When I was younger, I thought that gay people were disgusting. I thought that being gay was a sexual perversion akin to being attracted to animals. I thought that having gay sex led to any number of medical complications and a shortened life expectancy. I thought that HIV was somehow connected to having sex with monkeys. No, really, I did. Part of it was because I was incredibly young and didn’t fully understand the conversations I was hearing- but some of it was an honest reflection of what the people I was around thought. And as I got older, the misconceptions persisted. Bisexuals were “hos” who wanted to have so much sex they couldn’t settle for just one gender. Lesbians were women who had been sexually abused by men or just hated men so much they could only have relationships with other women. Gay men were either effeminate and weak or bearish and hairy and nasty, but either way it was all about truly disgusting sex.
Thinking about gay people would make me want to vomit in my mouth a little.
For a long time I didn’t feel a reason a reason to question my beliefs. The Bible had passages that condemned homosexuality, so I felt safe in my prejudices.
Then I turned seventeen, and I was being pushed to the limits of my thinking. I was already going down a journey of questioning my beliefs. I stopped reading the Bible to reaffirm why I was right and started prefacing every meditation with “what’s the cost if I am wrong?” Around that same time, a close female friend confessed to thinking she might be a lesbian. And another friend came out as Bi. (Let me just say- someone having a crush on you as well as one of your brothers at the same time- awkward.) I had to step back and ask myself what was going on. My friend was not a lesbian because of being abused or because she couldn’t get along with men. The Bi friend? Not a whore, a virgin. So what was this whole “aberrant sexuality on a slippery slope to all out debauchery” thing all about?
Aberrant sexuality was given a new face to me: innocence. Young kids, like myself, overwhelmed with emotions they were only beginning to make sense of. Crushes and longings and whispered confidences that were not about sex, but about identity. Who am I, who do I want to be, who do I want to be it with? Who loves me, wants me, desires me? Am I allowed to dream, or have my dreams become my enemy? Do my thoughts betray me? Can I ever be loved?
It’s hard enough to be young when you’re what other people want you to be. It’s hard enough to have your first love when it’s someone you’re allowed to want- but to deal with all of that emotion in the face of rejection, in the face of being told it was put there by demons- knowing if you were honest, you might lose all your friends… Think of the cost of keeping a secret. The way it gnaws at you. Try to remember what it is like to be young, and ask yourself how much it must tear these kids up inside, to feel like they can’t be completely sincere. They have to hide the truth from their friends.
I’ve seen things I wish I could forget. Kids at their most vulnerable, questioning their Creator for not making their sexuality normal, hating God for not taking this burden from them, being thrown to the ground and commanded to release their demons.
Regardless of what one truly believes, or why, it is never okay to reject someone in their weakness, to cast them out in their time of need, to belabor them with your good intentions until they are broken beyond repair.
We have to remember how to love.