Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Straight Man Comes Out

Or "How I Became a Rowdy Citizen"

My own "coming out" was a process that took place over many years, and it seems to involve four major steps. The first was seeing homosexuality as simple ordinary. This was easy for me, but it came about in a rather strange way.

I was raised in a very strict Roman Catholic home, which has a lot to do with why I have never viewed homosexuality as anything other than a natural variant of human sexuality.

Think about that for a moment.

I just said that I view homosexuality as a natural variant of human sexuality BECAUSE of my strict Catholic upbringing. At this point you may properly ask what it is that I am smoking. You see, when I became a young teen, I would think of sex a fair amount of the time. In fact, all I had to do was hear or read certain words and I would think of sex; words like girl, skirt, leg, outboard motor, etc. But in my Catholic home anything that could even be remotely connected to sexuality was simply never discussed. So I had to learn on my own with no input from my caregivers.

The most influential source of my education was a weekly series of magazines called, "The Story of Life". It was a 53 week series that explained in clinical but readable detail everything about human life, love, and sexuality. One issue was dedicated to "Lovers of the Same Sex", and it dealt with the issue in a frank and totally non-judgmental manner. Since this was my only real source of information, I had no reason to think that there was a judgment to be made.

It is difficult to explain why the second step should be necessary, but while I could accept homosexuality as a natural and normal variant of human sexuality, intellectually, I could not comprehend how one could feel a sexual attraction to a memeber of the same sex. I guess I still can't, really, but for some reason seeing the effects of same sex attraction helped me see just how real it is.

As a teen (or very early 20's) I, and a few friends (one of whom is a lesbian), experimented with each each other to test our responses to same and opposite sex stimulation. I doubt anyone would want to hear details of such experimentation, but it was an eye-opener for me.

The third milestone was moving beyond seeing homosexuality in sexual terms and seeing it in terms of relationships.

I am ashamed to admit that until the Goodridge decision, I never gave even a moment's thought to gay relationships, especially with respect to marriage. My attitude towards Goodridge was pure indifference. It didn't affect me or my marriage in any way. My feeling was that is two people of the same sex want to marry, who the hell am I to even voice an opinion on the matter?
But then a backlash began. A petition to ban SSM by constitutional amendment was signed by enough voters to put the measure to a vote. As many as twenty states (insert real number here) passed constitutional amendments to ban SSM, and I was absolutely horrified by the rhetoric. The talk shows hosts, the religious press and even the Republican Party (that Party of cold sober realists who preach "rugged individualism" and "get the goverment of my back") became preachers of pure hate.

I had never been so disgusted by my countrymen or more ashamed of my nation.

I didn't feel like an American or a Christian anymore.

The idea that in these United States of America in 2007, that the people should vote on the civil rights of my fellow citizens has shocked me to core. And that the Party of Lincoln would lead the charge has changed me from a passive supporter to an outright activist.

And I have learned more about gay relationships; I started reading the testimonials of gay couples. I now know that gay relationships are identical to straight relationships in every pertinent way. And only then did I realize how much I take my own protections of marriage for granted.

And then there is step four.

I am a Christian. While I don't fit the mold well, as I have little use for organized religion and am somewhat agnostic in my view of Providence, I recognize that for millions, Jesus is a abundant source of comfort and provides a moral compass. It is of major importance to me to be able to show others that Jesus's message of love, tolerance and acceptance can not abide the bigotry expressed in the typical interpretation of Paul's sermons.

That final understanding of Jesus's complete and total acceptance came form my (on-line) association with the Rev. Dr. Jerry Maneker.

His blog is here:


John Hosty-Grinnell said...

This is a great insight into how you came to your current conclusions on life John, thanks for sharing this.

My developing understanding of GLBT rights started in a similar way. I was raised in a strict Catholic enviornment as well where two of my great aunts are nuns. I was a eucharistic minister, and a youth group leader back in the day.

Where we part ways is in how GLBT rights started to effect me directly. As it became more apparent that I was gay I became more and more estranged from the church because of the lack of love I was shown. What I began to realize was that it didn't matter if I played by all the rules, gay people just aren't welcome.

It has only been by accepting who I am that I have found peace. The people around me now all love and respect me, my spouse, and our relationship.

Now as a fully healed and whole person I am able to give back to my community, and my country by helping others like myself find their self-esteem. My battle is not to "win" any contest with others, but rather to enlighten them into considering how GLBT people feel, and what they can do to help.

As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality." He also said, "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."

It is clear that the opposition to equality does not want to understand our needs or participate in finding solutions. To them the solution to our asking for equality is to simply say "No."

Prove me wrong someone, bring me some solutions instead of fears.

Fannie said...

Excellent post John :-) I'm always interested to hear what motivates non-gay people in supporting equality.

Oh right, because it's the right thing to do ;-)

Jane Know said...

Awesome story, John. Thanks for sharing your "coming-out." This fight for equality will probably rest more on the shoulders of you and others like you than anyone else...and I think the majority of upcoming generation shares your views.

John Hosty-Grinnell said, "Prove me wrong someone, bring me some solutions instead of fears."

I agree.

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I have learned more about gay relationships; I started reading the testimonials of gay couples. I now know that gay relationships are identical to straight relationships in every pertinent way. And only then did I realize how much I take my own protections of marriage for granted.