You Are Not a Homosexual
(This article has been adapted for JONAH with the permission of Alan Medinger. Alan was active homosexually for many years and is now married with children and grandchildren.)
I believe that the subject of this article is going to become increasingly important in coming years. If it does, enormous changes lie ahead for all who deal with homosexuality from a societal, pastoral or personal perspective. What is offered here will be a brief look at a deep and complex subject. The focus of this article is an explanation that homosexuality is not an authentic identity. In addition to helping the homosexual struggler see who he or she truly is, my hope is that this article will also help the community-at-large to see how homosexuality is being deliberately normalized through making homosexuality an identity, and that people will consider the societal effects of this normalization."
You are not a homosexual!
The March issue of First Things Journal offered a series of articles on homosexuality. In line with the magazine's focus, the various authors dealt with homosexuality from an historic Judeo-Christian perspective. The articles provoked considerable correspondence from readers, and in one letter, published in the June/July issue, a writer-in challenged some of the author's conclusions stating:
"...I have come to the conclusion that the primary issue is the authenticity of their claim concerning their personal identity. Whatever the reason for their sexual condition, the nature and scope of their relationships are governed by their being homosexually oriented..."
The issue addressed by the writer is how to address homosexuality and the homosexual person and whether or not being a homosexual is an authentic identity. He seems to assume it is as he goes on to state that their relationships are, in fact, governed by their being homosexual. He assumes that being a homosexual is something you are rather than something you do.
But what if homosexuality were not a legitimate identity? What if homosexuality is in fact an artificial category of person created for some purpose? By implication, and I believe by logic, we would not then have any reason to make special accommodations for "homosexual persons." Social and moral standards would be the same for them as for anyone else. The individual, then, could no longer call him or herself a homosexual person, but simply a man or woman with a certain set of problems regarding romantic and sexual attraction, self-esteem, ability to relate to the opposite sex, etc.
The idea that there is no such thing as a homosexual person has been surfacing with increasing frequency in the past few years in the secular world. In ex-gay ministries we have long urged people not to define themselves by their particular sins or forms of sexual brokenness. For example, people do not identify themselves as adulterers or as sexually active heterosexuals. Letting go of the alleged homosexual identity, and acknowledging that God created us male and female has been seen as an early step in the healing process. We have done this while still acknowledging that we do have distinct problems with our sexual attractions and sexual identity.
We would hope that people see the world both as it is and with an eye to how it should be according to the plans of the One who created it. The secular or scientific person tries to view the world - though often unsuccessfully - as it is. Secularists who are challenging the concept of "a homosexual person" are doing so from the perspective of history, anthropology, sociology, logic and other academic disciplines - without making qualitative or moral judgments. Let's look at what they are saying:
1. The concept of a homosexual person is quite recent. The word "homosexual" was a Nineteenth Century innovation. For millennia mankind recognized homosexual behavior, but saw it as just that - a behavior engaged in by some people. And although some people were clearly observed as engaging in frequent and/or exclusive homosexual behavior, no need was found to see these people as different beings, rather than as individuals with a different behavior pattern.
This is a key thought in David F. Greenberg's massive study: The Construction of Homosexuality. Studying almost every significant culture from the beginning of recorded history to the present, Dr. Greenberg examines how homosexual behavior was expressed and how each society dealt with it. In almost every culture he found a form of homosexual behavior being practiced, but in light of the enormous variations in its practice, from being an accepted part of male adolescence in New Guinea to being a means of degrading and humiliating a defeated enemy in ancient Greece or Persia, he challenges the idea that homosexuality should be seen as a "biological given, constant in different periods of history and in different societies" (page 484). He urges a greater emphasis on understanding that homosexuality is a behavior which is profoundly influenced by the overall social organization of the culture.
2. Being a homosexual defies definition and when used has a circularity of definition. I was introduced to this concept by a psychiatrist who addressed the recent conference of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) held in Philadelphia. Dr. Uriel Meshoulam pointed to the circular thinking that exists around the concept of a homosexual person: Although not his exact words, he said that in common parlance:
- We define a homosexual person as a person who is sexually attracted to members of the same sex.
- Then we say that a person is sexually attracted to people of the same sex because he or she is a homosexual.
At this point we have said nothing. This is similar to my experience when I went to an ophthalmologist because I had a chronic bloodshot eye. He carefully examined my eye and told me I had conjunctivitis. I asked what that meant, and he said, "It means your eye is bloodshot." How did this help clarify my condition?
Bell and Weinberg, in their study of modern day homosexuals for the Kinsey Institute, chose to title their book Homosexualities: A Study of Diversity Among Men and Women, using the plural because of the tremendous variations they found among homosexual men and women. With large scale surveys, they sought to define the homosexual man and woman, but found they could not do it; individuals differed too greatly.
Gay leaders, when they are seeking general acceptance from the larger society, deny that anything but sexual attractions set them apart from their neighbors. (However, it needs to be recognized that when they are seeking special privileges or when seeking to boost their community's self-esteem, they will focus on how different they are.)
If we could say that a homosexual person is a person whose body carries a such and such gene, or who has an abnormally large amount of a certain hormone, or who is genetically different from the norm, we could legitimately say that this is a certain type of person. But try as they might, gay researchers and others have yet to come up with a generally accepted physically measurable characteristic that identifies a person as a homosexual.
