The Most Difficult Personal Decisions
NOTE: What might an intelligent choice in one culture is often unacceptable in another culture. Even in the same country, even among people of the same religion, a choice one person sees as intelligent, might seem totally unacceptable to others. This is true especially with questions about sex, abortion, and homosexuality. Please understand that I am an American writing from my own perspective.
In my experience the most difficult decisions are related to homosexuality. In some families, the subject has been discussed and sometimes children are assured that the parents will continue to love them, no matter what, and that if they are gay or lesbian, they will still be part of the family and totally loved and accepted. These children are very lucky.
Other families may accept gays and lesbians in the community but are extremely upset when it involves their own children.
For others, of course, homosexuality is totally unacceptable and seen as evil. I know of parents who ask gay or lesbian children to leave the house immediately and never come back. While they rarely admit it, many of these parents regret this decision and grieve for their lost child for the rest of their lives. But they may continue to believe they had no choice, that they did what they had to do.
Meeting people and having friends who are Gay or Lesbian
Actually, I should say Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Transgender, or Queer. Some prefer the word Queer instead of one of the more specific terms.
What to do when you meet someone who is Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender
It isn’t always easy. Sometimes people are so upset that they really don’t know what to say, and try to avoid everyone who is or might be gay or lesbian. I knew a young man who asked a girl for a date. She simply said, “No thanks.” But he later learned she was a lesbian. The young man was so terrified that he transferred to a different college, a small Christian college, assuming this couldn’t happen there. This happened years ago, and I hope he has changed over the years.
I once discussed this question in a high school class. The students in the class would all be going to college in a few months. I asked them what they would do if they had a really nice roommate, someone they got along with very well, and halfway through the year this roommate said, “I really need to tell you something. I hope it won’t make any difference to our friendship. I am gay.”
My students were horrified at the idea. While they didn’t say so, I think many of them would have stared at their roommate in shock, gotten out of the room as fast as they could, and demanded a new roommate. They wouldn’t have wanted to spend another night in that room.
I asked the students to consider other alternatives. We finally agreed on a response something like this. “You are gay? I really had no idea. I have to be honest and tell you this is really hard for me. I grew up thinking anyone who is gay is a pervert. You’re the first person I’ve ever known who is gay. But I really appreciate the fact that you trusted me enough to tell me. It’s going to take me a little while to get used to the idea, you know. But I really enjoy having you as a roommate, and I don’t think there would be any reason not to continue.”
What was most amazing to me was first, having one boy’s mother come to tell thank me for dealing with this issue. Her husband was terribly homophobic and she had never known how to bring up the subject.
Then, to my surprise, over the next year, a good number of those students came to see me. The usual comment was, “Mrs. Fishel, the most important thing I learned in Physics last year was about how to react when we meet someone who is gay. I know you said we’d meet and get to know a lot of people who are gay, but I don’t think I believed you. Now I have some good friends who are gay. I just wanted to say thank you.”
Even More Difficult: If you are gay, lesbian, bi or transgender
Sometimes children already sense who they are. A little boy may insist that he is a girl and insist on wearing dresses and playing with dolls. A little girl may insist that she isn’t a girl. She is a boy. Such children tend to be born with genitals not matching their chromosomes.
With gays or lesbians, the first clue normally comes around puberty when a young person feels an attraction to someone of the same sex. He might wonder if he is really gay or just curious? Is she really a lesbian or does she just admire this other girl? Other people wake up one morning, and they just seem to know. Still others spend months or years coming to terms with their sexual identity.
Some find it comparatively easy to accept the idea, especially if they have good friends who are gay or lesbian. Others, especially those who had been taught that homosexuality is a sin and that all homosexuals are perverts, may find this an agonizing situation that frequently leads to denial, sometimes to suicide.
Find someone to talk to. If there is a gay student group on campus, you might go to a meeting or call someone and discuss you problem on the phone.
But isn’t it evil to be a homosexual?
The answer to this question is Absolutely not! People once thought this was a choice. But who would choose to be considered evil and perverted? Nobody. We simply are what we are. You might say that this is the way God created you, that you should therefore accept God’s creation and not deny who you are.
Scientific evidence shows that gay men and lesbians have a number of structural differences in their brain that are probably caused by the effect of different chromosomes or hormones before birth.
