“I remembered the constructs and stereotypes pushed my way as a child and teen. I felt emasculated by the cultural and Christian “masculinity” ideals. I questioned if I was a mistake because I didn’t fit into the ‘man box.’ I even wondered if I might be gay.”
I love many of the Humans of New York photos I find on my Facebook pages. I believe they give many people a voice. One of them specifically caught my attention earlier this year. The photo depicts a young (possibly teen or preteen) boy in tears. (You can see it below)
My heart broke when reading his quote: “I’m homosexual and I’m afraid about what my future will be and that people won’t like me.” My mind flooded with many questions and concerns for him and other young men who feel the same feelings and experience the struggle and hurts that come with them. I was not one of those advocating for the removal of the photo and quote (the post was deleted by administrators almost immediately after going up). If this is his story, I don’t mind it being posted because – everyone’s story matters! I believe many of the HoNY photos invite us toward much needed conversations. As a Christian, I believe it’s all part of the beautiful tension between humanity and God’s grace.
Many of you know by now that I’m writing a book on Christianity and masculinity. When I searched my heart for chapter topics, I knew it would be imperative to ask the hard questions. I also know that my questions, thoughts and opinions might cause some controversy. I am not an expert on this topic and I want to be very careful as to how I approach it. My goal is to end with a completed book filled with encouraging thoughts and heartfelt concern. And so, I remembered the constructs and stereotypes pushed my way as a child and teen. I felt emasculated by the cultural and Christian “masculinity” ideals. I questioned if I was a mistake because I didn’t fit into the “man box.” I even wondered if I might be gay.
So here is the tough question (and I’m not suggesting that I have the perfect answer): Is it possible that some men (young and old alike) may not be gay? Is it possible that the “masculinity” stereotypes we grew up with make us feel less than manly rather than a unique created individuals “that represent a wide spectrum of gifts, personalities, interests, and callings.”
I remember as a young man yearning for and experiencing some close and loving relationships with other boys. It was not taboo. Whenever we played “cooties” in grade school to stay away from the girls, it wasn’t because we were gay but because we weren’t interested or so we thought. Even my son (at age nine) said “I’m not interested” and planned to “not get married” in the future.
After a few years went by, a cute little red head girl during sixth grade recess caught my attention and I began rethinking the idea of staying far way. Things changed when it came to my male friends as well. Somewhere between middle school and high school we learned the unsaid (but well kept) rules of keeping our distance, our feelings, and our hugs from each other. We were slowly becoming the “monsters” we were told were men.
I am not discounting the young man’s story in the picture BUT I am asking us to consider the possibility that some of us may not be gay but rather unique and different from the stereotypical “macho” male. We are all a unique mix of strength and beauty. It’s what makes the world go round. Our differences make us stand apart and our similarities draw us together. Is it possible that society told us that the loving feelings a man has toward another man is wrong and so when we crave those relationships, we fear that there might be something wrong. Maybe, instead of embracing our male relationships, we keep each other at arms length and miss out on something wholesome and strengthening.
One of my favorite Bible characters is David – a man after God’s own heart. He bragged about taking out a lion and bear to protect the sheep in his care. He was also artistic, played soothing music, and was a great poet. He was a tremendous leader and yet a devoted follower. He could stand and fight alone but knew he could find strength and comfort from a close male friend. His relationship with Jonathan was comforting and empowering. He was a mixture of what our culture would consider macho and feminine. He was uniquely David – the man God created him to be.
And so, I bravely encourage others like me to consider the possibility that you may not be gay. You are not a “male fail” just because you don’t fit within the “man box.” And if you are longing for male companionship, know that these feeling are normal.
I was saddened that day. This young boy is mortified that others will not like him as he is. It’s a sad commentary on all of us including our churches. It then disheartens me even more to think that he “might” consider himself gay because we’ve somehow made our men feel like there’s no other alternative when it comes to “true” masculinity. There’s a lot more to be said but I have shared my heartfelt thoughts for now. May the conversation continue and may many find love, identity and a hopeful future.
This is an excerpt from a chapter from the upcoming book