Thoughts From a Young Gay Man on Homosexuality, Religious Freedom, and Being Made to Care

Two years ago I sat on my grandfather’s porch watching the sun burn red on a summer evening.  We were sharing a drink with two of my uncles – Dewar’s White Label, a fine concoction and likely the best my grandfather has tasted.  I wish that he would upgrade to single malt though, if only because he can and his time grows short, but grandfather is a frugal man and most of his surplus wealth has gone to building Christ’s Church on Earth.

We talked politics as we usually do.  It is always cathartic, a chance for each of us to speak freely about the latest woeful tidings from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.    We spent a few minutes bemoaning Mitt Romney’s fall before my grandfather turned to another topic – United States v. Windsor had just come down, and he was not pleased.  I remember hearing him say “I don’t understand why this is suddenly a big deal.  There can’t be many of them.  I’ve never met a gay person in my entire life.”

Really?  I thought about saying something.  I am gay after all.

Instead I looked back at the crimson arc in the sky, and tasted the drink in my hand, and decided as I had many times before to say nothing.  Knowing that I was “carrying the cross of same-sex attraction”, as grandfather would say, would give him only pain, and I do not wish for that.  He might devote considerable time to a fruitless campaign to “pray [me] straight”, something I have already tried and do not wish for him either.  I love my grandfather.

Still I was struck by the notion that grandfather could travel his seventy six successful years without meeting a gay man.  Most probably do not stick around Nebraska (I did not), but there have to be a few.  I guess they are all just like me – inconspicuous, masculine, with tenor-or-lower voices, strength in their shoulders, conservative attire on their backs and a prudent attitude towards what from their personal lives was meant to be shared.  Some probably married women and had children – I’ve met gay men who have, although I’ve never seen it end well.  It is a shame though, I think – if grandfather has never met a gay man then he must get his impressions of gay people from politics and gay pride parades, and I like to think that most of us are more convivial and less militant than that.

My uncles and grandfather were still talking while I thought these things over.   They could see the writing on the wall.  It would not be long before the Supreme Court went further and endorsed gay marriage, or failing that, till gay marriage started winning state referendums coast to coast.  This front, at least, of the “culture war” was almost over, they were going to lose, and although none of them likely read RedState, they knew that they would be made to care.

It is about this topic that I’m really writing about, Diary.  I realize we’re not acquainted; I guess I haven’t felt compelled to write to you before. I’ve read RedState, and Townhall, Ann Coulter and the Drudge Report for years.  I was the (stereotypical to young gay men, although you may not have heard of the stereotype) closet case in high school who ran the Young Republican’s Club.  I still vote GOP reflexively, my same-sex heresy notwithstanding, although I am increasingly cynical.  I guess I find the average Republican to be marginally more pro-life, marginally less corrupt, and marginally more fiscally responsible than the average Democrat, and so far that’s been enough for me.

My grandfather and my uncles reached much of the same conclusions that Erick has.  Gay activists are not interested in true tolerance; they want affirmation, endorsement, celebration.  Withholding that affirmation is not something to be accepted.  All must participate.  They and Erick are right about that.

There is another dimension to this that they missed though, another reason why they, and you, must be made to care, that I thought about discussing with them (but quietly let slide) and would like to share with you now.  It is not just about affirmation.  It is also about fear.  We, and here I am speaking on behalf the nation’s gay collective, are afraid of Christians, although many of us do not realize it and fewer admit it.

It is not hard to discern why gay people would be afraid – just as my grandfather’s perception of gay people is likely limited to what he sees in politics and parades, much of what gay people see is limited in scope.   We’ve heard of or known young gay men telling their fathers of their proclivity, and being left with a broken jaw at the side of the road.  We’ve seen gay men kicked out of their churches, apartments, jobs and families, even if they were celibate.  I know some of them, personally.  We remember, those of us who are older than I, the AIDs crisis, seeing friends die spat upon and being told that it was God’s just punishment for their sin.  Those of us who grew up religious tend to leave the Faith, with varying degrees of bitterness.   Some of us remain in it – but those who remain are often not engaged with the wider “gay community” and accordingly are not there to speak up when misperceptions of Christianity are bandied about.  I am not here to say that these perceptions of Christianity are accurate.  I am only here to tell you what thoughts are prevalent in the “enemy camp.”

Fear also stems from political power – a (healthy, for any person) fear of government power leads a gay man to fear what Christians might do with it should they ever regain the political strength they once wielded.  Gay marriage would be gone, obviously, but what about Lawrence v Texas and the rest?  The Catholic Church of my grandfather speaks about loving the sinner and hating the sin, but the Bishops still mourn Lawrence and have endorsed prison sentences for homosexuals in other countries where they have more strength – a curious way to love the sinner, if you ask this one tempted to the sin.

If “we lose on this”, “what else might we one day lose” is powerful motivation to keep fighting even if one has already won more than one needs, wants or deserves.  In the same way that an advancing army secures the territory that it already holds by advancing still further, gay activists feel pressure to continually move the chains – with each new right or privilege, Lawrence grows ever fortified, and each controversy is seen as a pivotal moment in a struggle that, they sense, can only end in absolute victory or oppressive, incarceratory and theocratic defeat.  The idea of a democratic, coexistent stasis with the Christian Right does not seem tenable.  Destroy or be destroyed; like Ender Wiggin fighting his schoolyard rival, gay activists subconsciously (or sometimes consciously) feel the need to kick the Christian Right when it is down, and do it so hard, so repeatedly, that it will never get up to fight again.

Gays worry about what might happen if you do, and what you might do to us if you win.

I do not take that attitude; I am but your humble correspondent, reporting what I see.  When I read about Religious Freedom Restoration Acts I think of my grandfather, my uncles, my devout parents, who are loving “tolerant” people who nevertheless would never, ever bake a cake for a gay wedding, if they were in the business of baking cakes.  Their position is entirely reasonable.  I think it is terrible that they might be forced to anyway, if they were to open a bakery.

It also pains me to see the extent to which every conflict in our democracy becomes a matter of internecine warfare, and I would posit to you that much of that stems from fear on one side or other of the issue.  In the “culture war” there is definitely fear in the gay-activist camp, and it, along with a desire for affirmation, is a powerful engine in gay activists’ war machine.  What to do about it, I cannot say.  Personally, I too am afraid – of where it will lead us and our freedoms to – because Erick is right, you will be made to care, even if you would freely choose not to.

I hope that I’ve said something worth pondering.  I appreciate those of you who read this far.