Choice in Sexuality

Unless someone rapes us, we always have a choice over whether or not to have sex.

Whether or not to have sexuality is a whole different bowl of noodles. I can say with some certainty that I am at peace with (or one with) my sexuality now, as a married woman. This has not always been the case. As a pre-pubescent child my sexuality was still forming. I was not in control of every experience I was exposed to at that point. I was sexually abused by an older boy, something that had a far reaching effect on my still forming sexual identity. Not only could I not control it; I wasn’t even fully aware that it was happening. It wasn’t until after I was married and trying to explore some of my personal problems that I realized the intense, deep effect that this series of events had on who I identified myself as sexually and the way I related to my spouse, other men, and family.

One could not reasonably say that I “chose” to have the approach to sexuality that I did. One could not say that I chose fear and withdrawal as instinctive responses or that I chose bitterness towards others. While I had full control over what to do with these feelings and instincts as an adult, after I was made aware- I did not “choose” them.

In the same way one cannot say that any person, anywhere, “chose” their sexuality. A homosexual person, one might argue, has become so as a result of a series of events that happened in important formative years. Thus, one might argue that homosexuality is not inborn or intended. But that does not mean it is a choice. One might argue that as I chose to reinvent my own sexuality in response to my spouse that any homosexual can reinvent themselves. I won’t say that I agree or disagree, as that is not necessary to this discussion, but I will say that it is as unfair to blame a homosexual for their homosexuality as it is to blame me for having been abused and to have adapted harmful patterns as a result.

As in all things, open communication is the single most important thing as we learn how to relate to each other. For open communication to begin, we must first develop compassion and trust.

Which means that Christians who truly wish to minister to homosexuals have to start by laying down their preconceptions and trusting in the truth of what they are told. If a homosexual says, “I didn’t choose this” don’t belabor them.

Just listen.

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23 thoughts on “Choice in Sexuality

  1. Well said, I truly wish more Christians were not so terrified of opening their minds and thinking logically about things.
    Even though I am a straight guy, I have had a lot of gay friends over the years and trust me when I say, it most assuredly IS NOT a choice. Those who say it is have not befriended or talked openly with a gay person.

  2. I think part of the problem is that we tend to use the word “sexuality” to mean “sex” (as in, having sex with someone). so much of the literature on all sides of these questions seems to be focused on actual genital sex, rather than taking emotional affinities – and much more – into consideration.

    My guess is that that’s one of the reasons opinions – and ways of thinking – become polarized, and that’s a real shame. “Sexuality” is far more than who has sex with whom; it goes to the root of our humanity, as beings made in God’s image, etc. (I think.)

  3. I’d also like to say something about labels, which is:

    creating dichotomies (Us – Them, Gay-Straight, Believers-Unbelievers) seems unnecessarily simplistic and reductive, though I guess it has some advantages in terms of getting to say “No nuances, please!”

    And I’m just as prone to falling into this trap as everyone else on this planet, so I don’t at all want to come across here as sounding like I actually *know* all the manifold reasons behind anyone’s experience of sexuality, sexual attraction (including romantic and other emotional elements) – and much more.

    I’ve got my own lists of unanswered questions, too – and don’t expect to get “answers” to most of them in this lifetime.

  4. I tend to think of human sexuality as being far more broad than sexual activity or sexual orientation, both of those flowing from our sexuality. I can choose to be sexually active or celibate; I can choose to accept, reject, or suppress my sexual orientation; but human sexuality is an irrefutable component of every individual’s life and comprises a part of who the person is in total. If one ignores that part of their created being then I think they’re cutting of a part of the wholeness in which God created them, just as would be the case if one ignored their creative, emotional, spiritual or intellectual self. It’s just one more facet of our humanity given by God.

    Which means that Christians who truly wish to minister to homosexuals have to start by laying down their preconceptions and trusting in the truth of what they are told. If a homosexual says, “I didn’t choose this” don’t belabor them.

    Whether the topic is homosexuality or anything else, I consider it supremely arrogant for any human being to reject or deny the reality of someone else’s experience. If a person opens their life to me, recounting experiences they’ve had or the beliefs and feelings they possess, who in the world am I who hasn’t lived one minute in their skin to say “Sorry but you’re wrong. You actually didn’t experience that. You really don’t feel that. You can’t possibly believe that.” Trust me, gay people hear these kinds of things all the time, and I’m sure other people for a whole other pile of reasons here the same thing too.

