“If I have an attraction to someone of the same gender, does that make me gay?”
“What’s the difference between a same-sex attraction and a gay orientation—are they the same thing?”
“What can I do about my sexual addiction?”
“Does Jesus love gay and lesbian people?”
“What does the bible say about being gay?”
“What if I experience same-sex attraction but I desire to be married to someone of the opposite gender?”
“If I experience same-sex attraction do I need to embrace a gay identity?”
These are just a few of the questions someone might have walking through the door of a Where Grace Abounds meeting—and rightfully so. Our sexuality is complex, confusing and mulit-layered. When you add our Christian faith on top of all that, there are even more painful complications to navigate and figure out. Often these separate components (or “pieces of the puzzle)” of our sexuality/sexual identity are all tangled up together. Sometimes they are even in conflict with one another. What exactly are each of these puzzle pieces?
1. Attractions and Feelings
There is a wide range of how we can “experience” our attractions. We have friendships because we are “attracted” to the qualities we see in them, or we have mentors or teachers that we look up to for similar reasons. Sadly, many of our emotional needs and attractions get “sexualized” living in the amped up sexual culture in which we reside. This too is a complex category, since many things can influence and direct our attractions. So when it comes to physical, romantic or sexual attractions we could explore questions like:
What experiences of attraction have I had throughout my lifetime with the same gender or opposite gender?
Have my attractions been exclusively to the same gender or to the opposite gender; —have these been confusing or troubling?
Are these strong attractions? Are they long-lasting or fleeting and occasional?
Do these “experiences” of attraction mean I’m oriented a certain direction—to the same gender, opposite gender or both?
And do they say something about who I am? Perhaps they may, but maybe not?
3. Behavior and Sexual Expression
On a broad level, this aspect of our sexuality can include how we handle our thought life, emotions and working with our volitional will. It would also include how we express intimacy and the boundaries we have with ourselves and others.
How am I acting on (or not acting on) my attractions?
What informs the boundaries or limits I have around sexual activity?
Is my behavior incongruent with my faith and beliefs?
Many that attend Where Grace Abounds are struggling with sexual addiction—compulsively acting out with others sexually or using pornography or other sexual behaviors. You can see how this might get tangled up with our attractions and identity, but can also be a very separate issue to explore.
4. Faith, Theology and Our Relationship with God
How does your faith and values inform the way you live out your sexuality? We have a Creator who has very particular intents for our existence and how we behave. These purposes extend to our relationships, including our sexual relationships. Sexual behaviors without boundaries have a wide range of consequences to ourselves, families and the community. We tend to wrestle/, submit and rebel/surrender (over and over) with these parts of scripture and our relationship with God. Some questions to explore might be:
What do I believe God says about gender, sex, marriage and relationships?
What interpretations of scripture do I believe around sexuality?
5. The Culmination of Identity
As you explore the above four pieces of the Sexual Identity Puzzle and perhaps begin to draw conclusions, this could influence how you see yourself . You might come to “identify” with a certain group of people or take on a “sexual identity label.” Some examples could be: Straight, Gay, Bi, Lesbian, Gay Christian, Same Sex Attracted, Child of God, etc.
Why do people adopt a sexual identity label and are they important?
In a perfect world, all of these aspects of our sexuality would be congruent and whole. But sadly, that is not the world we are living in. In a broken world, we experience many conflicts and inconsistencies with these components of our sexual identity—sometimes with them battling against each other. There are no easy answers to the myriad of questions listed above in regards to the complexity of faith and sexuality. This is why it’s important to have an environment of freedom, acceptance and safety to sort through these difficult questions—we hope Where Grace Abounds can be that helpful environment.
Although research has long documented the relevance of gender for health, studies that simultaneously incorporate the relevance of disparate sexual orientation groups are sparse.