Sunday, November 3, 2013

What I wish I had known about being gay

This post is just a collection of some of my personal thoughts as I've progressed through my journey of being gay. It is not meant to be a blanket statement about all those who are gay. 

I wish I had known sooner...
  • that it's not by choice. Imagine sitting next to that special someone that you admire physically and emotionally. Now explain why you get the feelings that you do. Imagine sitting next to someone that you don't particularly admire physically or emotionally, and explain why you don't get the feelings that you did with the other person. Difficult? Yep, same for me. I was once asked "How do you know for sure that you're gay?" I proceeded to quote Crush from Finding Nemo: "Well, you never really know, but when they you know, you'll know, ya know?" Equivalently, when asked "When did you know you were gay?", I wanted to ask: "When did you know you were straight?" Not an easy question. My reality check: if those feelings are occurring when you're 22 years old, it probably means they're pretty fixed. Whether the cause be genetics, the environment, or gene-environment interaction, the reality is that those feelings exist. I can't explain why they occur in one circumstance and not in another -- they just do.

  • that I have a choice. Viktor E. Frankl wrote, "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way," (Man's Search for Meaning). I can always choose how to react to a given circumstance. That's why the exact same thing can happen to different people, and they can have completely different experiences. It may be out of my control that I am gay, but it is in my control how to behave and react. My possible choices from here on out are:
    • homosexual relationship
    • celibacy
    • heterosexual relationship

  • that friends make it easier. After trying to reconcile my feelings with my beliefs for a long time, I had some deeply spiritual experiences that helped me decide to "come out". I considered the depth of my associations, relationships, and friendships, most of which felt pretty superficial. Strong emotional barriers kept my connections with other people at arm's length. I decided to lower my barrier, let trusted people in, and test the waters. Not knowing how others will react -- ending friendships, the cold shoulder, or overwhelming support -- was the largest obstacle I had to overcome. Coming out to friends and family and seeking support from those who are also gay has been the best thing for me in my journey. I wish I had known this sooner.

  • that it's not always easy, but I can be genuinely happy. For a long time, I considered this a trial, challenge, affliction, etc. My personal and religious beliefs require that I either remain celibate or pursue a heterosexual relationship. It can be difficult because a heterosexual relationship contradicts those particular feelings that arise in certain circumstances and not in others, and celibacy means sexual abstinence. The disparity between my beliefs and feelings does create tension and frustration sometimes, but following my beliefs also creates joy.  Focusing on the tension and frustration has tended to foster more of the same; however, focusing on the good that I can do and can pursue--genuine friendships and emotional connections now that my barrier is down--has tended to foster more joy and genuine happiness. 

  • that it's not black-and-white. Many people tend to over-simplify circumstances. Take a heterosexual relationship for example. If your personal and religious belief is sexual abstinence before marriage, to what degree can you connect with someone you care about before marriage? Is spending lots of time together ok? Embracing? Cuddling? Putting your arm around the other person? Just sitting there holding each other? Holding hands? Kissing? There are many different degrees of connections, and each person must set his own wise boundaries. Some of these degrees are perceived and judged as acceptable in one culture and not in another. It's not black-and-white. To what degree do you allow a heterosexual couple to connect before disapproving of their actions? To what degree do you allow them to be loved? Cared for? To what degree do you allow this for someone who is gay and chooses to have a homosexual relationship? For someone who chooses celibacy? Can you remain true to your celibacy and still be cared for and loved by someone? Is it appropriate? It's not black-and-white. I wish I had known this sooner too.

  • that others have different experiences just as difficult. What is difficult for me isn't necessarily difficult for someone else; others are going through things that I don't even know. I will never know the whole story, so I can't judge. My only job is to show love. Many--including myself--have had the attitude of "love the sinner, hate the sin" and express it. News flash: when you're the one struggling and you hear someone say "I will always be your friend, but I can't support you in..." or "I will always love you, but I don't approve of..." or "you will always be welcome here, but leave your behavior at the door..." or anything of the sort, you don't hear the first part. You only hear "I can't support", "I don't approve", "leave your behavior", etc. It's like when someone says "No offense, but ...." and they proceed to attack. The point of the statement was to attack or offend or express a contrary opinion. If you don't approve, don't support, don't agree with what someone is doing or going through, you have every right to it. But if they are struggling -- no matter their lifestyle choice--, keep it to yourself. What they really need to hear is "I love you." PERIOD. "I am here for you". PERIOD. I wish I had known that for much of my life when I had that attitude, and now that I'm on a side that many people misunderstand and attack, I have a clearer understanding of what is really needed in these moments.

  • that questions are good. I love it when people ask me honest questions about being gay, partly because I'm still learning myself. Honest questions are how misunderstandings get cleared up and how people get educated. I am still putting this one in practice as often as I can. When others sincerely ask questions, it shows that they have interest in you and your well-being. It shows that they care. 

Again, I want to make it clear that these are not the experiences of everyone who is gay. This is what I have experienced, and these are my personal beliefs. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (I'm a mormon), so some future blog posts will have more insight from my personal religious and spiritual perspective; however, my posts do not represent the position of the church. 

Dan Bunker


  1. Dan

    Read through your post. I was thinking "what if a friend came out to me?" What would be a good reaction? What do you think would be the best way to react if I don't agree with homosexuality? and how would I react if I did?

  2. What do you mean, if you don't "agree" with homosexuality? That it exists, or as an active homosexual lifestyle?