  5. Lindsey, I agree that life experiences alone can not make a person at the core of their being. I believe the experiences can shape us and mold us, but there is nothing in my very exciting (or experience filled) life that I can point to and say that made me gay.

    “As in all things, open communication is the single most important thing as we learn how to relate to each other. For open communication to begin, we must first develop compassion and trust.”

    Compassion and trust, very necessary and needed to even begin learning about and understanding another individual. I thank God everytime I meet someone who moves out of compassion. I may not always agree 100% with them but at the end of the day I know we could break bread and sit side by side and rejoice in each other’s experience of God. Thanks for moving out of compassion.

  6. Hi Lindsey,

    I’d also like to share my experience.
    My SSA (same sex attraction) is not chosen, but rather part of who I am.
    It took me till I was 19 to realise I was SSA. Up until then, I had not really thought about relationships, but once I understood that, much of my teen years made sense.

    Indeed, I saw that all along, I had been attracted to other guys. This was even the case when I was 10, and I had a crush on my best friend at school, and imagined being married to him. This of course without even really knowing anything about sexuality.

    If I could choose, I would not choose my current situation. Nor do I believe I can change it with any therapy. It is there, woven deep into the fabric of my being. I cannot change it any more than I can change my blood type.

    It is comforting to know there are other Christians who can understand and are compassionate to those of us who struggle with this burden. Hopefully things will only improve going forward.

    Thank you for your insightful posts.

  7. I’ve been musing on just this very thing for a while.

    Interesting you mention abuse, especially in “formative” years, be they childhood or pre-adolescent. It’s a fairly common theme in “ex-gay” theory, although it’s just one of many variables. More specifically, it’s hard to pinpoint anything conscious in the impacts on one’s perceptions, especially when they happen over a long period of time.

    My mother emotionally abused me for a long time, some ways which were somewhat sexual in nature. I was forced to deal with things I could not understand at the time and often did not have words to fully express how I felt.

    When I was about six, a whole bunch of sexuality was suddenly dropped in my lap. My parents decided that we kids (although I did not learn until much, much later my siblings experienced similar treatment) should observe differences between us and them quite directly, and my mother was quite demonstrative in pointing out the parts on herself. I did not know of sexual connotation connected to them; I was merely curious. I did not understand why my hand was getting slapped.

    She seemed determined to mold me into the perfect gentleman– perhaps what my father failed to measure up to. I was often an unwilling confidant, and so many details about her relationship with my father were almost too much to bear. When I began to be old enough to understand, I still didn’t have the courage to say, “I am just the son, I have no right to know about that.” Sometimes I felt like I was dying inside.

    These jarring exposures to sexuality were juxtaposed with some very old-fashioned ideas about sex; i.e. the more I could understand it, the less my parents said. As a result, I suppose, I grew up with ideas that women did not like or desire sex, but did it just to humor their men. I am still trying to unravel that.

    Where this could have been a part in forming my sexuality– well, just by dint of the fact that I often had no voice, that abuse was forced upon me– that alone would make it hard for me to say that it was a choice.

    e2tc: Haha, you said “dichotomies” too. I’m amused and flattered that a philosophical discussion (one of many) I had with a friend can be applied here.

    But I do think about them a lot. I do remember feeling so marginalized at times. I did associate with “queer” groups, some activist, for a time, but I often felt out of place. I was disinclined to believe friends who said “well, you’re ‘family’ too.” Nope. At best, it seemed that those who experienced attractions to both sexes understood me best. Gays and straights alike sometimes acted like they didn’t know what to do with me (especially when I got married– to a woman), or they seemed to act threatened.

    I married a woman with similar sexuality. It makes for interesting conversations when I can appropriately discuss it, but… it just seems to be a small part of how we fit each other. I’d go on and on if I tried to explain.

    anita: “Sorry but you’re wrong. You actually didn’t experience that. You really don’t feel that. You can’t possibly believe that.”

    I actually had a counselor that said that to me once. I had at least one ecclesiastical leader say it, too.

    Of course, I also find it annoying when mental health professionals try to persuade me that my decisions are harmful and self-loathing.

