Recruitment is defined among other things as “the action of finding new people to join an organization or support a cause.” (Oxford Dictionaries) It is so common to come across the claim that gays recruit others into being gay, that you choose to be gay, that someone lured your into this “lifestyle.” Speaking on behalf of myself, I can say that no one recruited me into being gay. Same-sex attraction manifests itself naturally in me. It is who I am. During my formative years in the latter half of the 1970s, the only impression I had of homosexuality was not good. Aside from a steady stream of disparaging, anti-gay jokes, remarks and slurs commonly in use at the time), there were a series of news reports about police raids on bathhouses in Toronto, culminating in Operation Soap in 1981. The impression of the “gay lifestyle” presented to me really came up short if it was intended to win me as a recruit. I have written about my experience in how I came to accept that I am gay in previous posts, see Tap, Tap, Tap…, for example. It was a long and challenging process that dragged on over several years. I tried desperately to ignore, suppress, will even pray away the feelings of same-sex attraction. For a long time, I really wanted the gayness to go away.
For people struggling with feelings of same-sex attraction, who feel they should suppress these feelings, there are Christian groups that offer counselling, even a “cure” for homosexuality. There is a Roman Catholic Ministry, the Courage Apostolate, an organization that counsels chastity for homosexual persons and there was an interdenominational ministry (Protestant) called Exodus International (defunct since 2013), which claimed it could cure people of their feelings of same-sex attraction through therapy. There is a delicious irony in this if you pause and think about it: here we have Church groups actively recruiting gay people to bring them to the faith and convince them to deny who they are. How often is it you hear the accusation (particularly from Church groups) that gay people are recruiting children and young people into their “lifestyle”? Seriously, though, the struggle for self-acceptance is pervasive among gay people, particularly young gay people. I appreciate that the Courage Apostolate, Exodus International (before it folded) and like-minded groups reach out in this way with the best of intentions. However, the fact remains, as the saying goes, “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”
In what I observed over the years, the struggle for acceptance of being gay is quite common for gay people as is the desire to suppress their feelings of same-sex attraction. Some gay men take up heterosexual marriage and family life to conform to the expectations of their families and the broader society only to have their marriages fail when they found they could not suppress the feelings of same-sex attraction. I met such men over the years and their experiences of marital breakdown, estrangement from their children in some cases, is not something I would wish on anyone. I turned to Christianity, Roman Catholicism in particular, to find a more positive identity, even considering taking up religious life with the Congregation of St. Basil, thinking I could find fulfillment in a life of celibacy and piety while I suppressed my homosexuality. However, the Catholic community of which I was a part was accepting and loving of me as a gay man and encouraged me to admit who I am. I am no longer Roman Catholic, but still, have a soft spot for the Catholic community that welcomed me.
Some people claim they were “cured” of their homosexuality or “chose” to stop being gay. The most notable example that comes to mind is that of the actress Anne Heche who was involved in a relationship with Ellen DeGeneres from 1997-2000. Following her lesbian relationship, Ms. Heche married a man with whom she had a son in 2002. In her case, I think it is doubtful she is gay. I remember hearing someone quip once that she thought she had found “the man of her dreams” in Ellen DeGeneres. I know of two men from my past (before I met my husband Mika), whom I knew to be gay, who went this route. One is now married to a woman with whom he has two children; the other I have long since lost track of his whereabouts. I last saw him by chance some years ago in the company of some women from the Church group that was helping him overcome his homosexuality. All I can say about this is I hope this is what they want and that they find happiness, though I find the whole business very dubious and fear it will end badly for them. Time will tell.
The best response I can think of when confronted with religious people who insist being gay is either a choice or a sickness is to tell them, paraphrasing the quote from Goethe, is “God made me this way; if you have an issue with my being gay, take it up with God.” The best thing you can offer to someone who is sexually confused or questioning is to encourage them not to worry and not be in a hurry to declare one way or the other their sexual preferences. The most important thing for anyone is to be true to yourself and not try to conform to the expectations of those around you be they gay or straight.
Posted by Geoffrey