Dialogue With A Pastor’s ‘Gay’ Son – #17: On Cultural Masculinity (Part 2)

(This is the 17th 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: I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the things we talked about last time. I think it’s been a big help for me in coming to terms with my own ‘gay’ inclinations. I really want to thank you for your thoughts on this.

Me: Hey, it’s what I’m here for — to help. I try anyway.

Him: Well, you have. And I have something more I’ve been thinking about along these lines. I’m not sure how to express it exactly, but it has to do with relational matters. I mean, I think one thing that draws two guys into a gay relationship is just this issue of cultural pressure to conform to its concept of masculinity. Finding someone who understands you and with whom you can share things in common has to be a big factor in bringing them together.

Me: That’s very perceptive. I think it’s a huge factor, and one that’s not given enough attention in this whole discussion. And because it’s not, many people are taken by surprise when these ‘gay’ relationships develop. Guys who find themselves on the outside looking in at their cultural environment can be made to feel outcast and lonely. So when someone comes along who gets what they’re all about and shares their likes and feelings about things, they become vulnerable. This is especially true if they are also same-sex attracted on top of everything else.

Him: Yes, exactly. In my own case I can honestly say that the strongest attractions I have felt for other guys is not just on the sexual level. It’s especially magnetic when there is physical attraction combined with these common areas of interest. I feel a strong draw to this whole person and can even find myself getting emotionally involved — kind of like ‘falling in love’ must feel.

Me: You have well described what I refer to as the gay existential self-awareness. I haven’t found many guys who have been able to describe it so well. But it’s very crucial to understand it if we are going to be able to address this problem accurately. Too many ‘gay’ guys never clearly understand this about themselves, so they never are able to deal effectively with their tendency.

Him: But what can you do in a culture like ours that has such a macho concept of masculinity? And worse, in a church culture that pretty much thinks the same way? I’ve always felt different and excluded because of it. And because you are different, you tend to be quiet and reclusive out of fear of being ridiculed and rejected.

Me: Oh, I know. And it’s a terrible thing to do to boys and young men who are not into the stereotypical ‘guy things.’ I remember when my family moved up here from Florida when I was 14. We lived with my grandparents for about a year and a half. My grandmother did all kinds of handwork like tatting and crocheting and embroidery. I would watch her and she started to show me how to do it. And I loved it. I also liked to help her bake things in the kitchen. One day I overheard my grandfather talking about me and saying I was more interested in ‘women’s stuff’ than in working in the tool shed with him. I still remember that because it was a deep cut to my heart.

Him: So were you aware that you were same-sex attracted at the time? That remark probably didn’t help.

Me: Oh yes. I had been fully aware of my inclination since I was about 11 years old. In fact, it wouldn’t be long after this that I got involved with another high school boy in a relationship that lasted for several years. And a big reason for it was precisely this feeling of rejection and ridicule and being an outsider. When I met that boy in my sophomore year, there was initial sexual attraction. But as we got to know one another and discover how much we had in common, that awareness that here was someone who understood me catapulted me into an emotional as well as sexual relationship with him. And it lasted all through high school.

Him: What ended it?

Me: He was killed in a car crash in his first year of college.

Him: I’m sorry.

Me: Oh, don’t be sorry. Actually he had become a Christian shortly before this and had broken off our relationship about two weeks before the crash. It about killed me, and I hated Christians for a long time because I blamed them for what happened. This all led to a very promiscuous gay life with a couple of other long-term relationships thrown in. But God works in inscrutable ways, and I eventually was converted myself many years later. Anyway, enough about me. I say all this to emphasize that we have to be very careful not to drive our young sons into gay relationships by forcing them into conformity to ideas of masculinity that are terribly wrongheaded.

Him: I completely agree. Feeling like you are different and unaccepted and weird makes you lonely and starved for companionship. And if you already experience same-sex attraction, it will drive you into the arms of someone who does understand you and accept you. And contrary to what a lot of people think, I believe it can be a deeply loving relationship, which makes it all the more difficult to get out of.

Me: Yes, I know all about that. But because it’s not what God intended, it can rip you up emotionally and distort your ability to feel anything in a right way. People have no idea.

Him: I’m sorry if I brought up difficult memories for you. I just wanted to talk about what I think is very important for anyone’s self-understanding in dealing with being ‘gay.’

Me: Hey, no problem. There are deep scars that no one can really understand, and people who tell me to let the past go don’t have a clue. I want to slap them when they say that. But sin has abiding consequences that grace helps us to live with. Be thankful that you have not had to experience it. It’s going to be hard enough for you to mortify it as it is. I’m just a living example of the mercy and grace of God. And I’m also a living example of someone who is about to be late to work. So I have to go.

Him: OK, I’ll hang up. But please know how much good these talks are doing for me. Thank you.

Me: Well, you’re welcome. And goodbye for now.

Him: Bye.

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