Why Did You Choose This?”
Understanding Same-Sex Attractions: How Best to Respond
In last month’s article, Homosexuality: The Leprosy of Christianity, I shared my plans to educate more on the confusing issue of homosexuality. This is the first article in this venture. If you want to help, please submit your questions and/or suggestions on the reply card.
I can remember when I “came out” to my family when I was nineteen. I didn’t use the words, “I’m gay.” I think it was more like, “I like guys more than girls.” I remember how emotional it was on both sides and the questions asked of me. I also vividly remember what led up to me finally risking sharing with my family. I was terrified.
If you’re a parent whose child has “come out” to you, you might not have had any warning. All of a sudden, you’re thrown into this world and are understandably upset. Everything was going as normal, and suddenly, it all changed. One day, out of nowhere, an incident rocked your world. Perhaps you found something on your son or daughter’s computer, they sent you a letter or an email or had a talk with you, or they made a public announcement and you found out, along with the rest of your friends and family. To say the least, you’re shocked.
“Why? Gay? That’s disgusting! Don’t you know what the Bible says? Why did you go in this direction? What will everyone think? WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS?”
Your son or daughter is upset, too. They finally got up the nerve to tell you, and now they feel assaulted by what seems like crazy questions. This is what they feared most, or worse—to be thrown out.
“CHOOSE?! I didn’t choose these feelings! I didn’t choose to have these attractions! I didn’t choose to think and feel this way! This is who I am!”
Your child may have been told that their Mom and Dad wouldn’t understand. “No one does, unless they’re gay.” The subject about “choices” is steeped in both ignorance and propaganda. Those are powerful motivating factors in my writing this article.
Typically I ask people I work with, “Why do you believe people are gay or have same-sex (sexual) attractions?” Very few have any idea. One young man started crying when I asked him this question. “I don’t know. I have just always felt this way. I’ve always felt different.”
Homosexuality—feelings, attractions, behaviors, identity—is an extremely emotional subject. People, especially young people, want to feel “normal.” They want to belong—to fit-in, be accepted, and respected. How you and I respond to them will either be helpful or harmful, so to accuse them of “choosing” sexual responses to their same gender is very UNhelpful.
Where did this word choose come from? Often, it’s what parents have heard from church, friends, or simply what makes sense to them. The assumption is that everyone has heterosexual attractions. Anything else seems a willful choice of rebellion against God and their parents.
Not only did I live as a gay man for a few years of my young life (19-22), but I also struggled with gender-identity issues from my earliest memories, and in some ways still do. It started off with struggles of not understanding my dad, as well as coveting my sister and all the attention she had. Part of this coveting was played out through my secretly and habitually dressing in my sister’s clothes from age 5-12. I wanted to be her—or at least, I wanted all the attention she received. I definitely wondered what it was like to be her.
As I entered the sixth grade, I started envying strong males to the point of fixating on them. When puberty hit, all this confusion with the same gender became sexualized. My attractions seemed fixed towards guys. At age 22, though, I walked away from homosexuality and began following Christ as Lord. However, my attractions didn’t leave. My desires for a wife and family motivated me to grow and eventually led me to start dating. I fell in love with Julie, we married, and had a family. I’m thankful and content. I’m blessed beyond measure! This did not, however, negate my experiencing same-sex (sexual) attractions.
So, when someone says people choose to have homosexual feelings, I can speak personally that this could not be further from the truth.
So, what are people supposedly choosing? Are they actually choosing the romantic and/or sexual attractions? Are they choosing to act out homosexually? These questions contain simple words, but the reality is: the answers are anything BUT simple.
Those who experience same-sex (sexual) attractions and/or feelings go through a series of occurrences, a series of thought processes, and a series of influences, which often start early in childhood. Each child develops personal perceptions regarding life—their family, friends, environment, and particularly, themselves. Their perception of themselves as a boy or girl is often the main area where they “feel different.”
Many people who experience same-sex (sexual) attractions accepted Christ into their life at an early age; yet, still end up developing sexual attractions to their same gender. A simple, realistic, and fair statement is: NO ONE chooses to have homosexual feelings. No one.
Even choosing to act out on one’s feelings doesn’t have a simple answer, because it is SO DIFFICULT to know what to do when the hormones are raging and the temptations are piling up. A person can just get tired of fighting, and many give up.
So, when someone finally risks in sharing with you their struggles, inclinations, or how they’re living, PLEASE do not shame them. Shaming is NEVER helpful.
Just as importantly, we shouldn’t have a “coming out” party and celebrate, either. Instead, we need to listen. We need to honestly examine and share about our OWN relational/sexual struggles, rather than simply focusing on theirs. Only then can we authentically encourage God’s plan over what may feel natural. Condoning what is against God’s natural order and plan is not helpful and is extremely reckless. Just glancing at these statistics is proof of that.
The 2011 CDC HIV Infection among Adolescents and Young Males shows an infection rate of 92.8% for homosexual males ages 13-19 years old and 90.8% rate for ages 20-24, with only a 3.7% to 4.2% rate of infection for heterosexual males. Condoning and encouraging homosexuality in a child’s life may be what the culture promotes, but is not what’s best. Encouraging and loving a child, family member, or friend toward God’s plan of holiness and wholeness IS what’s loving and best. Actually, YOUR living a life of holiness and wholeness is what’s going to speak louder than your words.
Reacting in rage, guilt, or shame is NOT helpful. Many of us are WAY TOO QUICK to jump on our soapbox, when what is really needed is to just listen and/or cry with someone who is hurting and confused. Our friend or family member simply needs someone who cares enough to shut-up, sit down, and listen. Their life is literally on the line.
I implore you to be patient, kind, and attentive. Listen. This IS the best chance at helping your child, family member, or friend. Pray that God softens their heart and opens their mind for His plan for their life. Offer to walk alongside them, even if you don’t personally understand.
I believe those who struggle with same-sex issues tend to have a heightened need for healthy, intimate relationships. They tend to not understand them and tend to not have them. They desperately long for them, but are equally afraid of them.
Being someone’s friend who has same-sex attractions is INCREDIBLY VALUABLE! Calling for no reason, texting to check-in, asking them out to lunch or a movie, means more than you realize. Invite them into your home with your family. Be willing to listen. Don’t get impatient. Be a friend. In the end, you will have saved someone’s life, because you will have given life. You will have shown what true love is.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16).
Thankfully we serve a patient God (2 Peter 3:9), who loves us (John 3:16), and walks with us (Leviticus 26:12). The biggest thing we need to be concerned about is whether our child, family member, or friend knows Jesus. If they truly know Him, despite failures or wayward ways, He will direct their hearts. I can promise you it won’t be an easy road or simple process, but whose life is? Let’s choose true love and friendship over inspecting someone’s life. It’s NOT about having to win an argument.
In the end, God’s Spirit is the only true One with any real chance of convicting of sinful choices, and convincing someone of His plan and purpose for their life. Can we be used in the process? Absolutely! Yet, God tends to work best through those who accurately reflect His love.
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1).
How will YOU choose to speak?