The Day I Chose My Heterosexuality

kids-playing-tag

I still remember the day I chose to be heterosexual. It was the fourth grade.

I was 10 years old and I already knew all about girls. I knew to take precautions with them. I knew to be very careful.

I knew they all had girl germs.

And if there’s one thing a worldly young man like myself already realized, it’s that you definitely did not want to catch girl germs.

And so I spent every recess sprinting through the schoolyard, tearing around the jungle gym, and barreling through clusters of scattering kids, trying to escape being touched by one of the female runners. It was like the cornfield human round-up in the Planet of the Apes (or maybe The Walking Dead, a few decades early). I did my best to help the other boys when I could, of course, but we all knew that when push came to shove, it was every guy for himself. Better them than me.

We ran for our lives every lunchtime, knowing that to be touched was to be contaminated. But I was super fast. Maybe it was my sweet new pair of Zips, maybe it was my natural ability, or maybe it was Adrenaline and desperation—but I was one heck of a runner.

That is, until Lori Kopcash.

Up until that day, Lori had been my greatest playground nemesis, and her very presence struck fear in my 10-year old heart. She was gross and icky and absolutely crawling with girl germs—and she could run fast too.

One afternoon Lori was chasing me through the blur of the screaming crowd around me, when I suddenly realized I wasn’t running as fast as I could anymore. In fact, I was sort of dogging it on purpose. The truth blindsided me like a truck: something in me really wanted Lori Kopcash to catch me.

That was the day I chose my heterosexuality.

Of course, there was no real decision to be made here; no furious debate in my mind, no great wrestling with the choice at all. I simply became aware that Lori Kopcash made me feel something I’d never felt before. I couldn’t rationalize it or explain it—I just liked her. I just liked girls. My perception of girls and their respective germs was never quite the same again.

We all can point to those moments early in our journey when we realize something true about how our hearts and bodies work. There would be more times, but this was the first.

It wasn’t until later that I learned through the faith tradition I’d inherited, that apparently not all people worked this way. Some people, my Christianity told me, choose to be gay; they reject the very natural reality of what God had hard-wired into them, and make a conscious decision to be a different way. What I experienced without thinking in that playground—they somehow decide. What was an awareness for me, was for them a premeditated choice.

I knew right away how ridiculous an idea that was.

I knew that it was both arrogant and ignorant to imagine that anyone else’s experience of attraction or affection or desire were any different from mine—simply because the orientation of those things were. The story that my religion told me about these things just didn’t ring true that day. It still doesn’t.

Later when I became a pastor, I was committed to remembering how natural what I felt that afternoon for Lori felt, and to work toward a Church that respects that we each have a truest truth; that we should be allowed to live and love and worship from that most authentic place. If God made any of us to naturally feel what we feel without getting to choose it—God created all of us this way.

One of the greatest failings I see in my fellow Christians, is assuming that they can determine what is natural for someone else; what is their real, their truth—that they can decide for another person who they are.

It grieves me when I see followers of Jesus dismissing someone else’s story; their sense of identity, their inclination to love, the orientation of their affections, and the revelation of their own hearts—as if they know more about those people than they know about themselves. It’s the height of hubris.

One of the prayers I carry daily, is that more people who claim faith in Jesus will find the humility to remember what they learned about themselves at some point in their lives, and to allow everyone the dignity of coming to their own conclusions.  

There in the playground of St. Mary’s Catholic school, Lori Kopcash made me stop running. And when I did I woke up to the way my heart worked. I didn’t choose anything, I discovered it.

That is a gift we should give everyone, both inside and outside the Church: the joy of being who they really are and trusting them with their own stories.

We should tell all people that when it comes to how they love and who they love—they can stop running.

 

 

 

 

169 thoughts on “The Day I Chose My Heterosexuality

  1. I think your “facts” were gathered decades ago and reflect biased and ignorant suppositions on the part of past researchers.

    Adult males learned NOT to report same sex attractions because to do so would bring serious grief and potential harm.

