Answers to Questions Most Asked by Gay-Identifying Youth
Sue Bohlin (Probe Ministries, Bible.org Women's Leadership Team) also serves on the Board of Directors for Living Hope Ministries, an Exodus referral ministry that helps people deal with unwanted homosexuality. The LHM Board consists of ministry professionals who together have over 50 years of experience in helping strugglers find freedom through Christ. This is a tool they wrote to help growing numbers of sexually confused youth (and older strugglers) from a compassionate, redemptive perspective.
1. Where does homosexuality come from?
People end up with SSA (same sex attraction) because of a number of contributing factors:
- parental relationships
- gender identity confusion
- sexual and/or emotional abuse
- peer rejection
God intends for us to go through a series of stages in our emotional development, and those who experience same-sex attractions are stuck at an earlier stage. First, we are supposed to have a close bond with our mothers, then our fathers, then our same-sex peers, then finally opposite-sex peers. Those who are romantically or erotically drawn to their same sex need to grow and mature emotionally.
How do people get derailed from God's intended plan?
We live in a fallen world (as the result of sin), with every person born into a fallen family with fallen parents. God's plan is for every child to be celebrated and cherished by both a loving, affectionate mom and a dad who continually communicates and demonstrates unconditional love and acceptance. Sometimes, however, parents do not love their children wisely or well. Sometimes children do not make a good connection with their parents and are unable to receive the love parents are giving. Sometimes children are wounded by what their parents or other adults in authority do to them; sometimes they sustain a deficit from what their parents or their peers didn't do for them. These factors can compromise a child's "emotional immune system," making him or her more vulnerable to the consequences of living in a fallen world.
There are patterns for guys and for girls who experience same-sex attraction. With guys, there is a family dynamic that occurs so often it has become a stereotype: a distant father who is absent physically and/or emotionally, leaving what some people have called "a father-shaped hole in one's heart," and an overbearing mother or one who has an unhealthy and extremely close relationship with her son. This results in a boy identifying with the feminine instead of the masculine of his father.
Many guys who feel they are gay report having experienced some kind of sexual abuse, usually at the hand of a man. Abuse warps a child's sense of self, his personal sense of value and worth, his sense of personal boundaries and his understanding of how one connects to another person relationally. Many (if not most) guys who are attracted to other men also experience rejection from other boys when they are young. When peers call you gay, fag, queer, homo, etc., it is easy to believe that you are who they say you are. However, God doesn't make anybody gay, fag, queer, etc. They're not telling the truth. Guys experiencing same-sex attration (SSA) feel like they don't belong in the world of men, and are far more comfortable in the world of females.
With girls, there is often a significant disconnect with their mothers. It could be because their moms actually neglected, abandoned, or abused them, or it could be simply because a girl perceived that her mother didn't love her or connect with her. Another huge element in a later development of same-sex attraction is a history of sexual abuse. Studies say it's between 66-90% of girls who experience SSA.
Girls who are uncomfortable with their femininity usually reject it out of the mistaken belief that femininity is weak, vulnerable, used, and contemptuous. Many girls who hate their femininity do so because this was modeled by their mothers. Additionally, if a girl does not receive affirmation of her femininity from her father, she will not believe she is beautiful or feminine. A girl usually believes she is whoever her father says she is.
Girls experiencing SSA often feel fearful of masculine strength and power as the result of an important man either violating her or not being there for her. Some can over-identify with the feminine, going overboard on the frilly feminine end of the spectrum but still not having healthy relationships with guys; some create a "false masculine" butch image to protect themselves from being hurt. Some girls and women who fear and hate men are the most masculine looking and acting, but it is not because they ARE masculine; it is because they reject the feminine and want to be asexual as a way of protecting themselves.
Homosexuality is not really about sex at all. A better name for it might be "gender identity confusion."
Our culture has an inadequate understanding of gender that results in a lot of guys and girls not accepting God's creation of male and female. Since God made humans "male and female," we are different from each other. There is a "spectrum of masculinity" that is far broader than our culture seems to think. On one end is the macho guy, the typical "man's man" who likes sports, aggression, being tough, and killing things. On the other end of the spectrum is the gentle, sensitive, artistic, creative kind of male. He often lacks the eye-hand coordination that would make him good at sports, but he has strong relational abilities and is highly creative. Both ends of the spectrum, and everything in between, are legitimate; God created the spectrum of masculinity and all expressions of it should be celebrated.
