Being Christian and Gay – Part 6: An Understanding of Sexuality

Posted: October 10, 2017 in Being Christian and Gay
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In this series on “Being Christian and Gay,” we have considered scripture and a Christian sexual ethic. In this post we’ll examine a general understanding of sexuality. There’s more, to being gay than the act of sexual intimacy. I, like you, both consciously and subconsciously are attracted to and seek to attract other people with whom to form deep relationships. This is the way we ward off loneliness. It is also the way we seek an intimate relationship.To do this, we look for ways to interact with people we consider attractive—physically, intellectually, spiritually, etc.—and seek potential partners among them with whom to develop and maintain a relationship. There is no difference between gay, straight, or bi individuals in the ability and desire to attract or be attracted by another person whether it is for friendship or to share more intimate desires.

But how does this attraction actually work? Experiencing life through a sexual orientation prism appears differently depending on whether one is gay, straight, or bi; yet much the same. One’s sexual orientation is part of how you perceive the world around you and your place in it as mine is for me. It’s how they experience and express them-self in many ways but particularly as a sexual being. It involves various aspects of their feelings and behavior: biological, spiritual, social, emotional, physical, and erotic.

Because sexuality influences so much of ones experience, for many years I was always conscious that my internal response to certain situations was not in sync with how I’d been conditioned to view the world. These socio-cultural expectations were in conflict with my internal compass.

This happened partly because some people disproportionately emphasized one part of the meaning of sexuality over all other aspects. Any one of these pieces of sexuality, and the meanings implied by those who use them, vary from one socio-cultural segment of society to another. Thus, when the term sexuality and its cognates are used, what is heard is often different than what was intended by the person who used the word.

This lack of a precise definition led me to misunderstand my own sexuality. I didn’t have complete knowledge. To demonstrate how my sexuality emphasized the breadth of what I felt and at times wanted to do but didn’t know how to deal with it, consider the following five aspects of sexuality:

The most obvious and often first thought of, when the word sexuality in any form is mentioned, is the physical (biological), which concerns reproductive functions and includes the sexual response cycle. This piece of sexuality influences sexual interest and attraction to another person.

Then there are the emotional aspects, which, coupled with physical responses, are the bonds that may develop between two people. They are expressed through deep feelings and physical expressions of trust, care, and love. Profound emotional and psychological responses are generated by ones sexuality and play a part in forming their personality.

There is the social component of sexuality—the effects society has on ones sexuality and includes their personal history and religious beliefs, which I’ll discuss separately in a moment. Societal influence is seen in some cultures that are sexually repressive and others that celebrate sexual pleasure within marriage.

Spirituality involves ones spiritual connection with other people. As an example, one young man wrote on his blog: “Because I am not a religious person whatsoever, I think many people fail to recognize the spiritual side of me…. The truth is though that I feel very much in tune with people’s spirits…. As a spiritual introvert, some of my favorite moments together were times when [Ben] and I were sitting together in silence, even while doing our own individual things…. It was during some of those moments I felt like our spirits were connecting the most.” Sometimes this aspect of relationship is characterized by referring to a partner as my “soul mate.”

Then there are the laws that regulate human sexuality in several ways: criminalizing particular sexual behaviors, granting privacy or autonomy to make ones own sexual decisions, protection with regard to equality and non-discrimination, legislating matters regarding marriage and the family, and creating laws that protect from violence, harassment, and persecution and keep one from harming, harassing or persecuting other people. These laws deal with sexuality.

These five areas of ones life are influenced by culture, politics, philosophical underpinnings and society.

Whether my sexuality is determined by genetics, which my natural inheritance manifests in instincts and drives, or whether my sexuality is formed by the environment and is subject to change, or some combination of these two, I don’t know. This debate has not been conclusively resolved. What I do know is that when I finally allowed my mind to embrace the reality that my sexual orientation is gay, I began to understand how much of my life had been enigmatic before then. I began to see how my gay sexual orientation either had been expressed or had begged to be expressed in my life from before puberty onward.

Sexual drive affects the way a person understands them-self. Since there was a disconnect between my rational thinking—which was influenced by the micro socio-cultural context in which I was raised—I struggled to know who I was. My self-identity and how I engaged in social activities were affected by my sexual drive, which I had suppressed. Our sexuality is influenced by many factors of our environment among which are socio-cultural, educational, and environmental. These influences have a moderating effect on how we expresses our sexuality.

My sexual orientation—the pattern of sexual and romantic attraction to someone (for me it it would be a male, for you it may be someone of the opposite sex, or it may be either sex)—influences sexual behavior including intimate relationships. The only difference between me and someone who is straight is the object of my interest or attraction. My feelings, emotions, and behavior are much the same as someone who is straight. Constraints on behavior of one orientation or another come from outside influences: cultural practices, societal mores, religious views.

Let’s look at religion briefly. Religion’s understanding of sexuality varies from one religion to another. In some religions, sexual behavior is regarded as primarily spiritual; in others it is treated as primarily physical. Some religions hold that sexual behavior is only spiritual within certain kinds of relationships or when used for specific purposes or when incorporated into religious ritual. There are religions with no distinctions between the physical and the spiritual, whereas others view human sexuality as a way of bridging the spiritual and the physical.

Many people tend to view sexuality in terms of behavior (homosexuality or heterosexuality is what someone does and quite frequently certain sexualities such as bisexuality tend to be ignored). Viewing sexuality in terms of behavior lead some to believe that there are no homosexuals, only people who practice homosexuality.

Some people accept the fact that there are gay people and promote celibacy for them as the only acceptable gay sexual behavior. They may also believe that sexuality can be changed through conversion therapy or prayer to become, what they call, an ex-gay. Some of them may see homosexuality as a form of mental illness, something that ought to be criminalized, an immoral abomination, or behavior caused by ineffective parenting. They may even view gay marriage as a threat to society.

On the other hand, there are people who define sexuality-related labels—heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual—in terms of sexual attraction and self-identification as opposed to the above conservative definition, which describes such labels in terms of behavior. They may also view same-sex activity to be as morally neutral and legally acceptable as opposite-sex activity. They would view homosexuality to be unrelated to mental illness, as genetically or environmentally (but not as the result of bad parenting) caused, and would treat gay orientation as fixed. These moderate or liberal expressions of religion also tend to be more in favor of same-sex marriage.

In the next post I will deal with my “Living Between Two Worlds,” the gay community and the Christian community. I cannot deny either my faith or my sexuality. Therefore, I often find myself defending either my faith in Jesus the Christ or the reality of a part of who I am as a human being.

You can find the posts in this series listed on the page on this blog titled “Being Christian and Gay.”   

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