Why I chose to be gay Curtis Hill, Columnist, [email protected] Issue date: 4/23/08 Section: Opinion Source: SMUDailyCampus.com When I was four or five years old, I could frequently be found in a dress, playing with Barbies or watching the television show "Gem." You know, that cartoon in which the animated girl with the pink hair had a rock-star alter ego? Yes, that's the one. Even though I knew it'd be over after 30 minutes, I don't think it ever ended without me shedding a few tears. When I was six, due to my obsession with the movie "The Wizard of Oz," I insisted upon dressing up as the Wicked Witch of the West, complete with green makeup, the black pointy hat and long fake nails to boot. When I was seven or eight, I told my friends and family that when I grew up, I wanted to be a makeup artist, a hairdresser or a figure skater. Pretty gay, right? I know that some of you are already wondering where my parents were through all of this. What kind of parents would let their son act as if he were their daughter? Well, I don't know what they discussed behind closed doors, but I'm pretty sure that they weren't exactly thrilled to have a boy whose favorite pastimes include collecting figurines, painting fingernails, and walking around in high heels. If nothing else, I'm sure they were worried about how other children would treat me. To be completely honest, it wasn't all pink and pretty. My dad would take me camping, fishing, to ball games and all of the other expected activities for a father and son to participate in. However, I still remember when he took me to the toy store for my birthday one year, and I had to choose between a G.I Joe fort and a Barbie Corvette. I guess I was beginning to pick up on what society considered to be normal, and I selected the fort. When we got in the car, I started crying. I wanted that pink corvette more than anything in the world, and my dad didn't even have to ask me why I was upset. He held my hand as we walked back in the store and made the exchange. I want to be clear that not every gay man played with dolls as a child, and not every boy who does turns out to be gay. However, most boys with similar childhood inclinations do not grow up in accepting homes. Many of my friends have told me stories about how they were scolded or even punished for participating in feminine activities even though they were only doing what felt natural to them. Imagine what it must feel like to an innocent child who is made to feel as though something is wrong with them, taught at an early age to put on a show, to be someone they are not. The damage is different for every individual, but I know firsthand that the side effects never truly disappear. When I was in the fourth grade, I remember running home crying. Someone at school had called me a "gay wad." I didn't really understand what it meant, but I knew from the way that it was said and the way the other kids laughed that it wasn't a compliment. I couldn't understand it. I was nice to everyone and always tried to do the right thing. How could I be something so awful? By sixth grade, my first year in middle school, I knew what being gay meant. I also understood that I was, in fact, what that kid had called me two years before. Because I owned a Bible of my own, I went through and read all of the verses pertaining to homosexuality. It was torturous, and while I would later realize that I had allies in my struggle, I felt alone at the time and forced to hide. I prayed to God every night that year that He would change me, that he would make me normal. I had girlfriends to try and fit in, but my parents had taught me the difference between right and wrong. I knew that lying was wrong, and I began to wonder why it was safer and more acceptable for me to lie to everyone than to just be honest. Today, as I write this, I am being more honest than I have ever been. While I know that many people won't be too happy about what I'm about to say, I know it'll be worth it if this reaches even one person who desperately needs to hear that their sexuality does not make them a good or a bad person. To this day, there is a war being waged against homosexuality. Whether it's as extreme as the radical groups who hold up signs that read, "God hates fags," or well-intentioned friends or family members who use a variation of the sentence, "I love and accept you, but I don't support your lifestyle," the effects are the same. Most people who don't approve of homosexuality believe that it is a choice. While it seems obvious to me that physical attraction is a trait beyond one's control, others disagree. I have had friends who have been sent to camps and programs to be changed (yes, they do exist) and have come out broken, confused and still…well, gay. In fact, these types of organizations and counselors who believe in similar methods have done nothing but increase the suicide rate among gay teens, which is the highest of any other group. Even if a man or woman who is attracted to the same sex ignores their desires and lives a life of celibacy, he or she is still gay. While I prayed every night in the sixth grade to wake up and be interested in girls, it never happened. If it happens tomorrow, I promise to retract this article as soon as I regain consciousness and dump my boyfriend. Why someone would ever choose to be treated as a second-class citizen without the same rights and privileges as heterosexuals, putting his or herself at risk of being a victim of a hate crime, or at risk of being disowned by his or her own family is beyond my comprehension. So if choosing to not be gay means going to back to the way I felt in sixth grade when I would cry myself to sleep at night because of fear and shame, then yes, I choose to be gay. Curtis Hill is a senior advertising major. He can be reached for comment at [email protected].