Editors' note: Greg Smith is a gay, HIV+ native Montanan, a Rome-educated former priest who is now a mental health therapist, health educator, activist, spiritual adventurer and overall wiseguy who loves to write. He blogs at From Eternity to Here.
Recently I got a letter from someone I've known since childhood, who read my blog and felt compelled to write:
It disgusts me that you've made the choice to be Gay and go to Hell, especially with all your theological training.
There was more, but that was the money quote. Of course, I felt compelled to respond.
You are exactly right. Being Gay is a choice. It is a choice to respond with honesty, integrity and humility to thoughts and feelings that are not a choice. It is a choice to move away from the dark feelings of fear, self-loathing and dishonesty into the light of understanding, honesty, self-acceptance and respect. I have absolutely no choice about whether or not I am gay- I do have to make choices every day about faithfully following the heart that God gave me, as do you. Sometimes I fail. Sometimes I am not as kind or understanding or honest with myself or others about my thoughts and feelings. Sometimes I have thoughts of anger, as I have now, wondering why you feel it necessary to denounce me, someone you "fooled around" with in such an "unholy" manner years ago.
I don't ask you to understand me, just to accept my experience. Maybe it's like you never understanding how I could love broccoli when we were kids. Unexplainable, but you never questioned my sanity or the state of my soul because of it. I'm going to say that this is exactly the same thing. Broccoli lovers all over the world can't explain why they enjoy eating broccoli, they just know they do. And so it is with my heart.
After years of struggling with guilt, shame and fear, I finally came to the simple conclusion that being gay is my honest reality. This was an understanding arrived at through years of self examination, pain and soul searching- it was not the product of indoctrination or brainwashing.
We all make choices. We can choose to feel better by making someone else feel bad, to condemn rather than try to understand, to be right or be happy. I'm sure you have made some choices I will never understand, but I hope I can, at least, give you the benefit of an attempt at explanation. That's what I hope. That's my goal. Because living my life in a way that's faithful to my heart- well, that is the choice I want to make every day."