    Both sorts of relationships require a great deal of trust, and it’s very discomforting when I have explained my situation, and it is met with fear, confusion, disbelief, etc. I have moved around a lot, and it is very nerve-wracking to have to explain things all over again to someone new.

    sydcatholic80: Wow, this is the first time I’ve seen the term “SSA” used out in the blogging world… well, when I wasn’t using it, I guess.

    I have a dear friend in a neighboring state who is Catholic and we are comparing notes on religion about as much as we are comparing notes on sexuality.

  8. Eek! I can’t reply to each of you individually! I wish I could, but, man…
    Okay, so for everyone who shared their own stories: Thank you for your bravery and honesty. The more we learn from each other the wiser we become.
    For Everyone who questioned sexuality only being defined in terms of having sex: I agree, wholeheartedly. Our sexuality defines not only how we relate to other people sexually, but it starts to define how we perceive each other, how we measure our emotional and relational health, how we interact with God, how we judge and our willingness to forgive… A healthy sexuality tinges every aspect of our lives in some way, doesn’t it? And in the same way- can’t an unhealthy one cripple a whole person?

    Oh, and zeynep: Welcome to wordpress, and welcome to the *!– we’re glad to have you here!

  9. I’m 100% sure that God loves PEOPLE (homosexuals too). Yet Sydcatholic80 said, “If I could choose, I would not choose my current situation. Nor do I believe I can change it with any therapy. It is there, woven deep into the fabric of my being. I cannot change it any more than I can change my blood type.”

    Since (biblically speaking) God is in the business of restoration (Ps 23) for His glory and our best interests. He is in the “wholeness” business, and day by day as we make a decision to yield to His Holy Spirit, He removes fractured parts, and replaces them with better ones.

    I’ve had “anger” issues, probably stemming out of where I came from (again, I didn’t have a choice in THAT). BUT, I have saught therapy, and if you ask my kids, they would say that I am NOT the same person (for the better) than I was 10 years ago. I am not “stuck” with the stuff that was put on me years ago.

    God doesn’t want us to live in angst, and I’m sure with prayer and communication with God (however you work THAT out) will lead ALL people (gays and straights) to a place where we were better than we were before.

  10. e2tc, can I play in your sandbox? =) You noted how harmful our traffic in false dichotomies can be: “Creating dichotomies (Us – Them, Gay-Straight, Believers-Unbelievers) seems unnecessarily simplistic and reductive, though I guess it has some advantages in terms of getting to say ‘No nuances, please!'” To which I’d add first an “Amen!” and then, “What about Male-Female?”

    Or, as Virginia Ramey Mollenkott noted in a recent talk, “If you lined the whole human race up from the most feminine to the most masculine, where would ‘female’ end and ‘male’ begin?” Even the physiological differences we like to which we like to point are not as dichotomous as we’d like to think.

    And a thought about choice: If God appeared to me and offered me the opportunity to choose whether to be transgender or not, I wouldn’t change a thing. Has it been difficult? Of course, both for me and for the ones I love. But it has been a blessing, too–it’s given me a perspective I couldn’t have gained any other way. And besides, if God made me this way, who am I to argue? Why not simply trust that this is what’s best for me and for the world and embrace it?

  11. paulrevere: I am a little saddened that you commented on a post that I ended with a caution not to belabor the point when people tell you their stories with, well…

    I understand what you are saying, I do. I myself have changed a lot through God’s grace and the help of others- but the things I have changed are not things that are essential to the fundamental concepts of who I am. Just as your anger was not fundamentally who God made you to be. Something that is universally true about what most single-sex-attracted people is that they feel that some part of how they self-identify is not simply something that can be changed without fundamentally changing who they are.

    Try to be compassionate.

    Allyson: Bring the Word down! and AMEN!

    You know, if someone told me today that God could unmake the struggles I’ve had with my own sexuality, I wouldn’t want it. These struggles help to mold us. They teach us irreplaceable lessons. I think that part of the beauty of God’s love for us is that he loves us enough to let us struggle, he is with us in the struggle and he throws us into situations that force us to learn compassion.

    Every time I’m asked if the pain I have been through hasn’t somehow made me question God, I reply that the pain I have been through has made me absolutely certain of my faith.

    And as for male/female- one is the body we find ourselves in, and the other is our soul. I don’t question people who say that their souls feel at odds with their bodies. In a way I think all of ours do.

