The past several decades have brought such an array of gay-rights advances, from the Stonewall riots to Canadian gay marriage, it's tempting to forget that the Final Word on homosexuality remains unchanged. "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination," thunders Leviticus 18:22, recommending a sentence to warm the heart of the hoariest Texas judge: "They shall be put to death." Following their divinely sanctioned executions, gays can expect only worse. "Neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites will inherit the kingdom of God," gloats Corinthians, damning those who "choose to live in contrast to God and nature" to a burning, torturous, everlasting Hell.

To my parents' great credit, such Biblical threats of damnation were never shoved down my throat while growing up. A pair of lapsed Catholics with varying degrees of residual belief, my parents raised my brother and me to honor the Golden Rule and common sense, with more time spent teaching the tenets of responsible capitalism (budgeting funds, balancing checkbooks) than fretting over inheritances in the afterlife. So it's a testament to the Bible's power and pervasive influence that the Biblical designation of homosexuality as contrary to the will of God still managed to fuck me up pretty well.

This was partly due to location. In Texas, "Christian values" permeate society like fluoride in the water, and my 17 years spent in West Texas filled me with a thorough understanding of my inherent wretchedness. Lacking a personal belief in the Bible's infallibility mitigated matters to a small degree. Whether I believed or not, a majority of my peers and elders pledged allegiance to a book that cursed my most natural feelings as sinful abominations and damned me to Hell. (Of course the real hell comes when the Bible is taken up by vengeful Christians, who use "God's words" to fuel politically motivated terror campaigns, concocting gay horror stories--from recruiting children to inserting gerbils--that make the Bible's exhortations read like fairy tales.)

Still, I'm not the kind of homosexual who thinks gays have it hard and straights have it easy. By definition, heterosexual relationships require the bridging of a gap that doesn't exist for same-sex couples, and when I encounter straight couples who've managed to bridge this gap to forge a deep, honest, mutually enriching connection, I'm filled with admiration. (Conversely, I've witnessed the appreciation bordering on envy of straight folks encountering a good gay relationship, mostly from straight guys imagining how easy life would be if they could be sexually satisfied by their male best friend.)

But just as gays don't have to deal with the particular difficulties involved in the union of opposite sexes, straight folks will never understand what it is to be told, at a most trusting and impressionable age, that acting upon your natural urges, in any way, will make God hate you. Often this lesson was coupled with the teaching that "God don't make no junk," creating a stunning paradox in the minds of gay kids everywhere.

On a good day, I can credit this paradox--"God made you this way, but hates you for it"--with fostering the depth of thought and self-reflection that has distinguished outsiders (gays, fat folks, women) for centuries. On a bad day, I can hold the Christian mind-fuck accountable for gay teen suicide, the Catholic sex scandal, and the continuance of stupidly risky sex among gay men. But most days, I just try to think of Jerry Maguire.

Perhaps you remember Cameron Crowe's 1996 dramedy, in which Tom Cruise plays Jerry, a big-money sports agent whose moral awakening leads to professional hardship, requiring this rich white man to do the first true soul-searching of his life. As Jerry Maguire navigated his difficulties to speed his triumphantly evolved self down a highway to Tom Petty, I imagined straight male eyes across America brimming with tears--while I wanted to stab each Jerry Maguire in the face. "Poor fucking baby," I seethed, "forced into his first introspection at age 32." For those of us born outside the Jerry Maguire paradigm (be we gay, overweight, nonwhite, and/or female), such self-questioning was a mandatory cornerstone of our childhoods, and to see it presented as a "hero's journey" was galling.

Still, maybe expecting straight folks, with their innocent privilege, to understand the plight of outsiders--to appropriate the mind-fucking underpinnings of "alternative sexuality" along with the liberating delights--is an idealistic fantasy, like expecting shoppers at the Gap to do stints in a sweatshop.

But a boy can dream.