My gay friend was never abused, so how do I reach him?

I have a gay friend who has never been abused and has a strong relationship with his parents and family. He says he was born gay. How do I reach out to him?

Not long ago a Christian father introduced himself to me, saying,

“My son is gay. He came out in his mid-twenties and now lives with his boyfriend. They are very happy and my relationship with them is strong. He has never been abused or traumatized. He occasionally joins me and my family in church. I’m so glad he has found peace in his life. We have always been close and finally he is able to thrive in our community without fear.”

When I reflect on stories like theirs I can’t help but ponder the “silent years” most gay adults have endured. Those are the years leading up to coming out, where one’s sexuality has not been openly expressed. While this father claims to have always been close to his son, nevertheless, there were apparently years that he had no idea of his son’s silent questioning. His son’s ulterior life before coming out.

When I came out there had been years of grappling. Years of questioning. Wonder and dismay at the differences between my life experiences and those of my peers. By the time I came out I had worked through the dilemma of being a lesbian. I had come to terms with the reality and strengthened myself against scrutiny. There was too much risk in coming out not to feel convinced. By the time I came out I had complete confidence (years of determination) in my conclusions, much as one who has expressed faith in Christ. Coming out was cathartic and only Jesus could reverse my self-perception.

Occasionally, when Rodger Gaskin and I speak together on homosexuality, we share that we were sexually abused. Yet, neither of us had memories of these experiences before we reached adulthood. I was 38 when I recalled my sexual abuse and I believe Rodger was also in his late 30s. People assume we always knew. Up to that point, Rodger, who was molested by his father beginning at a very young age (perhaps 4), had no reason to believe he had not been born gay.

But, I do not believe sexual or emotional trauma were the essential issues in my sexuality. Self-perceived abandonment was. 

It was my own perception of reality—not my family environment or biology—that triggered my desires. I grew up in a stable home, where my parents lived congenially together. My immediate and extended families were solid in their relationships. Yet, I never felt I belonged and that sense of difference undergirded my self-understanding as a lesbian for many years. I struggled with self-hate and depression, often feeling rejected. I had difficulty creating meaningful relationships with others. I dated one boy as a teen and felt manipulated and controlled by him.

Lesbianism was tangible and seemed to explain “why I was the way I was.” Over the course of six years I grappled with my sexuality, most significantly when my emotional health began to fail. I came out as I was being forced to come to terms with myself (through psychotherapy) after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

When I was nearly 40 I began accessing the Holy Spirit for self-understanding. In the context of relationship with God, a new dialogue was forming in my inner world that explained and uncovered many distorted self-perceptions. In the safety of His presence, memories emerged and were grappled with. I became aware of my mother’s abandonment issues (and her mother’s as well) and realized their impact on my life experience. I began to understand core (often unmet) needs and desires that I had addressed sexually. 

Through a journey common to many “straight” Christians God led me into wholeness. It required only that I acknowledge His excellence and open my mind and heart to what He might say.

We all have twisted desires, wrong internal beliefs, and distorted self-perceptions. Christians know that connection to God uncovers our true selves. Finally, in His presence, we experience ourselves authentically and are able to hear His words of Truth over our lives. Jesus readily answered my questions of “why I was the way I was” through fresh understanding of my memories. My journey to see and value God has been one of dramatic self-discovery. He is able to see us, our histories and our futures, to reveal Truth not only about Him but about ourselves.

It is more important that your gay friends develop relationship with God, who can both reveal Himself and their sonship (or daughterhood) than it is for your to identify what is wrong or what has happened to them. Engage your role as an ambassador of Christ and His love, then encourage them in their journeys with God. Don’t diminish the truth of scripture, that homosexuality falls short of the character of Christ to which we are being conformed; but, don’t fail to connect people to the One who knows us all better than we know ourselves. 

Father, grant us confidence in Christ and His power to reveal not only You, but ourselves. Amen.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2

© 2018 Kathryn Elizabeth Woning. All rights reserved.