When I was a little girl, my parents were in a lot of bowling leagues. It was a hobby that they really enjoyed. I especially remember Saturday nights at the bowling alley because I was allowed to have a small soda. I couldn’t have soda during the week so this was a really special treat. A little cup of heaven each week (smile). So, every Saturday I skipped to the snack bar and got myself a small soda. I was about 8 years old. There was a young guy (I’m guessing he was a teenager, but to me he seemed like a man) that worked the snack bar on those Saturday nights. He was always really nice to me and would chat with me while I drank my soda. There was nothing weird about it…he was just an outgoing friendly guy and my parents were always near by. At the time, I didn’t realize what it was, but in looking back I realize I had developed a bit of a crush on him. I not only looked forward to my soda on Saturdays, but I also looked forward to chatting with my friend. Back in the day they called this puppy love. I really had no idea about sex, or even kissing for that matter, but I knew that I liked this person.
I received an email from someone last week, and in the email they explained their beliefs about homosexuality. Overall it was a very encouraging email as this person explained that they felt gay people should be loved and treated with respect. Yay! However, twice in the email they mentioned about the person’s choice of “lifestyle” and choice of sexuality. I go back to my story of being a little girl. If you had asked me what sexuality meant, I would have no clue. I just knew that I liked something about the young man who worked at the snack bar. The same as a little boy might have a crush on his teacher. It’s all very innocent.
As I got older, I continued to notice boys. I can say that I was never attracted to girls. I feel that if you are going to say that someone is making a choice about their attraction, then you are saying they must be attracted to both sexes in order to have to make that choice. Did you make a choice to be a heterosexual? I didn’t either. It just happened…it’s who I am. If you are married to someone of the opposite sex, has anyone ever said to you, “I’m so happy you chose to live a heterosexual lifestyle.” My guess would be that you haven’t. Yet, I get comments all the time about gay people choosing a homosexual “lifestyle”. I may have said this before, but I think where communication breaks down on this topic is there are some people who think of gay people as being straight with a “sex problem”. That is not the case at all.
I wish people would stop for a moment and think of what it might be like to realize you are gay. I said realize because that is how it happens. If you knew the difficulties that gay people face, you would understand that no one would choose it. And if you happen to be someone in a Christian home who reaches puberty and realizes that you have an attraction for the same-sex, you believe all the things you’ve been taught about homosexuality…about yourself. This is why so many suffer from depression and shame. When they finally get the courage to speak up, some are exposed to some horrific practices to try to “cure” them. It’s called conversion or reparative therapy. To get a glimpse of what this might be like, I invite you to read Sam’s story:
I can’t even begin to imagine how someone overcomes that treatment. I know just seeing how distressed my son was in the beginning of his journey caused emotional scars for me. I had to change my ringtone on my phone because it was triggering memories of him being in the hospital (we would get calls from his counselor). And songs that brought me comfort during that time, I can’t listen to anymore. When I hear them, I see my son hurting himself in front of me in the hospital and I hear him screaming at us when we had to leave him there.
We need to be more interested in listening to people and their stories, rather than judging them and making assumptions that we can’t possibly understand. And above all else, we need to love…because love matters.
(NCLR has launched #BornPerfect: The Campaign to End Conversion Therapy in the next five years by passing laws across the country to protect LGBT kids, fighting in courtrooms to ensure their safety, and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by these dangerous practices. You can learn more about them (here). I will also be adding them to my Resource page)