out, thinking I was going to tell her I was leaving the country again… which I’m thinking about doing. I hemmed and hawed for a few moments and then just said it. “I’m gay.”
Her response was not quite what I’d expected. She tilted her head to one side and said, “I know.”
I’ve gotten that response more than once, and it always makes me nervous when it comes from straight people because I don’t know exactly what it means.
Anyway, she asked me what I was doing about it (again, I’m not entirely sure what she meant), so I showed her the books I am reading, and this blog – I actually showed her the entry I’d written about her. She laughed when she got to the part about my not having been in love with her, saying “I’m not your type.” Which was funny, because she may have been joking, but she was right – she’s not my type. It makes me wonder how much she knew back then, when I was doing my best to hide it from myself… even while I was going out for walks in the middle of the night to scream up at God because He wouldn’t fix me.
The other funny thing that she said was that she was relieved. She’d been worried about me ever since I’d come back from Ireland 5 years ago, because she knew I was hiding something from her, but she couldn’t figure out what. She is officially the first person who has been “relieved” that I’m gay.
…well, maybe not relieved that I’m gay… relieved that that’s all it was. I hadn’t had sex, or become a drug addict… or something else even worse.
One thing about this particular friend is that she says exactly what she thinks, and so she felt the need to clarify something. When she had said that she knew I was gay, what she meant was that she knew that I had thought that about myself for a long time, but she’s not entirely sure it’s true. She said this knowing that it would sound dismissive, and even offensive… but I appreciated her saying it out loud, because I get the impression that a few of the people I’ve told feel the same way. We talked about it for a little while, and I told her I’d probably write about it on my blog, so don’t worry, I’m not doing this behind anyone’s back.
Actually, she’s not the first person to say that, at least not in so many words. Most Christians see homosexuality as a symptom of something – effectively saying “Oh, you’re not really gay, you just didn’t have a father figure.” “You’re not gay, your mother was overbearing.” “You’re not gay, you were traumatized as a child.”
I can’t tell you how annoyed I get hearing things like this. It’s like when white people insist that I’m not “really black” because I’m light skinned… like they somehow know more about me by looking at me than I know by living in my own skin.
It’s not that I dismiss those theories entirely… but… well… I mostly do. I realize I fall into the relatively small group of people who fit perfectly into the theories that most Christians believe make people gay – absent father, overbearing mother, sexual abuse as a child… I have to say that this annoys me, I don’t like being a cliché. Besides, I don’t think these theories hold water. Most gay people I know, and those I’ve simply met in passing, come from two parent homes. And (sadly) I know several people who were abused as children and came from single-parent homes, and they are all straight. Not to mention the fact that the theory about absent fathers and overbearing mothers turning people gay is used to apply to men, the explanation doesn’t really work when you use it on women.
One of the women I told insisted that there was no way homosexuality was innate, despite the evidence that it exists in nature (Have you read that study about the gay rams? Or seen that disturbingly graphic documentary about the lesbian deer? Or heard about the gay penguins in that zoo?) because we, as humans, are made in God’s image and there is no way homosexuality would fall into that because it is outside of God’s natural order. I didn’t respond, because I am much more nervous and timid when speaking (which is one of the reasons I like writing so much), but that makes no sense. All sorts of things happen, and are innate, that are outside of God’s design. One of my best friends was born blind… was that part of God’s design? Cystic Fibrosis – which is written in the genes – is that part of God’s natural order? We live in a fallen world – things happen. I am not going to join with Mel White (who wrote Stranger at the Gate) and say my homosexuality is my “unique gift”… I’m barely coming out from the shadow of calling it my curse. I think it just is. It happens. There is some suggestion (although inconclusive) that it is genetic, there is some suggestion (although inconclusive) that it is hormonal, and there is some suggestion (although inconclusive) that environmental factors play a part. No one knows for sure. And it is blindingly arrogant of Christians to insist that they know, when they don’t.
I think part of the reason people insist on these theories is because, for the most part, straight people can’t fathom being gay… so they try and explain it away. It’s kind of like what happens to my blind friend when sighted people say things to her like “Well, all your other senses must be heightened,” trying to explain away her blindness by suggesting that her other senses sort of sucked up her sight. We joke about it, but I know it annoys the hell out of her. People who can see can’t fathom being blind, so they want an explanation that will make sense to them, and make them more comfortable… like it’s not that she’s missing one of the 5 senses, it’s that it’s been misplaced.
One of the other reasons I hate hearing the “You’re not really gay, it’s just________(fill in the blank)” is because, inherent in those statements is the idea that if I just tried hard enough, or prayed hard enough, or believed hard enough, or went to this or that program, or had enough therapy I could just get over it. And as long as I’m still identifying as gay it means that I’m lazy, or without faith. It also opens the door for all the hate that is lashed out at gay people. It’s like the difference between the way someone on the extreme right and someone on the extreme left would look at a person begging on the street. The person on the far left thinks “This situation is beyond their control. They need my compassion.” The person on the extreme right thinks “They are lazy, if they would just work hard enough they could pull themselves together. They don’t deserve my compassion or my respect because it’s their own fault.” It’s not an exact metaphor, but I think it gets my point across.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I don’t know why I’m gay. I just know that I am. It took me a really long time to accept it, and accepting it gave me such relief. I wish other people could accept it too.
Friday, September 02, 2005
Words of wisdom from Popeye the Sailor Man.
Posted by JJ at 2:02 AM