candid thoughts on the issues of the day.

I'm writing an exposé on homosexuality. I'm not sure what will become of it in the end, but I invite you to make comments as I go along.

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Growing up, especially during adolescence, we all encounter a variety of influences that help to shape our values and worldviews. For me, growing up in a Roman Catholic family and attending public elementary schools in the relatively liberal town of Webster Groves, Missouri, my influences were varied and sometimes conflicting. While my parents, family members, and religion taught me one set of values, my friends, teachers, classmates, and other societal influences oftentimes presented incongruous values. Especially during my early pubescence, I began to carve out my own unique worldview from these assorted influences, according to my self-identity as a rebellious but contemplative adolescent (thinking I was much further along in my path to adulthood than I actually was).

Regarding homosexuality, the various influences were tugging away at me in roughly  the following way (as I understand them in hindsight):

Roman Catholic Church: Taught that homosexual acts are immoral but homosexuals are to be loved, just as all humans are to be loved.

Parents/Family Members: Assumed to teach and support roughly the same values regarding homosexuality, but did not discuss the issue very often and openly.

The Bible: Seemed to have an even stricter condemnation of homosexuality than even the Church openly espoused. In the story of Sodom and Germ

Friends/Classmates: Being “gay” is not socially acceptable. The word “gay” was often used to describe something as “stupid” or “uncool.” If someone was called “gay,” it was definitely an insult.

Teachers: Though I can’t remember a specific incident of a teacher saying this, I’m pretty sure my teachers, in general, did not condone me or my classmates using the word “gay” in the above context. Homosexuality—or indeed any form of sexuality—was generally a taboo subject in the classroom. Even in sex education classes, I don’t remember homosexuality being discussed.

Despite all of these influences seeming to frame homosexuality in some kind of negative light, somehow I developed a conception of homosexuality that doesn’t seem to align with any of the above influences. My basic thoughts on homosexuality, formulated somewhere between the ages of 12 and 19, were that indeed homosexual acts were wrong and acts I would never endeavor to engage in, but that some other people were “born different” and couldn’t help it. So for them, maybe homosexuality had to be accepted. Of course, I still hoped that such individuals would choose not to engage in homosexual acts, which I understood to be wrong (just as premarital sex was wrong), but they did, it’s probably OK because they’re “different.” They might have a different set of values that didn’t condemn homosexual acts, and their values, I thought, had to be accepted because everyone has the right to choose their own values, right?

Moreover, my conception of the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality was that maybe these Scriptures shouldn’t be taken literally—or maybe the language and stories of the Bible concerning homosexuality were so old that they weren’t applicable anymore. My thoughts concerning the Church’s teaching on homosexuality were that maybe the Church was “behind the times” and not yet fully accepting of homosexuality because the “old fashioned taboos” hadn’t yet caught up with society’s modern understanding of homosexuality. My parents, family members, friends, and others who didn’t treat homosexuality as a natural and acceptable human condition were similarly thought to be behind the times.

In high school I didn’t know many people who were openly gay. I knew some people who I thought might be gay (I was active in my school’s theater program…), but no one I knew closely had “come out” as openly gay (I went to an all-boys Catholic high school). I started noticing in high school, however, that homosexuality was becoming less and less “taboo” in society and even among my peers. There were more and more TV shows with gay characters and more openly gay celebrities. My friends and I often hung out in the Central West End section of St. Louis, known to be a center for the city’s gay community. I can remember several times when guys came up and “hit on me,” particularly one time when I was sitting outside Coffee Cartel in the CWE. I was polite, talking to him for a short while, but eventually told him I wasn’t gay. I can remember my friends joking about me being hit on by gay guys, but it wasn’t as harsh as it might have been in middle school.

By the time I entered college, it became relatively common for me to come into contact with people who were openly gay. College is a time when many people “come out” regarding their homosexuality, and there were GLBTQ groups on campus. During my first year, I still did not have any close friends who were openly gay, but I knew “aquaintenances” (friends of friends, people who lived in the same dorm, etc.) who were openly gay. Among my friends, I could definitely feel that there was an acceptance of homosexual culture, and I could even feel that people who didn’t accept this culture were viewed as close-minded.

During the summer between my 1st and 2nd years of college, I became close friends with someone who “came out” to me. I was one of the first persons he came out to, so he must have felt that I was fairly open-minded and accepting. We spent a lot of time that summer talking about what it means to be gay, what the causes might be, and how gays are viewed in society. This friend did not feel comfortable coming out to other people we were interacting with that summer, but years later, he is now more open about being gay.

...to be continued...


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