    People with differing orientations have had to grapple with their sexuality as a result of societal expectations, and those who have been abused are more aware of the need to deal with the fallout of those heinous acts. People who are heteronormative do not have think about their sexuality in the same way that those who are not do, since they can just go with the societal flow. Straight men may be very loathe to report childhood abuse for fear that it would bring accusations of being gay. The issue you should be pressing here is that people should stop abusing children.

    As for the various mental health issues you raise, people who are not afforded their basic human rights, who live under constant threat of homelessness, abandonment, and violence, who likely suffered severe bullying in school and beyond, do exhibit mental health issues, but not because of their orientation or their understanding of their gender. It is a direct effect of trauma. Stop the bullying, violence, and oppression, and treat for trauma, and you would have only the same rate of mental health issues as any other demographic.

    As for childhood reporting of gender identification, if you had asked me when I was a child, I would have stated that I should have been a boy. Not because that is who I am but because it was hell to grow up as a girl in a society that was (and still sometimes is) so disparaging and limiting of anything feminine. There are many reasons why people might report differently as children and as adults, including the reason I mentioned above about men reporting same sex attraction.

    As for science . . . science is gradually catching up to reality on these issues as well as thousands of others. I think I will leave you with a little Shakespeare:

    “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

  2. Well said Patricia,

    …and let’s not dismiss that it is the pressure put on developing youth to fit an ideal and to hide the truth of themselves which causes undue anxiety, which then leads to a higher risk of mental health and emotional issues.

    Q. The cause?

    A. Traditional sexual ethic and organized morality through religious indoctrination of shame and disgust towards a natural biological God given gift which is our sexuality.

    It is becoming more and more apparent that traditionalists cause the very harm they use to judge LGBTQ people; which is a blindness of epic proportions; because they condemn, separate and fear normal everyday people, who are no different from them and whom God loves and calls to himself.

    • “It is becoming more and more apparent that traditionalists cause the very harm they use to judge LGBTQ people”

      I think I was aiming at that, but you really hit the target. Thank you.

  3. So much posted here! Just some random responses:
    Same sex sexual activity in Scripture: There was no word for homosexuality in either Greek or Hebrew. There was no concept of sexual orientation either. Almost all references are to male on male sexual activity and the model used was that of degradation because there was the assumption that the receiving male was degraded because he took the “role” of a woman. This is all based on the crap that women were lesser than men and were merely their property.
    Much of the attitudes that found their way into Scripture came from secular sources where the conquered were humiliated by the conquerors via rape. Again, putting a male in the sexual role of a woman was meant to degrade them
    There is little if any reference to activities that are not abusive, coercive or exploitive. Any activities whether sexual or not that were abusive, coercive or exploitive were condemned, especially by Jesus in the New Testament.

    Inerrancy of Scripture/Taking all Scripture literally:
    Any person who claims that they take Scripture literally or that there are no inconsistencies in Scripture has not read Scripture. Otherwise, they would realize the absurdity of what they purport to believe. Something as simple as the creation narratives: there are two and they do not match. Similarly with the flood narratives: there are two and they do not match. As I have said before, since I don’t see very many folks who have cut off hands or feet or plucked out eyes because of sin, they are not taking all of it literally…..only the parts they think apply to other people! I believe the word might be hypocrisy.

    Being lesbian, gay, etc. but not “acting” on that: This can only come into play if one truly believes that one should deny part of one’s being. It would be a horribly cruel and sadistic God who would create same gender attractions only to condemn them from being acted upon. I do not believe in such a God. I believe in the God who made it clear that humans were not meant to be alone but in relationship. Remember we once tried to force left handed people to be right handed because we thought they were inherently evil.

    The cause of sexual orientation: It sure isn’t nurture, at least for me. I came from a home where both parents were present all the time and loved and disciplined me with love. My father was not an “absent” figure….he was always there. Mother wasn’t a domineering mother…..Southern yes, but not domineering and some on this list know the difference. The stereotypes do not work. More and more medical research is showing that there are innate causes for sexual orientation just like for hair and eye color. There is also the fact that in many families there are multiple same-gender attracted siblings in the same generation as well as in previous generations. From my biological training, if this was some genetic flaw it would have been eliminated from the gene pool centuries ago. It hasn’t and it continues to appear generation after generation. I once thought it was a natural means of population control by taking a percentage of the population out of the baby making business. We seem to have skirted around that issue!

