Ten Things I’ve Learned in Ten Years About Gay People| A Christian Perspective
By Kathy Baldock, Canyonwalkerconnections.com
September 29, 2011
In 2001, if you had asked me “Kathy, can you be gay and Christian?” I would have hedged a bit and fallen on the side of “No”. I did not have any close relationships with gay people nor had I ever studied the issue for in the Bible. I did not even know one gay Christian, that I knew of. It was from this paradigm that I formulated my opinions about the lives of gay people and made assumptions about their status with God. All that changed when I met Netto on a hiking trail. It has now ten years later and I offer ten things that I wish straight people, especially Christians, knew about gay people.
People who do not understand the views of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are not all bigots and people who are fully affirming in their support of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender * people are not all heretics. This conversation often is relegated to love and hate, right and wrong, but there is a wide expanse between the two sides and that middle group is, for the most part, silent. You are the ones to whom I am offering these insights from experience, knowledge, study, relationship and with a genuine interest in engaging the too often silent middle.
With Bible in hand and in spirit, an open mind and heart and a willingness to listen to people, I entered the conversation that often brings out the worst in people. I hope to inspire you to movement and to speaking up with the Jesus-voice inside you.
Ten years and thousands of miles ago, I met Netto on a hiking trail. It was a time for conversation, the answering of all my stupid questions and an opportunity to get to know my Native American, agnostic, lesbian friend. Miles translated to trust for both of us and the growing relationship challenged my cultural Evangelical stances on homosexuality. My insights include a time line to show the long, thoughtful and prayerful process. These are ten things I have learned in ten years about the gay, lesbian and bisexual community, especially the Christian segment of that community.
1. Being gay is not a choice. In the US, we are almost evenly divided on the “are people born gay?” (42%) vs. “do they choose to be gay?”(44%) question . For the most part, how we answer this will dictate related views about inclusion in the church and civil rights for gay, lesbian and bisexual people. When individuals hold the “born gay” option as true, it is more probable that they are also supportive about extending equality to the gay, lesbian and bisexual people.
To the contrary, those who believe people “choose to be gay” most often see being gay as a “behavior” and not an intrinsic part of person’s being. Behaviors, they reason, are controllable and changeable and therefore, they conclude, sexual attraction is controllable, if not changeable. When sexual orientation is seen as a choice and a behavior, people are less likely to extend civil rights and inclusion in the church for gay, lesbian and bisexual people.
This one issue is the key and it took a long time and many relationships for me to understand. What you believe either unlocks the passage to equality or it keeps the door shut and segregates. It is the premise upon which most of the insights I offer builds.
There is no gene yet discovered for human sexuality, whether that be heterosexual or homosexual. Opinions formed in and out of relationships along with anecdotal evidence become the basis for each of our truths. Relationship. I write and say that word a lot, it matters.
I was raised in a moderately prejudice home in the New York City area; my stepfather was horribly biased against the black community. While he was recovering from cancer surgery, he roomed with a lovely elderly black man. After a week together in a hospital room, sharing experiences and interacting with this man’s family, my stepfather’s views about the black community changed. After six decades of bigotry, he saw this man as just another human. Relationship does that.
Similarly, for me and the 42% who believe that being gay is not a choice, that conclusion is the fruit of relationships and listening. Informed decisions based in information and experience are best, lacking that your opinion on this issue says nothing about your intelligence or your ranking on the “good person” scale. Without interaction with gay people, you may not understand that most gay people know between the ages of five and eight that they are “different”; this was a powerful message for me. Before a sexual thought ever occurs, they “knew”. Typically, it took another five years before they began to label the difference. When puberty kicked in, they noticed the comments and feelings of their friends did not jiving with their experiences. What followed was an average of another three and a half years of struggling in confusion for self-acceptance of being gay.
Being gay and sexual orientation are not as simple as “who you have sex with”. Sexual orientation speaks of an emotional, relational and sexual fulfillment and comfort. Gay people, just like heterosexual people, are attracted, at the core, to a gender at a young age. All of this is innocent and has no sexual overtones. As heterosexuals, when we recall a crush on a second grade teacher or the warm ease of being with a family friend, we never associate “sex” with it, yet we will often insert “sex” into the historical impressions of a gay person. Long before thoughts of sex enter a child’s brain, both heterosexual and homosexual children have a brain imprint of attraction. There is no choice for “behavior”. It is innate. Actually, 93% of mothers say they knew their gay sons were gay at an early age.
All this information bore out in the lives of people I met while with Netto. I started to meet people in long-term same-sex relationships that had never been romantically interested in the opposite sex, never. Others had been married and were parents. I had fallen into believing marriage to the opposite sex was “proof” of a person’s heterosexuality. Being married and bearing children do not mean one is straight. As one of my friends puts it, “It just means that you fantasize really well.” There are numerous reasons gay people marry the opposite sex:
- They know they are “different” however exploring that difference is taboo and culturally or religiously unacceptable. Some people get married before they understand that they are not heterosexual.
- They marry because it is expected, or they want a family
- They are told they will change by getting married. Some people still believe the careless attitude of “All you need to do is find the right woman/right man and you will get rid of these feelings”. No amount of my being with women, and in the last ten years, with legions of lesbians,will or can make me a lesbian. Just as I am straight, about 5% of people are gay. (Situational sex in prisons does occur. This is NOT a change in orientation; it is a sex choice for convenience.)
The question of “born gay” or “choose to be gay” is the hinge of the rest of my insights. A few relationships with the lesbian coffee shop barista, your gay hairdresser or a neighbor as he passes you walking his dog will not help you honestly evaluate an entire class of people. Don’t rely on an equally uninformed pastor, politician or pundit, get to know people. Using uninformed opinions to decide on civil matters for a class of people is careless. Allowing those same distant opinions to influence spiritual “policies” is even more egregious. Do relationship, ask, listen and listen some more.