Friday, September 02, 2005

14. I Yam What I Yam

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.                    


Eric said...

Yeah, the "you're not really gay" bit bugs me too. They're well meaning when they say it, i'm sure. But these people can't possibly fathom being something they're not so we must not be either. Of course, i recognize not every straight person fits in this category. It is pretty irritating though to hear someone suggest that maybe they know me more than i know myself. Yeah pretty arrogant.

Another thing i liked that you said was your reference to Mel White saying that it's a gift but you only just got over seeing it as a curse. Yeah, i don't know what to think of it - it just is and i just am.

Anonymous said...

I would never be so arrogant as to tell another person they're not really gay.

That said, there are often certain root causes that go hand in hand with these thought patterns, but they are so deeply ingrained that it is hard for the struggler, let alone another person, to see it.

What I would suggest is you pray along the same lines as David in Psalm 139 when he said, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

If there is some wound in your spirit that needs healing, the Lord will reveal it to you.

This is the same thing I would point out to anyone facing any kind of life-dominating behavior pattern.

Leo said...

I realize you wrote this post awhile ago, but I was just reading back over your posts. I love your blog by the way. You are a gifted writer--and I say they a bit enviously, because I too love to write. You have a great writing, voice--for lack of a better term. Anyway I digress, I just wanted to add my two sense to what you said about people telling you, "oh you're not really gay". I've experienced this many times also and I've always thought that straight people say this to gay people that they like and care about, because they think they're giving us the benefit of the doubt. In other words, they feel/think being gay is a negative thing, they like us so therefore this can't be true about us. Also I wanted to give my take on why a lot of Christians (and others) don't want to believe that being homosexual is or could be a biological, innate trait. If they believed that gay people are born gay, or homosexuality is caused in the womb by hormonal changes etc., then they couldn't very well argue that being gay is a sin. Obviously if we are born gay then that is how God intended us to be--and while they could still argue that acting on our homosexual feelings is a sin, even that argument would lose a lot of it's power. The only real way they can argue homosexuality is a sin is to believe that we choose it. If we don't choose it then how can it be against God's will? Sorry I'm rambling as usual. I'm sincerely sorry that you're having to go through this struggle. I spent the better part of my teens and twentys struggling in exactly the same way and I know how rough it is. You have to so what you feel is the right thing, and I would not try to influence your choice. I have prayed for Gods guidance on whether or not acting on my feelings is wrong for years, but was never given a obvious answer at least not that I could ascertain. I decided that, love was a good thing and if God would punish me for loving someone than so be it. But, I do still wonder if I'm living his will sometimes. I believe if I'm not that he will understand that it is a very confusing, and difficult burden and that I am not deliberatly going against what I know to be his desire for me. I also truly believe that he has given me a wonderful woman to share my life with--I asked him to send me someone that he wanted me to have-and he did. Ok sorry I'll stop bugging ya now.