“What can I tell my children about homosexuality?” This was the first question I was asked at the end of my talk at a church in Brazil. A teacher in New York City asked, “We have some teachers and administrators at our school who are in favor of homosexuality and very vocal about it. I want to say something, but what?”
The short answer to both questions should be “The Truth.” But there is another question, an even harder one to answer: “How can you speak the truth with compassion, without breaking the spirit of those who are attracted to someone of the same sex?” What should we tell our teens about homosexuality?
Although every human being, gay or not, is an individual – different from everyone else – I think we can safely say that someone who is attracted to the same sex falls into one of four broad categories:
Those who are proud to be gay, are sexually active, and want same sex relationships to be universally approved of and celebrated.
Those who accept their attraction for the same sex reluctantly but adopt a gay lifestyle anyway.
Those who are keenly aware of their same sex attraction but do not engage in sexual intimacy.
Those who are aware of their same sex attraction, don’t want to be that way, and want help in dealing with their feelings.
In all four categories, there are those who call themselves Christians.
For all of them, life can be very, very difficult. Probably your conversations with your teens need to begin here. What is “being gay” like for their friends and classmates?
What would it be like to feel “different” from your classmates? To have to hide your real feelings? To feel rejected or judged or harassed by others who see you as different? Not to be able to respond to developing sexual attraction by dating, as heterosexual youth can? Not to be able to go with that special friend to your senior prom? To be denied any hope for a spouse and children some day? It’s easy to understand why same-sex oriented youth seek out a gay community – a community of like-minded individuals where they can socialize freely, where they will be understood and affirmed, where they can express and discuss their desires.
So the first part of the message for our teens about homosexuality should be to challenge them to engage in conversation with their gay classmates: To share their hopes, dreams, experiences, feelings, and temptations with each other. To show respect for their dignity and worth as human beings. To get to know them as persons. To be a friend.
To be a friend doesn’t mean condoning, approving, or advocating homosexual practices.
To be continued