I Never Became Straight. Perhaps That Was Never God’s Goal.
Image: Ken Richardson

This is not a story of being gay and becoming straight.

But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s rewind to the beginning. My parents met at a gay nightclub in San Francisco. My mother just wanted a safe place to dance. My father was the security guard. He abandoned my mother and me after abusing both of us physically. I didn’t even know he existed until I was 10, by which time my mother had remarried.

Growing up, I had no bedtime I can remember. I was allowed to watch horror movies at a young age. When it came to sex, nothing was hidden. There were jokes and stories and, when I was 10, I helped my mother clip images from an adult magazine for a bachelorette party.

At 14, I met my first boyfriend. We laughed at each other’s jokes, watched similar shows, and got along easily. But before long he and I broke up, as teenagers do.

A year later, I met my first girlfriend in an AP European history class. She was a senior, beautiful and popular. Since I excelled in the class, she asked me to come over and help her study. When we met at her house, something was different. Conversation flowed easily, rapidly, unexpectedly. I was struck by her beauty. The attraction felt like what other girls described feeling for a boy.

Over the next week, I began wondering, “Is it okay to feel this way about a girl?” I was vaguely familiar with the notion that church folk condemned such things, but as I tried puzzling out why, I came up empty. Little could I imagine ever understanding the Bible’s teaching on sexuality, let alone submitting to it.

The First Kiss

I set myself a goal: Before this girl went to college, she would kiss me. I lied about my sexual history, placed myself strategically in her path, and introduced topics to get romantic thoughts flowing.

Meanwhile, we were developing a deep and true friendship. She was the first peer with whom I could discuss ideas, literature, and other serious subjects. Soon enough, it ceased just being a game: I had fallen in love.

The following summer, she asked me what I wanted for my 16th birthday. My heart was pounding. I said I wanted her to kiss me. The moment it happened, and the many moments after, felt like a veil being lifted. The world I’d always seen in black and white suddenly burst forth in dazzling color.

Leaving my tiny high school for Yale University was exhilarating: I entered a selective humanities program for freshmen, met fascinating people from around the world, and enjoyed unlimited access to alcohol. It seemed too good to be true.

Then I heard the news: My girlfriend was cheating on me with an undereducated, semi-homeless guy out in Tahoe. When Christmas vacation came, I paid her a visit, but everything felt icy, still, frozen shut. On Christmas morning, as I read Don Quixote on her futon (while she had sex with her boyfriend in the other room), I wondered what my life had become.

Googling Jesus

Back at Yale, in my first philosophy class, we discussed Descartes’s famous statement, cogito ergo sum, “I think, therefore I am,” and how it influenced his understanding of reality and the nature of God. After some initial dismissiveness, I began compulsively wondering whether God could exist. Back in my room, I started Googling religious search terms like a middle-schooler searching for pornography. When my roommate entered, I would slam down the laptop lid and pretend I was doing French homework.

I couldn’t tell you what my search terms were. But in that wave of webpages, I started to encounter Jesus for the first time. It’s hard to describe the preconceived notions I would have been carrying; perhaps phrases like “ancient conservative” or “unthinking traditionalist” give something of the flavor. Yet the articles and Scriptures I found gave a decidedly different impression. Again and again, I saw how Jesus noticed, dignified, and served people I would have thrown aside. But I was troubled by a suspicion that my life was against his.

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