50 Shades of Gay

The Sexual Revolution was supposed to liberate us from sexual stereotypes

“Some of the holiest men I know are men who have experienced same-sex attraction as an ongoing inner reality in their lives. They have made a decision not to act on their same-sex desires. Their holiness stems precisely from the challenge this decision presents. They know they need God. And like Mary Magdalene, they love much because they have been forgiven much.”

 

The Sexual Revolution was supposed to liberate us from sexual stereotypes. In fact, we have replaced the old stereotypes of gay men with new and even more rigid stereotypes. Perhaps some people regard the new view of gay as more positive and affirming than the old view. But the New Gay Man is no less limiting, impersonal, and ultimately dehumanizing. If a particular gay man does not fit into the narrow politically correct boxes, we can’t see him. And worse, he may not be able to see himself clearly.

So let us open up some options for our brothers who experience same-sex attraction. No, actually, that is not quite correct. Let us recognize the options that already exist. Let us take notice of the variety of ways in which these men can and do live their lives.

Some of the holiest men I know are men who have experienced same-sex attraction as an ongoing inner reality in their lives. They have made a decision not to act on their same-sex desires. Their holiness stems precisely from the challenge this decision presents. They know they need God. And like Mary Magdalene, they love much because they have been forgiven much.

Some men struggle with and eventually conquer their sexual temptations. But some men still struggle with related issues: needing to be the center of attention, inappropriate hostility toward women; undue insecurity around men; general insecurity about their identity; troubled relationships with their fathers. All these concerns can plague the same-sex attracted man, even one who is successfully living a celibate life.

Some same-sex attracted men participate in sexual activity with other men. They do it to varying degrees and at varying times of their lives. Some may have periodic sexual experiences and a “take it or leave it” attitude. Others are full-on sex addicts. Depending on their age and temperament, some same-sex attracted men may be content to partner with one particular person. Others have hundreds of sex partners and are still unsatisfied.

Some same-sex attracted men are empathetic and good listeners, whom women find appealing. Others drip with contempt for women. Still others are just obsessed with themselves, and indifferent to everyone around them. As Oscar Wilde’s wife said of him, “Through all his struggles, he did not learn the one thing he most needed to learn: that he is not the only person in the world.”

Some men engage in same-sex sexual activity for a season of their lives: all-male boarding schools, prison or aboard ships. Some of these men later marry, father children and live conventional lives. Some same-sex attracted men get married without denying that they feel same-sex attractions. They love their wives and are good and faithful husbands and fathers.

Some same-sex attracted men are attracted to younger men, over whom they can exert power and dominance. Others seek out older men in an effort to heal their father-wounds. Some behave in a predatory manner, seeking out vulnerable younger men and even boys, grooming them and gaining their trust as a prelude to seduction.

Some same-sex attracted men are deeply ashamed of themselves, and wish they could change some or all of their behavior. Others are totally shameless.

We don’t really know why some men experience same-sex attraction and others do not. Most likely, there are a number of factors operating in different people to different extents and in different combinations. Some men may have become sexually fixated on men after being molested at an early age. Some men may have experienced parental influences that drove their sexual desires in a particular direction. And yes, it is possible, though not proven, that some people were indeed, “born that way.”

In fact, the significance of that phrase, “born that way,” can vary considerably. For one person, it may be the truth as he experiences it. For another, it may be a permission slip to engage in behavior he could not justify otherwise.

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