By Alan Scott

For such a simple sounding question, it is anything but. Well, that’s only partially true. There is a simple answer, but as this is not a simple issue, that answer is often lost or ignored.

Straight up (excuse the pun), being gay means that I, as a man, am attracted–both sexually and romantically–to other men. (More generally, being homosexual means getting turned on by other members of the same sex.) And no, it isn’t a choice. Whatever the cause may be, it is most definitely not a choice.

However, for such a simple answer, it was not simple to answer that question for myself. Growing up, there was no such thing as just liking someone of the same sex. Being gay and the “gay lifestyle” were indistinguishable. Being gay was tied to acting gay and it was all a matter of choice.

Fortunately for me, reality never quite matched up with theory. I met quite a few gay people that didn’t fit the stereotypes at all. First off a lot of them were quite masculine, not feminine, which was quite the surprise to my sheltered self. And then they weren’t all drunken drugged out partyers either. And some of them even claimed to be Christians and love Jesus with all of their hearts. Oh, and let’s not forget that they also claimed that being gay was not a choice at all.

However, in spite of all the evidence it was no easy task to reconcile what I thought being gay meant with what the reality of being gay meant. I read books about it, I read articles about it, I watched videos about it, I talked to gay people about it, and above all I prayed about it. I feel as if I’m doing an injustice to what all I struggled through by being so short in my description, though I also feel as if I’m going on and on about it.

It took me years to come to terms with my sexuality, and even after I came to terms with being attracted to other men, I still struggled with the idea of calling myself gay because of all the baggage it carried from my past. But eventually I had to decide whether I was going to accept the definition and understanding of what being gay was from those who condemned it without actually knowing anything about it, or if I was going to accept the definition and understanding of what being gay was from those that were actually gay. Putting it like that makes me laugh at myself for adhering to the understanding of those who had no understanding, but then, as they say, hindsight is 20/20.

Of course, it is always wise to be mindful of the circumstances and the understanding of the different people that we interact with, but ultimately it is we who are gay or queer, not others; and thus, it is we who should say what we are, not others.