I want to write a few posts about the basics of homosexuality – from my standpoint, as both one who lived within it and who has lived out of it. I want to offer some advice and insight, that maybe you have heard before and maybe you’ve never known about. In each post I want to offer both sides of the picture, with the hope of grasping a larger and clearer view of what homosexuality is and what it’s not.
Before I begin, I want to make mention of something that is vital to understand. These articles (as well as this site) is written from my own personal experiences and from experiences of those I have talked with/known over the years. Every situation is different; every person has experienced different things in life that has led them to accept (or reject) their gay identity. I am not saying that my experiences are the norm of every gay person’s situation, rather I am only sharing what I have experienced and what I know. So, all I ask is that you take things with a “grain of salt”, and have an open mind at learning something new about the conversation.
To start this conversation, let’s talk about the following question: Is homosexuality like a light switch?
My first response is to say loudly “NO!”; but I understand that this question needs to be explained with a bit more time and detail. So here we go.
The above question could be translated into a couple of versions: what is homosexuality, what causes homosexuality, homosexuality 101, and the ever popular is homosexuality inborn or a choice? I call these arguments ‘the light switch question’. Everyone, including those who are gay (and who struggle with it), wants to know what causes people to have same-sex feelings. And over the years, this debate has been blown out of the waters by both sides – the pro-gay movement says, “people are born this way”; while the other side says, “people choose to be this way”. Both sides have used experts to defend their answers; both sides have testimonies of how ex-gay ministries have worked and have failed; both sides make valid points. But only one side is correct … which is hard to state without being bias and being accused of being bias. Here’s what’s been said so far.
According to a pamphlet/book entitled The Roots and Causes of Male Homosexuality and Mike Haley’s book 101 Frequently Asked Questions About Homosexuality, there have been several scientific studies done to determine the exact cause of homosexuality. One case, done in 1991, focused on brain structure between gay and straight men. While the case study seemed convincing and helpful, a few flaws weakened the results. In fact, according to Haley’s book, the scientist who did the study, Simon LeVay, even spoke out against his own study, saying, “I did not prove that homosexuality is genetic. Nor did I locate a gay center in the brain … time and again I have been described as someone who ‘proved that homosexuality is genetic’ … I did not” (p. 190, The Sexual Brain p. 122).
Another case, done also in 1991, focused on identical and fraternal twins. The study stated that more identical twins claim a gay identity then fraternal. The big problem though was that all the twins grew up together. This was a problem because the researchers didn’t do studies on twins who grew up apart from each other. There are several other factors that go into a person having same-sex attractions, such as family upbringing and various relationships. There was no way to determine if these factors played into the case study results. And, as the pamphlet/book (named above) stated, “if the study showed that homosexuality in twins was purely genetic, then both of the twins would have been homosexual 100% of the time” (p. 6).
Another case, done in 1993, focused on the X-Chromosome. Just like the previous studies before, there were flaws to be seen. Ranging from a narrowly selected control group to the scientist of the study finally claiming that his study didn’t “produce what [they] originally hoped to find” (Haley, p. 192; The Science of Desire p. 104).
Even after all the science jargon and debates, many are still left confused at which side is correct – again, without sounding bias. As I said earlier, while the ex-gay side exposes the myths behind the above case studies, the pro-gay side equally exposes the myths behind the ex-gay stance and ministry. It’s a constant tug-of-war between right and wrong; and the more both sides rise up with new material, the more the sides are being evenly split. Frankly, it’s a mess. But, nonetheless it’s a mess that needs to be made in order for some sort of sanity about homosexuality is to be had.
Is homosexuality like a light switch? I wish it was … I really do … but I’m afraid it’s more complex than that. As noted above in the second case study, there are several factors that go into one being gay – claiming a gay identity. Taking the inborn debate out of the picture, the next two big issues that play in a person’s sexual identity is the family environment they grow up in and the relationships that particular person engages in – or doesn’t engage in. If a child is not affirmed in their sexual identity at a young age, this can have a damaging effect on them as they grow; if a child is abused, molested, and such by a person of the same-sex, this can have a damaging effect on them as they grow; if a child is rejected by same-sex peers (and/or parent), this can have a damaging effect on them as they grow … etc. The beginning years/stages of a child’s life is vital, as it’s in these years that they start to embrace who they are as a person full circle. If one piece is hindered from being embraced – such as a clear affirmation of who they are as a man or woman – the entire ‘circle’ struggles to find stability.
My personal statement about the light switch question, is this: regardless if I was born with a gay gene or not, I still chose to act upon my gay feelings. I claimed, for myself, a gay identity and I choose to live in it. At the time there was no confrontation between what I felt and how I lived. Then I became a Christian, and everything seemed to change … again.
Before I was a Christian, I believed that I was born gay … because from my earliest memories I had been attracted to men. I never felt affirmed as a man growing up, so I looked at other guys and wished I could be like them – my attractions where not sexual (at first) only emotional. Though, as I fell prey to some sexual experiences with guys at an early age, my emotional attractions quickly became sexualized. So naturally I just accepted that I was destined to be gay, concluding that I was born this way, because I certainly didn’t choose to feel these things. I didn’t just wake up one day and flip the ‘light switch’ on and say, “I’m gay today”. I was happy with who I was, though at the same time I wasn’t. I still felt that I was missing something even though I seemingly had everything. After graduating high school, I took a gamble on God, and became someone I never thought I would become: a Christian.
In those next couple of days, of accepting Christ, I decided for myself that I wanted to “change” my gay identity in for a new identity – one that fit my new life. I had no idea what I was doing, and though people tried to offer advice and support, I kept struggling to find who I really was. It’s not that I had lost all my attractions towards men – I didn’t; instead, I began to make a choice that I was no longer going to allow my attractions towards men lead my life (define who I was). As I grew closer to Christ – and believe me, this took a long time – I began to have more freedom in denying my own desires (for men) while growing a zeal to desire more of God
As I grew in this new-found freedom, I began to realize and understand that we are all born with certain tendencies – some being useful and some being harmful. In reading the Bible, and believing in what the Bible says, I began to comprehend that I was born with a sinful nature (a free-will nature that allows us to do what is wrong according to God’s standards). In fact, I learned that not only was I born like this, so was everyone else. In being born with a sinful nature, we are all prone to act upon temptations that come our way – greed, lying, stealing, adultery, lust, etc – but we are also prone to not act upon given temptations. This is how free-will works: God gives us a choice to either do what is right or do what is wrong. My sinful nature caused me to choose my own ways in life, over what God wanted – and it still does (!). I was quickly becoming aware that I was in a serious battle; one in which I was a key player and where I was the “ground” being fought over. For more about this battle, read Romans 6-8 and Ephesians 6.
In this understanding, I felt God was asking me to resist my attraction towards men, begin to see that acting upon my attractions was sinful, and to follow hardcore after Him. Again, I had no clue what I was doing, but I was so in love with Him that I didn’t care what He asked of me, as long as I was following Him I knew I would be ok.
So, is being gay like a light switch – no, it’s not something that people can turn on or off at any given moment. But as a child of God, I strongly believe that we have the choice and power, through Christ, to not fall prey to our temptations and desires. Which leads into another topic of debate: the Bible’s response.This page first appeared as a regular post on July 9, 2008. Click here for the original comments that appeared with this post.