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


Julie R.

Oh come on already, people. Who really cares if a person is a homosexual and who are any of you ~ including the Catholic church ~ to judge that person?

GOD is the only one that has the right to judge and I personally don't think that even HE does. I think everybody someday has to stand in front of HIM and judge themselves ....... and that is probably by far the worst thing ever.


The Seattle Times quoted a church official there, when asked why the "employment contract" was not being applied across the board at Eastside Catholic: “Imagine if we couldn't hire sinners,” quipped the official. lol. A personal note: to me is rather disturbing that people still closely associated with the school are more upset that the story got out and not with what actually happened. UPDATE: PBS Newshour Online mentions the Brian Panetta story in an article: http://www.hirebrianback.blogspo... for details!

John Harville

If you understand that SCCS has shrunk from three K-8 schools in separate buildings and a thriving high school of 400 to a revamped one-building Pre-12 - with only around 200 in the high school then you can understand why they are hesitant for anything else to get out.
Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect is the apparent disregard for how this would affect the students...and overall morale.
After the weekend, though, I can assure there are MANY people in the pews upset about how the entire issue was handled.


John, I do not understand why you continue to "brew" er up stories when you have absolutely NOTHING to do with SCCS? You speak with authority WHICH YOU DO NOT HAVE and continue to tell lies. Enough already!


I will never understand why someone tries to tell me that they like someone with the same reproduction supplies and think i care. I do not. But yet I have to read this every day or see it on tv. Everyone is the same but yet gay people need to put it out there to some how justify it. Again I DON NOT CARE. What do you want people to say. Do you want people to say that is awesome. Well I am not going to say awesome or shame on you. I DO NOT CARE WHAT YOU DO IN YOUR BEDROOM....STOP ALREADY


Because they know it's a perverted lifestyle, and forcing people to accept it makes them feel better. For the majority of people, thinking about two men having sex is disgusting and sickening. It's not ever going to be accepted as normal, because it's not. Keep it in the privacy of your own home, and quit trying to make others who disagree with it accept it as normal. It's not, and never will be. And quit labeling people who disagree with it as homophohic, or haters. THAT is intolerance on your part! I do not hate anyone, and the majority of people do not hate homosexuals. We just find it nauseating, and wish you'd keep it private. Frankly the more you push this on people, the more against it they will become.