For those of you who do not know this about me, the number that I’m about to throw out here is pretty impressive and staggering to most:
There are 42 first cousins on my dad’s side of the family.
Yep, that’s a lot of cousins. My Grandma and Grandpa Strabala had 13 kids. It was pretty easy to multiply a large number of my generation to make 42 cousins.
It was really fun growing up in my family. Sunday dinners of pot roast and mashed potatoes with my grandma’s famous chocolate chips cookies, were like a huge party. All the time.
One of my oldest cousins, Dan Harbit, is a thoughtful person. He often seeks to understand me, social issues and the hearts of people by asking tough questions in respectful ways. When I was in junior high and high school, he and his wife, Jane (and their kids) attended the same church that my family and I did. I love them.
So, he offered the very first comment and question to this blog since I released it just yesterday. And I’d like to honor him by answering his question in a post, not just as a comment. Here is what he asked:
Hi Emily, I have been very busy and just had a little time to Facebook and spotted this. Very interesting. And leads me to ask a question that I’m sure many wonder about and maybe you could blog some insight to. Why does it take 10 years and 3 kids before you figure out you’re gay and decide to come out? I know several people that have experienced this situation but never understood why they couldn’t figure it out before they caused so many so much hardship. I’m not trying to be judgmental just looking for some insight and understanding. Thanks, Love Ya
Here is my response:
First of all, Hey Cousin! I always appreciate your well-thought out comments on Facebook and your delivery of them. Give my love to your family from me.
Secondly, I have been asked this question in some form or another many times, but it has often been brought up in a spirit of anger from people. Yours was not. Thank you for asking it in a non-judgmental way. I have had to delete comments before from others on our other blog because they are mean-spirited and hate-filled toward Devon. The curious thing is that these questions, at times, come from other gay people, and I can only assume that they have never experienced the lengths that gay people can go through to NOT be gay and try to “change” into a heterosexual person.
So, to answer your question from MY perspective, which honestly I feel that Devon could answer even better than me since it was ultimately part of his specific journey, it boils down to the fact that he didn’t want to be gay.
This is very common for many people in the LGBT community. I mean, think about the social stigma that was even worse 30-40 years ago. We grew up during a different climate than today.
Here are a few things that Devon has revealed to me about his experience with this. I will list them.
1. Devon knew he was gay from an early age (something like 5 or 6), but didn’t understand what it really was. Most kids don’t grasp the idea of sexuality that young. But he knew he was different.
2. He was bullied and teased growing up and called gay, fag and other things. You can imagine how this could have affected him. Essentially gay = bad.
3. And then there’s the Church factor. Which is a VERY big factor for many people in the LGBT community. You know as well as I do that the preaching and teaching from the pulpit, discussions and prayer circles often centers around people changing, people needing to stop their “lifestyle” or that “same-sex” attraction is a sin that cannot be actively pursued if someone is to be an official born-again believer… all because of about 7 main verses from the Bible that discuss homosexuality in some form or another. And honestly, it’s only been in the last century that the term “homosexuality” has even been in existence and has become a true dividing line in Christianity. In fact, today, it has become entirely TOO focused on by “fundamentalist” Christian people and churches, in my opinion. There is no written “gay agenda”, there isn’t a war that the LGBT community is inflicting upon our society. That is all fear-based, straw-man tactics that the other side of the issue uses to rally the fellowship of believers into a frenzy (this is obviously my opinion, but I can honestly say I used to be JUST LIKE THAT myself, so I feel that I have a unique perspective that others don’t). If you go to visit http://canyonwalkerconnections.com/ to my friend Kathy Baldock’s site, she gives detailed research about the topic of scripture and homosexuality. Her new book just came out, and it is very powerful. She is a straight, intelligent and strong Evangelical Christian herself.
4. Devon truly loved me. Yes, he was even attracted to me. We had a great marriage. It helped him to suppress who he was deep down, and while many people see that as me being used (and trust me, I had to work through that in the early stages of him coming out), it was simply more of him doing whatever he could think of to change.
And ultimately, it has caused me to understand how to truly love someone unconditionally, which has been my desire since I began my relationship with God so many years ago.
So it wasn’t necessarily a “one day he just decided he was gay,” though it seemed like that to me in the moment. Did it hurt and change all of us, including extended family? Yes. Many relationships with others were damaged and cannot be repaired, which is not coming from us, but from people who won’t repair it because of their own beef with homosexuality. The process of “coming out” is very unique to each individual. It is scary. It is especially scary when a gay person has built up walls of decisions and ideals to break through those and come clean.
I believe that our world today is much different than when you and I were young. Our society is shifting regarding ideas of being gay. It is much easier for people to come out early on compared to 20 years ago, which makes it harder for people to understand our generation and older generations of not wanting to be gay and the lengths many LGBT people go through to try and “change” who they are at their core.I appreciate that you have asked the question regarding people coming out to their spouses at such a late stage in the game, where spouses, kids and friends/family get hurt along the way. I hope that my answers to you are clarifying to some degree.
You are a good man, Dan, and I am thankful to call you family.
Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,