Student question: If I have a tendency or desire toward the same sex, does that make me gay?
Leader Perspective: This is a big question and I can only give you one small perspective in this blog. Let me first ask, what do you mean by “make me gay”?
We try so hard to explain behavior, impulses, desires and the like. There seems to be two major arguments raging around what determines “gay”…the genetic or hereditary argument “I was born that way” and the environmental argument whereby factors in our environment shape me that way. There is a third argument, often mixed in with the environmental argument, that says I choose to be gay (although some admittedly do, I think that response is way to simplistic and often a “pat” answer given by those who don’t want to have the discussion).
There was a brain study in the late 90s that a certain part of the hypothalamus was smaller in gay men then in heterosexual men “proving” a biological explanation for homosexuality; it was never determined, however, if that occurred at birth or over time. Other researches suggest that sexual orientation is at a very deep, automatic level that steers your sexual energy one way or the other. Some scientists in 2012 linked homosexuality to epi-marks — extra layers of information that control how certain genes are expressed. Many have used the nature argument that same sex behavior has been observed in black swans, penguins, sheep, and other animals and thus is not all that uncommon. An evolutionist might come to a conclusion, however, that a pure genetic explanation should be ruled out since a homosexual person does not naturally reproduce and over time the population would die out. Perhaps it is a combination of many factors that produce those feelings, impulses or desires. My issue is not the feelings or tendency but rather defining yourself by those things. Is that REALLY who you are?
I have no desire to go down the “origin” debate trail, there are plenty of very smart people looking at that and I am not one of those people! I will simply accept the fact that you are dealing with feelings, impulses, tendencies, desires or whatever you want to call them towards the same sex. So the question is, does that make me a gay person?
Well, I’m still unsure by the real meaning of the question, “does that make me a gay person?” Let me clarify what I think your question may include. Am I forever going to have these feelings, impulses, tendencies and drives? Do these define who I am? Do they determine how I must behave? Do they suggest an unchangeable “orientation” or way of life? By the way, you could ask these same clarifying questions regarding just about any kind of feeling, drive, tendency or impulse!
Labels, labels, labels…we love to label! Why do we label? Sometimes labels can help us categorize things, and that’s not necessarily bad, but when they pigeon-hole or box you in to a predefined mold, I question the label. Although labels can help us understand, it seems like some are labeling various urges and desires to either justify behavior and/or find others “who feel the same way” so they feel ok about having those same desires. None the less, for good or bad, right or wrong, selfish or helpful motives, we label.
There are so many other tendencies, desires and urges that people may experience or perhaps are predisposed to in addition to sexual desires. There are those who, some might argue, have a predisposition to anger or aggression; others may have a “happy” predisposition. Some may have a confident predisposition while others have feelings of fear and doubt that seem to have been with them from birth. Let’s just call all of these, including the sexual ones, what they are, feelings, urges, desires, or tendencies no matter how, when or where they originated. I would submit, however, especially for a person who looks to Jesus as their life, they do not define you!
“But wait”, you may say, “sexual orientation is different”! I am a sexual being so understanding, embracing and accepting those sexual feelings or tendencies is simply being true to myself. Well…ok. Let me ask this question, and don’t get defensive on me, I’m just asking a question! What about those who have sexual desires and tendencies toward children, or animals, or dead people or even themselves? Should they understand, embrace and accept those feelings as a true picture of who they are? Of course not (if you disagree, I will commend you for being consistent)! You are SO much more than a sexual being, you are a human being with the incredible capacity to enjoy and experience sex and that is awesome! For those who believe in God and take Jesus at His word, you are a person created in God’s image yet live in a world that is broken and pretty messed up (just look at the wars, hate on all sides and so much other stuff). From this leader’s perspective, God designed sex and gave us a user’s manual that defines the parameters for sex…one man with one woman in the context of marriage (anything outside of that, whether heterosexual, homosexual or any other “sexual” is outside of God’s design). If you disagree with that statement, I understand.
Let’s be clear…you are not weird, unspiritual, unnatural, or anything other than normal for having all kinds of varying sexual and other desires, especially as a student! Don’t beat yourself up but don’t make the mistake of defining yourself by those feelings or desires either. Desires do not define you. Experiencing an act willingly or unwillingly (hopefully that will never happen to you) does not define you. Enjoying an act does not define you. As a believer in Jesus Christ, your identity is already a settled issue. Your behavior, heritage, culture, experience, thoughts, feelings, tendencies, desires, and more do not define who you are (although they most certainly have an impact)…you are a brand new creation in Christ, joined and in union with Him in love that nothing and no one can separate.
There is a great verse in the Bible that, unfortunately, some people misread and/or read but stop short…
1Cor. 6:9-10 ¶ Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
The verse is not saying that those who behave a certain way are going to hell, it says the “unrighteous” will not inherit the kingdom of God. The unrighteous are all those who are not “in Christ”, those who have rejected the free gift of His righteousness by faith. In fact, the words used in the above verse define the “identity” of a person (e.g. adulterer, idolater) in terms of bad behavior (and by the way, the Corinthian believers had their share of behavioral issues but Paul proceeds to tell them something very interesting in the next verse).
Now, let’s finish the thought with verse 11.
1Cor. 6:11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
In the midst of all the issues in Corinth (with even the believers in Christ), notice the past tense…”such were some of you“. It is normal for people to define themselves by their behavior, but not for the believer in Christ. You were a lot of things, but not any more. In Christ you are now brand new, sanctified (means holy) and justified (not guilty) and not defined by your behavior!
So, what do I do with all those feelings, urges, tendencies and desires? What if they do not go away (for clarification, assuming here that “desires” means wrongful desires as understood by a believer in Christ)?
- Recognize desires for what they are, desires, and they may hang around for a long time, pop up when you least expect it and quite possibly never go away.
- Understand that desires can be fueled by your own wrong thinking and believing; even places and situations can stir up those desires. Jesus said in John 8:32 “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” Believing lies about yourself, life, others or God will put you in bondage; believing the truth will set you free to experience His victory.
- Depending on rules to regulate your desires is a dead end and actually a trap. “Law” empowers “sin”. 1Cor. 15:56-57 says “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
- Victory is a gift through Christ…it is already yours to experience. Why not rest in His victory (strategy 1) instead of trying to control your desires (strategy 2)? The first strategy focuses on Christ in you Who has already overcome for you and the second puts the burden on you trying to overcome in your own strength (it’s like His victory is not enough…definitely go with the first one)
- Realize that having a desire does not define you nor is it required that you express all desires (now that would be interesting if we all felt it necessary to express all of our desires…wow!)
Look, if you call yourself gay as a believer or unbeliever, I am not out to change you…it’s not my job; I will honestly and sincerely accept you as a person. I’ve provided this post as a brief insight or perspective on the question at hand, certainly not the only one or even the best one. Take it, digest it, enjoy it or discard it but understand that no matter what you do with it, you are respected, loved and welcome here.