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I've been told by many people--mostly family and Mormon friends--that being gay is just my "trial" in life that I have to go through.  It's much like diabetes or down syndrome or some other disability.  Some people have equated it to having a hot temper or being prone to alcoholism or some other such tendency.  So, I just wanted to talk about that for a while.

First, the issue of homosexuality being like a disability or condition such as diabetes.  One major way in which this analogy breaks down real fast is that, as far as I am aware, there aren't any church or groups of people teaching that people with diabetes are evil or that they have done something evil to bring upon them their diabetes.  I don't know of anyone teaching that diabetes is a choice (and, fortunately, the number of people asserting that sexual orientation is a choice is also dwindling).  Those who have physical or mental disabilities or lifetime conditions are usually not discriminated against.  Usually they are not considered to be a threat to young children.  In fact, they are often revered, honored, respected, and even coddled.  Friends will rally around someone with such a condition and try to support them in their difficulty.  This is not as common a treatment toward gay people.  More commonly they are given the cold shoulder or told to repent.  Is someone with down syndrome told to repent of it?

The next classification--that it is like having a bad temper or alcoholism or some other "tendency" that one merely needs to "overcome" or keep in check.  This is assuming that sexual orientation is some sort of enticing to a certain action, and yet it is not.  Being gay is not a temptation.  It is not a compulsion to participate or engage in a particular behavior.  It is a description of the class of people that one is attracted to sexually.  Sex drive itself may be an impulse or compulsion--a "tendency" to engage in sexual behavior.  But this drive is not unique to homosexual people.  It is common with nearly all humans (admittedly, there are those that report no sex drive and some that even report aversion to sex and sexual thoughts).  Therefore, these impulses cannot be attributed only to homosexual people.  If it is some sort of temptation that needs to be overcome or kept in check, then that statement should apply to heterosexual people as fully as it applies to homosexual people.  My desire to engage in sex is no more or less moral than a straight person's.  It is also no less real than a straight person's.  Therefore, if it is the tendency itself that is to be avoided, then it should also be avoided by straight people (and therefore all people should be celibate).

Concerning the matter that being homosexual is a trial, I say that it is not my sexual orientation but the treatment that I have received from people after having disclosed my orientation that is difficult.  It is not difficult to be gay.  It is not unpleasant.  I require no pity to the effect of "I'm so sorry that you have to deal with the challenge of being homosexual."  Being homosexual is no more difficult than being heterosexual.  The challenge lies not in the sexual orientation itself but in how society treats a homosexual person.  (Again, I wish to emphasize that all of these issues are on the decline--society is becoming more sensitive toward homosexuals and more aware of the true nature of homosexuality.)  First of all, we are treated as though we are incapable of understanding our own emotions.  People say that we are merely confused because we think that we're attracted to people of the same sex, when in fact we really are not.  People say that we chose to be gay and refuse to believe that we made no such decision at any point in our lives.  Therefore, we are treated as if straight people understand us better than we understand ourselves.

Secondly, we are discriminated against.  We are ridiculed and mocked.  In the past, there have been many cases where there was unprovoked violence against gay people--sometimes even by officers of the law.  Such cases still occur (in much smaller frequency) today.  People use the phrase "that's so gay" as an insult, indicating that being gay is undesirable.  (As I said in this post, I personally don't take offense at such usage, but when the phrase is used, consideration for a gay person's feelings is not commonly taken.)  People commonly feel awkward talking about the issue of homosexuality, as if the mere discussion of it were some sort of plague.  Many people would consider it impolite to ask a person whether they are homosexual, as if being perceived as gay is somehow insulting to a heterosexual person.  (In fact, some homosexuals even pride themselves in being "gay-acting"--that is, being perceived as heterosexual.)  I have often heard statements such as "He's got to be gay, or at least bisexual." as if there is a hierarchy (gay < bi < straight) indicating that being gay is at the bottom of the totem pole and straight is at the top.  Imagine, for a moment, if such discrimination existed among different "types" for straight people.  That is, (straight) guys who like blondes are somehow better than guys who like brunettes.

In the effort to try to help heterosexual people have more empathy for homosexual people, consider the following analogy.  Imagine that you are seriously dating someone (of the opposite sex) and your family strongly disapproves of them.  In fact, their disapproval is so strong that nearly everyone in your family has called you or emailed you (and some of them have done so multiple times) to tell you that you should not marry this person, that you only like this person because you have allowed yourself to stray far away from your religious beliefs, that you need to repent and come back to the straight and narrow path, that you are betraying your family and your church because of your love for this person that you wish to marry.  Or maybe they're telling you that you don't really love this person and you're just confused--that you don't know what real love is, that this is just lust or infatuation.  Perhaps they haven't said anything like that, but they don't want to come to your wedding because they don't want you to feel like they condone your decision to marry this person.  Imagine how you would feel.  Depending on the strength of your love for this person and your own personal need to please your family, you may decide to end the relationship or you may decide to marry the person anyway, introducing the risk that your family might not ever talk to you again, or that they would not welcome you into their homes with your sweetheart.  How would you feel if you were treated this way simply because your family didn't like the person that you loved?  Would it be easy for you to keep believing that your family really loves you?  Think about this long and hard before the next time you say something to or about a homosexual person or about homosexuality in general.  Think about the other person's feelings.  Remember that they are also a person, just like you, and are capable of feeling the exact same emotions as you are.  Remember that they feel love just the same way you do, even if the person they feel that love for is of the same sex rather than of the opposite sex.

No, for me, being gay certainly is not a trial.  But the way people have treated me since I have "come out of the closet" certainly has been.  But, I have definitely noted that homophobia is on its way out and acceptance is on its way in.  When I first came out on Facebook, I noted my friend count because I was sure that people would unfriend me by the dozens.  Surprisingly, only a score or so actually did unfriend me (and a few more when I started posting some things about my doubts concerning Mormonism).  However, I have noticed that my friend count has increased by more than 100 since that time, indicating that there are more people who are able to accept me for who I am than those who will shy away from me due to my openness concerning my homosexuality.  This has been extremely touching.

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