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The gift of being gay

The gift of being gay


If gay men are, as is increasingly revealed through research, natural components of the human spectrum, we must have particular gifts to offer our fellow human beings. What might those be? Let's start a dialogue.

What a new way of thinking! I recently participated in a six-week workshop called "Exploring Gay Sensibility," conducted by Denver therapist Alan Robarge. As participants we were challenged to entertain the idea that there may be something more to gayness than sexual orientation. It was a concept that stirred the imagination.

Initially we struggled mightily with the idea of a "gay sensibility" that could be as significant in our biological makeup as sexual preference. Both within the gay subculture and in society at large, the sexual aspect of being gay is such a preoccupation that there seems to be little room for broader thinking. Those of us in the workshop were initially stuck in that mindset.

The course led me to further investigation via the Internet, which turned up some interesting supporting ideas. Canadian neuroscientist Todd Murphy builds on previous research revealing a larger anterior commissure in the brains of gay men than in those of straight men and women. Since this structure connects the two sides of the amygdala--strong emotional centers in the brain--Murphy postulates that gay men thus have a stronger ability to recognize other people and how they feel, and that gay men are better able to perceive emotional meaning.

Murphy speculates, "Gay men were probably our first spiritual leaders.... Gay men may once have healed their people, led them spiritually, soothed interpersonal conflicts, and helped them anticipate and avoid threats to survival." He goes on, "A 100% heterosexual population might well have gone extinct."

Further research as to our biological uniqueness was summarized in the article "Scents and Sexuality" in the July 5 issue of The Advocate. Over the years several studies have suggested a genetic link in determining sexual orientation. Interestingly, Lisa Kudrow states in another article in that issue that gay television writers she's worked with "just have a pinpoint awareness of emotional pain and the emotional pain that causes humor."

These observations lend credence to the Native American concept of gay men as shamans, spiritual healers of the tribe, who are neither masculine nor feminine. Being gay could well be considered a gift in this light. What a different concept of gayness!

Is there really a gift in being gay? Is there something special we have to offer society as gay men? One could argue that the psyche of the traditional straight male has focused on outer action, getting things done and protecting the home. Meanwhile, the traditional female psyche is associated with nurturing and relationships. Both orientations are needed for societies to flourish. Some psychologists and spiritual teachers argue that the mature human psyche of either gender demonstrates a creative balance of "masculine" and "feminine" energies in the individual. Similarly, a gay orientation may represent a creative mix of the two, with its own special gifts.

Certainly, all individuals have gifts of various types and degrees to offer. Just as traditional masculine and feminine roles call for certain gifts, so there may be a genetic gift in being gay. Additionally, we all have our own personal gifts to offer, whether we're gay, straight, bisexual, or transgender. Society would benefit if we all realized our gifts more fully.

Our gifts are most likely to be developed and shared if we're raised in a nurturing environment. Children and adults who are loved explicitly are more likely to embrace their individual gifts. The alternative, all too often the case, is a life plagued by various levels of self-doubt and repression.

In our workshop, we struggled to come up with something distinct in our gayness other than sexual preference. Initially we focused on the typical stereotypes of gay men as flower arrangers, hairdressers, and fashion divas. As a group we agreed that we had a heightened aesthetic sense and sensitivity to relationships beyond the male cultural norm. But what else was there, and how could we manifest our gifts in positive ways if they were honored and encouraged?

What do you think? I invite you to participate in the dialogue. Please e-mail me with your thoughts on "The Gift of Being Gay" at

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