Guest Blogger

Being Gay IS A Choice

Filed By Guest Blogger | October 29, 2009 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, The Movement
Tags: chosen family, priesthood, sexual orientation

Editors' note: Greg Smith is a gay, HIV+ native Montanan, a Rome-educated former priest who is now a mental health therapist, health educator, activist, spiritual adventurer and overall wiseguy who loves to write. He blogs at From Eternity to Here.

Photo 21.jpgRecently I got a letter from someone I've known since childhood, who read my blog and felt compelled to write:

It disgusts me that you've made the choice to be Gay and go to Hell, especially with all your theological training.

There was more, but that was the money quote. Of course, I felt compelled to respond.

You are exactly right. Being Gay is a choice. It is a choice to respond with honesty, integrity and humility to thoughts and feelings that are not a choice. It is a choice to move away from the dark feelings of fear, self-loathing and dishonesty into the light of understanding, honesty, self-acceptance and respect. I have absolutely no choice about whether or not I am gay- I do have to make choices every day about faithfully following the heart that God gave me, as do you. Sometimes I fail. Sometimes I am not as kind or understanding or honest with myself or others about my thoughts and feelings. Sometimes I have thoughts of anger, as I have now, wondering why you feel it necessary to denounce me, someone you "fooled around" with in such an "unholy" manner years ago.

I don't ask you to understand me, just to accept my experience. Maybe it's like you never understanding how I could love broccoli when we were kids. Unexplainable, but you never questioned my sanity or the state of my soul because of it. I'm going to say that this is exactly the same thing. Broccoli lovers all over the world can't explain why they enjoy eating broccoli, they just know they do. And so it is with my heart.

After years of struggling with guilt, shame and fear, I finally came to the simple conclusion that being gay is my honest reality. This was an understanding arrived at through years of self examination, pain and soul searching- it was not the product of indoctrination or brainwashing.

We all make choices. We can choose to feel better by making someone else feel bad, to condemn rather than try to understand, to be right or be happy. I'm sure you have made some choices I will never understand, but I hope I can, at least, give you the benefit of an attempt at explanation. That's what I hope. That's my goal. Because living my life in a way that's faithful to my heart- well, that is the choice I want to make every day."

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Sometimes I have thoughts of anger, as I have now, wondering why you feel it necessary to denounce me, someone you "fooled around" with in such an "unholy" manner years ago.


It disgusts me that you've made the choice to be Gay and go to Hell, especially with all your theological training.

While a person has little conscious control over the sex/gender one finds attractive in a mate, one has far more control over the brand of theology one embraces and practices.

So lets see, we have two different courses of action:
1) A person can choose to be alone and unhappy for the rest of their lives or a person can choose to form partnerships with people they are not attracted to, thus making both themselves and their partners unhappy.
2) People who embrace a bigoted theology can choose to reject their old beliefs and embrace a theology that accepts and encourages love in its many varied forms.

Hmmmmm. Which one of these courses of action is the healthiest and most humane?

Very well expressed, timberwraith. You've put it in a nutshell.

Thank you, William.

Sadly, after writing my post, I can guess the response of a person coming from a conservative Christian theology. I suspect it might sound something like this:

Homosexuality is not God's will. Consequently, any theology that promotes homosexuality is a false theology and embracing a false theology would separate me from the one true God. I would suffer eternal damnation because of my actions, as would you and anyone else who advocates homosexuality. Hence, the only healthy and humane choice is to reject homosexuality.

Of course, the logic is entirely circular, but in my opinion, that's not really the central facet of such a response. Some theologies use the specter of eternal suffering as a means of manipulating and controlling people through fear and the threat of violence. When a person controls someone else through fear and the threat of violence, we call this abuse, do we not? So, in essence, these forms of theology are spiritually and emotionally abusive.

The thing to remember is that when a child is raised under abusive circumstances, there is an increased risk that the child might grow up to be an abusive adult. Under these circumstances, the abused becomes the abuser and transmits their prior abuse to others. It's a sad and terrible cycle, but given that abusive theologies often have an active focus on transmitting their abusive notions to the young, it's a cycle that we need to be aware of.

I'm guessing that Greg's friend suffered at the hands of an abusive childhood theology and now, as an adult, seeks to transmit that abuse to others.

D Gregory Smith | October 29, 2009 6:53 PM

All the comments so far have made me think. Thanks! Just a thought:
All theology arises from experience- thats the part that fundamentalists don't want to admit. If theology comes from MY experience, then it also has to come from YOURS. Fundamentalism essentially denies the human experience in favor of "Divine Law", which is, essentially, the experience of the majority- or, at least, the people in power. Thus the oppression of women, minorities, native peoples, the exploitation of the environment, of industry, of wealth- all in the name of religious conviction, dogma or law.
Theology changes when my experience becomes just as legitimate as any one else's, even though it is in the minority, and that only happens if I continue to firmly maintain its validity.
Greg Smith

In a world of infinite diversity, in which no two people or no two anything else are exactly alike, it seems absurd that anyone can believe that sex and gender are the only two exceptions.

I have two comments:

First of all, I wonder when the writer of the letter chose to be heterosexual.

Secondly, I don't believe that we fall in love with a gender. We fall in love with a person. It's not about sex; it's about wanting to spend a persons life with someone to whom we are very attracted. That's between the other person, me, and God.

MitchInOakland MitchInOakland | October 31, 2009 8:51 PM

We're obviously not all the same, even as to whether we can accept the notion of being gay as a choice.

I suppose it was not a choice for me to be born into a liberal New York Jewish family (My father died an agnostic, my mother a Buddhist.) at a time when experimentation with drugs and sexuality was the (counter)cultural norm. In a sense, being honest was not a choice, but an imperative (much like being gay seems to be for some people): being dishonest or untrue to myself was never an option.

I find it interesting that many of those for whom being gay was not a choice are the same people for whom the closet was a choice made and later rejected. Such an approach is indicative of placing a higher value on conformity than on a loathing of hypocrisy.

Ironically, the result has too-often been conformity to a new set of "queer norms" that (in the face of all the other challenges facing humanity on this overcrowded planet) seeks to redefine "family" and create a Brave New World of social structures and identities to replace (rather than supplement) those based on reproductive biology itself (thereby imposing these redefinitions on everyone else). But don't get me started on the need to toss aside marriage or gender, and instead to define ourselves in our own unique terms...) ;-)

If the closet was never an option, following my heart has always been the essence of choice itself. I don't have any reason or need to say or to believe (regarding sexuality) "I can't help it; I was born this way." I've experimented and made my choices, and I'm proud of this free-spiritedness -- even prouder, I dare say, than I am of being gay. And if I am, indeed, proud to be gay, I'm also proud enough to say I would never have chosen otherwise.

Got a problem with that?

None whatsoever!

myrtlebernice | October 31, 2009 10:29 PM

I am not gay, but I know you are being true to yourself. Yourself is what God gave you. So, ignore the ignorant.