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A friend of mine, who happens to be gay, asked me the following question. “Why do some gay men obsess over female celebrities?” I pondered for a moment. Then I gave him a multi-layered answer spanning the course of many years. Just like homosexual desires can’t adequately be addressed with “I was born this way”, the reason some gay men focus heavily on powerful or influential women has its complexities.
Picture it, Oklahoma, the 70’s. My family dynamic was hopelessly askew. Growing up in the Walker household, Hazel, not Jack, was in charge. Dad was the disciplinarian, but mom orchestrated our lives. My mom struggled with bi-polar disorder. She ruled with screams, tears or silence. My brother and I gravitated to opposite parents. I was my mom’s son and thus learned how to be a human by watching her. My mom’s maiden name was Williams. William’s women were a force to be reckoned with. Developmental Math Equation: Sensitive male child + A strong woman = Emasculated, little boy. Words synonymous with emasculated: powerless, helpless, impotent, weakened, feeble and ineffectual.
Dad was powerless to stop mom’s hurtful words and actions. He said it was easier to surrender me to my mom, than to fight for me. His words brought with them a great sadness. The enemy told me a thousand lies a minute. “You must have done something wrong to make your dad not love you.” I spent my entire life wondering if I even mattered. Suddenly it made sense why I looked for acknowledgement in the eyes of every man I walked past. I was silently screaming, “Isn’t there any man out there who would simply love me?” I wasn’t looking for sex. I was looking for acceptance, value and my identity as a man. I wasn’t been “born gay”. My damage was the aftermarket result of a lifetime of neglect and abandonment. I saw my dad as passive. Women bulldoze passive men. I don’t want to be a man like dad. I feel different than other men. I don’t identify with men at all.
Mom was in control and I was her favorite. I didn’t always like her methods, but I liked her results. I grew up feeling weak, shy and inadequate in her shadow. I saw dad the same way. Mom was the exact opposite. My close proximity to her, allowed me to mimic her habits. I manipulated people to get what I wanted. Under mom’s wing, I was protected from my father. Mom lavished her love and affection on me. She confided in me. For a long time, I was her source of emotional support. It became a way of life for me. Yet, not even I was safe from her occasional manic outbursts. It was like standing in the flames of hell and hoping for an occasional glimpse of heaven. After 18 years of having my voice silenced, I perceived women to be more powerful than men. I identified more with women, than I ever did with men. No one challenged them. They were strong, courageous and bold. I envied their “power” and saw it as the means necessary to breakthrough my feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness to become a person people respected.
I once shared one of my journal entries with my friend Kathy. I wrote, “I wish I could sing like Whitney Houston.” I was embarrassed, but we had a good laugh. Whitney embodied some of the same characteristics I saw in my mom: Strength, Boldness, Independence and Power. I idolized Whitney, not because I was gay, but because early childhood development shaped who I looked to for direction. Other childhood heroes included Wonder Woman, Samantha from Bewitched, The Designing Women, The Golden Girls and Madonna. Laugh if you will, but they were strong, powerful people who confidently took care of themselves. If my childhood taught me anything, it was the need to take care of myself. No one else was going to do it. Ultimately, my journey out of anonymity in search of purpose came from a very broken place, not from a genetics textbook. I looked a lot of places for answers, before I ever turned to Jesus, but eventually I surrendered my life to Him.
My answer to my friend’s question? A lot of sensitive boys raised by strong women, are subject to my same disillusions. They possibly suffered a disconnection with dad or dad was absent and mom instinctively “took the helm of the ship”. Therefore the model for a young boy to emulate becomes mom, not dad. A lot of gay men’s lives mirrored mine. The world is a broken place and we’ll find our value in persons, places and things. Men who struggle with homosexuality often end up being people pleasers or over achievers. I think it arises out of a need to add meaning and value to our lives. The broken relationships of our past set us up for failure with rudimentary social skills. We find ourselves using any means necessary to get and keep friends in our lives. No life will endure being pushed aside and forgotten for long. Something’s gotta give. Most people want to feel special, to be heard and to know that they matter. I’ve found that people will take any avenue necessary to make that happen.
I think it’s always necessary to bring it back to scripture. James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
The following book brought hope help and healing to me. “The Emotional Incest Syndrome: When a parent’s love rules your life”- by Dr. Patricia Love.
(A disclaimer. I don’t doubt for a second that my mother loved me and did the best she could with the limited tools in her “toolkit”. However, replicated brokenness is still brokenness. If you are a mom like mine, don’t take this a rebuke. Take it as a second chance to do right by your son and yourself. It’s the best way to help mend his broken sexuality and your broken heart.)