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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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
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
Please enter into the spirit of it.