Many people seem to think that gays and lesbians have chosen their lifestyle and that they are not born this way. To those people, I ask: “What day was it that you acknowledged that you chose to be straight?” If it is that clear – then all straight people must have made a choice about their sexuality too, right? Are straight people not born straight? If not, that would mean that they can choose to be gay also.
So, how do I know that I didn’t choose to be gay. We need to go waaaay back to before I was a teenager. I can’t pinpoint the exact date or age but I do know that I was physically attracted to men for the longest time. I didn’t have a reason – I didn’t know any ‘gay’ people and there was certainly no television programs that promoted or encouraged that lifestyle in the early 80’s. As a matter-of-fact, it socially unacceptable to be gay. I know I had attractions to the same-sex because at an early age – I would get excited just by looking at men modelling underwear in department store catalogues whereas the women’s section did nothing to arouse me – but that didn’t make me gay. I remember finding a pornographic magazine at a neighbour’s house and curiously flipping through it. Again, I found that the women in the magazine didn’t arouse me at all but that I did enjoy looking at the men. But that didn’t make me gay.
Growing into my teens, I understood that being someone who was attracted to those of the same-sex was not a very popular notion to have. Society mocked them, ostracized and even used violence against them and made them feel like lesser human beings because of their sexual orientation. This was morally justified by most religious institutions. Being gay or lesbian meant that there was something wrong with you – you had a condition that was previously treated with shock therapy. Even today – people are told to ‘pray the gay away’. This is not possible (at least for me it wasn’t). So what could I do about all those feelings I had inside of me – where was I able to feel safe and be with like-minded people? I had no clue. All I knew about being homosexual was what I learned around me – homosexuals were “fairies”, “faggots”, “pussies”, “tinkerbells”, “dykes”, “women that wanted to be men” and “men that wanted to be women” and that “they should all be dead or killed.” There was no way I wanted to be part of that. This was a choice I made.
I thought “hmmm, I’ll just try to do what everyone else is doing”. I tried dating girls and always felt that it was wrong – I like their company but there was no physical attraction what-so-ever. I thought I fell in love but later realized that I wasn’t in love with that person, I was emotionally drained and just wanted to ‘give in’. I was never going to be able to meet a man and be in a relationship with a man because men like me didn’t exist and if they did – they were forced to exist in secret. This was a choice I made.
I did manage to connect with other gay people but it was always ‘in secret’ and always in public – shopping centres, subways and parks but people would never know because we learned to hide our attractions very well because our attractions were not acceptable. It wasn’t until junior high school that I realized there were other gay people and that I could live my life without shame, fear and free from hiding – or so I thought. Yes, there were other gays living openly and free but those kids were bullied, gay bashed and harassed on a daily basis and didn’t seem to be living too freely to me – I did not want to be one of them. This was a choice I made.
I eventually met other gay guys who refused to be victims and who introduced me to the ‘gay village’ – a community of lesbian and gays who lived regular lives with their partners in what seemed to be domestic bliss. I was astounded and felt a huge load lifted off my shoulders – there were others like me and they had what I have always wanted a home and someone to love without shame, hate and fear. Then came AIDS. AIDS was the ‘gay disease’ – it was God’s punishment for living a life of sin. I was terrified. It seemed like society finally found a reason to justify their hate and proof that this lifestyle was an abomination in God’s eyes. I decided to continue to hide my ‘secret’. This was a choice I made.
I eventually began a relationship without someone of the same-sex. It was my first serious relationship and it happened to be with someone who was HIV positive. I learned that I could have a ‘normal’, healthy and safe relationship without fear of being infected with the virus. Through this relationship, I learned much about HIV and AIDS and also met some of the most incredible individuals I have ever met. People of different backgrounds – gay, straight, bi-sexual, Caucasian, Black, Chinese, men and women who all had one thing in common – they were HIV positive. Our relationship lasted 5 years and I have never seen him since but I do thank him for what that relationship has given me – the ability to come to terms with my homosexuality and to live openly and authentically as a gay male. That was a choice I made.
Today – I am married with a man who has been in my life for 20 years. Despite all the hurdles and obstacles we have had to overcome individually and together, we have managed to build a life that I am completely proud of. We fought judgement, hate and bigotry from friends, family and religious institutions. I have conquered physical and emotional abuse. I battled internal homophobia and almost lost the most important person in the world because of it. Mostly – I have conquered my fear. The same fear that paralyzed me to not live as my true authentic self. I am so glad that I was born gay. I am glad that I have learned all the lessons that I was supposed to learn because without them, I wouldn’t be that man I am today. I did not choose to be ridiculed, hated, gay-bashed or bullied – I chose to live.
Together, we can make the world a more positive one.