Dialogue With A Pastor’s ‘Gay’ Son – #16: On Cultural Masculinity (Part 1)

(This is the 16th dialogue in this series. It’s 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. I pick it up as usual after the opening chit-chat.)

Him: People sure can say the weirdest stuff.

Me: That’s a true statement. HA! What are you referring to?

Him: Oh, just how they think about things. One of the men in my church was talking to me on Sunday. I could tell he was trying to feel comfortable around me, and we did a lot of small-talking before he finally got to the gay stuff. Basically what he said was now he understands why I was different. I asked what he meant by that. Then he said now he understands why I like music and poetry and cooking and things like that. And why I didn’t go in for hunting and fishing and other ‘guy’ things. It’s because I’m gay.

Me: Oh, boy. So how did that make you feel?

Him: I got real defensive at first. I was back in this awful place where you feel like you have to prove your manhood. But then I thought I didn’t have anything to prove. I am what I am, not what people think it means to be a ‘real guy.’ But it does sting a bit.

Me: Yes, I know it does. I’ve had the same thing said to me a couple of times in my church. I really love flower gardening, and a guy said to me once almost the same thing that guy said to you. The implication of course is that if we were ‘real men,’ we wouldn’t go in for things like art and cooking and flowers. Real men like sports and hunting and cars and outdoor stuff. Those other things are for women.

Him: So why do they think like this? Who comes up with what masculinity really looks like? I wish people who say these things realized what it does to guys. I think it’s one reason some of us are driven to giving in to our gay proclivities.

Me: I absolutely agree. Cultural ideas of what constitutes masculinity need to be kept out of the church. The Bible has to determine this just like everything else.

Him: Does the Bible really address this?

Me: Yes, I think so. It does it by giving contrasting examples of what constitutes masculinity.

Him: Like?

Me: Well, like David, for example. He was a shepherd who fought off bears and lions and was a ferocious warrior, but he also played a harp and wrote poetry. And he was not ashamed to cry in public. For a lot of American males, that’s unthinkable. I had a macho type say to me once that art and poetry are for women and girlie boys.

Him: Interesting. Anything else?

Me: Take the example of the two brothers, Jacob and Esau. They are a study in contrast. Esau was a hairy guy who liked the outdoors and hunting. A real man’s man. And he was his dad’s favorite. But Jacob was a smooth guy who liked staying at home and doing things like cooking. Kind of a home body. And he was his mother’s favorite. But Jacob was no less a man than Esau. He was just a different type of man. But in the eyes of a ‘macho’ culture, Jacob would have been a momma’s boy and probably called ‘gay.’ The point is, what a culture defines as being a man and what the Bible indicates about it may well be in conflict.

Him: OK, but it still is hard living in a culture that thinks masculinity is grunting around a football game on a big screen with a bunch of guys in a ‘man cave.’ Or putting on the camos for a weekend of deer hunting and acting crazy in a cabin with a bunch of loud guys. If you like art or theater or music and would rather be by yourself of hang out with some other unmacho guys, then you are called ‘gay’ or ‘faggot’ or worse.

Me: Yes, it’s a definite problem. That kind of stuff has been a big reason some young guys have ended up living gay. I always wince when I see parents with sons who are not big on sports or other ‘guy’ things but like more artistic pursuits push them into what they think they need in order to be real men.

Him: I like what you’re saying. At the same time though it seems to me that guys with gay tendencies do tend to be more artistic and quiet. They can also like sports and cars and hunting and all that stuff, but there is this draw towards art and music and theater and things like that. Like me. I love to play baseball, but I’m also the guy in the dugout with a book of poetry in his bag.

Me: But it doesn’t make you less of a man because you have that book of poetry. And it’s important too to realize that liking baseball, or sports, doesn’t necessarily make you a man either. Sports is not an essential ingredient of masculinity.

Him: Nice thought. We tend to think that way, but it’s not a right way to think at all. So how do we get people to change their thinking?

Me: You probably can’t. Not very often anyway. It takes educating people in what it does and doesn’t mean to be a man, and also in what it does and doesn’t mean to be gay. But that takes time. Really it takes a cultural revolution. Ultimately you just have to know yourself and be comfortable with what you are before God. I know the internal conflicts between what you are as a male and what your culture expects you to be.

Him: And you end up being drawn into a gay culture because there are guys there just like you with whom you can identify. And you’re not considered weird because of what you feel and what you like.

Me: Absolutely right! That’s why so many young guys with gay inclinations end up there. So in the church we really need to find acceptance as the kind of men we are. The big problem though is that evangelicalism is permeated with wrong ideas about manhood. Just look at the stuff being published and promoted by family-oriented groups and popular teachers like Dennis Rainey about biblical manhood. So much of it is cultural and not biblical. And it’s going to do a lot of damage to young Christian men like you who don’t identify with what they’re teaching.

Him: It already has. But I’m glad there are other perspectives out there to offset the damage they do. I’m so thankful for what you are saying. Maybe you should write a book to counter this stuff.

Me: Well, that takes time. And right now I’m out of it. Gotta go. But we’ll talk some more.

Him: I really want to. This is a busy school year, but I’ll make the time. Thanks.

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