Growing up I heard a lot of horrible things said to scare or justify beliefs and behaviors. Things like people were gay because they had been abused or they didn’t have a father or mother. Any excuse that could be had to nullify the possibility that maybe gay people were simply born that way. I’ve never understood why it is so difficult for them to accept that it’s possible for someone to be born with the biological desire to be attracted to and love someone of the same-sex. Why? Some people are born with brown eyes, some with blue and others with green.
Oh, I’ve heard all the cherry picked Bible verses used to support the “sin” of homosexuality, and as a child I believed them. I believed them because I knew no better, it’s the only thing I had ever been told. The longer I’ve been away, the more I’ve realized that in a manner of speaking it is like being brainwashed. For the most part, I didn’t know what other ways of thinking there were. I also was terrified to even think about anything that went against what was preached. I know now, that everyone chooses to interpret the Bible differently. No one truly knows if it was truly divinely inspired or just a book of stories (many which were taken from other cultures) to make a religion. In my recent post It’s Just Me – I haven’t Changed I discussed the many fallacies of those cherry picked versus.
These “reasons” the Christian community has used for “why” people are gay are the main reason I have rarely spoken of the fact that I was sexually abused by two different people as a child. I felt like if I spoke about it, especially around my family, that it would be used as an “excuse” or “justification” of why I was gay instead of focusing on the truths of the matter. The first being that I was BORN gay. I was not made this way by the fact that I was sexually abused. I was not made this way by the fact that I had a physically abusive father. I was not made this way because I had a largely absent mother (she was always travelling for work). I am exactly who I was created to be. The second being that it diminishes the reality that they have a daughter, sister, aunt, cousin who is gay, PERIOD. Rather, they could then say well my cousin is gay, but she was abused as a kid so she probably hates men. I do not hate men, nor do I do not want to be the “man” in the relationship. I simply have no physical or emotional attraction to a man. I am just me.
When I say my family was ultra-religious/conservative, I’ll expound upon that so you understand that gravity of what I was dealing with in my family & community arena. Several of my great-grandfathers were pastors, two of my uncles are pastors, three of my male cousins are pastors & my brother is a pastor. There are more missionaries in my family that I can even begin to count, including my own mother, who spent seven years as a medical missionary in Nigeria. Her uncle is buried there after spending most of his adult life as a missionary there. Another of her uncles spent his entire adult life there also. My mother’s family is very well-known as her family was instrumental in starting a Christian college in Northern Indiana, which 60+ years later is very well-known in the Christian community. At one time in the early 90’s there were thirteen first cousins attending the school, including my brother. The administration building is named after my family as is one of the upper classmen apartment buildings. I followed shortly after. I grew up going to church camp every summer for two weeks. I spent every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday at church. My grandfather was very well-known in the community as he and my grandmother ran one of the largest producing dairy farms in the U.S. I couldn’t go anywhere without someone saying “Oh, you’re an (my grandparent’s last name) or oh you’re XXX’s granddaughter or XXX’s daughter.” The amount of pressure to be “perfect” was immense. And being gay was certainly far from perfect.
All of that combined with the “shame” attached to being gay kept me from discussing the fact that I was molested because I felt it was attached to that shame. I also didn’t want to give anyone that power to say that’s what made me gay. Unfortunately, I’m sure not discussing it wasn’t very healthy!
When I realized that one of my male cousins (who co-incidentally was adopted) was gay, I realized that he took a lot of the pressure off me because he “shattered” the “perfect” image of our family. Then I began to realize though, the damage it had done to him. My heart breaks when I think about what he’s gone through and how it’s affected his entire adult life. I’m sure they could say “oh he’s adopted so it must be something from his birth family” but he was a newborn when they adopted him. So then, in the conservative theory, it must be his home life – either he had an absent mother or father or he was abused. None of those are true. I began to think about it more. Their philosophy is that it’s either the way you were nurtured (or lack there of) as a child OR you chose to be gay. I don’t think he would have chosen to be gay, or at the very least, pretended to be straight after the shame and degradation he’s gone through from his parents. So that leads back to the way he was nurtured. That can’t be true or it would shatter the “perfect” image that our family worked so hard to maintain. They certainly couldn’t admit to that, it couldn’t be something they did that made him gay. The truth of the matter is, he’s gay because he’s gay. He just is who he is. He’s still a fantastic human being, but he’s a human being that’s been led to believe he’s living a life of sin his whole life and that has taken a toll on him & I can hear a lot of bitterness when he talks. Who can blame him?
About a year ago, one of my cousin’s son’s came out to me on Facebook (in a private message) and asked for some advice. He then promptly came out on Facebook for the whole world to see and has never looked back. That’s not to say he has not dealt with fallout from our family. It truly saddens me the lack of Christ’s love that they portray in their dealings with him.
Over the years, I’ve watched other “scandalous” things occur in our family like divorce, alcoholism, sex before marriage, etc. and it’s come to help me see that I was so afraid of being the one that messed it all up, when in reality they were all just living a facade. Their own families had issues.
My memories before age thirteen are very fragmented due to a serious accident I was in at twelve. I’ve either subconsciously blocked out who the first person was that molested me or the accident took that memory from me. However, I very clearly recall who the second person was and to this day I have only told two people. I sometimes wonder if he ever thinks about it and if he thinks I don’t remember it because of my memory loss. I don’t let it rule my life other than to be hyper aware of the fact that there are people in your life that may appear to be one thing, but in reality are hiding ugliness. It’s usually those people who either go to the extreme of shaming others with perceived flaws (like being gay) or they stay silent because they have a guilty conscience and know they have no right to throw stones.
Being gay is nothing to be ashamed of, nor is being the victim of abuse. The way you handle yourself and your presentation to the world is everything. You can choose to be bitter and angry or you can choose to show love and live your life happily.
Always remember – you are perfect (created the way you were meant to be), you are beautiful (with all your flaws), you are worth it (and should be treated as such), you are special (just like everyone else is). Don’t ever let anyone make you feel differently.