• The “choice” to be gay

    February 16, 2012

    Thank you to everyone who has been respectful of my wish to keep my Facebook wall clean of discussion on this topic. Those of you who have felt the need to respond have, at least lately, been (a) very polite in responding even when disagreeing, and (b) have emailed or Facebook messaged your comments rather than posting them on my wall. I appreciate it.

    I received an email this evening that I wanted to take a few moments to respond to because it raises an issue I’ve been thinking much about lately. The person gave their name, but I’m not sure if they intended I use it, so I will call this person Mark for no reason other than it is the first name that came to mind.

    “I read a couple of your blog posts about being gay and you continually mention how you believe being gay is ‘not’ a choice, rather you are born gay.  What would you say to those people who seem to grow up having a same sex attraction, then end up realizing the love of Jesus, and marry a woman?  These people choose a life of heterosexuality.  If they can choose to be heterosexual, how can it be argued that being gay is ‘not’ a choice.  I believe it very possible for one to tell themselves something long enough to the point of actually believing it.”

    Thank you, Mark, for you question and comments. I must say, I’m somewhat shocked by the number of responses I’ve received that have suggested (or outright declared) that being gay is a choice. Whether it was my friend who fired off, “You’re gay because you’ve chosen to be,” or something more subtle, such as the above email, I’m truly shocked. I guess I thought it was understood today that people don’t choose to be gay.

    And that is my first point. I believe Mark is conflating attractions with the choice to act on those attractions. Being gay and having a gay relationship are not the same thing. Back to that point in a moment. Second, I don’t believe anywhere in these posts have I ever said I or anyone else was “born gay.” I have no idea why I or anyone else is gay. (Neither does Lady Gaga.) I used to think maybe parental and peer influences early in life caused people to be gay. I no longer have any idea, and I suspect the causes of homosexuality may vary greatly from person to person. We’ve gotten stuck in a debate of nature versus nurture. What if it’s a confusing mix of causes? Why does it have to be one cause for all? Mark suggests a false dichotomy, that if you aren’t born gay then you chose to be gay. No, there are many factors in life beyond my control that contribute to what I feel and think. I didn’t always choose the outcome of those factors, but in some cases, I’m stuck with them.

    Mark asks, “What would you say to those people who seem to grow up having a same sex attraction, then end up realizing the love of Jesus, and marry a woman?  These people choose a life of heterosexuality.” I’m glad he asked because in just the short eight months I’ve lived in Charlotte, I’ve met three gay men in separate social groups who once were married to a woman. In each case, divorce was the end result because the man wasn’t straight. Yes, as Mark says, they “chose a life of heterosexuality.” They chose to act as though they were heterosexual. But they weren’t! They were gay. They were behaving, to use a Pauline term, para physin. They were behaving contrary to the nature of a gay person, having rote sex with a person they liked on some level but didn’t really love. Some Christians will say, “Well, every marriage goes through times where the couple barely likes each other, much less loves each other.” Yes, but do we set this up as an example to revere and follow? I sure hope not. Yet, I hear of churches encouraging gay people to marry someone of the opposite sex because every relationship “requires work.” Folks, finding your spouse sexually desirable on your wedding night should not “require work.”

    To be fair, I do have a friend who, though attracted to men sexually, chose to marry a woman, and it seems to have been a good thing. He was completely upfront with his then-girlfriend about his situation, so both entered the marriage with full disclosure. It has thus far proven successful. (Note: this friend is not a Christian and did not marry out of religious conviction or a “need” to be “normal.” He simply felt he was better completed emotionally by a woman than by a man.)

    Does this mean everyone can or should try to make such an arrangement work? I can only imagine how many women have been put through loveless marriages because their churches answered that question, “Yes.” Let me ask you straight folks, particularly you straight fellas, to close your eyes and imagine making out with a person of the same sex. I mean, you’re really going at it. Lots of tongue.

    Now imagine having sex with that person. Again, you’re really going at it.

    Thrown up yet? How many of you could make a marriage like that work? My guess is, though you’d never admit it, a few of you would say, “Yeah, if I had to, sure.” You’re not repulsed entirely by the prospect, but success would “require work,” to say the least. Should the fact that a very few of you could make such a marriage work lead us to suggest that everyone could make it work? Should the fact that you straight fellas “chose a life of homosexuality” lead us to conclude that you were now gay? It’s absurd. You’re as straight as you ever were. You’re just acting para physin, contrary to what would be expected of a straight person.

    The fear of loneliness, the hunger for sexual intimacy, and the craving for acceptance among our peer groups are so intense, some of us are capable of almost anything, including marrying someone with whom we’re not the least compatible. Doesn’t mean gay people who do this have suddenly turned straight. Behaving and being are often separate experiences entirely.

    Mark in his email says, “I believe it very possible for one to tell themselves something long enough to the point of actually believing it.” I agree, and some in the church have been doing just that for a very long time.

    Posted in: The Gay Posts

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