I grew up in a fairly strict Christian household, but I don't remember ever thinking things like, "homosexuality is so disgusting," and it's possible I never felt that way. It was hammered into my head from day one that it was wrong and immoral and terrible.
I do remember asking my mother one day what she thought. There was a front page article on how the inner ear of a gay man was different from the inner ear of a straight man and fact or fiction, my mind was whirring. "But if God made them this way...?" My mom answered something to the effect of, "Homosexuality is a tendency you have to overcome, like alcoholism."
This is not a concept anyone had ever mentioned to me before, and while I know my mom didn't intend for it to have this effect, I couldn't stop making little equations in my head, to this effect:
gay=sin=everyone sins=no worse than lying, right?
It never really mattered until I was nineteen and living in Northern California with my grandmother. My angst-ridden heart was in the throes of a long delayed rebellion and I had started thinking a lot of things my parents wouldn't approve of. I was shy and lonely and spending a lot of time on the internet, belonging to a diverse message board--and these people were shaping my thoughts in an incredible way.
Soon the equation looked like this:
gay = not so bad after all
But what would I know about this? I'd never come across an openly gay person in any close capacity. Gay didn't have a face or a name to me, it was pretty white boys awkwardly kissing on MTV or middle aged Jewish men preening on the style network, and I'm not trying to be rude here, that's just all it ever was or could be.
Until I was nineteen. And I saw my cousin Chris (not his real name) and spent about five minutes with him and thought, "Wow, he sure is sensitive." He was a psuedo-goth kid in mostly black, super skinny, the auburn hair that I share with him and his older brother, his lips full and almost comical in their expressiveness.
He was fourteen years old.
On the floor of my sterile bedroom (what can a room at your grandma's house ever be but sterile?) he made me pinky swear to keep a secret. And he came out to me. And I don't think I even blinked. I mean, my heart ached for this kid, for what I was fairly sure had been done to him and his sister and for what I knew he would further endure, but I never thought, "But you'll go to hell, you vile thing! You are at the core of the disintegration of family values in America!"
I said, "That's okay, Chris. I kinda knew." (And I kinda had.)
He said, "Yeah, I thought you might."
Me: "I don't think any less of you."
Him: "I didn't think you would."
And in about two minutes, I had managed to commit the one act of rebellion that ever meant anything to me.
Later drips and drabs came at me--the poor kid had been put through hell and everyone in our family knew it, but no one ever tried to stop it. I still feel a deep hurt in my heart when I think about how selfish and wrapped up in myself I was--that I should have done more--that we've lost touch. Last I heard he had a girlfriend and I sort of couldn't decide if maybe he'd been a sensitive kid who was very confused OR if his father had finally pressured him into being someone he was not...maybe it was both, and he just thought that playing straight was easier. I understand his logic. But nothing's easy, straight or gay...occasionally though, you get those shining moments when you really know who you are.