Absent a causative factor, in declaring someone to be a homosexual person, we are back to the circular thinking; we are giving a name to their attractions; we have not defined the person.
3. Dividing the world between heterosexual and homosexual is artificial and arbitrary. With the invention of the word homosexual to define people who are sexually attracted to people of the opposite sex, we had to start to use the word heterosexual to define people who are sexually attracted to people of the opposite sex. That everyone is either heterosexual or homosexual (with a few bisexuals thrown in) is rooted in our thinking. Viewing mankind in this sense, probably does more than anything else to reinforce the concept of a homosexual person. But this is totally arbitrary.
In no other way do we divide up mankind by the sexual preferences of individuals. Forgive my creating my own words where there are none, but we do not divide up the world into pedophiles and adultophiles or into necrophiliacs (people who desire sex with a dead person) and liveophiliacs. It is undeniable that a small proportion of people in our community are attracted to children, a small proportion want to have sex with dead people and two or three percent prefer sex with people of their own sex. But why on the basis of just this one preference, do we divide mankind?
4. Identification of one's self as gay is a choice, not an knowledgment of a fact. A study has shown that the average time between when a person started to recognize that he or she felt homosexual attractions and the time he or she identified himself or herself as homosexual is about six years. For me it was many more than six. We would have to assume that before the Nineteenth Century people went through their whole lives sexually attracted to their same sex, but not identifying themselves as homosexuals.
The identification is a defensive measure taken to legitimize feelings and behavior. It is fostered and encouraged by feelings of low self-esteem and victimhood. This is not surprising as many of us see low self-esteem as a root of homosexuality, and in fact, homosexual women and men, particularly since they grow up feeling "different," and often are treated as if they are different, do have some legitimate right to victim status.
The formation of the gay sub-culture and its associated political movement over the past 25 years, has been largely an effort to give an identity to people who feel homosexual attractions. It is, in essence, a political movement, and its leaders have done what demagogues have always done: expand their power and influence by convincing their followers to identify more and more strongly with their group.
An "us-them" attitude, a powerful sense of victimhood, a sense of superiority, all empower the gay movement, and expand the concept of being a homosexual person to the point that to think in other terms, or to view the world from another perspective, becomes almost impossible.
The extremes to which this identification can go is evidenced by the incredible number of gay organizations that exist in most large cities. In a city the size of Baltimore there are more than 50 "gay" organizations. You can join the gay doctors or lawyers association, take part in a gay volleyball league, be a part of a group of gay Quakers, or even join the gay Republicans group. Jewish sub-groups are just as profuse, e.g., there are E-mail groups entitled Orthodykes or Frum GLBT or Gay Jews. So much have people with homosexual attractions chosen to identify themselves according to these attractions that using the words of the letter writer at the beginning of this article, "the nature and scope of their relationships" become overwhelmingly influenced by their gay identify. However, we need to recognize that this is a choice. This is not inevitable!
If the concept of the homosexual person is indeed arbitrary or fundamentally inaccurate, we need to ask how can this understanding help the man or woman seeking to overcome his or her homosexual feelings and behavior?
First, it is critical to recognize that going down this road is not taking us into denial. It is a fact that some of us, from an early age, more or less involuntarily, found ourselves sexually and/or romantically attracted to people of the same sex, and not to people of the opposite sex.
But with that given, I suggest that we set out on a course to try and change our own thinking. This will be extremely difficult because it requires us to change fundamental points of reference through which we have tried to view reality. If we don't change them, however, our childhood defensive reactions will continue to limit our growth into full manhood or womanhood. I suggest that we see it as a process, one in which, step by step, we back off from our identity as a homosexual person. Here are some steps you might take:
1. Start to distinguish between gay and homosexual. Dr. Joseph Nicolosi in his book, Reparative Therapy for Male Homosexuality, discusses "non-gay homosexuals," those who have homosexual feelings but choose not to identify themselves with the gay movement.
2. In your own thinking try to consciously abandon the division of mankind between heterosexual and homosexual. Start by looking at the enormous differences there are in the tastes, talents, desires - even sexual desires - of people with homosexual attractions. They are not a single group.
3. Start to focus on what clearly makes a man or woman: voice, stature, genitals, facial hair, etc. Remember that every chromosome in your body says that you are a man or woman. Nothing in your body that we know of says you are a homosexual.
4. Carefully and precisely list the problems that hinder your functioning as a man or woman in accordance with God's apparent plan for you. These might include:
· A desire for sex with other men (women)
· A lack of attraction to the opposite sex
· (Men) Feelings of inadequacy around other men
· (Women) Distrust of men
· Compulsive masturbation
· A longing to be held by a person of the same sex
· A desire to control or be controlled by others
These or others like them are your problems; your problem is not that you are a homosexual. Each person's list will be different. Each list will include some things that can be dealt with directly, and others that will be dealt with indirectly as a part of your journey to spiritual and emotional wholeness.
The concept of being a homosexual fosters hopelessness. You would ask, how can I change who I am? Maybe that's not who you are. True, you do have some special problems, but through the power of God and an understanding of the root causes of your emotionally-based condition, you can overcome them.