(Latest letter, March 26, 2015)
I am writing to tell you that I'm going through some growing pains. I recently discovered that I'm a gay wolf. And ... let's just say, I'm not comfortable with it. I've always felt like I was straight, but I started to really like fantasizing about males, I wanna say when I was 18? But, I was never allowed to even express it considering the fact that my Mom was a "walking-talking duck" Christian, and I use that term, because she literally does what she is taught from the Bible, interprets the phrases and practices it out in the general population. (Non-denominational religion) And I used to be a Christian, until now becoming an apostate. And she doesn't know I'm not straight.
Anyways, I talk to very dear friends of mine who are helping me cope with my orientation, and all the while they have said that I was born this way. However, because my mother's teaching is so INGRAINED in to my brain, having to remove it is like cutting cement to find buried treasure, thus, I keep refusing to believe it. And, I don't know what I should believe, because the Bible "says" that its a choice I'm making, but, I'm still conflicted about it, and even though there have been studies and meta studies (studies on studies) time and time again, I just have a problem believing it. And any doctor or scientist can just say something to a person, without the person realizing that it could be just a fallacy.
Not only that, but I'm also scared for my future. As I was once a straight man, I didn't have to worry about marriage rights, and now its like, I'm gonna have to worry about it, as well as possibly believe in the symbolic rainbow flag, which I'm not too comfortable with. Reason being is because I don't like what it represents, and even during pride parades, which I will probably refrain from going, its still "in your face" style oriented, as well as other LGBT activities, in fact, I really don't want to be part of its community in general, as I'm not proud of my sexuality. Whether open, or closed. And I certainly am not comfortable telling my other furry friends who don't know about my sexuality, because even though they are a very open group, I myself am just, not. ._.
So I guess I really only have two questions, though you said one, but I hope you don't mind.
1) Should I believe my friends and say that I really was born gay?
2) Do I have to be part of the LGBT community in general?
That's about it.
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I don’t know if you’ve been reading my column very long, but if you have you probably know that I’m a “late bloomer” when it comes to being gay. I was married and thought I was straight for years, until I was 40. I won’t bore you with the details, but you can imagine it was quite an awakening for me. I blame my delay on two things: 1) my father would quickly negatively reinforce any behavior on my part that wasn’t “butch,” and 2) my only exposure to gay people was a few examples on TV (this was before the Internet) and gay men were always portrayed as effeminate, which was something I didn’t like (I’m a fan of bears). I understand what you are going through and, believe me, you are much better off figuring out you are gay at your age than in middle age.
My father, like your mother, was very religious (Southern Baptist), and I know that the religious can be very closed-minded (though not necessarily so; I have religious friends who are very accepting of me). First thing you need to do is start unlearning what you have learned (quoting Yoda). I hope you won’t think of me as a corrupting influence when I tell you that the Bible is a mishmosh of outdated and self-conflicting baloney. Now, there’s some good stuff in there (Jesus’ “Golden Rule” is my favorite, but it seems to be a rule that most conservative Christians forget), but, really, the Bible was written thousands of years ago at a time when life was very different. Many of the things in the Bible (such as dietary rules and farming rules) made sense then because of the dangers of things like diseases that we now have under control (eating meat from swine was often a good way to become sick, for example). Some rules in the Bible are just plain stupid (e.g., in Leviticus 21 it says that if you are blind, lame, or, get this, have a flat nose, you can’t pray before an altar of God). Many other rules, especially in Old Testament books such as Deuteronomy, are terrifying. For instance, if you curse or blaspheme God, you are to be stoned to death (everyone who has said “godd***it” raise your paw; now get ready to die). Adulterers are also put to death; if you curse out your mother or father, you must be put to death, too. Not to mention that in the Bible the writers believed in wizards and sorcerers and demons, etc. etc.
Much of the New Testament contradicts the Old Testament, the latter being much more violent. A lot of Christians call themselves “Old Testament Christians,” meaning they believe in these harsh punishments, but, really, if you take that term literally, “Old Testament Christian” means you are Jewish because you don’t follow Jesus’s law in the New Testament. You can’t have it both ways, all you conservatives out there.
Why are there so many contradictions and such weird crap in the Bible? Because the Bible is the most heavily-edited-by-committee book in human history. Over the centuries, church leaders have decided what goes in and what (“apocryphal”) books go out. Furthermore, it varies from church to church. There are so many different versions of the Bible it will make your head spin. That’s why it has become akin to reading directions on how to assemble living room furniture that were originally written in Japanese, translated into English, then into Spanish, then back to Japanese and back again to English.
