I’m often asked why I don’t use the terms “gay” or “homosexual” to describe myself—or even “bisexual” now that I’ve begun to dip my toes in the “heterosexual” dating world. If throwing quotations around these terms doesn’t insinuate strongly enough my distaste for them, let me say it plainly: I am not a fan of the way most of our society thinks and speaks about human sexuality.
Many of my Christian brothers and sisters don’t understand this. They see no harm in using self-descriptors like “gay” and “homosexual” to convey that one is attracted to the same gender or self-descriptors like “straight” and “heterosexual” to convey that one is attracted to the opposite gender. They don’t understand why I opt to use lengthier descriptions to narrate my experience when I could simply say, “I am gay.” Sure, it takes a lot less time to say, “I am gay,” than it does to say, “I am a fallen human being who is riddled with sin and who experiences all kinds of inclinations that would entice me away from God’s good design, including a sinful sexual attraction toward the same gender.” The latter is a mouthful! However, I find it to be a necessary mouthful—for a couple of pretty significant reasons.
First, I believe the sexuality language of our day flows from an ideology that gives sexuality a higher seat at the “identity table” than I think it should. These labels are not just words used to describe a person’s inclinations, preferences, or behaviors—these labels are loaded with ideas about who a person is. In our current context, someone’s sexuality largely dictates who their friends are, the bars they frequent, the country clubs they join, the bumper stickers they put on their cars, and the kind of flag they wave. Before I converted to Christianity, my attraction to men was the chief informer of my self-perspective. I didn’t see Matt Moore as just a man; I saw Matt Moore as a gay man. Every person I knew in the LGBT community viewed and described themselves in the same way. Above so many other things, we were gay.
I feel like if I were to again label myself as “gay”, I would be embracing the idea that my [broken] sexuality is a defining mark of who I am as a person. And I don’t want to operate in a mentality in which my sexual desires wield identity-shaping power. I don’t want the way I perceive and put language to my experiences to be an open door through which a false identity marker can slip in and begin to overshadow my truest identity marker: my position in Jesus. I am primarily the righteousness of God in Christ—not my jacked up sexuality. When God causes an imperishable body to swallow up this sin-corrupted flesh I presently dwell in, my attraction to men will be no more. I will not carry my broken sexuality with me into glory. Therefore, I refuse to view or name it as a part of who I am today.
Additionally, I’m uncomfortable with the relatively young concept of “sexual orientation.” I don’t believe the Bible supports the idea that each person has a fixed, immutable set of sexual desires that they are born with. The Bible speaks about homosexual and heterosexual behavior and the sinful desires that drive those activities, but it never implies that some people ARE heterosexual and some people ARE homosexual. Rather, I believe the Bible teaches that 1) we all possess a sexuality, and 2) that sexuality has been distorted by sin. If we are going to claim any sexual orientation, it needs to be our orientation to sin. We are all inclined to dishonor God by abusing our bodies in unlawful activities. Whether the object of our desire is a male or a female or an inflatable pool raft (saw that one on the news!), we are all fallen people with broken sexualities.
And there are a number of factors that influence our broken sexualities. Is an innate inclination toward one or more forms of sexual expression sometimes one of those factors? I believe so. But I also believe that the sins of others against us (like sexual abuse), relational/familial dysfunction, and even our own sinful indulgences are also factors. I have heard of people who once thought themselves “straight” go on to date members of the same gender after they began experimenting with homosexual porn. I have also seen Christians repent of habitual homosexual porn use and discover that, as they continue to distance themselves from it, their general attraction to the same gender lessens in its intensity—this has been my experience. Some have developed a slight or even strong attraction to a person of the opposite gender! No Christian will ever totally escape the presence of distorted sexual desires. But shifting is possible. It doesn’t happen for everyone, but it does happen for a lot of people. Human sexuality is fluid, and this is another reason I don’t like to throw an “orientation” label on myself. I don’t see myself as heterosexual or homosexual but as a human person with a broken sexuality that must be submitted to the will of God as it is clearly revealed in the Scriptures.
I understand that my approach to all of this sexuality stuff doesn’t fit nicely into a box. I understand that, to the world and even to some Christians, it sounds crazy. But as aliens in this world (1 Peter 2:11), shouldn’t our perspectives be a bit alienish? As people who embrace a worldview that is almost totally contrary to all other worldviews, shouldn’t the way we talk about things like this sound a bit otherworldly? I tend to think so.