Same-Sex Attractions and Sexual Identity

A few key words and phrases jump out at us here – for example, "attracted," "emotional connection," "physically drawn," and "confused." These are all significant feelings-based terms and they apparently represent the main source of your question and discomfort. We certainly understand the anxiety you're struggling with because these sorts of deeply personal inner sensations can seem consuming and powerful at times – especially when there is so much information (or misinformation) about sexual issues talked about online and in our culture today.

This is especially true when it comes to the idea of "being gay" and people labeling themselves in that way. For some individuals, persistent questions about their sexuality can be scary and stressful and may become associated with a lot of pain and self-doubt. So before saying anything else, we want you to know that we're sensitive to this sort of situation if something like this is what you're going through. We're glad that you've come to us for input, and if we can, we'd like to help you get out from under the burden of these highly charged emotions – especially if they create intense shame, depression or withdrawal from caring and healthy relationships in your life or from God Himself.

Now that you've had a chance to express your thoughts openly, we'd encourage you to stop and hit the pause button. Above all, we'd advise you to resist the temptation to jump to unnecessary and unwarranted conclusions. Keep in mind that feelings don't determine identity and that labels are rarely helpful, especially where personality and sexuality are concerned. Nor must feelings determine behavior. God has given each of us a will, and as individuals we are responsible for the choices we make.

If you really want to find answers to your questions, your best bet is to slow down and make a conscious effort to rise above our culture's tendency to put people in neat little boxes. Shut out all the political "noise" on this subject and take a close and careful look at your options. Remember that "gay" is just an artificial mental construct: a word that means what other people say it means – nothing more, nothing less. Don't allow yourself to get locked into that or any other man-made category – especially if it's not in line with the values and faith you hold.

When you're ready to move forward, we recommend that you shift into "discovery mode" and spend some time thinking about your feelings and experiences. Adopt a descriptive rather than a prescriptive approach. In other words, talk it out rather than act it out. Thinking and talking descriptively and non-shamefully will allow you to see all your options and understand these matters more thoroughly. Talking conclusively, on the other hand, and "prescribing" a gay identity label (a label not created by God) is limiting and can blind us from seeing more of what He may want to do and reveal in this situation. Descriptions open up facts and experiences and options. So examine – and describe – the feelings, thoughts, wants, hopes, and fears you're going through objectively, without assigning them to any specific category or label such as "gay" or "straight."

We'd also strongly encourage you to avoid or discontinue sexual experimentation, including pornography, since experimentation, like labeling, tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Also, it's easy to become confused by sexual activity due to the exhilarating nature of it. Rest assured that hope is not lost if you've already gone down this road. Sexual urges, though powerful, do not have to control us despite what the culture or others may say.

Keep in mind that you don't have to face the struggle alone. When people are in the grip of habitual behaviors or trying to back away from entanglements, they usually need relationship, help, grace and accountability from safe and healthy people. They need a safe place to pause, talk and get wise help rather than trying to solve it with simply more forms of experimentation or Internet "self-help." As you go about this, look for people who aren't quick to label you "gay" or merely push "politically correct" answers at you. It's equally important that they don't shame and criticize you for the things you are revealing or with which you may be struggling. We'd even recommend that you carefully select a counselor of this nature and sit down and discuss your thoughts with him or her regularly. If you choose to go this route, make sure that the counselor is compassionate, understanding, experienced in the area of same-sex attractions, and holds biblical beliefs about God's design for relationships, sexuality, and marriage. Ask good and thorough questions ahead of time when selecting a professional with whom to work.

As you move through this process, we'd advise you to look closely at your life, your identity, and your sexuality in terms of the following four categories:

  • Values. Decide what is most important to you. What is the guiding "polestar" of your life? Think about your personal belief system and faith commitment. Do you consider yourself a Christian? If you do, you'll want to examine your faith convictions with great care and to give them priority over every other consideration. Remember that it is never wise to give greater weight to feelings than to rational conclusions and clear biblical teachings.
  • Behavior. We understand that feelings are difficult, if not impossible, to control. They can blind-side you and take you by surprise. Fortunately, the same thing can't be said about actions. There is such a thing as self-control, and it is possible to subject your behavior to your will regardless of what your emotions are saying. It takes discipline, determination and a community of support, but it can be accomplished with the help of the Holy Spirit and others. Gritting your teeth and trying to get it done by sheer willful moral determination of your own is probably not the most useful or sustainable approach.
  • Attractions. Sexual attraction is a complex subject. The origins of sexual feelings often lie deeply hidden within the individual psyche. They are frequently well-explained and understood in terms of developmental psychology and trait development, and there is no single "one-size-fits-all" theory to account for them. In spite of this, it is feasible, with the help of a counselor, to gain valuable insights into some of the factors that may have contributed to the shaping of your present situation. In turn, these insights can be useful in freeing you from emotional bondage and enabling you to live according to your consciously chosen values, no matter how much the attractions come or go over the course of your life.
  • Identity. Remember that your identity – who and what you are in terms of your essential humanity – does not depend upon feelings, behavior, or attractions. From a Christian perspective, your identity is given and unchangeable: according to the Bible, you are a person, male or female, created in the Image of God. Obviously, you are free to accept or reject this idea as you see fit. You can also elect to self-label or self-identify in any way you choose. But the point we're trying to make is that you don't have to feel locked into any particular understanding of your identity simply on the basis of your present emotional experiences or other people's labels. As we've already said, you may not be able to willfully or directly control your feelings, but you can decide how you will respond to them, what you will believe about them, and how you will seek help and direct them into your future.

This is a vast topic, and there is a great deal more that might be said about it given the time and space. For more information, check out some of the resources listed below. In the meantime, if you think it might be helpful to discuss your concerns, call our Counseling department for a free consultation.

 

Resources
Desires in Conflict: Hope for Men Who Struggle With Sexual Identity

Pursuing Sexual Wholeness

Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ

The Heart of Female Same-Sex Attraction: A Comprehensive Counseling Resource

101 Frequently Asked Questions About Homosexuality

Restoring Sexual Identity: Hope for Women Who Struggle with Same-Sex Attraction

Breaking Free: Making Liberty in Christ a Reality in Life

Surfing for God: Discovering The Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle

Are People Born Gay?: A Look at What the Research Shows and What it Means for You

Understanding Male Homosexuality: God's Power to Change Lives

Understanding Female Sexuality 

Sing Over Me

Referrals
Restored Hope Network

National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH)

Desert Stream Ministries

Reach Truth

Living Out

Articles
Leaving Homosexuality

Resources for Men and Women with Unwanted Homosexuality

Same-Sex Struggles

Understanding Same-Sex Attractions

Understanding Homosexuality

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