The guys on the creative/sensitive end of the spectrum, if supported in their type of masculinity, can become the best husbands, pastors, counselors, teachers, musicians—and the list goes on. Jesus had the full spectrum of masculinity: He was both a man's man, tough and unafraid, and He was unbelievably sensitive and relational at the same time. He had the physical strength of a carpenter and the artistic mindset of a craftsman. All kinds of people were drawn to Him. Jesus demonstrated the fullness of the true masculine.
There is a corresponding "spectrum of femininity" for girls. On one end are the frilly, girly-girl type who are born loving pink and anxious to play house. (This, of course, is what our narrow-minded culture defines as feminine.) On the other end of the spectrum are the "jockettes," the girls who are naturally physical, tend to be more aggressive and competitive, and hate dresses, doodling their hair, and anything "ladylike." And, of course there are those in between as well. The tomboy end of the spectrum is just as God-created as the girly-girl end. When the jockettes are supported in their femininity, they can learn how to act like a lady without resenting it, and often are natural leaders and the best kind of mothers and teachers of boys.
If someone labels you with something ugly like lez, dyke, queer, fag, or homo, don't accept it as true. Think of these hurtful labels as nametags with the wrong name on them. Take off the label and speak the truth: "This isn't me." If you're an artistic or musical guy, and someone labels you as gay, do not believe it. They do not know that your place on the gender spectrum is perfectly good and perfectly God-created. They simply do not understand that a different kind of masculinity does not equal an inferior kind of masculinity. The same goes for athletic girls without much patience for a traditional understanding of femininity.
In some strugglers, there seems to be some degree of predisposition that "sets them up," so to speak, for gender identity issues. For example, poor eye-hand coordination in boys that makes sports difficult, and higher testosterone levels in some girls that give them more masculine characteristics such as athleticism and aggressiveness. But predispositions do not determine choices or behavior. People may have predispositions to many things that society would not accept as normative or good (i.e. violence, alcoholism or depression). Gender identity problems are no different.
2. Why did God do this to me?
It may feel like God did it, but let us suggest a different framework.
We are born into a fallen world, each of us is born broken; brokenness is manifested in various ways in various people. Everybody experiences a different aspect of our fallen world, and this is your aspect.
We experience two kinds of pressure that can end up as SSA: the external pressures of being sinned against by fallen people (such as neglect, abuse, or a disconnect), and the internal pressures that come from responding in the flesh to anything apart from God to fix ourselves and make us feel better.
Flesh is the part of us that operates apart from God's empowering: self-oriented, self-gratifying, self-determining. All of us are born with nothing but flesh; at the moment you trust Christ, your spirit comes alive and you suddenly have a new source of power and transformation available only by yielding to God on a moment-by-moment basis. It is like being an appliance that gets plugged into a working power outlet at conversion. Operating in the Spirit (instead of the flesh) means you turn the power switch to "on." The moment you rely on yourself instead of God, you flip the switch off. The power is still available, but you are not using it. On a spiritual level, homosexuality is a result of responding to circumstances and pressures in your life in the flesh instead of turning to God in yieldedness and submission in the spirit.
3. What did I do to deserve this punishment?
Your struggle is not punishment; it is the result of sin, and you did not do anything to deserve this. You are part of humanity, and humanity sins. God grieves that these things happened to you, that things have happened for you to draw faulty conclusions and develop misconceptions about Him and yourself.
4. Do any other Christians struggle with this issue?
Unfortunately, the atmosphere in most churches does not encourage openness and truthfulness in being able to talk about this issue.
Many Christians struggle with sexual brokenness of all kinds. Your struggle just happens to be same-gender brokenness.
5. Is there really hope for healing?
YES! Those pursuing healing from homosexuality have a higher success rate than those in recovery groups dealing with alcoholism, drug abuse, etc. Historically, there were even former homosexuals in the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 6:11). For modern-day stories of hope and healing, see:
Portraits of Freedom by Bob Davies
Exodus International website: exodus.to (click on Testimonies)
Living Hope Ministries www.livehope.org ( resources >> testimonies)
Portland Fellowship www.portlandfellowship.com (testimonies)
6. What does healing look like?
Let's define the term "healing." You can't equate healing with never again struggling. That would be the perfection of heaven, and no one on earth is there yet. No one still on earth experiences perfect healing.
Healing is not the absence of temptation. It is better defined as moving to the place where your struggle no longer a life-controlling issue.
We like to use the word "manage." You know where your SSA comes from, you know who you are, so you learn to manage your feelings and temptations. When you manage it long enough, it becomes second nature to you. It's getting in the habit of using your will to choose what is right and good instead of what appeals to your broken flesh. It means we choose to live by our morals and values rather than be driven by our feelings. When the lure of that sin is no stronger than the lure of any other thing that tempts you, you are experiencing healing.
