Homosexuality not learned or unlearned, it simply is

Jan 22, 2014
Following Sandusky news from 2,000 miles away has its benefits. I can keep up with local news, turn off the computer when I’ve had my fill of snowstorms, and be grateful I relocated to Arizona.

One storm I have not been able to turn off, however, at least in my mind, is the one surrounding the resignation/firing of St. Mary Central Catholic High School band and choir director Brian Panetta.

I have read the stories and opinions regarding the legality, morality and outrage surrounding the issue. But, in sifting through the bluster of emotion and opinion, I realized something important was missing throughout this discussion: The impact on students, especially an often overlooked group of young people who hide their homosexuality or who silently struggle to make sense of their sexual orientation.

An ongoing debate in any community is whether or not homosexuality is a choice. If one asks gays or lesbians when they “became gay” most will explain they knew from an early age they felt different from others even before they understood why. That “feeling” was not a choice; it was as much a part of them in childhood as it is now. Only when they learned the terminology and heard about what is “normal” and “not normal” did they discover they failed to fit into the described norm, heterosexuality.

I understand the issue is not necessarily that Mr. Panetta is gay. The issue is that by announcing his plans to marry and, thus, become physically intimate with another man, he violated the terms of his employment agreement. This violation led to his resignation/firing, and it’s obvious the community feels the impact.

This is when I noticed that missing from this discussion was the potential impact this situation has had on those silently struggling students. As I thought about them, my attention drifted back to my own experiences.

In school, gay classmates were harassed and shunned. I saw their pain and tried to ignore the fact that I could relate so well to them. I feared someone might see what I was trying to suppress even from myself, and I hid behind schoolwork and tennis.

It wasn’t necessarily because I enjoyed those activities; they kept me safe. The more desperately I tried to change the “different” feeling I had known since childhood, the more I grew to detest myself. I fell into a long-lasting depression almost hoping that my selfhatred would destroy me.

My high school guidance counselor accepted me unconditionally, however, and that connection saved my life. She was not gay, but I saw kindness and traits that inspired me to keep going. Without her presence, I might have given up.

Life experience has taught me that homosexuality is not banished by fervent prayer. It is not something that can be turned on or off. It is not learned or unlearned. It simply is.

Reaching that understanding takes time and support.

I do not know Mr. Panetta but, from what I understand, he did an outstanding job and inspired excellence. He used his God-given talent to help students tap into their own gifts. And, yes, he violated his employment agreement in the interest of being true to himself. Whether or not you agree with how he chooses to live his life, it is his life.

When this story fades, SMCC will still have its employment policies and Mr. Panetta will have moved on. However, the young people silently struggling with their sexual orientation and their fears of the consequences of not fitting the norm will remain.

This is the most salient facet of the SMCC/ Panetta storm. I noticed that concern for them was absent from the inches of opinion published these last few weeks. Not because I was looking for it, but because I sensed the void.

I believe we must do what we can to reach these young people, support them, accept them, and help them to reach their potential as they walk their personal path. Each one is important and each one belongs to us. The storms of life will come and go, and all of us deserve to feel accepted both internally and among others.

Tiffany Gray, M.S., ACSM-CPT, is an adjunct faculty member in the Exercise Science department at Mesa Community College, Mesa, Arizona, where she teaches introductory courses in wellness. She also›owns and operates Gray Wellness Consulting LLC, and serves as the exercise specialist for the Family Wellness Program at St. Vincent de Paul, Phoenix. Gray formerly worked for The Sandusky Register as a news clerk



Well, I guess you told HIM!


"Elsebeth Baumgartner SELFLESS, that's a dead give away!"

After extensive research about the Baumgartner OHIO court cases and OHIO newspaper research, I an others can state:


Why would a successful OHIO attorney risk it all to help victims of corrupt OHIO's courts? Perhaps to silence other OHIO attorneys or face punishment from OHIO's powers that be?


You're apparently still confused, unless you're okay with forming opinions based on untruths as opposed to any facts.

As has been repeatedly stated by ALL parties, Mr. Panetta didn't go public with ANYthing. He met privately with his boss, described his current circumstances, and offered his resignation effective at the end of the school year. At that time, it seems to me he demonstrated a good deal of honesty AND class! It was the subsequent firing (quickly revised into an immediate "resignation") that caused all of the trouble.

Where, pray tell, have you got the idea that Mr. Panetta demanded ANYthing? I grant you that some who have posted here have roundly criticized the Catholic Church in general, its beliefs in specific, and the administration of St. Mary's. I'm on record myself as being in opposition to the coercion of the school OR the church to change a tenet of faith by means of threatening lawsuits, protests, namecalling, or anything else.

