Hoping I am Not Gay

Friday, August 20, 2010

Question

I am a teenager who suspects that he is gay. The thing that bothers me the most about this is that it is against nature. I have studied scripture and made my peace with God. I believe God loves us all, as we are created. But how can it be all right for one man to love another man when the whole animal kingdom displays nothing but heterosexual mating behavior?

Answer

Are you a person with a religious upbringing? If so, don't underestimate how much you can be affected by an antigay interpretation of scripture. If you are Christian, it might help you to contact the Metropolitan Community Church or read the biography of its founder, Troy Perry, entitled The Lord is My Shepherd and He Knows I'm Gay. Perry was a Southern Baptist minister with a wife and children when he decided God didn't want him to be a closeted homosexual any more. He went on to become one of the founders of the gay rights movement and a church that has saved countless lives by holding out the hope of God's love to all of us.

In case somebody is reading this who has similar issues but is struggling with the current English translation of the Old Testament, let me suggest a couple of books that offer alternative views. One isBulletproof Faith: A Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians, by Candace Chellew-Hodge. I can also recommend What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality, by Daniel A. Helminiak, or The Children are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-Sex Relationships, by Rev. Jeff Miner and John Tyler Connoley.

If you come from a different tradition than Christianity, write to me again, and I will find some other resources for you. I'm glad to hear you say that you believe God loves us all, as we are created. I don't see any reason why a loving, divine force would create people who were hateful, inferior, or inherently flawed. Gay people have the potential to do important spiritual work during their lives, to spread compassion and offer assistance to other people who are marginalized. Not all of us have a commitment to social justice, but I have found that being able to do some kind of activism is a big help when I get depressed about all the messages I got as a child about gay people being sinners who were going straight to hell.

When it comes to the issue of biology, I can tell you that what you've heard about 100% heterosexuality in the "animal kingdom" is bullshit. But biologists have the same prejudices that everybody else does. They also need to deal with fear among academic publishers that reporting homosexual behavior will create a backlash. Controversial research may interfere with getting research funding or tenure. Scientific objectivity is a hostage to politics, I am afraid.

The truth is that homosexual behavior and even monogamous pair-bonds have been reported in hundreds of species of warm-blooded animals. Human definitions of gender and sexual orientation are not so easily applied to cold-blooded animals and insects, but these groups of living creatures also do not follow a stereotypical or predictable, universal form of mating behavior.

One of the best resources for learning about this is a book calledBiological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity, by Bruce Bagemihl. This lengthy book had to be quite the labor of love. Bagemihl describes why the contents of his work have been rendered virtually invisible, and then proceeds to present overwhelming evidence that sex and gender take many forms, and that diversity is natural. I was especially charmed by his description of boy giraffes necking with one another, and the pairs of male geese who adopt others' eggs and then, because they are bigger and stronger and thus better at obtaining food and guarding their territory, raise more successful offspring than their male/female counterparts.

Whether you are gay, straight, bisexual, or some other identity that we have yet to coin a label for, you are part of the natural world. It isn't possible to be anything else. So please don't beat yourself up with words like "unnatural." I hope you are soon in a position to get some more support, information, and role models, so you don't have to struggle through this alone. Be strong and stay safe.

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