Friday, April 1, 2011

You were born this way, baby.

“Born This Way” is not a “gay” song, per se – it’s simply affirming. No matter who you are, what your strengths and weaknesses happen to be, or how you happen to look, the lyrics talk about loving yourself the way you are. Not much new there – Christina Aguilera had a song out several years ago, “Beautiful,” that operated under the same premise. But “Born This Way” speaks to listeners a little differently, I think, because of those three simple words: born this way.

When I was in high school, two of my best friends were young men who happened to be gay. When I married my first husband, one of the benefits of that union was my enduring relationship with his brother, who happens to be one of the world’s kindest people, a devoted uncle to my kids, and a drag queen. As my kids have gone through high school and college, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know some wonderful kids who are beginning to come out as gay young adults.

I’m also a Christian. And to borrow liberally from Gaga: God don’t make no mistakes, baby. If you’re gay, it’s because you were born that way.

Those who agree with me may be nodding your heads right now; those who don’t may be unfollowing my blog. And that’s OK; I respect opinions that differ from mine. On this topic, though, I’m pretty darned sure that if you don’t believe as I do, you’re flat-out wrong.

Consider this: When I was in sixth grade, I had crushes on boys: Bob George. The McNamara twins. One or two others, maybe. And at no point did I stop and say to myself: “Wait a minute; I’m at a crossroads here. Do I like Nick … or do I really like Tricia or Julie or Karen?” I loved my female friends, but at no point did I want to kiss them on the lips. I simply knew I liked boys.

But if you feel sexual orientation is a choice, don’t you believe we all must experience that decision-making moment at some point during puberty – perhaps write out a list of pros and cons of playing for one team or the other? If you did that, educate me about it. To my knowledge, that’s never the way it works.

With regard to choice, let’s also consider the fact that coming out does not ever seem to be emotionally easy. Back in 1981, my two gay male friends were sure their parents would disown them if they knew the truth. Suicide rates among gay teens are higher, as we’ve all read, than in the heterosexual population. How terrifying must it be to risk rejection from the very people who are expected to love you unconditionally? What thinking person would choose to take that risk?

Proponents of the “choice” theory have asked me over the years: “How would you feel if your own child turned out to be gay?” They may as well ask me, “How would you feel if one of your children turned out to be blond?” Thankfully, I was raised in such a way that sexual orientation would never be a variable by which I would form an opinion about someone, especially my own child.

One of my favorite teachers in high school was a priest who happened to be gay. He came out to me years later, when I happened to run into him in, of all places, a bar. We talked long into the night, and he told me that although he had kept his vow of chastity since being ordained, he still agonized about living a lie – but he was equally certain that the God he believed in, and the one he had taught me about for four years, had chosen to create him with the genetics that would result in his being gay. He told me about trying to play football to appease his father, and about his mother telling him – after she had found out – that he couldn’t ever let anyone else know, or she would have no option but to kill herself.

A young man, or young woman, would choose to risk that type of reaction from loved ones?

I know a young man who is preparing to have a difficult conversation with his parents. Best-case scenario: Hugs all around after they tell him that they’ve suspected for years and it’s no big deal. Worst-case scenario, and the one he fears: that they’ll send him away to a facility that can “cure” him. Not only does he not want to go away, but he doesn’t want to be cured … because he knows there’s nothing wrong with him.

Yesterday, legislators in Colorado got things dreadfully wrong, killing a measure that would have allowed gay couples to enter into legally recognized partnerships that would have afforded them many of the rights that are currently reserved for married couples. Thankfully, gay marriage still is allowed in Iowa – a fact that continues to make me proud.

But it’s my hope that in my children’s or grandchildren’s lifetimes, people won’t be able to fathom a time when legislation was voted up or down on the basis of something that’s as immutable as the fact that I have green eyes and can’t fold my tongue. It’s all about the genetics … and I hope we’re all graceful enough to be more than a little embarrassed when someone finally figures that out.

Photo courtesy of Google Images


  1. You mean you really didn't want to plant a big wet one on me in college? I'm so disappointed.

    But no, so much of what you say is the logic I've always tried to convey in this -- someone would choose to be this hated/misunderstood? I'm not saying gay people would prefer to be straight. I'm saying I'm sure they, like anybody, just don't want the hate sent their way.

  2. Thanks, Jane. It does just seem like such a no-brainer to me.

  3. Wonderful post Lisa! I could not agree more with everything you have said!

    And I dig that song too! It's my jam of the moment! Also, tangentially related, two of my friends at college (who happen to be a gay couple that my boyfriend and I run around with a lot) attended the recent Gaga concert in Omaha and went to one of the gay clubs here afterwards. Lady Gaga showed up there and gave a mini performance right on the dance floor with backup dancers and everything!

  4. Now, if we could get the majority of the population to read this, truly is a "no-brainer"! You are so gifted with words - thank you!