Had the school done the RIGHT thing (not to mention perfectly legal and still within the bounds of its own contract), it would have accepted Mr. Panetta's springtime resignation.

I don't believe that the school is using the students any more than Mr. Panetta is, but it's the school's own actions that brought this into the public eye with such a splash and which has forced parents to explain, excuse, defend, or condemn the actions of the parties involved.

Yes, this is a mess. But it's not of Mr. Panetta's doing. And there's one other salient truth here: It's not getting any LESS messy when people spew untruths, EVEN under the proviso it's "IMO."


I agree that it would have been the gracious thing to do for the School to wait until Spring to accept his resignation. However, Mr. Panetta could have waited until Spring to announce his engagement and not placed the Church in a difficult spot. He knew once he announced his engagement that he breached his contract.

I find the timing interesting in that the Diocese is presently without a Bishop and the Interim Administrator is restricted in what he can do. In other words the Diocese was vulnerable without a leader who can change policy.

My beef is with activists who exploited the opportunity and threw the school and in some ways Mr. Panetta under the bus. I am also offended at the Catholic bashing and personal attacks on anybody who even reasonably disagrees with the dominant viewpoint. One would hope that prejudice/hatred against Catholics would end in 1960 when this country elected a Catholic president. The Catholic church has plenty of issues, but the vast majority of its priests and members are good people who wish to worship their God according to the tenets of their church.


What activists? The parishioners and alumni who are rightfully outraged over the event? We are not activists we are sickened by the arrogance and hypocrisy of some in the church and specifically SM, and found it a very good time to confront the issue. The people "bashing" the Catholic church have every right to question the church because they are the Catholic church.


"One would hope that prejudice/hatred against Catholics would end in 1960 when this country elected a Catholic president."

Interesting comment. JFK, the Irish Catholic.

"Anti-Catholic prejudice was still very much in the mainstream of American life when JFK decided to seek the presidency in 1960."

John Harville

my understanding remains that he didn't go public... discussing it with his supervisor in a closed, PRIVATE conversation is not PUBLIC.

Giving him the letter during a basketball game (did that really happen) WAS public and designed to humiliate.

John Harville

AS I listened to the interview, I picked up that parents/others were present and THEY brought the issue to the SR.

The Diocese said it was a local matter - then sent unnamed representative(s)to explain it to Brian.

There was no way this was not going public - simply because of the totally unprofessional manner in which it was handled by the woman hired to handle the PR and other aspects of the school.

If they - and you - believed it would remain private, that merely demonstrates the unprofessional naïve attitudes involved

John Harville

jWhile I saw that, I also repeatedly have raised the issue of students - male and female - right down to kindergartners who only know the teacher is gone.
But my statement always were in terms of whether Ms. Curtis and any others had considered these ramifications - for which I was accused of bashing her.
All I really wanted to know - then and now - is who thought about the 200 SMCC students and all the others? And who is caring about them now?


Good article, Ms. Gray. Thank you for sharing your story.


Dick- I remember that entry. Also, a couple people in the Facebook band alumni group mentioned the issue. Here is an interesting article, "Thoughts from a gay teacher in a Catholic school", and it touches on the same theme as this opinion piece:



Whether it is biological or a choice the citizens of the US are covered under the Constitution. As for personal opinions the people are entitled to that as well. One is a opinion the other is a right. I would say the right beats a opinion any day of the week.

John Harville

Opinions, Donegan, bring abuse of rights before the public in the hope that enlightenment will inspire action.
Sometimes it's a long faith journey. Consider my patron St. John the Dwarf. Every day for three years he carried water 12 miles one way to water a dead stick given by his Bishop. After three years it sprouted and grew to bear fruit. His bishop encouraged his followers to eat "the fruit of loyalty".
Some of us are such loyal Catholics we are willing to persevere to bring The Light to The Church.

Coram Deo

Another view:


God in His grace has a plan.


Yes, Coram, according to that view, even unconsensual sex between males is a sin, punishable by death.

So that means all 32 little boys that Jerry Sandusky raped should be burned at the stake!

And what about all the little boys that the priests had their way with? Did they ask for it? Are they sinners, do they need to beg for forgiveness or put to death?

If you want to honor your God, do you really think the best way, is to create a fake screen name and creep on stories about gay people, just to tell them what sinners they are?

How righteous.

Coram Deo

Clearly you did not read the entire thesis.


