If you’re straight, I want you to do something for me: Think about the first person you ever had a crush on. Maybe it was a neighbor or someone at school. Or perhaps it was a teacher or a celebrity. You probably didn’t understand what you were feeling. All you knew was that you really liked this person, and maybe you even wondered what it would be like to kiss him or her.
Now let me ask you a few questions: Were you ashamed of these feelings? Did you learn from your pastor or parents that these feelings are unnatural? Did you ever wish you could stop liking this person in that way and like someone from the other gender instead? Did you ever pray to God to help you change, then blame yourself when you didn’t? Of course not. Everyone knows developing crushes is a perfectly normal part of adolescence. Yet this sort of shame and guilt is the reality for thousands of gay children in America.
About 10 years ago I knew a gay person named Aaron. He worked at a restaurant with my roommate, and one night the three of us hung out and drank some beers. At that point in my life I hadn’t met many openly gay people, so I was curious about Aaron. I had only deconverted from evangelical Christianity a couple of years before and was new to the idea that homosexuality wasn’t a choice. After several beers, I worked up the nerve to ask him a few questions. What follows is not a word-for-word retelling of our conversation (my memory isn’t perfect), but it’s close.
Me: I’m curious, when did you realize you were gay?
Aaron: You remember back in junior high or so when you started noticing girls in a different way?
Aaron: I started noticing guys.
Me: Oh. Did you tell anybody?
Aaron: No way! I didn’t want to be gay. My parents weren’t even Christians, but I knew if I told anybody it would get out and people would make fun of me, so I kept it to myself.
Me: For how long?
Aaron: Years. I even dated a few girls in high shool. They liked me and I thought that’s what I was supposed to do.
Me: Did you have sex with any of them?
Aaron: This one girl really wanted to, and I tried, but I couldn’t get excited enough to make it happen. I just wasn’t attracted to girls.
Now how could anyone believe Aaron chose to be gay? Right now all across America (and especially in the South) people like Aaron are teased and bullied on a regular basis. They often hide their romantic relationships for fear of being judged or threatened. More often they don’t even get to have romantic relationships because most other gay teenagers are in the closet. And in many cases, they hate themselves because they believe their homosexuality is evil.
Is it any wonder gay teens are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide? It’s even worse for gay teens whose families reject their orientation. A 2009 survey found that teenagers in this situation were over 8 times more likely to have attempted suicide. So considering all this, even if it were a choice, why would anyone choose to be gay?
Based on everything we have observed, it is perfectly reasonable to believe that gay people are born that way. If you don’t believe this, it is most likely because of a religious tenet. And if you are going to help perpetuate an anti-homosexual culture that drives gay teens to suicide, you had better have proof–not faith, proof–that this particular tenet is a good thing. If you can’t provide that, then you are no better than a racist.
I want to add that this post is not specifically anti-religion; it’s anti-bigotry. There are many Christians who have updated their interpretation of the Bible and no longer condemn gay people. These people have made big step forward, and it’s time for the rest of Christians to catch up.
There are also Christians who have taken only half a step forward. They reluctantly admit that some people are born with a “tendency” toward homosexuality, but they compare it to a tendency toward alcoholism and still consider acting on it to be wrong. What they fail to see is that there is a huge difference between homosexuality and alcoholism. An alcoholic who gives in to his tendencies hurts himself, risks hurting others, and will generally live an unhappy life. A gay person who gives in to his tendencies hurts no one and can live a very happy life.
If you still think homosexual relationships are wrong, then what is Aaron supposed to do? He could force himself into a heterosexual relationship, but that would be unfair to his partner who almost certainly would not get her needs met. The other option is for him to ignore his feelings and remain single for the rest of his life, but that would be unfair to him. Falling in love and having romantic relationships is a wonderful part of the human experience. Why does Aaron, who can’t help being what he is, deserve any less than the rest of us?