WHAT IS HOMOSEXUALITY?

There is no precise, all-inclusive definition of homosexuality. It is probably much easier to say what homosexuality is not. It is not: a genetic defect, a hormonal imbalance, a mental illness, or a result of demonic possession.

Homosexuality means that men are sexually and emotionally attracted to men, and women are sexually and emotionally attracted to women. This is also called same-sex attraction.

Why do people experience same-sex attraction? Homosexuality is learned through a complex combination of shaping factors and personal choices. Many same-sex-attracted people have a sense of being "different" from a very early age and consequently they believe that they were "born gay." Sometimes the news or magazines have even made it sound like scientists have found genetic proof. So far, there is no proof that this is really true. But the perception of being different is a factor.

Others believe that some people are gay because they chose to be gay. For most gay people, this is not true. They did not wake up one morning and say to themselves, "Well, so far in my life I've been straight; from now on I think I am going to be gay." The direction of our attractions is not something that we can quickly change, like switching a light on and off. Of course, whether gay or straight, we always have a choice about what we do -- whether and how we act on our feelings and desires. Just because we feel like doing something, doesn't mean we are compelled to do it. As well, those who experience same-sex attraction can choose whether or not they wish to identify themselves with a label like "gay" or "lesbian."

Another factor may be what happened to them during their life. They may have been hurt emotionally and it may affect the way they feel about themselves. They may have been sexually abused or had a broken relationship with one or both of their parents (From our work with people who want to leave homosexuality, we know that many have experienced one or both of these. Of course, not everyone who has been sexually abused or who has had a bad relationship with a parent is attracted to the same sex. And not everyone who is attracted to the same sex has been sexually abused.). Over time -- and depending on the help or lack of help they were given for working through difficult things that happened to them, what other negative events they experienced, the choices they made in response, and so on -- they became attracted to people of the same sex.

Generally, it seems that there are a number of different factors that are of different degrees of importance in different people's lives. These can include:

  • Factors that you're born with (for example, temperament or possible genetic predisposition),
  • Whether there were other significant negative experiences in childhood (for example, sexual abuse, or rejection by peers),
  • Whether a person's family situation was good or bad,
  • The amount and kind of support that was available to help the child or young person deal with what was happening,
  • The kind of moral training a child received,
  • The choices that were made in response to feelings and attractions,
  • How clear or confused gender roles are in a particular culture,

No two people adopt a homosexual self-concept or lifestyle for exactly the same reasons. One may have had a poor family background; another may have an "ideal" balance of love and discipline in the home. Parents may influence a choice for homosexuality, but they cannot be held entirely responsible.

The homosexual is not merely a victim of circumstance. His own personal choices have a lot to do with the process of becoming "gay". However, the interplay between shaping factors and personal choices is so complex and so different for each individual that only God has the knowledge and love necessary to unravel and reverse the process.

Not all homosexuals are involved to the same extent. A gay person may be involved anywhere along these categories.

  • FANTASY
  • BEHAVIOUR
  • IDENTITY
  • LIFESTYLE

Homosexuality begins at the BEHAVIOUR or FANTASY level. A child may experiment with gay sex at an early age, or he may not have gay relations until later in life. (Experimentation does not mean that the child will become homosexual. The vast majority of people never move beyond this experimentation stage; instead they go on to develop heterosexuality). Others become aware of homosexual attractions at a certain age. They may never act on their feelings or fantasies.

With some people, homosexual fantasy or behaviour can lead to the IDENTITY level. At this point the person begins to label himself "Gay" or Homosexual. The person has begun to base his personality (his sense of self) upon homosexuality, even if they perhaps have never engaged in homosexual behaviour. Some people stay in this identity. This is probably the most decisive and destructive category.

Some people proceed from the Identity category to the LIFESTYLE category. Here, the person (who already considers himself homosexual) begins to involve himself with a supportive gay subculture. He may surround himself with gay friends, work at a gay establishment, frequent gay bars or nightclubs, etc. With this gay lifestyle intact, the person feels less alone. He has a sense of belonging.

When you meet someone who says he is homosexual, think of these different categories. A person may be anywhere in these categories. Ask the person what he means when he says "I am homosexual". Does he mean his sense of self is based on gayness? Is he involved with a supportive gay subculture? Your response to the person will be determined in part by the extent of his involvement with homosexuality.

What is Godís view of homosexuality? God considers sexual activity with a person of the same sex to be sin (See Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 1 Timothy 1:9-10). And Christ made it clear that a person is guilty of sin whether they are engaged in fantasy or in behaviour. While it is clear that homosexuality is sin, it is also clear that God does not consider homosexuality the BIGGEST sin. God considers adultery, stealing, drunkenness, selfishness, lying and cheating to be sin just like homosexual activity and He responds the same way to all of them (See 1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Letís be clear how God responds to people who are struggling with homosexuality. Jesus Christ demonstrated Godís response when He dealt with people involved in sexual sins. He offered mercy and forgiveness, not judgement and rejection. And He offered hope and freedom from the bondage of sexual sin. He also made it clear there is a need for repentance, forgiveness and growth. Christ can and will intervene with His super abundant love and power. The homosexual need not remain trapped in homosexuality. He, like any other sinner, can become a new creature and begin a new life with God. In fact, the Bible clearly states that the early church in Corinth included people who had been homosexuals but no longer were (See 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Godís love and mercy is so much greater than any sin. God will bring about the necessary changes as the person remains in Him.

In dealing with a person who is struggling with homosexual sin, we must keep in mind that we are dealing with more than a specific, sinful behaviour. We are dealing with an entire person. People get involved in other sins. Homosexuals are people who real needs (for closeness to God, involvement with others, giving and receiving love) are not being met. There may be profound personal hurts that are unresolved. These aspects of the personís life must be considered.

This article briefly touched on a lot of different issues. In the following articles we will take a more in depth look at how God intervenes in peopleís lives, how you can relate to a gay person and what the position of the church should be in regards to homosexuality.

Based on an article from New Direction for Life Ministries. Used with permission.