Growing Up Gay: The Choice I Didn’t Make
There is a great debate, especially among religious people, regarding whether people are born gay or choose to be gay. The common refrain among evangelicals is that we who are gay choose to be attracted to the same sex. They believe that being gay is not something you are “born with” but rather something you have decided. I use the words “born with” very intentionally here because the sentiment behind them is often that being gay is a condition, like being born with a birthmark or a disability.
For years I was a devoted evangelical, and during those decades, I wrestled deeply with my sexuality. From my earliest memories, I knew I was different. I was never the little girl searching for her prince. I was, in fact, a little girl longing for her queen. I could not pinpoint an event or a turning point where my same-sex attraction began, which led to deep confusion about who I was created to be. Was this a cruel joke, or did God somehow make a mistake when I was created?
I grew up in an era when being gay was not even remotely accepted. When I became a Christian in college, the option to pursue a same-sex relationship, or live an openly gay life, seemed to be taken off the table for good. I did not see a way to be true to the longings I felt and consequently made a conscious choice to follow a traditional heterosexual path of marriage and kids. While I chose to live a heterosexual life, who I was at my core, did not change. I did my best to keep my thoughts and desires hidden and sadly believed that I would never experience the kind of love I was longing for.
One day, as I was preparing a message for a women’s retreat I was scheduled to speak at, a shocking reality hit me. The weekend theme was living authentically, and the passage I was studying was Psalm 139. It is a passage about how we are created, and as I drilled down into the text’s original language (Hebrew), I was struck by how artistic the language was. This passage dramatically changed my mind about how God saw me. The words reached deep into my soul and planted a seed there that would eventually grow into my ultimate freedom — the freedom to live my life exactly how I was created to live: as a gay woman.
Verses 13–18 of Psalm 139 are a key that will help bring clarity to the great debate:
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well…Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
The Hebrew expressions in this passage use phrases like: “you mixed the paint of who I was to become” and “you picked out the threads of the tapestry you wove into my being.” I began to see the clear picture that God chose me and created me to be exactly who I had known myself to be all along. We are given a physical DNA, and we are also given a spiritual/personality DNA. Our soul and our personality are determined before the beginning of time and uniquely expressed in our personhood. Full stop.
I want to acknowledge that there are certainly people who happen to fall in love with someone of the same sex, and they would tell you that they are making a choice to pursue that love and that they would not identify as being born gay. One of my closest friends would describe her life in this way. As a society, we tend to love boxes, and we shy away from anything that seems messy or uncertain. We would be wise to give up our love affair with certainty. Many like me resonate with being chosen to live our lives identifying as gay. We generally wouldn’t express it in this way, though. It’s hard to feel chosen when many voices rise to tell you that who you love is a choice. I’m trying to change that narrative in my mind.
Many LGBTQ people have walked away from religion and evangelicalism in particular. Others, like me, live with deep wounds from pastors, friends, or relatives who have shamed us for being gay. I’m grateful that I have slowly been able to separate my relationship with God from institutionalized religion. I am thankful to be living my life out in the open now. It took many years and several tough decisions along the way, but I eventually got through it.
For those readers who are still in the midst of this particular struggle, I wish you strength, freedom, and healing. Feel free to reach out to continue the dialogue.