Healing does not mean that you are not tempted, or that you are beyond giving into temptations, but that you now have the freedom to choose to stand and resist them successfully. It also means that the temptations grow less intense and powerful.
The ultimate goal is holy heterosexuality. That means understanding God's design for man and woman as complementary to each other, cooperating with God in emotional and spiritual healing, so that He can uncover your God-created heterosexuality. This may or may not include marriage. Jesus specifically mentioned that some are called to celibacy. (Matt 19:10-12; see also 1 Cor 7:7-9)
An important part of healing is embracing an accurate identity: knowing who you are in relationship to a holy God and His people. Learning who we are in Christ happens in the context of a personal relationship with God and in community. Learning that we are created to be heterosexual is a part of that identity. We choose to see ourselves and live according to how Christ defines us, not according to how we view ourselves or our temptations.
7. Why does it take so long to heal?
First, it took you a long time to get to the point you are. It takes a long time to deal with the things that happened.
Second, we live in a culture of instant, "take a pill and fix it now" mentality. We can get unnecessarily frustrated because of unrealistic expectations.
Deliverance ministries can encourage the unrealistic hope that we can experience instant healing without crucifying the flesh. (We aren't saying instantaneous healing never happens, but it's not the way God usually brings it.) Or that there is demon of homosexuality that can be cast out and POOF! your troubles are over. It doesn't work that way.
We are dealing with strongholds, areas where we have given the enemy a legitimate place in our lives. Total surrender and renouncing those strongholds is a hard blow to our flesh, and it's usually not instantaneous.
8. So do I focus on being "straight?"
No, you focus on Jesus and your relationship with Him, and who you are in Him. Then He will take care of your sexual orientation.
You can't talk yourself into being straight. You don't have that kind of power. Only Jesus does.
9. What does a healthy same sex relationship look like?
- Mutual respect, not seeking to complete oneself or consume another.
- Not putting another person in a position to meet needs that only God can fill; not idolatrous. (Relational idolatry is elevating self or others to a position above God)
- No erotic component
- The element of desperation is not there
- Healthy, godly emotional intimacy and friendship (see David and Jonathan)
- Intimacy: the sharing of one's feelings, heart and passions with another
- Physical touch is respectful of the other person's boundaries; non-erotic; not initiated out of neediness but out of strength and confidence in who you are. Not given to draw something from the other but to affirm and bless the other.
- Does not seek exclusivity with the other person but opens up the friendship to allows others in.
- Look at the description of love in 1 Cor. 13 to see a description of healthy relationships.
- Complementarity of masculinity and femininity balancing each other
- Men using their strength to lead and protect and serve
- Women using their beauty, nurturing capacity and intuition to support others
10. How do I deal with jokes/comments from friends about homosexuality?
You can point out that saying those things can be hurtful to those who struggle with that issue, because you never know when someone in their family has this issue and it really hurts when people make fun. (The person in the family might be you, but you don't have to say so.)
By making those kinds of comments, it often prevents people from being open with their personal struggles with homosexuality. They can feel locked up and unsafe to share. Realize that many times, when people make jokes or comments, it's not a reflection of their real thoughts and feelings but a social construct and/or a way to make them feel like they fit in. Or it could be a reflection of their own discomfort with this issue.
11. Why should I trust you?
You shouldn't. No one should give trust right off the bat. For the wise person, trust is not given, it's earned. Hopefully, in the process of our building a relationship together, you'll be able to.
12. Am I a freak?
If by freak you mean you are unique and different, yes. You are unique and different. We are all unique because we are fashioned by God's hand to be uniquely you.
If by freak you mean you're some kind of mistake or aberration that God created, then no, you're not. He didn't make you a freak.
13. If God has set me free, why do I still struggle?
Because you still live in the flesh. The flesh will always war against the spirit, and the spirit wars against the flesh. The flesh was disabled at the Cross, but we are free to live according to its habits and patterns. At the Cross, Christ dealt with the penalty and the power of sin, but it's up to us to crucify the flesh by saying no to sin and yes to godliness. God does not take away our choice to sin, but He has given us the power to resist that sin, should we choose to. Things are further complicated by the fact that we live in a culture surrounded by temptations and struggles on three fronts: the world, the flesh and the devil.
14. Do you have any idea what it is like to be me?
No, not exactly. However, many of us who are in this ministry have struggled with these same issues, or have spent enormous amounts of time with people who have struggled with these issues. We ALL know what it's like to be lonely, to lust, to feel rejected, to feel longings for intimacy. We all know what it's like to struggle with sin.
