Not long ago, I was talking with a friend. She is generally a warm, good-hearted woman. Please don’t judge her solely on this conversation. Anyway, she mentioned that she has been praying with and for a young man. I concede that she knows him and I don’t, and that she’s known him for a long time. This does give her a measure of insight into his life. Even so, some of what she said was troubling to me. She said her young friend “was” gay. (I’m not really sure whether he “isn’t” now. I also don’t know whether he believes he shouldn’t be or whether he’s in denial or whether he’s just telling her what he thinks she wants to hear. As I said, I don’t know him.) What bothers me isn’t so much that she was thrilled that he said he is no longer gay (although hearing that makes me squirm). No, what bothers me is what she had to say about what she believes to be what caused him to be gay in the first place.
Here’s the list. It’s the same tired reasons I’ve seen and heard for years (Italics mine):
-He had a bad childhood [so did a lot of other people, and there are lots of gay people who had very nice childhoods]
-Our sex-saturated culture “convinced” him [not sure how this works, I would think the opposite would be true?]
-He’s confused [he certainly seems to be now, at any rate]
-He made a choice based on the above, versus being born that way [so, does that apply only to him, or to everyone?]
-His (affirming) church was just using him as a sort of poster child for their agenda
Actually, that last one potentially has some truth to it. A well-meaning church might put someone in an awkward position unintentionally. A church that professes to be affirming, but has no out gay congregants, might leap at the first one they encounter. I’ve seen it happen with other issues, so I assume it’s possible in this case. Whether or not they were using this young man for any kind of agenda is questionable. That they might have inadvertently turned him into a front-man for their desire to demonstrate their affirming status is a possibility, though.
I wish people wouldn’t assume they know the root cause of anyone’s personhood. It’s not as clear-cut as seeing a brown-haired child and knowing she can’t be the product of two blondes. Whether it’s personality or sexuality, pointing to a person’s past is fruitless in the current relationship. Knowing someone’s past may be helpful in relating to them, but it shouldn’t be the tool we use to analyze people.
In fact, when did it become okay to measure people anyway? What gives anyone the right to puzzle out the reasons for someone’s life? I’ve seen this happen far too often. I’m not the most patient person, but one thing I do well is not pushing people to talk. I leave doors open, but I don’t assume I know anything until they’ve said it. Sometimes, this doesn’t work well. I have had friendships drift and end because we didn’t feel close. I suspect that for some people, being urged to confide is important. I’ve had other relationships that didn’t deepen until we’d been friends for years, when we were finally able to reach a greater level of intimacy.
I’ve strayed far enough from the topic. Anyway, I suppose I don’t really have a point. I just wish we wouldn’t presume things about what “causes” people to be who they are. Too many things go into shaping us into the people we become, including our genes, families, and circumstances. Instead of treating people like puzzles to be solved, maybe we could try just being friends and caring for each other.