Okay, now, in your letter you say that the Bible says homosexuality is a choice. Not true. The Bible says that homosexuality is a sin and an abomination, but nowhere in it does it say anything about it being a choice (or, for that matter, something that you are born into). Basically, it considers being gay a sin, though it is a forgivable sin if you repent and seek to be Saved. What this means is that you can be a Christian and a homosexual, but you cannot practice homosexuality (you’d have to suppress it your entire life). Remember, though, this is a very old document that is outdated and written at a time when homosexuality was accepted or not, depending on the culture. In ancient Rome, for instance, people didn’t have a problem with it. Indeed, Paul’s letters to the Corinthians in which he addresses homosexuality are largely in reference to his disapproval of the practice within the Roman Empire.
Let’s jump ahead to the Middle Ages, an interesting chapter in Christian history. At the time, church leaders came up with a way to deal with homosexual partners that was sort of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach. In a ceremony called adelphopoeisis (from the Greek, meaning, essentially, “brother-making”) same sex couples were united in a rite that acknowledged they were more than just friends, though not spouses. It tacitly acknowledged that these couples were in love and having sex with each other (cf. the writings of historian John Boswell).
Most Christians today, however, believe in the old philosophy that homosexual love is against natural law and, therefore, a sin. The main thrust of this argument is that sex is for procreation and nothing else. Sex for pleasure, even with one’s spouse, was traditionally frowned upon. That has slowly changed, and, along with it, attitudes about homosexuality have become more moderate in many Christian denominations, including, remarkably, the Catholic Church (Pope Francis, when asked what he felt about homosexuals, recently noted that the Bible says we shouldn’t judge others; only God can do that).
Wolfthorne, I would suggest that you don’t have to renounce Christianity, if you don’t wish to. Many churches around the world will accept you for who you are, including the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Church of Canada, the United Church of Christ, the Global Alliance of Affirming Apostolic Pentecostals, and the Unitarian Universalist Church, among others. Just because your mother belongs to a very conservative denomination, I imagine (Baptist? Jehovah’s Witnesses?), doesn’t mean all Christians are that way.
This is all a long-winded way of saying that just because your mom thinks homosexuality is awful because of what the Bible “says” doesn’t mean she’s right. But to your first question: are you born a homosexual or is it a choice? I believe—and this is just one bear’s opinion—that it is not a choice. A big reason is this: why in the heck would ANYONE choose to be ostracized by society? Why would you want to make your life more difficult, to be the object of hatred, to, in essence, become a pariah within most societies? No one would want that just for the sake of sex. I certainly didn’t want it. Discovering I was gay destroyed my marriage of over 20 years. I went through absolute hell—guilt, self-loathing—for many years. It was not a fun time.
About the science: yes, there is growing evidence that being gay is, at least in part, genetic. This article from 2014 reports that scientists have found two regions of our DNA that appear to make people inclined toward homosexuality. But it is actually wise to question science as much as religion. Scientific theories change almost daily, flawed papers get published all the time, scientists often fudge their data in order to get grants, and so on.
Nothing has been proven beyond a doubt, yet, but I would tend to agree with your friends. Our sexual proclivities are something that are part of our character. We don’t learn to be gay; we either are or we aren’t gay.
As to your second question: no, you don’t have to participate in gay culture. It continues to fascinate me that there appears to be a belief out there that the LGBT community is, shall we say, a homogeneous collection of like-minded people, perhaps even its own nation (hey, we have a flag, right?) Ridiculous. The LGBT community is just as diverse as the straight community. As I mentioned above, there are certain things about the gay community I’m not a big fan of, and one of them, I’ll agree with you, is some of the more outrageous Gay Pride events I have seen. These events are supposed to show LGBT people in a positive light and to show straight people that we are just like them. Now, while some parades I’ve seen are tame, others look more like Mardis Gras in New Orleans, complete with sexualized behavior and a lot of bare skin. I really don’t think that is necessary as a public display, nor does it help convince straight people that we aren’t somehow a “threat” to their way of life.
Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you have to hang a rainbow flag outside your door. Gay people don’t have secret decoder rings or handshakes, and, despite what people like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell might say, there is no conspiracy to convert the world to homosexuality (fearmongers like these guys spread hate about homosexuals for one reason: it fills their coffers with donations from the weak-minded). The LGBT community is far from united. I, in fact, feel very much outside of it, for the most part. I live pretty quietly with my mate, Yogi, and visit gay friends occasionally, but that’s about it. The rest of my time I occupy myself with very outrageous gay activities, such as working on my computer, doing chores around the house, playing with my dog, and watching television. Oh, the humanity!
Wolfthorne, all of this is to say that you can be as out or as closeted as you are comfortable with. You can try to meet a gay man, or you can choose other pursuits for the time being (there’s more to life than sex). There is no all-encompassing right-or-wrong answer. Rather, each person is an individual. You are now exploring who you are, and that’s fine. The process could take years; it could even take the rest of your life. Go at your own pace. Don’t pressure yourself. Whatever you decide, it’s okay. Just remember the Golden Rule, and you will be fine.
Illustrations on "Ask Papabear" are by Dan the Bear. Check out this talented illustrator on FurAffinity or send him an email.