Chapter 2

What is homosexuality and how does it come about?

 It is in people's assumptions about the nature of homosexuality that much of the misunderstanding lies, leading many to draw faulty conclusions as to what God's will is for gay and lesbian people, especially those who are Christian.

First we need to be clear about the term 'homosexuality', because it is so often used loosely - as a kind of 'catch-all' that not only reveals confusion in the minds of those using it, but also perpetuates that confusion.

Many who oppose homosexuals in the Church think they know what this is all about, and rush to express opinions about those affected. I recognise these opinions - they were once my own. But I have yet to hear anyone who is critical about homosexuality express a correct understanding of the matter.

 We regularly hear phrases such as 'sexual preferences', 'choosing their way', 'sexuality caused by bad parent-child relationships' etc. - sometimes from people who should know better. They clearly have neither weighed the evidence available, nor listened to the people they so freely discuss. Perhaps they are afraid to hear or accept new truths, or think that the evidence offered by homosexual people is tainted - or, perhaps worst of all, they have closed their minds, treating the Bible as a textbook of religious laws, thinking that the Holy Spirit has given them an interpretation that can't be challenged.

 Since I've learned more on the subject myself, I have found that most of what we hear in conversations or sermons, and read in newspapers, is misleading. 'Homosexual' is not another word for 'paedophile'; children are as safe with gay men as with heterosexual men. There are abusers among them, just as there are those who are sexually obsessed or perverted, but they are no more prevalent than among heterosexuals.

Equally, there are many fine, gifted, faithful people among them, just as there are among heterosexuals. Homosexuals rarely fit the stereotypes of butch females and effeminate men,which is why they are usually unrecognised in churches and society until they 'come out'. Certainly, those whom I know are just ordinary people living ordinary lives like you and me.

 Nevertheless, while there is obviously much misinformation, there are well-informed, responsible TV programmes and research writings. I have also found that lesbian and gay people are often very willing to speak of their experiences to people they trust, and their accounts are invaluable to us in learning about the issues.

       What is homosexuality?

Let's start at the beginning, always bearing in mind that if we turn to the scriptures without a good knowledge of the issue we are studying, we will mislead ourselves by misinterpreting, and therefore dishonouring, the Word of God.

The answer to this first question is very straightforward. The only difference between those of us who are heterosexual and those who are homosexual is in the nature of our natural sexual attraction. Most of us are heterosexual,possessing a natural sexual attraction for the opposite sex. Homosexual people are by nature sexually attracted to the same sex. This is their natural sexual affection - no less natural than the heterosexual attraction towards the opposite sex.

However, the word 'homosexual' is loosely used to include different groups of people, and this can lead to considerable confusion.

True homosexuals are people with a natural sexual attraction to others of the same sex. No amount of prayer, counselling, Christian healing or deliverance can change their sexuality.They are homosexual by nature (we shall consider what this means later).

They express their sexuality in ways similar to those practised by heterosexuals, though as with heterosexuals this expression might take many different forms such as celibacy, 'courting' or more intimate expression.

Just like the rest of us, homosexuals include many who are responsible, faithful and truly loving in the way they express their sexuality towards the person they love. (This is how I find those of my homosexual Christian friends who are in covenant relationships.)

There are also homosexuals (and heterosexuals) who express their sexuality in exploitative and damaging ways, destroying their own dignity and that of others.

Then there are same-sex sexual adventurers - not bisexual people (see below) but heterosexuals who engage in same-sex acts for various reasons: money, experimentation, sexual obsession or, in the case of men, lack of female opportunity. This used to be found mainly in single-sex institutions, prisons, armed forces etc. but is now reported to be much more widespread in a 'sexually freer' society. It is these people that need healing to be restored to their true sexuality.

Finally, to add to the confusion, there are bisexual people, who are sexually attracted to people of both sexes. It has been suggested that human sexuality is on a continuum, with 100% heterosexuality at one extreme, 100% homosexuality at the other and bisexuality in between. This fits the experience of many people.

It is easy to see how confusion can occur when the term 'homosexuality' is used without qualification. There is a variety about all aspects of God's creation, some of which stuns us with its beauty and some of which requires our understanding and compassion.