15. But I really am gay, right?
No, you're not! God made you male or female, period. However, you may have been deceived into adopting a gay identity. You may have believed that you were gay/lesbian/bi/transgender, but that's not who you really are. You didn't choose to feel the way you do; however, the circumstances and experiences of your life may have caused you to believe that you were something other than male or female. Scripture says, "As a man (or woman) thinks within his heart, so is he" (Prov. 23:7). As you begin to embrace the truth of who God says you are, you will begin to live out your true identity as created by God.
16. Why is this sin so bad in the eyes of God and the church?
Let's distinguish between the eyes of God and the eyes of the church.
To God, all sin separates us from Him. This is sin is not worse than heterosexual promiscuity. But because it is relational in nature, its consequences are often more severe in our personal lives and hearts. Because sin separates us from God, we all need forgiveness and repentance, and it is for that very cause that Christ died.
Most of us find it easy to be repulsed by things which don't tempt us. (For example, how do you feel about eating worms?) Another reason is the unnaturalness of homosexual acts (Rom. 1). It may feel natural to you, but God says that longings for same-sex sexual intimacy are alien to God's intent.
One reason many in the church react so strongly is that they are unconsciously reacting to gay activists. They assume the radical activists speak for all who experience SSA and they react in anger to them.
In the eyes of the church, unfortunately, this sin has often been viewed like some sins of the past (i.e., divorce)—that people who commit these sins are somehow unredeemable or unforgivable. The church has been wrong in that view, and we now see the beginnings of a wave of repentance on the part of the church and its leaders for the alienation they have caused in the lives of many who struggle with homosexuality.
17. Why am I so deeply ashamed and dirty?
The reason you feel shame is because you already know conviction of the Holy Spirit in your life, and you have resisted true repentance, and the devil has come in and made you feel bad about who are you are. You may be experiencing guilt as well as shame. Guilt is feeling bad for what we've done. Shame is feeling bad who for we are. Guilt says, "I acted out with a person of the same sex." Shame says, "I'm a miserable loser and unworthy of love because of what I did."
Satan is a liar. First he entices us by convincing us that something sinful will be so good and fulfilling, and then when we give into temptation, he beats us up with shame and guilt messages.
Secrecy is a part of experiencing same-sex attractions. We don't keep secrets—secrets keep us. As we bring things into the light, we acknowledge what they are (confession), and God is able to bring healing.
The core of your shame is an awareness that something isn't right within. The innate awareness of one's same-sex feelings being so unnatural and out of place is a sense of shame and conviction meant to drive us to God to make things right.
If you feel dirty, it may come from not repenting. Repentance means turning a full 180 degrees away from our sin and to God. Also, 1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just not only to forgive us our sins, but to CLEANSE us from all unrighteousness. If you are feeling dirty, it may be because God is shining His light on you and making you aware of your sinfulness and brokenness. Part of truly confessing our sin means releasing it into God's hands and allowing Him to cleanse us of our unrighteousness.
If you have fully repented and fully confessed and fully released your sin to God, and you're still feeling dirty, Satan may be lying to you about God's goodness, and telling you you're still dirty because God doesn't fulfill His promises about cleansing you.
An appropriate response to God's conviction is seen is Isaiah 6, where Isaiah became aware of his own sinfulness, confessed it, received cleansing, and then went out to serve God.
18. Why is the GLBT community so loving and accepting and the church so judgmental?
GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual and Transgender) is a community of people with similar wounds who know what it is to feel marginalized and ostracized, and out of that sensitivity they reach out in acceptance and warmth. However, it's not unconditional acceptance. Start talking about change and ex-gay, and see how accepting they are.
When it comes to the church, we must remember that it is composed of sinful people who many times continue to act in their fallenness even though they're in church. However, there are churches that model grace and acceptance because they have a good grasp of their own weaknesses and fallenness, and are quick to extend the same kind of love and acceptance that we all long for. These churches will often point you in hopeful ways toward redemption but not require or coerce you into the unrealistic demand of "instant sanctification."
The answers to these questions are written by the Living Hope board members, and on behalf of the rest of the church of Jesus Christ, please allow us to acknowledge that the church has sinned against homosexual strugglers, and we ask your forgiveness. (Pastor Bob Stith has written an open letter of apology you might want to read: www.justice-respect.org/essays/repentance.html) If a root of bitterness and unforgiveness still has a place in your heart over the way you were treated, this would be a good time to confess it and let it go.