    Bottom line: Why I am gay is not anyone’s business but mine. How I am gay is of no concern to me and isn’t anyone else’s business either….or shouldn’t be. If you have issues accepting who I am as a beloved child of the living God, then maybe you need to look into a mirror and see what the real cause of your problems might be…..then ask God to forgive your arrogance in judging the worth of any of God’s creation. My faith in God is clear and it assures me I am alright with God.

    To the person seeking a spiritual home: Many, probably most Episcopal Churches should welcome you. Discrimination against LGBT folks is prohibited by canon law. I live in Atlanta where the large numbers of same gender couples, even those raising children, are not an issue. We had a baptism last Sunday of a 12 year old girl. She had two mommies but most of the congregation totally missed that aspect of the event. They were interested in the baptism of the girl. I find that incredibly beautiful.

  4. Wonderfully written.

    Re following Scripture, when someone claims to follow the Scripture completely, I claim BS. Someone who followed the rules contained in Scripture would be in jail within the week.

    • Right. But then you would here the cry:

      “I am being persecuted for being a Biblle-believer. Oh Lord, thank you so much for this persecution because it lets me know that I am right and they are wrong—and my reward will be great in Heaven for killing that gay man so your law is fulfilled.”
      Just sayin’

      • Thanks. That’s how they think. The persecution is always self-contrived to provide the least possible pain and discomfort: “She disagreed with me about the meaning of the rod in Old Testament child rearing. I feel so persecuted!!!!” Call us back when you can talk about being soaked in oil and set on fire to serve as a street light in Rome. Then we can talk real persecution instead of “faked 21 st century couch and pillow” persecution. ” I feel so-o-o-o-o-o-o-o persecuted!!!!” Yeah, right.

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  8. Please catch me up. Is there now scientific evidence that says that sexuality is a choice, meaning “being born this way” is proven to be false?

  9. John, I basically agree. Those who aren’t gay in the church can be quite cavalier about condemning those who are. Maybe it’s something like me condemning my friends who are golfers for the time they spend on that activity when I have never in the least had any desire to participate in it. I do love playing basketball, however. But that is God’s plan for natural sports, so I can enjoy that without guilt while simultaneously judging the golfers. However, I do think, based on my own experience, that there is something to how we are conditioned, either by our own choice (maybe not a conscious choice, but a choice just the same) or by circumstances within our environment that are completely outside our control, which can encourage certain tendencies and stifle others. People don’t choose to be fat, for example (not implying moral equivalency between obesity and homosexuality, just trying to find an example that imperfectly demonstrates my point). Maybe they grew up eating healthy, like me, then went crazy when they were out on their own and got into the habit of a different type of eating. Now for the life of them, they don’t feel like they’ve made a choice or that there is anything they can do to change their eating habits. But, just the same, if they want any chance of losing that weight, they’re going to have to make a choice. That choice might seem to them as possible as levitating using their mind, but if they don’t make it, they are guaranteed not to ever be thin again. If they do make the choice, they may never be able to achieve their goals either, but if we and every psychologist and dietician tell them they can’t change, not to even try, what chance do they have? My point is not that there aren’t some people who are biologically born gay, but that the modern PC movement may have done a disservice to those of us who could go either way, by convincing us we were gay, and for some of us, it’s more the counter-cultural tight-knit culture and the sense of belonging that are attractive to us more than that we are without exception predisposed to homosexuality. I think that we must be true to, as you have said, our truest self, not motivated just by a desire for identity and a niche but because it truly is what our inner voice (not the lgbtq movement or our desire to be bound together in our victimhood) tells us is the best version of ourself. Doubt is a part of this but I just don’t know that it’s as cut and dried as the talking points on either side of this debate want to make it. I also acknowledge my belief that a large percentage of evangelicals have a similar motivation for their own life choices: a desire to be bound to a cause and against a (real or perceived) enemy; a fear of loss of identity or status if they do not listen to the path dictated loudly to them by the religious right; an emotional need for “cognitive closure.”