For the purposes of this study, I wish to confine myself to true homosexuals - people who are sexually attracted to those of the same sex and who, because it is part of their given nature, cannot be changed. And for the most part I wish to speak with reference to homosexual Christians, and others who are responsible in expressing their sexuality.

Once we have reached the end of this study, the place of bisexual people in the love of God will, I hope, become a little clearer.

Is homosexuality a 'given'?

What evidence is there that homosexual orientation is a given state?

There is much compelling evidence, most of it relating to men, though it has to be said that some of the evidence, while pointing in a particular direction, is not finally conclusive. But taken together with the evidence of the experience of gay and lesbian people themselves, it does points to their sexuality being a 'given'.

So let's look at the evidence, but only after dispelling one false assumption that is the root of misunderstanding for some. Most people know that our X and Y chromosome patterns, with a very few exceptions (see page 16), determine our physical gender attributes (i.e. whether we have the bodies of men or of women). What is not so well understood is that the processes that determine our physical gender do not also determine our sexuality. Other processes determine this.

Essentially, there are three principal theories about how our sexuality is determined: the nurture theory, the choice theory and nature theory.

Nurture

The first theory - unlikely from the evidence available - is that sexuality is governed by early child-parent relationships. In the case of boys, the theory states that the father-son relationship is very important to the right development of the son's sexuality; a bad father-son relationship, or the absence of the father, may lead to an over-close mother-son relationship that in turn predisposes the son towards homosexuality.

Some supporting this theory fear that the present high rate of family break-up and divorce will lead to an unusually high number of gay men. Yet one doesn't have to look far to discover that the theory is highly questionable and does not fit the facts.

For instance, were there unusually large, even vast numbers of gay men as a result of the war years taking fathers away? And what of the many children raised in families where dam-aged relationships seem almost to be the norm?

The evidence from gay people them-selves is that, like the rest of us, some had poor childhood relationships with dad, some with mum, and many had a happy childhood.

If this theory had any credence, it would enable the proponents to find and offer effective methods of healing.

Yet the evidence of successful healing is signally lacking, as many true gay men have found who have wanted to be the same as other people. Their difference causes them much pain in our society in the various ways they are oppressed. Suffice it to say that many lesbian and gay people laugh in frustration at this theory - and with good reason, as you will see.

Choice

The second theory is that gay and lesbian people choose their sexuality.

I have only to ask you this question: did you choose your sexuality? Of course you did not. Sexuality is an integral part of all of us, however it has developed.

Yet the choice theory and the nurture theory, in various mixed measures, are the basic foundation underlying the viewpoint of many who seek to offer 'Christian help' to homosexual people to 'repent' of their homosexuality. The help they are offering is undoubtedly well-meant, but it is based on a misunderstanding of homosexuality and a misinterpretation of the scriptures, and is therefore misguided. Such 'help' can cause real distress.

The only healing needed is the affirmation and love that Christ offers - and forgiveness for any who have strayed into abuse of their sexuality.

How we express our sexuality is something we do choose - whether to enrich another's life as well as our own, or to use it in ways that destroy our own dignity and that of others.

But that's another thing entirely.

One opinion commonly expressed by Christian homosexuals is particularly telling: 'Do you think I would choose to be homosexual, with all the pain that goes with it, if I had the choice?'

Among the Christian gay people I have met are some who at one stage have tried everything they could to be rid of their homosexual feelings - years of praying; counselling from Christians and others; Christian healing and deliverance ministry; therapy from professionals - all to no avail.

One such person that I didn't meet, but whose story is well known, was Simon Harvey - a young Christian who did everything he could possibly do to be rid of his homosexual feelings, but without success. He was desperate to change, and his despair led to suicide.

Others have followed the advice given by well-meaning but misinformed counsellors that they should marry to rid themselves of their homosexual feelings. Most such marriages are a recipe for disaster.

There is no way for true homosexuals to change their sexuality, though some in the Church do offer ways, and in the name of God cause some homosexual people much emotional damage.

Depression, even suicidal thinking, can be the negative results of such attempted 'healings' that undermine the given personality of true homosexual people.

Throughout history, gay men in particular have been persecuted in the most terrible ways - thrown into asylums, tortured, put to death. And today, they are blackmailed, beaten up, murdered, rejected in various ways - some subtle, some not so subtle.

They have no prospect of children and family in the accepted sense - some-thing which causes many to feel a great sense of loss.

