How Do I Know God Made Me Gay?
June 22, 2014,
My mother kept a scrapbook for each one of her children. Perhaps because I am the oldest, mine is the fullest. Lovingly glued to each page is a host of memories. First year birthday cards, are next to an envelope with locks of my hair from a first haircut, congratulatory telegrams from relatives in England when I was born, are pasted next to some of the first “art” that I created.
One of the more telling pieces in the scrapbook is an “essay” that I wrote in third grade. The assignment was to write about “what do you want be when you grow up?” At the age of eight, I wrote that I wanted to be a priest.
To be sure, this idea must have been quite surprising to my parents. We were not a very religious family. My mother was raised as an Anglican and my father, although having a great love for the Orthodox Church in which he was raised, actually knew little about the theology of the church. And so, as a mixed religious household living in the suburbs, far from the ethnic neighborhood where the Ukrainian churches were located, we attended Liturgy very infrequently. I understood nothing of what was being sung or said in Church, and yet I knew and felt that it spoke to me. The sights, sounds, smells and feel of the Church were beautiful and I felt great warmth and love inside its walls. Perhaps it was the mellifluous voice of the old Archbishop as he prayed, the whiffs of incense or the pieces of candy given to me by my babtsya (grandmother) during the service that drew me in; I do not know. What is certain is that I was happy when we did go to church. In fact, I was so annoyed that we did not go to church more often, that in fifth grade I wrote a letter to my nana (grandmother) in England complaining that my parents rarely took us to Church. International calls in the late nineteen-sixties were expensive and therefore rare, Calls were made on Christmas or when a family tragedy had occurred. And yet after receiving my letter, my grandmother called my mother from England demanding that her grandchildren be taken regularly to Church. My mother took the admonition seriously. Not getting a strong reaction from my father and unable to drive the long distance into the big city, my mother packed us in the car on the following Sunday and took us to a local Greek Orthodox Church, even enrolling us in the Sunday School program. These actions by his non-Ukrainian, non-Orthodox wife embarrassed my father enough, that he started to take us to a Ukrainian Orthodox Church on a regular basis.
The desire to become a priest only grew stronger as we became regular worshippers. What I experienced at the Divine Liturgy, being an altar server, having conversations with my priest, reading everything that I was given or could get my hands on about the Orthodox faith, all helped guide me to Seminary and eventual ordination. When meeting with the Seminary rector before I was accepted, I was asked, “So, why do you want to become a priest?” I had prepared for this question. I had rehearsed answers of such high platitudes that only a 17 year old could conceive of. And yet when asked, I replied, “because I love being in God’s house.” The Seminary rector, Father Frank, pushed me further for a deeper answer. I could not offer anything else except, “because I believe that God wants me to be a priest.” After four years of Seminary, ordination, twenty-three years of being a parish priest, and twelve years after leaving the active priesthood, I still love the beauty of God’s house and believe in the divine wisdom of God’s plans for my life. And if asked today why I became a priest, why I was a priest, and why I would have liked to remain a priest, I would still have to give the same answer that I gave thirty-eight years ago, because I believe that God wanted me to do so.
In this story from my life, I find a parallel in a question that confronts me and many others. It is asked of gay people, and gay people sometimes ask it of themselves. How do I know that God made me gay? How can I be sure that I was born gay and did not choose to be gay? These questions lead me to others. How do I know that God called me to fall in love with another man? How do I know that God called us to be in love and how did He blessed us to be married and be together for more than a decade? These are questions that me and other gay people are subjected to frequently, having to justify to others our sexuality and our very lives.
How do heterosexuals answer these questions? Do heterosexuals even have to answer these questions? How do you really know that God made you straight? How do you know that God called you to fall in love with someone of the opposite sex? How do you know that you married the right person? How do you really know that you should stay married to that person? How do you know that you love your own children?
The answers to all of these questions are actually very simple. The answers come from the depths of our very being, our soul, from our God instilled conscience. Humans know certain things about themselves, perhaps unable to fully explain them, or even to use profane words, and yet we believe and know certain things to be true, sacred even. Our life is God given and so is our sexuality. How does a mother put into words the love she has for her child? How does a man know he is called to be a priest? How does someone know they are gay? The answer is very simple to all of these complex questions; they come from God.