(This is the 2nd dialogue with this person that resulted from a previous series of discussions about gay marriage. This is an edited and reconstructed version of the actual talk, but it accurately represents the essence of what was said. This is done with his permission, provided all personal references are omitted.)
Him: Hello, this is ______. Is this a good time to talk?
Me: Hello, ______. Yes, it’s fine.
Him: Well, I thought a lot about that distinction you made…you know, when you asked me if I identified as a gay Christian, or as a Christian who experienced same-sex attraction. The more I thought about it the more I saw what a big difference how you ask that question makes. And it helped me with the ‘Who am I?’ question you asked.
Me: OK. That’s good. Is that what you wanted to tell me?
Him: Well, that was one thing I wanted to say. But not the main thing. After thinking about that, I decided to call my dad and try to explain the difference to him. That was hard.
Me: So how did he respond? Did he listen?
Him: He listened to a point. But before I was done talking, he told me he wasn’t really getting the distinction. As far as he was concerned, it all came down to homosexuality, and that wasn’t something he could accept. That really hurt. And I didn’t know what to say to him. So we ended on a strained note.
Me: I’m sorry.
Him: Me too. But I don’t know what to do. Maybe I should never have said anything to him. He’s got it in his head that I was ‘coming out’, but that was not my intention at all. It was more to tell my family what I have been struggling with all my life…even as a Christian…so they would be able to help me and pray for me. I didn’t expect what happened.
Me: I wish I could talk to your father. He obviously has no clue how to deal with this and needs help working through it. And you do have to realize that you dropped a bomb on your family. I mean, think about it. They raised you with no clue that you had these attractions. Then they send you off to college and you come home one day and announce that you have gay inclinations. That had to be shocking to them. Imagine how they felt!
Him: I knew it would be hard on them. But I also thought they…my dad…would be a little more understanding. Especially since we have always been a pretty open family and could talk about anything. I didn’t expect what I got.
Me: Well, there could be a lot more going on in your dad’s heart than he even suspects. Often these extreme and irrational reactions indicate that.
Him: Well, it makes me feel like being extreme and irrational back. I was even thinking that maybe I should go off and identify with the gay Christians and just ‘come out’ like they do. Maybe that would be easier than this.
Me: (laughing) No, that’s really not what you should do.
Him: Oh, I really wouldn’t. I just feel that way in my anger. And that’s sin too.
Me: Well, yes and no. It’s not necessarily wrong to be angry in the face of unreasonableness. But it shouldn’t be allowed to control you. Hurt might be a better way to think of it.
Him: Yes, hurt is how I feel. But what should I have done? Gone on pretending to be this exemplary preacher’s kid who has it all together? When in fact I was coming apart inside because of these strong attractions that I couldn’t stop? (He starts to cry)
Me: (after a pause) You OK?
Him: No, I’m not OK. I’m gay and don’t want to be! How do you like that?!
Me: (choking up) ______, I don’t like it at all.
Him: Sorry, I wasn’t being very sensitive to you.
Me: Hey, don’t worry about that. You need to get things out. But you just reverted to the old way of thinking when you called yourself gay. You’re not a ‘gay’ Christian, remember?
Him: I sure feel like one.
Me: Yeah, I know. But you’re not. Repeat after me: ‘I’m not a gay Christian. I am a Christian who struggles with same-sex attraction.’ (He repeats it.)
Him: I’ve got to get that into my brain until it’s automatic. This attraction feels like such a part of me.
Me: That’s because it is. But it’s not the priority item in your self-identification.
Him: Sometimes it sounds like you are contradicting yourself. I think I get it, but then I’m not sure.
Me: That’s because these phone conversations are too quick and too short. We need to have some time for a lengthy discussion so we can work through these things slowly and in detail. Face to face would be even better. Sometime when you’re home from college we could meet and talk. You could come to my house. My wife wouldn’t mind.
Him: You’re married?
Me: Yes. I have a very sweet wife.
Him: Boy, I have a lot to talk to you about.
Me: That’s probably true. But this talk has to end, because the bell just sounded. Got to get back to work.
Him: The time goes by too fast. I’ll be calling again.