If you dig through my memory box, you’ll find a piece of paper decorated with hearts and a stick figure named Josh. This was a kindergarten art project where the teacher asked us to draw our best friend. But Josh wasn’t my best friend, he was just the boy who sat across from me in class. I guess you could say I was attracted to him. At five years old, “best friend” was the only phrase I had for that feeling. Of course, as a child, the feeling wasn’t overtly sexual, but it was a sign that my same-sex attraction started early on.
I don’t know when (or even if) I “became” same-sex attracted. What I do know is that I’ve been gay for as long as I can remember — before I met Josh, before schoolboy crushes became sexual fantasies, and before I’d ever clicked on porn. The reason I say this is that many Christians tie same-sex attraction to sexual immorality or addiction, as if you can’t experience SSA without also being a full-blown sexual deviant. Some people think being gay means you’re somehow more prone to sexual sin than your heterosexual counterparts are. We’ll talk more about the difference between SSA and active sin in future posts, but suffice it to say that I was gay long before I wrestled with (much less knew about) the sexual temptations I face today.
I’m not saying I was born gay — although that’s not outside the realm of possibility or even sound theology — but it’s something that reaches so far back it might as well be true. If not scientifically, then experientially. Being gay didn’t so much “begin” for me as much as it became evident. I realized from a young age that I was different from most other boys. I played with My Little Pony; they played with G.I. Joe. I preferred playing house to playing sports. On the playground, you’d find me with the girls (maybe because they had better toys). Later, those differences manifested in other ways, namely how we interacted with the opposite sex. It wasn’t until about middle school, when hormones changed how my attractions looked and felt, that I attached the term “gay” to my experience.
But this isn’t a universal narrative. Not all boys who played with “girl toys” are gay, and some of the gay men I know were (and still are) very masculine. This is just my story. Other people have different experiences, including when they realized they were gay. Among the people I know, it’s split about 50/50 between those whose SSA reaches so far back it seems as though they were born gay, and those who “realized” they were gay (or came to terms with it) much later, either during puberty or in their teens. Of course, there are also people who trace their SSA to sexual or emotional abuse, and their sexuality doesn’t fit neatly into any one narrative either.
Ultimately, the timeline isn’t terribly important to me. What matters is what I do with the experience of same-sex attraction. As a Christian, part of realizing you’re gay is asking how you will live in light of this reality, especially as it relates to God’s will for marriage and sexuality. How do I love, worship, and become more like Jesus in the midst of ongoing SSA?