  12. I believe that while all people need to listen to others it shoudln’t be a one way street. Your point was a fantastic one at that and only further solidified my belief that this world is a sinful one, ruled by the prince of lies. This is why we must trust God to rise above – trust that He has already won the battle for our minds, hearts, and souls. We just need to believe and accept that truth. We all have sin, but sin is not a human urge. I may lust after another man besides my husband. I’m a human person. Acting on it, or lingering in that want, would be my sin. Not the automatic wanting that sprang on me without warning. This is true in every sort of sinful desire. We are of the world, but God has saved us. However, before we were saved we learned how to survive in this world and these habits still linger.

    People of all religions and worldviews must learn to LOVE each other. “The greatest of these is love.” This goes for homosexuals, gossipers, liers, and idolaters, etc. Everyone has sinned. Jesus saves us from that. Not just for later, after death of the body, but for right now. Love was the reason for this. Listening includes understanding and loving no matter what.

    I think by “listening” you meant, “Hear”. Not just understanding words and thought, but taking it in and holding it up to truth. Everyone deserves this. Christians included.

    I’m sorry that you’ve gotten the message from Christians that we don’t love homosexuals or that we don’t think God loves homosexuals. We do. He does. And if someone you’re talking about hasn’t learned that lesson yet, I promise you that God will be working on their hearts. The Bible tells us that our two greatest commandments is to 1. Love God above all others and 2. To love everyone else as you do yourself. Those who aren’t doing this aren’t living out their God-created identity.

  13. Kellie: Thank you for your comment, and you are right. We can’t just listen. We need to hear, to really hear, and hear what God is saying in return.

  14. Kellie: Just a point I would like to make about your post; I have no doubt that other Christians (of which I am one) do love me, in spite of being gay. However, I am tired of being viewed as acting on sin, therefore sinful; I can no more act on my homosexuality, or not, than a self-identified heterosexual person can resist the thoughts/feelings that they have for persons of the opposite sex. WE ARE NOT JUST TALKING ABOUT SEX HERE; at least, I don’t think so. We are talking about connection on a physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual level, to a person of the same gender. And, if that isn’t what God intended in terms of loving one another, among other things, I don’t know what is. Love is love is love is love; I can no more turn it off than you can turn off the love you have for your husband.

  15. Hi Allyson –

    shush said it better than i could (since I’m feeling too sleepy to think right now!):

    And as for male/female- one is the body we find ourselves in, and the other is our soul. I don’t question people who say that their souls feel at odds with their bodies. In a way I think all of ours do.

  16. While someone may not choose to be homosexual the choice to act on those feeling is a sin. People make choices not to do sinful things everyday. A homosexual can make that same choice not to have sex with someone of the same gender.

    God will provide for them a mate who will help heal them of their homosexual desires. The issue is that a large number of homosexuals aren’t Christians and don’t realize that God will provide the perfect person for them. So they choose then to give in to their sexual desires.

    If someone who was struggling with homosexuality truly believed in God and would wait upon him they would be healed.

  17. Sane: I don’t know that one could say with certainty that God would provide. I have heterosexual friends who have yet to find a mate, even though they plead for one. I can imagine it would be so much harder for someone who was struggling with their sexuality, as it takes someone of incredible grace and temperance to love someone who is not sexually interested in them. This goes doubly for a woman, who has a deeply seated need to be loved and appreciated and sought after.

    You must realize the depth of conviction and trust in God that it takes for someone to undertake the kind of journey you demand from every homosexual, and have grace that in our weakness as humans we may not all get there immediately. Choosing to embrace heterosexuality can’t be a prerequisite to faith.

  18. If a homosexual isn’t willing to undergo the journey then they don’t love God, they love themselves.

    People tend to want things in their own timing not Gods.

  19. Sane:
    But what it seems that you are saying is that a homosexual can’t even attend church events until they are willing to undertake that journey. How can they love God if they can’t experience him or be exposed to his body? And does this same rule apply to gossips, drunkards, people who suffer from fits of rage and jealousy?

  20. I think that no one should come to church if they aren’t at the very minimum willing. The church is a sacred place where lovers of God go as a refuge from the world. The church isn’t a place for the world to come in and take over.

    We as Christians are to go into the world and witness to the people. We are to engage those who are lost. We should never welcome a devil of any kind into our refuge.

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