Is Anyone Born Gay?

I was wholly convinced my sexuality was the core of who I was — not simply what I desired or did.

Should we simply accept sexual orientation as the way things are, as the only terminology to describe enduring and unchosen same-sex attractions? Or should we step back and critically assess this idea in light of God’s truth about who we are? Honestly, we cannot begin to understand human sexuality until we first start with “theological anthropology,” meaning what God thinks, and reveals, about who we are.

 

“This is who I am.”

In 1993, I grounded my coming-out narrative in this forthright declaration — and I meant it in every way. “I didn’t choose being gay,” I reasoned. “I’m born this way!”

I was wholly convinced my sexuality was the core of who I was — not simply what I desired or did. It felt like I finally had discovered my true self. My heart and friends affirmed this, as did the world around me. “This is who I am. I amgay.”

Sexual orientation seemed self-evidently true. But what truth did it reveal?

Should we simply accept sexual orientation as the way things are, as the only terminology to describe enduring and unchosen same-sex attractions? Or should we step back and critically assess this idea in light of God’s truth about who we are? Honestly, we cannot begin to understand human sexuality until we first start with “theological anthropology,” meaning what God thinks, and reveals, about who we are.

Getting Reoriented

The modern concept of sexual orientation originates from the discipline of psychology, which is rooted in a secular understanding of anthropology that rejects original sin (for a critical assessment of “sexual orientation,” see Rosaria Butterfield, Openness Unhindered, 93–112). For example, the idea that same-sex sexual orientation is only a disability (that is, a natural consequence of the fall, like deafness), and not a moral consequence, is dangerously close to the ancient heresy called Pelagianism, a denial of original sin, condemned by the church in the fifth century. In today’s world of infinite shades of grey, sloppy ambiguity on biblical sexuality is essentially flirting with heresy.

The American Psychological Association provides this definition for sexual orientation:

Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes. Sexual orientation also refers to a person’s sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions.

Gay neurologist Simon LeVay explains that sexual orientation is “the trait that predisposes us to experience sexual attraction” (Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why, 1). In an international human rights document, it is defined as a “capacity for profound emotional, affectional, and sexual attraction.” Elsewhere, the American Psychological Association describes these attractions as generally unchosen. Thus, sexual orientation conveys a capacity for unchosen and enduring sexual and romantic desires, and this predisposition has been relegated to a new category of personhood.

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