A wise professor once said in my class "If you believe homosexuality is a learned behavior, and a homosexual can be 'changed' to a heterosexual through therapy, then by reverse how many sessions would it take to turn a heterosexual into a homosexual?". Food for thought.


SMF1-- indeed food for thought!


LOL, did you ever take any kind of class in logic? Your prof started with a faulty premise that homosexuality is normal when it is abnormal.

A basic characteristic of life from a single cell organism to complex animals and plants is reproduction. Without reproduction there is no life. Ergo, homosexuality is counter to life and therefore abnormal. So of course you can't change the normal behavior to abnormal behavior, it is normal for life to fight to survive.

However, you can go the other way. Is it normal behavior to starve oneself due to a negative body image? Of course not, it is abnormal behavior because it is destructive to the body/life. But can the abnormal behavior be modified or avoided because it is destructive to life?


According to your "logic", every person who practices birth control is abnormal. My day is completely thrown off...according to the poster below, my husband may be gay and for sure we're both abnormal. Oy.


Well we're all a little off/imperfect. That said, it is not abnormal from a biological perspective to engage in heterosexual activity.

In fact from a biological/life perspective it may make sense for a female to engage in sex but avoid pregnancy due to financial concerns, children too close together etc and to please her husband in order to preserve and strengthen the family unit so that off spring have optimal success at attaining adulthood.

One of the reasons the country is in such a mess in my opinion is that the nation has a policy of encouraging those least capable of parenthood and least likely to raise a child to successful adulthood to have children while making it difficult for those best suited to be parents to have children.


Homosexuality is not "normal" in that it is not "usual." That being said, homosexuality is NOT "unnatural." How do we know that? It occurs in nature, in animals whose brains are well outside the ability to intellectualize any kind of a "choice."

As for your biological perspectives, well, they're not. The ONLY "normal" biological imperative is reproduction. Financial concerns, pleasing a husband (monogomy itself, in fact), even the spacing of children is far more modern and more social in nature than biological.

I won't argue your last point seeing as how you've hit the nail on the head with it, but again, that's less a matter of evolution than it is COUNTER-evolution!


Babo, it matters not if homosexuality is "normal". These are people, and like all people, they deserve equal rights and equal treatment under our Constitution.


I agree with you. Homosexuals deserve equal rights and equal treatment under the Constitution. In fact if his rights were violated, I'd probably be his biggest supporter.

However, under that Constitution, people are free to enter into contracts. He breached (broke his contract)and his employer took action to terminate the contract because of the breach. Thus no violation of anybody's rights.

Also, everyone seems to have forgotten that Mr. Panetta told his employer he intended to commit an illegal act in the State of Ohio, i.e. enter into homosexual marriage.

I happen to believe pot should be legal and maybe Mr. Panetta thinks so too; but it is illegal in this State. If Mr. Panetta admitted smoking pot, would the church have the right to terminate his contract under the morals clause? Yes.

Further, there are legal acts that still violate employment contracts. For example Pilots can't drink alcohol within a certain number of hours before a flight. It's a condition of employment for pilots. Similarly, it is a condition of employment for teachers in a Catholic School to uphold the values and tenets of the Catholic Church. He didn't, so his contract was terminated.


Babo, I'll tell you what's not normal, asking a man to marry a brick and mortar church!!

Normal men like sex. (probably with the exception of your husband) Normal men like to have sex a lot. Normal men think of sex 19 times a day. If normal men can't have sex they masturbate, why? Because they are normal!!!

When the Catholics put out their job descriptions asking for men willing to never have sex again in their lives, that's when they opened up the playground for perverts. no normal man would take a job like that.

John Harville

BABO... then according to your thesis CELIBACY is counter to life and therefore ABNORMAL. Can abnormal behavior be modified because it is destructive to life? Your question.

We agree!!!!

Well, except that homosexuality is about love.

John Harville

And yet some in the universe of which you speak is that two beings are not always necessary for reproduction.

By your position, then, celibacy is abnormal.

John Harville



No research has found biological or genetic differences between heterosexuals and homosexuals.

Casual factors that can lead to homosexuality:
A homosexual experience in the early years.
A dominant, possessive, or rejecting mother.
An absent, distant, or rejecting father.
Seduction by peers or authority figures.
Pro-homosexual indoctrination.
The lack of a religious home environment.

The primary cause for homosexuality is man's sinful nature. Like all sin, homosexuality is a choice made from free will.

Homosexuality is something someone does—not something someone is.

mimi's word

I always enjoy your hateful attitude...I am so glad you know all about being gay...