Given all these pressures upon homosexual people, we can be sure that most of them - Christians especially - would indeed have changed their sexuality if they could possibly have done so.

They are denied a rightful place in God's kingdom - not by God in Jesus, but by many who call themselves his people - although we can thank God that, under the guidance of his Holy Spirit, more and more of his people are coming to see their ignorance and repent of their attitudes, just as I have.

Thankfully, the climate is slowly changing. There are now support groups, helplines and other ways of helping those who find they are homosexual to realise that, while they may be different from many others, they are a very significant group in society and their sexuality is quite normal for them - nothing to be ashamed of but rather to thank God for and rejoice in.

Many are helped through these support agencies to find and accept themselves as they are - though it is still hard even for these, the more fortunate ones, because of the prejudice and ignorance that is still rife.

Sadly, there are many who just cannot face the consequences openly - lives blighted by pious bigotry, ignorance and prejudice. I sometimes wonder, how angry does this make God?

Nature

The third theory is that our sexuality is a given part of our nature, whether we are heterosexual or homosexual - and there is a lot of evidence that supports this. Here are some examples of such evidence:

1. The experience of gay and lesbian people is that their sexuality is a 'given' part of their make-up. Their only choice, like everyone else's, is how they are to express it.

2. Powerful aversion therapy has been used to try to 'cure' homosexuals of their sexuality. Such methods have proved successful with 'learned behaviour' in the sexual sphere such as fetishes, but unsuccessful when used to 'cure' homosexuals of their sexuality. This would suggest that homosexuality is not something that is 'learned'.

3. A Dominican family that has been the subject of much research has, over a period of about 140 years, produced among the many children nearly 40 who were girls at birth and were raised as girls, but who at puberty become young men with no serious effects on their male sexuality. This is evidence that certainly refutes the 'nurture' theory.

4. An East German scientist followed up some research into the behaviour of lower mammals which showed that interfering with testosterone flow during critical stages in foetal development produced homosexual behaviour in the resulting male offspring.

Postulating from this that the brains of homosexual male mammals had been somehow 'feminised', he carried out experiments that supported his hypothesis. He then repeated the tests on two groups of men: a homosexual group and a heterosexual group. He found that when oestrogen was introduced into the bodies of homosexual men, this produced an ovulating hormone response (even though there were no ovaries present), whereas there was no such response in the heterosexual men. This would suggest that there are hidden but significant differences between homosexual and heterosexual men. I should add that this work has been challenged.

5. Other work being carried out by scientists with male homosexuals in the United States, including twin studies, suggests increasingly that the two major factors that determine sexuality are genetic make-up and foetal development in the womb. But the work is not yet complete.

6. Among various mammal and bird populations there is a significant proportion of animals that exhibit homosexual behaviour. Homosexuality, it would appear, is a natural part of animal behaviour as a whole.

We can conclude from all this that most of the evidence, while not definitive, strongly suggests that sexual orientation is a matter of nature, rather than of nurture or choice, neither of which has much real evidence to sup-port it.

Furthermore, if sexual orientation is a matter of nature, then we are dealing here with something that is a 'given'.

If our sexuality is a 'given', then it is a gift from God

There have always been homosexual people; they are a natural part of the human population. Homosexuality is a natural, healthy sexuality in its loving expression, just as is heterosexuality. To compare homosexuals, as some do, with those who sexually abuse others eg paedophiles, reveals deep ignorance and does grave damage. The problem lies not in being gay or lesbian, but in living in an ignorant, fearful, condemnatory, rejecting world.

Homosexual people are diminished and their dignity undermined when they are not acknowledged or affirmed as heterosexual people are. They can-not be fully themselves when part of their nature is denied.

In spite of all the pressures, however - and I find this astonishing - homosexual relationships can be as loving, committed, long-term, faithful and happy as any heterosexual relationship, including marriage. I have seen this, and seen the grief when a long-term partner has died. Other Christians have also told me of gay relationships that 'if all marriages were as happy, the world would be a better place.'

Yet the pain of being homosexual in a heterosexual world is real. A philosopher said that 'we cannot understand others unless we have walked in their shoes..'

So, to help you appreciate what it feels like to be homosexual, I've written the next chapter, 'Standing in their shoes', in the form of a short story.

Please enter into the spirit of it.

 

 

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