It is not healthy to go through life hating yourself because of the way you were born.
Once you accept yourself, this leads to other difficult decisions
1. You can choose to have a sexual relationship with someone else who is also gay (or lesbian.) Just as rape is unacceptable and usually criminal, it is not acceptable to force someone of the same gender to have sex with you.
2. You can choose to remain celibate (not having sex with anyone.)
3. You can choose to accept who you are but pretend to be heterosexual, get married and raise a family. If you do this, you would need to decide if you will discuss the issue with your wife or husband. This usually results in a marriage that is not especially happy. Many of these marriages end in divorce.
4. You definitely should NOT choose to have sex with multiple partners, both because you increase the anxiety and chances of being caught… and you have a serious risk of contracting and passing along many sexually transmitted diseases including HIV-AIDS.
You can also choose to deny who you are. You can spend your life living a lie. You might marry and have children, forever hoping that this terrible desire will go away? In some parts of the world, this is seems to be the only decision for most people. Homosexuality may even be illegal and gays and lesbians can be severely punished.
You must decide if and how to share this information with others.
1. Will you spend the rest of your life “in the closet,” telling no one your terrible secret? Some people manage this well, but it certainly increases your stress
2. Will you share this secret with only a few of your most trusted friends?
3. Will you share your struggle or your new identity with your parents? With others who are gay or lesbian? With your roommate? With your friends?
4. Will you choose to be open about your sexuality in all areas of your life?
It is probably wise to go slowly. There is no need to stand up in class the next day and make an announcement, “I want you all to know that I just realized that I’m gay.”
Take your time. When you are ready to share, begin by speaking to your most trustworthy and accepting friend. You need to slowly grow more comfortable about discussing this subject.
Think about how this affects your future goals. Some people choose to be “in the closet” at work, not sharing this information, knowing it might affect their evaluations, their relationships with workmates, and they may end up losing their job. If you live in a very different area far from your workplace, you can often be “out of the closet” at home, though that is still taking a risk. Others, feeling the stress of trying to hide who they are, find a job where they are accepted. Some choose to move to a part of the country where there are large numbers of gays and lesbians and many fewer problems.
Think carefully about how this information will affect your relationship with your parents and family members.
I strongly believe you should take plenty of time to prepare before talking to your parents. You might want to start by mentioning someone you now who is gay. If this doesn’t cause a problem, discuss a friend who is gay. Eventually you should consider bringing home a gay friend. Hopefully, they will get to like your friend. At a later time, you might ask your parents if they realized that your friend was gay. When homophobic people meet and like someone who is gay or lesbian, they may rethink their attitudes. You might mention famous people, people your parents would like, who are gay or lesbian. Only after you have given then time to adjust slowly to these new ideas, should you come out to them.
A young man I met many years ago, knew all through high school that he was gay. A few of his friends knew but he had never told his parents. He decided to tell them just a few weeks before he left for college. After the shock wore off, his mother was supportive and understanding.
His father, however, simply could not deal with it. He began drinking. He was drunk so often that he lost his job. Finally, his wife got a divorce. In hindsight, we might say the student would have done his family a favor by never telling them. But, of course, it is impossible to predict how people will react.
Other families have a very different reaction. They ask questions. They sympathize with the struggle their child is going though. They thank their child for trusting them and sharing this information. As a result, the whole family grows closer together.
If your parents have threatened to throw any child of theirs out of they house if they were gay, you might be wise to at least finish college before telling them. You could use the time to make an effort to change their opinions. You might finally decide you should never tell them. You might even be able to introduce them to your “best friend” and explain that you are sharing an apartment or a house to save money. When they urge you to get married, tell them you are still looking, that the right person hasn’t come along yet.
If you choose to leave questions or comments on this subject, I’d recommend that many of you not use your real name or a name of anyone you know. Stick to names like “Big Guy,” “Funnyman”, “Just Curious” or “Feeling Hopeless”. You could also say that a friend has a problem, especially if you fear that anyone will get into your computer. Please be safe.
Just knowing that I am someone who accepts you just as you are and understands your problems, may, in itself, be comforting. Over the years I have had many gay and lesbian friends who I respect and care about. I have participated in protests demanding Gay Rights, as in my earlier years, I protested for Civil Rights.
Whatever the choices you make, I wish you a long and happy life.
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