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Voices Online Edition
Vol. XIX No. 1 Eastertide 2004

Love, Health and Homosexuality
Up Close and Personal

by Nancy Valko, RN

In just one day recently, I heard it three times. A local columnist, a TV pundit and a San Francisco couple all said that same-sex marriage is not a threat to anyone or any institution. I was immediately taken back to some episodes in my own life.

When I was 15, my favorite person was my grandmother. Feisty and opinionated, she survived both divorce and widowhood to become an independent career woman in the 1950s by selling accessories to clothes designers. She had a soft heart but took great pride -- even glee -- in her "progressive" views and her inability to be shocked. She always told me that I could ask her anything.

Grandma often took me to lunch with her business friends, many of who were openly homosexual. She especially enjoyed "Bill" and "Mike", who had been together for many years and were quite charming.

My mother was scandalized and I was a bit confused so one day I asked Grandma exactly how these men could have relations. She thought awhile before finally admitting that she really didn't know and that she was afraid that if she found out, she wouldn't like them so much! Her preference for a gauzy acceptance of so-called private choice instead of reality has become endemic today.

I thought about Grandma when I read a nursing journal article about addressing the special health needs of homosexual men and women. The article was certainly supportive of being non-judgmental and sensitive when dealing with a homosexual patient, but the list of unique diseases and social problems associated with active homosexuality was truly staggering.

From the higher risks of physical trauma and domestic abuse to sexually transmitted diseases, certain cancers, substance abuse and so on, it is not surprising that both homosexual men and women are said to have a statistically much shorter lifespan than the rest of the population. Obviously, "safe sex" and blind acceptance are not the answer to the problem of homosexuality, even physically.

Homosexuality and Children
My son was only 10 when he approached me while I was hurriedly preparing dinner and asked what "gay" meant. Although I carefully tried to monitor what my children watched on TV, there was no way to avoid a promo for an upcoming news story on a roundup of homosexual men at a local park.

When I told my son that I would explain this when he was older, he demanded what he called his constitutional right to know and I gave him as simple an explanation as I could. Luckily, I noticed a strange expression on his face and realized that he was at an age where his best friend was all-important and it wasn't cool to like girls.

I quickly assured him that he wasn't "gay" and that his friendship with Andrew was perfectly natural. I also told him that at his age, he wasn't expected to like girls but that this would change as he grew up. The relief on his face broke my heart for the other children who might be similarly confused and frightened.

A few years later, one of my daughters confided that a sophomore high school friend revealed she was a lesbian (or thought she was). She encouraged my daughter to experiment by saying "How do you know you aren't gay if you haven't tried it?"

Despite the protestation of the "gay rights" movement, the "it's ok to be gay" message that has infiltrated our society tells our children much more about promiscuity and the trivialization of sex than about violence and discrimination.

Love and Homosexuality
When "Johnny" was admitted to our oncology unit several years ago with advanced colon cancer, it soon became obvious that there were going to be problems. Besides being young, charming and a talented artist with a terminal disease, Johnny was openly homosexual and loved to aggravate the fundamentalist Christian nurses on our staff.

Over the months of eventually unsuccessful experimental treatments for his cancer, Johnny and I developed a warm relationship and had many discussions about love, life and death. Some of the other nurses felt it was important to lecture Johnny about the sin of homosexuality but I felt it was best to pray for God's wisdom and guidance in helping Johnny and I let the discussions evolve.

Just before Johnny died, he looked up at me and poignantly asked if God would forgive him. I said "Of course! God loves you and so do I." His resulting, almost beatific, smile said it all and he peacefully died shortly afterward.

Later, one of my close relatives announced that she was ending her 13-year marriage and that she was a lesbian. The family was shocked and saddened but the consensus was that if this makes "Betty" happy, it must be okay. Political correctness allowed them to ignore an obviously tormented soul who had long been anything but happy.

I talked privately with Betty to let her know that I was concerned and praying for her. Surprisingly, she said that she was actually disappointed by the family's reaction and admitted that she was in great emotional pain and needed more than just a pat on the head.

Don't Be Silent
We make a big mistake if we allow ourselves to be intimidated into silence on the issue of homosexuality. The physical, emotional and spiritual effects of homosexuality are devastating, not only to society but also to actual individuals.

Although self-proclaimed experts in our society tend to characterize any concerns about homosexuality as homophobia and even hate, real love does not require approval of everything a person does but rather a commitment to the true well-being of that person.

Ask any parent. Ask God.

Nancy Valko, RN, is president of Missouri Nurses for Life, contributing editor for Voices, and a frequent commentator on bioethics issues on radio and television.

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