  10. I discovered you on Twitter following the election in November and have been really enjoying your writing. I was raised by ex-Catholic atheists and consider myself an agnostic, but my culture is still more strongly that passed down by a Christian faith. I have never felt that I needed to believe in God in order to be a spiritual and good person. However, men like MLK Jr, Ghandi and Jesus Christ are heroes to me and give me a sense of something like faith, faith in the ability of humans to rise above their selfish daily worries and care about humanity overall. As an outsider, I have frequently wondered how so many professed Christians can forget so much of the teachings of Jesus and instead pick and choose old and New Testament bits and pieces to support their own beliefs rather than trying to develop a better understanding of Jesus and how he changed the religion into Christianity. I would think if you accepted him as the son of God, you would give greater attention to what he had to say than to what came before and after. In reading your thoughts and comments, I see the words of someone who has followed the path of Jesus and opened his heart to humanity. Thank you for being a voice of love and reason in your church. It revitalizes my own sort of faith that we have in ourselves the ability to be better, to ourselves and to others.

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  12. I have one question. Are you willing to give the same concessions to natural born killers? You don’t choose sin, the flesh is born with it. Jesus is quite clear about marriage and the alternative in Matthew 19.
    “4“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’a 5and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’b ? 6So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.””
    “11Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.””

    While I agree with you, as Christians we should hate the sin not the sinner, this does not excuse recurring sin of any kind.

    The bible teaches us any recurring sin is a strong temptation to turn from God’s true north, some we know about and some we don’t.
    Psalm 19:12- calls us to ask for forgiveness for those we don’t and restraint for those we do.
    “But who can discern their own errors?
    Forgive my hidden faults.
    13Keep your servant also from willful sins;
    may they not rule over me.
    Then I will be blameless,
    innocent of great transgression.
    14May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
    Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

    You are in my prayers.

  13. Why is it that when (for example) a “transgender” undertakes to make themselves more physically male or female (whether surgically or chemically), so many will affirm and encourage their bravery (Caitlyn Jenner, etc), But when anyone on the “other side” suggests that the MIND and feeling – with some sincere efforts – could likewise be altered gender-wise, they are labeled, immediately and universally as “bigots” and “haters”, as purveyors of narrow-mindedness and “dangerous, destructive” ways of dealing with those whose orientations/identities differ from those of the majority…? Same thing, different twist, when it comes to homosexuality: “Affirm that I’m born with it and have no control over it, that I’m “hard-wired” and that God has no problems with it – or I’ll label you a hater.” The real violence here is being done to the holistic Christian concept of personhood. We are not “a machine made of meat”; nor are we minds / spirits out there floating in space. Our bodies, and how they were actually formed and joined with our minds/spirits, really matter. It is a little silly to say that God himself, according to His pleasure, hard-wired homosexuals to be as they are, and in the same breath to say that, “Sadly, some people were put in the wrong [gender] bodies”. So God never allows/causes mistakes on the one hand, and He does so pretty regularly on the other?

    If I affirm that the immutable sexual/gender psyche is “fixed” from birth, but the body can be freely altered, what am I saying? Which is truly more “invasive” – a cutting scalpel, or a cutting set of questions in the course of some kind of counseling/therapy? Why would I choose one over the other? If there are people who truly do struggle with same-sex attraction or transgender identities (or their social implications), who are willing to work through things and seek changes psychologically, and there are those willing to assist them on that path, what’s wrong in that? How can one consider that a “dangerous” and “damaging” (and/or hateful) path, and the surgical / chemical / unconditionally affirmational / scripturally “progressively” interpreted option the “right” one? Are the rates of suicide / depression for openly transgender individuals in like-minded communities less than for those with some yet unresolved inner conflicts (which we all must have), who are working with some good help towards healing and peace, and an identity that corresponds not only to physical realities, but to the reality of our being “in” Him?

  14. If God has declared homosexuality, for example, detestable and against His plan for us…here is the part I don’t understand…why would God “hard-wire” some of us to be homosexuals? Seriously…I want to understand that but can’t get my little brain wrapped around that contradiction. Your thoughts, please?

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