19. Will I ever want a woman/man the same way I want a man/woman now?
No. The reason is because your driving passions now are expressions of your brokenness and woundedness and are attempts to fill something you lacked or missed in your development. Genuine other-gender attraction is the embracing of the complementarity of the opposite sex. Healthy heterosexual relationships are comprised of two people giving the best of themselves to each other rather than sucking the life energies out of each other. Healthy relationships are an expression of a full heart seeking to give and serve the other, rather than a mutual yawning desire to fill an empty place in one's heart or to consume the best of the other person in an attempt to find wholeness.
We will not deny that there is an intensity to same-sex relationships (especially in the beginning) that is almost intoxicating. This also extends to illicit sexual heterosexual relationships as well. However, we would point out that intoxication is another word for poison. The intensity of same-sex relationships is not a healthy intensity and cannot realistically be maintained over a long period of time. Furthermore, while the infatuation stage also happens with heterosexual relationships, they have the created capacity and ability to mature into long-term healthy committed monogamous love and complementarity that same-sex relationships never can because they are intrinsically broken. Same sex relationships can never be right and never be whole because they are broken from the beginning without any hope of developing into whole and healthy relationships.
20. Will a woman/man ever really love (or marry) me if they know about my stuff?
If you're marrying the kind of person you ought to be marrying, they should. People with a good grasp of their own sinfulness are able to extend grace and understanding to other sinners. You are not defined by your past sin. You ARE defined by who you are in Christ. For example, you are a forgiven, beloved child of God. Anyone who can't see you that way isn't seeing you as you really are.
Everyone has something for which they need forgiveness. As we come together in relationships, we learn from our pasts in order to build more secure and stable futures. Through honest and open communication we insure that the sins of the past are not repeated.
Not everyone in your life needs to know your stuff, but anyone you would marry needs to know. It's an important part of the shaping process of how you became who you are today.
21. Why is it so wrong to love someone of the same sex if it feels so right?
If you're asking about the emotional aspect of love, it's not wrong to love someone of the same sex as long as it is contained within the boundaries of healthy same-gender friendships. The problem comes in when our definitions of love get twisted to mean things like "getting my needs met," manipulation, and emotional dependency.
Consider the phrase, "feels so right." We have heard many stories of people who were sexually molested in their childhood; many of them report feeling pleasure when it happened. However, the fact that they felt pleasure didn't make the experience(s) right. In much the same way, same sex relationships "feel" right because in those moments they are meeting genuine emotional needs in your life. But they are meeting those needs in illegitimate, inappropriate ways.
Flesh has no moral standard; it just wants to feel good. Skin against skin feels good. Nerve cells being stimulated feel good. Sometimes "feeling good" is confused with "feeling right."
The Bible says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is death" (Prov. 14:12). Many things FEEL right, but they result in destructive outcomes which leave us further wounded, and further alienated from God and others.
The bottom line is, if God says something is wrong, it doesn't matter how "right" it feels to us. Our feelings can lie.
22. I've prayed and prayed; why doesn't God take it away?
The problem isn't your feelings; the real root problem is that you have some messed-up views about your sexual identity, which affect your feelings. Most of the time it goes back to your relationships with your mom and dad, and it helps to look at those for greater self-understanding. You also need to pursue a deeper understanding of the big picture of who God created you to be so you can align your thinking with what God says is true. You need to allow Him to correct a distorted view of your heavenly Father (which is why this whole recovery thing is about discipleship). You also need to allow Him to correct your distorted view of prayer. Many people expect God to take care of the problem instead of showing us the answer to the problem. We get stuck by being passive, when He wants us to work through the problem with Him. We also need to address unrealistic expectations. God never promises a timetable for answering our prayers. And He doesn't wave a magic wand over us and make our problems disappear.
Not to get too theological, but it already has been taken away. (Your same-sex feelings are part of your flesh, and your flesh was disabled at the moment you trusted Christ, although you can continue to live as if that were not true.) It's your responsibility to learn to walk in the truth of your identity as a redeemed heterosexual man or woman. And that's hard work, but you have God's assistance in the journey.
God will do what only God can do, when we have done all that He asks us to do. God invites us to be part of the transformation process. Consider Lazarus' friends and family (rolling the stone out of the way, unwrapping Lazarus), Moses (stretched out his hands during the parting of the Red Sea), and the woman with the hemorrhage (reached out to touch Jesus). Jesus wants us to participate in the miraculous, but He will not do for us that which we need to do for ourselves. God's goal for us is that we be "mature and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:4). But we can't get there without struggle and the hard work of crucifying the flesh and casting down strongholds of lies and misconceptions. It's like working out at a gym to develop muscles and strength. There is no shortcut—but there is a Living Hope for change.
Copyright 2005 Living Hope Ministries, Arlington, Texas www.livehope.org