BruceD from YBMT? posted this comment the other day that bears exploring:
Sometimes, I get the feeling that "being gay" is the most important thing in a gay person's life. Is it really that important?I had to kinda smile, because when my friend Craig first came out to me, more than a dozen years ago, I had much the same reaction. And I think if the straight world and the GLBT world are ever going to understand each other, it's one of those questions that's worth talking about.
And I'll say publicly what I told Bruce in a brief email reply: the fact that my straight friends are reading, and questioning, and commenting means a great deal to me. So many times in my life, when I have come out, people have said, "Oh, you're gay," and immediately seemed to assume that they know what that meant because of what they've read or heard about "the lifestyle" (99% of which has no bearing on my life!). So Bruce, Penni, and others, the fact that you're reading, asking, and listening for answers, is a blessing.
As I wrote to Bruce, the short answer is that "being gay" is no more important to me than "being straight" is to him. The funny part about that, of course, is that sexuality, and how we relate to people in relationships, drives an awful lot of how we live - and so "being gay" or "being straight" is actually a fairly big part of our lives.
It's like the red thread in a Tartan-plaid fabric - if it wasn't there, you'd still have fabric, but it wouldn't be Tartan-plaid.
What a lot of straight folks don't see is that for homosexuals, the revelation that we are gay also puts us at odds with a significant portion of society - friends, family, church, social structures (though that percentage is diminishing every day). In that way, it's not the most important thing, but - at least to others - it can become "a" defining thing, if not "the" defining thing.
I can't tell you the number of heart-breaking stories that I have heard concerning people who were "sainted members of the church," or Eagle Scouts, or community leaders, who were discovered to be gay - and then shunned. Not because they were caught with their pants down, or discovered in some lewd and lascivious act. Either they came out to someone they trusted, or were seen in public doing something awful like holding hands with another man, and suddenly their world exploded. Thrown out of homes, shunned by family and friends. And so the fear of that, for many of us, makes "being gay" a big damn deal.
I think the heart of it for me, for many years, was the centrality of the question, "What would they do if they knew?" at the heart of every relationship. An example of this is my relationship with my boss, who is an African-American male and an active member of a Christian church. There is a tremendous prejudice against gays in those communities - to such an extent that many gay black men actually marry and live their gay lives "on the down-low" (about which you can read this brief but informative summary on Wikipedia).
So while I am "out" at the office, and don't hide my homosexuality from anyone, I don't find any reason to raise the issue around my boss, because I just don't want to deal with it. (Interestingly enough, the black women in the office found it quite the kick to tease brutha cool about the cute guys in the office....) But with the other 99% of my co-workers, it's no big deal.
So at least until one is both out and comfortable with it, a large part of "being gay" is finding "who is safe" and who ain't - and that does make "being gay" an important part of every relationship, whether the other person knows it or not.
I have to admit that coming back to my original "getting sober" AA community and coming-out to them held some dread at first. But in talking with other gay friends in AA, it's just a matter of mentioning it in passing, and not treating it as a big deal. (Especially in the recovery community, there is more of an emphasis on honesty rather than sexuality - so I don't anticipate much trouble there.)
There is also the issue of community. Every person I know likes to be with people like themselves, at least part of the time. A shared understanding, shared experiences, and common interests provide ways of bonding and making friends - and this is true regardless of culture or orientation or anything else. It's why there is such diversity in the Christian church - because you have people who gather together because of nationality, ethnic background, worship styles, you name it. People like to be with people like themselves....period.
So it's not surprising that GLBT folks seek out people who are GLBT. Especially when people have experienced significant rejection from their families, jobs, or communities, there is a sense of safety, acceptance and togetherness that comes from gay clubs, gay-friendly churches like the Metropolitan Community Church, and other organizations like it. It's one of the reasons I find GayChristian.net such a blessing - there is a shared experience there that is a great blessing.
I'm not even going to try to address the old question, "Well, are you 'gay' first, or 'a Christian' first? Which is first, 'sex' or 'God'?" - because it's a dumb question. It's like asking, "When did you stop beating your wife?" It's not an either-or, or first-or-second question. You see, I am:
- whiteAll those things are true, and none of them is "first." Any slice of me, in any direction, would find all of those ingredients.
- nearly 50
- in recovery
And I'll say this, to wrap this up: the reason I'm coming out is not because I either have a boyfriend or a gay health problem. It's precisely because I want people to see that people can be "like Steve is," and be gay. People who love God, love life, and are solid members of a community and yet still live with inborn same-sex attraction. The more that gay people are "out," the more people will see what "gay" is, and not be so put-off by it. It's not wrong, it's just different.
So, that's a first shot, Bruce. I'm looking forward to my other gay readers chiming in and adding their own two cents (or more) worth. Thanks for asking, and again, thanks for listening.