What's Love Got to Do With It?
"To the pure in heart, all things are pure..."
"To the pure in heart, all things are pure..."
Well, it's not a question, really...
Just something that I need to make clear...
...and it's this...
Sexual orientation is not just about sex!
When I was in the middle of experiencing my fifteen minutes of post-coming-out media attention, I would get hit with a lot of questions about sex in many interviews...particularly questions about my own experience in that area...and I always tried to move the conversation in a different direction when that would happen.
I suppose it's understandable that I would get those kinds of questions, but I just hated to have to answer them.
It's not that I had anything to hide about my sex-life back then...as I've already said in this book, enough time has now passed that it should be clear that I was not outed by anyone...my coming out was not a publicity-driven attempt to get in front of an about-to-be-revealed sex scandal, make the story my own, and protect my public image, as many haters in the blogosphere speculated.
Even after my divorce, I could have just not said the whole truth about myself, and could have saved myself a lot of pain, hassle, and trouble. Even though, in that case, many would probably be suspicious of the real reason for the break-up, I could have just done what many closeted public figures do...could have maintained a secret relationship, or had secret sexual encounters, and could have kept the public persona somewhat protected.
Actor Raymond Burr (Perry Mason, Ironside), for example, managed to keep his male partner out of sight for decades...the man he considered to be his husband...and his fans were none the wiser. He's just one of many, many famous gay people who have kept their private reality totally private like that. Many high profile people live that way today in Washington, and even in liberal Hollywood, in order to preserve everything that they've worked for.
And it's certainly not that I'm squeamish about talking about sex.
Anyone who knows me knows that I don't have trouble talking about anything...and I mean anything!
In fact, I freely and openly discuss things about politics, racism, sexism, religious intolerance, homophobia, ignorance, phoniness in the ministry, hypocrisy, and the gimmicks that many preachers use to be successful quite frequently in the pulpit.
The words "I can't believe you actually said that out loud!" are words I hear quite often.
I even publicly speak so candidly about my own faults, mistakes and idiosyncrasies that it's a wonder anyone ever even gossips about me. That's why I can say with confidence that you shouldn't believe everything you may hear or read about me...if something's true, I probably would have already told everybody about it, even if I have sworn to my own hurt to do so. If I haven't said anything about it, it most likely didn't happen, because I live my life (especially now) as an open book.
If there had been a sex scandal that prompted me to come out, I would have been the one to go public with it. It's just too exhausting to try to hide something that's inevitably going to be revealed about you. I'd rather just let everyone hear it from me (..."Confess your faults one to another..."), and just let the chips fall where they may.
In other words, I just don't need "don't ask, don't tell"...
No, the reason that I don't like to talk about the sexual aspect of being gay is because too many straight people ignorantly assume that that's what it's all about.
As I said earlier in the book, being gay is not a choice, nor is it a sexual fetish, or even a particular kind of behavior, for that matter.
When you make it just about the physical, you marginalize those with same-sex attraction, overlooking important aspects of their lives such as love, romance, affection, commitment, relationship, partnership, family, paternal/maternal instincts, sharing a life together, dealing with loneliness, community, growing old with someone, longevity, owning property together, having/adopting/raising children, and so on.
In my congregation (both locations) are same-sex couples who have faithfully been in monogamous relationships for 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 years or more...a couple in my Midtown Atlanta congregation just celebrated their 37th anniversary (they met in college and have never dated anyone else, male or female)...I got a beautiful letter recently from two men who have been together for 41 years...and in states where gay marriage is now legal, you see some couples who have been together for more than 50 years, who are just now able to have their long relationships recognized and acknowledged in that way.
These are people who often work together, own homes together, own businesses together, go to church together, take care of one another in sickness and in health, take care of one another's parents in their old age, have children together, and don't cheat on one another...
In a word, these are people who LOVE one another!
Whether or not they have the insurance or legal benefits, or any of the other perks that straight married people often take for granted, they are in real and committed RELATIONSHIPS...
...and they're not just having sex all the time!
As I've already said here, sexual orientation is not about WHAT YOU DO...it's about WHO YOU ARE!
I was gay long before I ever had sex with anyone, male or female, and if I were to remain celibate for the rest of my life, I would still be gay, because that's how I'm wired (oriented)!
Again, straight people don't become heterosexual upon having a sexual experience with the opposite sex...they just are and always have been straight.
A heterosexual man or woman could go to his or her grave a virgin and still be straight, because that's their orientation.
Same thing for gay people...it's who they are, not what they do...
No one chooses heterosexuality.
No one chooses homosexuality.
You just are what you are, regardless of what you ever decide to do (or not do) about it.
If you never act on your sexual impulses, you still are either gay or straight (some include bi-sexual here, even though I have my own opinions about that subject, which I will save for later)...you just are who and what you are.
Straight people can disagree and argue about that fact ad infinitum, but it doesn't change the reality of it.
You Can't be Serious!
Most of the deluge of hate mail that I was getting daily when I first came out has pretty much died off now...as I've already said, the letters I got from Christians were so mean and nasty and hateful that they were nearly comical...like it was a practical joke. I don't think I could have gotten nastier stuff written to me if I had murdered my parents. For some reason the Christians just really can't stand for some people to be themselves, especially gay people (even though Jesus was silent on the subject...and I know I've said that before, but it bears repeating)...
Anyway, one typical line of thinking that was in many of those letters was the comparison of homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia. Lots of people said to me "If you say you were born with this orientation, then what's the difference with people who say they were born a pedophile, or that it is in their nature to have sex with animals?...we don't allow those people to do what they feel like doing, so why should we allow homosexuals (usually they insert the word "sodomite" here) to live open lives?"
Please allow me to answer this incredibly insulting question...
It's such a stupid and mean-spirited argument that I shouldn't even dignify it with an answer, but I'll do it anyway...
The simple answer is that human beings cannot have consensual, committed relationships with animals, and adults cannot and should not have consensual relationships with children!
If gay people were incapable of love, relationship or commitment, these people might nearly have a point...but, as I have said, it's not just about who you have sex with, it's about who you are attracted to...who you love...I could even run the risk of making stereotypes by saying that orientation often determines a person's taste in music or movies or fashion. I know in my own case, there are certain types of entertainment (Broadway, for example) that I have always loved and followed, and that has nothing to do with my sex-life, whatsoever. I'm not saying all gay men know and like show tunes, but a lot of them do, including me. I'm not saying all lesbians like football and shop at Home Depot, but a lot of them do. Without trying to box anyone into a label, I'm just trying to make the point that orientation is a much bigger thing to deal with than who a person sleeps with...
Another thing you hear from these people is that gay people, especially the ones who want to get married to each other, are changing the definition of marriage that we have observed from the beginning of time, and that's just not true. I've already discussed this in the book, but even the men in the Bible were nearly all polygamists and had harems. Even the concept of marrying for love is a relatively new and modern idea...and it wasn't that many years ago that it was illegal for people of different races to get married, and back then the haters used the same arguments against mixed marriages.
Just because you don't understand or can't empathize with the way someone else sees the world, doesn't mean you have the right to condemn it.
...to be continued...
...to be continued...