In my twenty-eight plus years experience working with persons with same-gender attractions, some of which are gay-identified, I see three categories (loosely speaking)which I will term: Identity, Desire and Behavior. Persons who come to PM may fit into only one category, two categories or all three categories, all of which affect human sexual relating. Likewise, these are the same three areas that are in recovery for those that come to PM, desiring support growing in Christ-centered identity, behaviors, and desires. I will illustrate these three categories further.
Gay is a social identity role. Gay as an identity is a man-made construct. It was birthed in the 1970s. Individuals involved in same gender sexual behaviors and/or in emotional/romantic relationships give themselves the gay identity to surround their same-gender behaviors and emotions.
Persons with same gender attractions and/or behaviors have several options, one of which is embracing a gay identity. Let me emphasize here that embracing a gay identity is not the only or enlightened option for persons with same gender attractions. People of the same gender can engage in sexual behavior without it taking over their identity. It is the same with ‘desire’ (romantic/emotional) – people of the same gender can have an emotional attraction to one another without engaging in sexual behaviors with one another. Let me explain further.
I think I can best illustrate the behavior category by the following three examples from numerous individuals I have counseled recovering from homosexual behavior.
One type of individual that fits into this category I will term the recovering drug addict (RDA). Their story may go like this. A male, heterosexually promiscuous, (maybe a sexual addict) perhaps has several children by different women. He is satisfied sexually and emotionally by women and identifies himself as exclusively heterosexual. This man begins to involve himself with drugs and becomes addicted to drugs. In order to support his drug habit financially he begins to prostitute himself. He learns that much money can be made by selling himself to males. He involves himself in drugs and homosexuality for several years. He enters a drug rehab’, gets clean from drugs and enters into a time of identity confusion. “Does what I did and what I felt make me gay?” he asks himself.
The second type of individual I meet with from the behavior category is the ex-prison inmate. His/Her story maybe similar to the RDA story above. He/She may have been heterosexually promiscuous prior to incarceration (maybe a heterosexual sexual addict). He/She is satisfied sexually and emotionally by the opposite sex and identifies himself/herself as exclusively heterosexual. During a time of incarceration, because of loneliness, power, protection, etc., a person may involve oneself sexually with the same gender. Upon release from prison, the individual may question his/her sexual identity. “Does what I did and what I felt make me ‘gay’?”
The third example I see in the behavior category is the sex addict: typically a male (single or married) who has no desire for a romantic/emotional relationship with another male, does not identity as gay nor does he desire a ‘gay-identified life.’ He enjoys his sexual and emotional relationships with women and sees himself as completely heterosexual. He also engages with men sexually strictly for the sexual release.
The above three individuals do not identify as gay nor do they have romantic/emotional desire for persons of the same gender. They state definitively that they do not see themselves emotionally or romantically involved with a person of the same gender in their future. They have no desire to kiss, buy a house with a white picket fence, nor live happily ever after with a person of the same gender. They were only in it for the sex, money and other dynamics of the situation (drugs/prison/sex addiction).
Some persons of the same gender fall into codependent and/or emotionally dependent relationships with a person of their own gender. The two may have connected deeply over mutual loneliness, common grief, or other factors that contribute to profound emotional bonding between two people. They may feel depressed, insecure, anxious, or lost when the other is not around. Their intense emotional connection and the significant bonding that occurs from it may cause a visceral response to draw even closer through physical contact. Confusion sets in. “Why am I physically attracted to my friend?” one may ask themselves. “Am I gay?” In this scenario we have the emotional beginning to affect one’s self-perception. And if behavioral (sexual) enmeshment were to take place, additional confusion may set in causing one to question their identity.
Certain circles within the gay-identified community and others are quick to label the two individuals involved in the above paragraph as ‘gay.’ The same would be so for a recovering drug addict, ex-prison inmate and sex addict. Again, certain circles within the gay-identified are quick to instruct individuals to embrace a gay identity solely because he or she behaves homosexually and/or has an emotional/romantic attraction toward a person of the same gender. The human person, human sexuality in particular, is extremely complex. I think it very trite and very pat to label an individual ‘gay’ because an individual falls into one, two, or even all three of these categories. It has done incalculable harm to thousands of men, women, youth and families.
Sexuality and human relating is very complex. In the midst of its complexities people have the freedom of choice. The right to self-choose the direction of their sexual relating and have support in that pursuit. Individuals also have the right to investigate the personal areas of their lives that effect sexuality – desires, behaviors and identity. Individuals can change.