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My Religion And My Sexuality

Question:

I know this is an awkward way for me to start a question, please help me. I’ve never kissed a girl, though I used to get crushes on them, and I’ve had my heart broken time and time again….for a long time I have not have a crush on any girls…but for a long time I’ve been PHYSICALLY attracted to other males…I received alot of support from friends and even some family. However, now I’m finding myself depressed because of the religious background my family has. We’re catholic and that spells nothing but damnation for homosexuals. I feel so trapped. I want to do what would make God happy…but I want to be happy too…is there anyway that I could NOT be gay?

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  • ‘Anne’ is the pseudonym for the individual who writes this relationship advice column.
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Answer:

To my mind, anyway, being gay is defined by what your biologically based sexual urges are; to whom you end up attracted to sexually, more often than not. People do not get to choose what their urges are, unfortunately. They appear to be set in motion by either genetic forces (contributed by both parents), or the mother’s hormonal variation affecting development of the fetus prior to birth. By my definition, if you are sexually attracted to men primarily, and you are yourself a man, you are pretty likely to be a gay man.

My own preferred definition is not universally shared, however. There are other people out there who contend that being gay is a matter of choosing to adopt a particular “gay” lifestyle which involves choosing to have sex with same-sex partners and identifying yourself as gay. By that definition, people’s urges do not define them as gay or not gay; only their behaviors do. People are not gay until they act gay.

My own definition is based on what I would call a biological argument that your biology controls your desire, and you don’t get to choose your biology. The other way of seeing things regards the matter as more of a social phenomena that people can resist or embrace as they see fit. I don’t think most gay people (or straight people or bisexual people either) have a choice in the matter of who they desire. Advocates of a social explaination would disagree with me.

As a thinking and feeling person old enough to have sexual urges, it is both your responsibilty and your right to decide for yourself whether or not you are gay. You have to evaluate the evidence for either answer to your question, and live with the consequences. No one else can decide this important matter for you, really.

I’m afraid that the real issue here isn’t whether you are gay or not (by anyone’s definition) but rather that you fear your family’s disapproval and the disapproval of your faith community if you reveal what your inner desires are. The larger issue is how you personally will come to terms with knowing that a vital part of yourself is likely not acceptable to your family and community. You have a range of options available to you as to how you may respond to this seeming incompatibility ranging from complete self-rejection (refusing to act on your desires at all in any way), incomplete self-rejection (e.g., going the “Ted Haggard” route of public denial but clandistine gay behavior) and all the way to complete self-acceptance (e.g, acting on your desires and being okay with that even when it becomes public knowledge that you are “acting gay”). You may not want to make this choice, but you are forced to do so by circumstance, and so might as well make it as gracefully and with as much courage as you can muster. Talking with or reading about people who are gay about their coming out process may be instructive, as similarly, it may be helpful to you to get advice from religious leaders who are not homophobic.

There is no right answer here. Whatever you chose should fit your larger goals for how you want to live your life. If you decide to keep selective secrets and that makes sense in the larger context of your social life, that is okay. The only thing to make sure of is that you find a way to have some measure of self-respect and self-acceptance with regard to your decisions.

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