OPINION: How do you know when you’re gay?
To be gay or not to be, is it a question?
"When did you decide to be heterosexual?" This was a mind-shifting question in an article I read about whether or not homosexuality was a choice.
In her dying days my mum started reading the Bible. She had always been a devout Catholic but never really quoted the Bible. She lived a good life, did no harm to others and was guided by Christian principles. One day I visited her at the nursing home and she said, "The Bible is quite violent and some people were really brutal." She almost said this apologetically and with sad disappointment. My consolation to her was that everyone chose to interpret the Bible as it made sense to them.
And I do believe this, it's the only way I can get my mind around the architects of apartheid who used the Bible to justify the most evil and inhumane ways.
I have never read the Bible verses which apparently condemn homosexuality. Like my mum, I don't have to read those parts of the Bible to do the right thing. My experience among gay people is that it's not a behind the hand chit-chat, nor a choice, nor a matter to be defended.
This is their normal. Take it or take it. Why should it not be a non-subject? I never have to introduce myself as not gay. My parents never had to excuse me at dinners and family gatherings for being not gay. So, who am I to make any aspersions on the merits of who someone chooses to have a relationship with, sexual, platonic, or toxic for that matter?
I know how that feels. I have had pretty standard relationships and my choices were questioned, and it is quite startling. I have enough life of my own to concern myself with to be bothered by how others live theirs. If the relationships are healthy, loving and fun, good luck to them. A good partner is hard to find. If they're not sustainable and unworkable, good luck to them, let them work it out.
It wasn't until one of my three sons asked me, "Mom, how do you know when you're gay?" that I had to think in twelve directions, sit up in my driver's seat, control my breathing and driving before I answered him. My first thought was, "Dear Lord, why me, isn't this something Dad must deal with? This child is six, how am I going to do this?" As my thoughts jumped, my son's eyes darted from my thought bubble to thought bubble. I have a policy of telling my children the truth, but simply.
"Well," I said slowly, "It's really quite easy, if you feel you like a boy 'like that' more than you like a girl 'like that', then probably you are gay. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it, it is perfectly normal." I lied. 'Like that' was his phrase to distinguish between girls at school who just like him as a friend and girls who like him 'like that'. He used to wink his eye or roll it, depending on his feelings.
A big frown and lifted lip met me as he said, "No mom, I like girls 'like that', I'm just asking because you know when I record myself talking and singing, I sound gay?" So that was one quick and useful conversation. Quick because I asked how gay sounded and he said, "You know, how I sound on videos!" Useful because I have four children and if any of them is gay, I don't believe they would have any issue telling us as their parents.
The Orlando shooting over the weekend is another reason I feel I was lying to my son by saying it is "perfectly normal, nothing wrong with it". In my heart and the heart of my God, it is normal and okay to love who you love. In reality however, the abuse, discrimination, rejection and abandonment most gay people face from family, friends, radicals and communities makes me hope my children never have to deal with that. If they do, we will be here to support them. They will, however, become vulnerable no matter how strong their self-image, their sense of living an authentic life or their purpose and contribution to the world. Some ill-informed, frightened mere mortal will wield power under the silent agreement of those who don't speak up about accepting people as they are. Silence about the scourge against gay and lesbian people gives their attackers a rite of passage to ridicule, rape, mutilate and kill.
We all choose our partners. Most single people don't pucker up to every man or woman they see, and so it is with gay people; they have preferences, choices and standards. Being gay is a way of being, being homophobic is a choice. Other choices include information, education and curiosity around what normal is, and it is the responsibility of everybody who says they want freedom.
Lisa Joshua Sonn is a social activist. Follow her on Twitter: @annalisasonn