I was raised Southern Baptist. It's hard for me to be more out because I'm still afraid I'm going to burn in Hell forever. At one point I even considered conversion therapy. Can you help me overcome this?
Signed, Mea Culpa
Dear Mea Culpa,
I don't believe that being gay is a sin. Being gay isn't a choice either. I think it's genetic and science is backing that up. I believe that since God makes gay people gay, then he must love them just as they are. Rather than feeling that being gay is immoral, I feel that using the Bible to oppress gay people is immoral. After all, we no longer use the Bible to justify the subjugation of women, indigenous people (colonialism), or slavery. So why should the Bible still be used to justify hateful homophobia today? It's ironic that some oppressors simultaneously profess to be loving Christians.
I encourage you to take your attention off of fear and outdated controlling paradigms. Instead, focus on being your true self. You can't get acceptance from someone else. You have to bring that to the table yourself. Acceptance isn't about getting something you don't have from an external source. It's about showing up authentically from the get go, commanding respect by being who you are. If you already accept yourself, someone else's disapproving philosophy can't stop you from being fully yourself. You'll be holding on to your power, not letting someone else define you, especially gay bashers.
The most harmful thing that homophobia does to gay people is that it can traumatize them into feeling ashamed of who they are, leading to corroded self-esteem and significant stress. These in turn lead to self-destructive coping behaviors like unsafe sex, substance abuse, and isolation. The way out is seeking self-acceptance and self-love, not damaging reparative or conversion therapy. When you stand firmly on your own two feet, deeply rooted in the authenticity and appreciation of being who you are, internalized homophobia will begin to dissolve. Gay people are strong and resilient from all the challenges we face. Use your strength to stand tall and walk with pride, being you without fear of damnation.
All The Best, Angelo.
I am in a loving long-term relationship. But I often look at other guys and undress them in my mind. Sometimes I imagine doing more. Is this a form of cheating?
Signed, Impure Thoughts
Dear Impure Thoughts,
If you were on a no carb diet and thought about eating bread, rice, or pasta, would you be cheating? Of course not! They're just thoughts. If you don't act on them, then no harm is done. Well, the same holds true for fidelity. It's completely normal to find other men attractive. Don't judge yourself so harshly for looking at other guys and fantasizing. It's what you do that matters. If it were our thoughts that mattered, we'd all be in big trouble. As long as you have the discipline to resist acting on certain thoughts, then like your diet, you can remain guilt free.
But that's not always quite so easy when we're having thoughts that we feel we're not supposed to. A male junior high school teacher confided in me that he sometimes fantasized about having sex with some of the boys. He was very aware that his thoughts were inappropriate. He was quite clear that he would never act on his thoughts. But he still felt like he was doing something wrong because he was thinking about it. I was even conflicted about whether or not I was obligated to report child abuse to protect the children at his school. A reasonable suspicion that abuse may be happening is all that's required by law to report it. As deeply troubling as this was for me, I didn't breech his confidentiality because thoughts by themselves aren't a crime. On the flip side, I often hear from my abused patients that they sometimes feel guilty because they thought about killing their abuser at times, but they never did. So, the line between thoughts and wrong doing doesn't always feel as crystal clear as it seems.
For instance, back to cheating, where do we draw that line? Is taking a thought to the level of innocent flirting cheating? A touch? A kiss? Well, each couple has to define what constitutes cheating for themselves. It's better to discuss and figure it out together before anything happens. Just ask Hillary Clinton. So bring this up with your partner. The two of you have to negotiate what makes cheating cheating, addressing whether you want a relationship that's sexually closed or perhaps open to some degree.
All The Best, Angelo.
By Angelo Pezzote
Coming to a Bookstore near you!
Angelo Pezzote, M.A., N.C.C., L.M.H.C.
The Gay Man's Therapist
Would you appreciate a safe, supportive environment to talk about personal concerns? Get useful tools from a specialist who understands.
Podcasts, Teleseminars, Advice On Demand, Workshops, Groups and Private Practice Available. Manhattan, NY Office Tel: (917) 673-5003. www.AskAngelo.com
Angelo Pezzote, M.A., N.C.C., L.M.H.C., All Rights Reserved