When you are young and same-sex attracted, everything about it is confusing. For me, one particular matter of confusion played out like this . . .
Gay people choose to be gay. I'm not choosing to be gay. But, for some weird reason, I'm having gay thoughts.
Waaaay back when (sometime when I was a kid), I just thought being gay was like any other sin forbidden in the Bible. I assumed people elected to be gay, signed up to be gay, or, more simply, CHOSE to be gay. I assumed every gay man, at some point in adolescence, said to himself:
Hmmm . . . should I date girls or guys??? Decisions. Decisions. I think I'll be different and gooooooo . . . GUYS! Hooray! *orders rainbow flag off Amazon*
I really thought people chose to be gay, so imagine my surprise and terror when I began to be drawn to guys instead of girls. But I wasn't choosing it, so this situation didn't compute.
I think I was like a lot of people in that I WANTED it to be a choice. If gay is a choice, I thought, then it makes the Christian theology of it so much simpler.
Religion is hard, because it requires faith. It's mysterious and, at times, inscrutable. Faith is the bridge that gets us through the uncertainty, but it's tough to hang with faith sometimes. Because of this, people of faith love the parts of it that are certain and agreed upon by everyone. I know I do. For example, consider these sins:
Most sane people agree, religious or not, that these things are wrong and are not good for people or society at large. And the thing about all these sins is that they are behaviors, and behaviors are chosen.
Theft is a behavior. Murder is a behavior. Cheating on your wife is a behavior. Lying is a behavior. It is certain that these things are wrong.
Choose not to do them, and the sin is gone—problem fixed. Like I said . . . simple.
So if you're a pastor, you can get really fiery preaching about these sins. You're preaching against obviously bad things, and we all agree, people just need to stop that.
This is what I mean.
If we believe that being gay is also a choice, then we can treat it like everything else. With the assurance of certainty, we know what to tell people . . .
You gays just need to stop that. Get your act together, repent your face off, get some therapy, and come back over to the good guys' team. Adam and EVE...remember???
Nothing to debate.
God doesn't make gay people. They choose it.
End of story.
The problem with this is that I've never met a gay person who chose to be that way, who swapped out their "HEY I'M STRAIGHT" badge for a "HEY I'M TOTALLY GAY" badge.
Most of the gay people I know were tormented by their feelings when they were younger. They would have done anything to change it. I know I was that way.
I mean, think about it: Why the hell would anyone want to be gay?
Imagine I was part of an organization that was recruiting straight people to be gay.
Imagine I hung flyers around town, trying to recruit to Team Rainbow. If I was being honest, it might look something like this (annotations added) . . .
Woohoo! Sign me up for that! I get all that PLUS LOVELY GAYBORHOODS AND MANY FANCY TANK-TOPS?!?! Deal of a lifetime! I'm in!
Of course I'm making a joke here, but I'm still shocked that the myth persists that people choose to be gay.
Being gay feels much more like a state of being. It feels baked into who you are. It feels knitted into your soul, injected into your physiology, implanted into your person.
And while you can choose not to participate in "gay behaviors," that doesn't take away the daily (or hourly), unmistakable feeling of being attracted to your own gender, of being gay. Even if you never act on those feelings, they're still there. You can no more escape them than you can escape your own shadow. You could no more extract yourself from it than you could extract a million grains of white sand that had been mixed with a million grains of black sand.
A lot of good people over the years have told me, "Yes Brett, but that's not who you are. That's not your identity." I agree. I am not defined by my sexuality, but it is most certainly in the definition of me. And acting as if it's not there or as if gay people manually added it to their definition is very frustrating.
But I didn't know all that back in 2006. A few days after I met with Olan, I dug out that scrap of paper with the counselor's phone number on it.
I was finally ready to do this thing. I called the counseling center, spoke with a receptionist and made an appointment. And a few days later, I was in my car and on my way to my first therapy session . . . 👊
B.B.P.S. - Over 7,500 people have subscribed to the BBP-Mail list. Woohoo! If you aren't on that party bus yet, scroll to the bottom of this page and get signed up.
B.B.P.P.S. - Summa y'all are scared to hit me up on Facebook. Don't be! Links to that and others below . . .
All photos by Sterling Graves. Copyright Blue Babies Pink & Sterling Graves.
B.T. Harman is the creator of Blue Babies Pink, a Southern Coming Out Story in 44 Episodes.
B.T. is a consultant, writer, and speaker living in Atlanta's historic Cabbagetown neighborhood. He was previously a vice president for Booster, an Atlanta fundraising company, where he helped the organization raise $150 million for elementary schools.
B.T. is passionate about storytelling, leadership, good design, Seth Godin, SEC football, Chick-fil-A, Taylor Swift, archaeology, European Travel and CS Lewis.
To learn more about B.T., visit his personal site at btharman.com.