Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: I'm doubtful about my sexuality. Since I was about 6 years old, I somehow knew I was different inside. I'm 21 now, and more or less able to recognize that "it's" part of me. By "it," I'm referring to having a queer interest in members of the same gender (I was born Christian, by the way, so you can definitely imagine the turmoil inside of me). So, when I actually realized that it's not going to go away (these thoughts and feelings), it just shook my world. Sadly, I have been struggling to "kill" this part of me since I was a kid. By playing "me" down, I could actually fit in and seem like a normal guy. So what I would want to know is: What is this condition (if it considers itself as a condition) that I have? I'm sure I'm genetically programmed to think and feel the way I do. I have even tried going against it, but it simply felt forced, and even fake. Extremely confused, and this is actually the first time I'm asking. Oh. I had my first feelings of depression in 2004. Now, I am on medication (fluvoxamine), which is preventing any further relapses. Hopefully, you do have some sort of direction for me. And honestly, I do detest myself for being queer and odd. Get back to me? Thanks a million.
— Jo K., Singapore
The problem here isn't sexual orientation, but judgment against the self. Instead of being gay, let's say you were bald. Most men are self-conscious about being bald, and it can serve as a focus for loss of self-esteem and a sense of not being masculine enough. I hope you see that it isn't baldness that is causing such self-judgments, which can become quite obsessive and overpowering.
Being gay is more difficult to come to terms with than baldness, of course, because of society's attitudes. You don't actually detest yourself; you have passively absorbed other people's negative attitudes. Religion is part of society, and when it enters the situation, one winds up with yet another layer of disapproval—perhaps the most severe of all—because to be gay, according to Christian fundamentalists, is to put your soul in jeopardy.
In your position, I would list the problems you feel inside, putting them down in order of severity and then writing down a specific remedy for each. For example:
Feeling lonely and different
Remedies: Meet other gay people who have good self-esteem, join a gay social club, make one good gay friend, make one good straight friend who is fine with homosexuality
Self-judgment and insecurity
Remedies: Find one thing I am good at, join with people who value my accomplishments, find a confidant to share my feelings with, make friends with somebody who can serve as a model or mentor
Remedies: Read a book on modern faith and gay tolerance, find a gay friend who is also Christian, seek out a gay pastor
Remedies: Join a gay group that is about something besides sex (hiking, movies, dancing, hobbies), read about heroes and pioneers of gay liberation, identify with strong role models who have successfully combined sex and love
There are many more issues I could have included, but the point is to first get you out of yourself so that you can form less self-destructive beliefs about being gay. And second, use these outside contacts to build up your sense of self. You are a unique person with unique value in this world. It doesn't matter whether genes, upbringing, predisposition or early behavior contributed to having a gay identity. This is your main life challenge, here and now. A lot depends on confronting the challenge head-on with a positive outcome in mind.