A couple of weeks ago, I described my support for same-sex relationships in terms of intimacy – that God has hard-wired people to need to be intimate, so much so that our physical health depends on it, and that to argue he both creates the conditions that lead some to be same-sex attracted and requires denial of the intimacy they need because of that very attraction requires us to conceive of God as a monster.
In the end, however, I’m just a straight guy. I know and love a few gay people, but when it comes right down to it, I’m just talking about what I think they’re going through – or at least what science tells me they’re going through. I’d much rather let them say it, which is why I heartily recommend a book called Loves God, Likes Girls by a friend of mine, Sally Gary.
Sally blew everyone away about 10 years ago, when I was an undergrad, by standing up in our daily Chapel service and describing her struggle with same-sex attraction. A lot has changed in the past decade – for her, for me, for all of us. Homosexuality is a much more openly discussed topic, and its acceptance as a natural part of the lives of even those who choose celibacy has grown enormously.
Sally’s book is a memoir, nothing more – not a book that advocates for a particular side, just a good story well told that along the way has some valuable lessons to teach. And it’s a valuable resource because it provides a different perspective from the story told by, say, a Justin Lee in his book Torn.
Justin is an activist, and his story is difficult for conservatives to reckon with. He had a great family growing up and just one day realized he liked boys, not girls. For him, sexuality is fully biological, and perhaps as a result, he makes a compelling argument that gay couples can engage in holy intimacy.
Sally, on the other hand, tells a story that affirms what scientists often say about sexual orientation: It’s a complex mix of genetics, biology and environment. She can trace her orientation to specific events and general patterns of thought caused by an emotionally abusive father and overprotective mother. Environment played a much bigger role in her sexuality – though, as she acknowledges, clearly some sort of genetic or biological tendency already existed for those events to trigger attraction to women instead of men. Sally has chosen celibacy as the right course for her life, though not necessarily for anyone else’s.
In the course of affirming and reaffirming her belief that God has called her to deny her drive for intimacy, Sally struggled mightily, and that struggle dovetails with my own thoughts about this subject. So rather than have a straight guy talk about it again, I’d like to quote from her book, in which she has a long conversation with some friends of hers. I’ve excerpted the relevant parts:
“But what if [God] really doesn’t care about this? What if I spend my whole life by myself, because I believe that’s what God wanted me to do, only to find out that I didn’t have to? I mean, isn’t it possible that I could live a life that’s pleasing to God in a committed, monogamous relationship with another woman – a woman who also loves God – and together we find ways to serve God and further the kingdom through that relationship? What would be so wrong with that? We’re not talking about a sexually promiscuous lifestyle, outside of a loving relationship – I’m talking about a spiritually, emotionally intimate relationship built on selfless love and commitment. What does it matter if it’s between two men or two women?”
I didn’t ask my questions out of rebelliousness, but out of the deepest desire for connection to another human being. Because after all, God’s design was not for us to be alone. God created us to be in relationship. No matter how we got where we are, that desire – that need for intimacy and connection with another person – still needs to be filled. And understanding many of the reasons I experience same-sex attraction didn’t fill that need for relationship. It made me more keenly aware of what I was missing.
“I’m tired of being alone.” The tears flowed down my cheeks. …
“[T]he truth is, there are a lot of times that I miss having someone to simply share my life with. Someone who knows me in ways that only somebody you live with and cook with and argue with and make plans for the future with knows you. Someone who knows all the quirks of your extended family at holidays. Someone who goes to sleep with you at night and wakes up with you in the morning. And yeah, I know a lot of people don’t have that, for a lot of different reasons. But there’s a deep pain to this, knowing that you could never have that in a way that feels most natural to you, and still have the acceptance of your family, of your church family, and maybe even, some people might think, of God.“
It is that pain – a pain that scientists say shortens and reduces the quality of a life – that leads me to believe God does not want this for his children. Each child makes her own choice, of course, and some will live happier, healthier lives in celibacy, without the tension between the faith and the sexuality they inherited. But for those gay brothers and sisters for whom the pain of loneliness is simply too much, I believe God means what he said: It is not good for you to be alone.