Recently, my family and I had an inspiring family meeting, instigated by our current pastor. All of us texted the man, asking, “Why are we meeting? What did you have in mind to talk about?”
The only response I received was, “Just be very open and honest. That’s all I ask of you tonight.”
As we all gathered in nervous expectation, every individual of our family shared some of our deepest fears or hurts. The result? Reconciliation and mutual understanding.
During the eveing, the question was asked, “Do you believe people are born gay?” All of us at the table agreed that it was not. There is not enough scientific evidence to prove it. The next question was, “Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?” As parents nodded their head, I shook it.
“Brandon, why did you chake your head? Do you not believe homosexuality is a choice?”
“No,” I responded, “I didn’t choose to these feelings and attractions. In fact, multiple times I prayed God would take them away. I never wanted this.”
The question then comes, “If people are not born gay, but it’s not a choice, what is it and where does it come from?”
To answer that question, I think the question must be asked, “Why is Harry attracted to blondes, while Steve is attracted to brunnettes? Why, if you were to go to an porn site, are there multiple ‘genres’ and fetishes? Why is there not just one way of having sex? Why are there all these ‘flavors.’”
Like all preferences, whether it be between chocolate or strawberry icecream, between blue or yellow, preferences have evolved as a result of our experience.
I am currently studying brain plasticity–cutting edge research analyzing how the brain is consistently changing. Patterns and habits are formed simply as a result of life experiences. In the book, “The Brain that Changes Itself,” Norman Doige shares how a specific client he is treating is attracted to women who remind him of his mother. However, he always abandons them as a result of feeling abandoned and unable to mourn the loss of his mother. This patient’s entire relational and sexual encounters are formulated based off of a massively traumatic experience with his mother.
Our sexuality is not determined at birth. Any studies attempting to accredit sexuality to DNA are inconsequential at best. But there are hundreds of studies supporting a the theory that sexuality develops. Through these studies, we have discovered sexuality is composed of three major parts:
1. Initial Sexualization
This long word basically means this—your first experience with sex, whether it was a on your wedding night, a heated moment of “passion” after your high school prom or a suppressed moment as a child when you were raped, that initial moment has shaped your idea of sexuality.
My initial sexualization was with an older boy in the church. When I felt alone and my hormones were raging, I replayed those secret moments in our church’s storage space. In hopes to recreate that moment, I would touch myself, thinking of that guy. From the echoes of years past,my sexuality was shifted.
Conditioning means if you masturbate to bridges, you will be aroused by bridges. How you train your brain affects your sexuality. If you are having sex within a mutual trust, established between you and your spouse, your brain does not assimilate fear or self-satisfaction with sex. If you train your brain to “get off” in a matter of seconds, allowing your hand to please you, you are training your brain to make sex about one person: yourself. If you masturbate while looking in the mirror, you are training your brain to be attracted to your anatomy—aka your gender’s anatomy.
For some of you, this can be incredibly disheartening because you are just now realizing patterns you have conditioned your hormones to embrace. No fear, you can actually retrain them. Your brain is not hardware, wired at conception. It is a living, active and incredibly powerful organ, shaping and shifting so drastically, you literally do not have the same brain you did half-an-hour ago. Every decision you make determines your chemistry. You are a product of your decisions and the decisions forced upon you.
Orientation consists of how each individual perceives themselves to be. Essentially, orientation is wrapped up in how you answer this question: Are you gay, bi or straight?
This is where I would like to spend the majority of this chapter. Conditioning will be a major factor in chapter three, but I believe it is this third portion of sexuality which affects the question—why do I like boys or girls… or both? Here are factors that I have discovered in my own life, as a result of analyzing my story and the story of those around me.
* * * * * * *
Factor 1—Masculinity and Femininity
What is a man? What is a woman?
What does it mean to be womanly? What is it to be manly?
Manhood… if I were to ask you to define it, could you? Few can. When I was a youth pastor, I asked the guys that question multiple times in our small group. In the quiet of my room, especially with my own insecurities and uncertainties flaring before me, I self-inquired, asking myself that same question—what does it mean to be a man? But even in the confines and security of my own room, while staring at my own reflection, the answer continues to be elusive.
As is the case with every word, its value is only found in the meaning that we assign it, and as we give words meaning, we can judge by that meaning what things are. For example, the Webster’s dictionary defines a bird as: “a feathered vertebrate, whose forelimbs have been modified to fly.” We can look at a fish and say, “it is not a bird, because it does not have forelimbs modified to fly.” Therefore, our definition of “man” and “manliness,” or “woman” and “womanliness” (I apologize for my focus on masculinity. I am a guy. It is an easier position to understand.) is crucial to determine who or what falls under those predetermined definitions.
But there is a problem, in that we have a loose, vague and, I would argue, false definition of the words “man” and “manliness,” of “woman” and “womanliness.” As a result, people who were never meant to be excluded from these definitions have been ostracized from that which is rightfully theirs, a birthright.
What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be manly? Is a manly-man someone who can grow a bushy beard or who possesses a deep voice? Is it someone who loves power-tools and takes pleasure in smashing things? Is it someone whose tear-ducts have vanished, being replaced by a strong right hook? Is it someone who is an avid sports fan and can be found in front of the television on a Sunday afternoon with a beer in their hand?
Webster’s defines “man” as: “an adult male human; a bipedal primate mammal with notable brain capacity, capable of speech and abstract reasoning; the quality or state of being manly.” Webster’s then defines “manly” as: “having qualities generally associated with a man; appropriate in character to a man.”
Does anyone else see the problem here? It is circular reasoning. “To be a man is to possess manliness.” “To be manly is to have the qualities of a man.” This complete lack of clarity results in confusion, forcing every man to define manliness for himself based upon inputs from society. The result, we are lost in translation.
As a society, we have created a cookie-cutter man, and going outside of those parameters is prohibited. If you do not conform, you are not a man; you are not manly, and if you are not manly, you will be ostracized. According to our society’s false definition of masculinity, a “man’s man” (the phrase sounds slightly homosexual, but whatever) is a guy who loves sports, continually drools over the female anatomy, loves a good action movie and is incapable of vulnerability.
People who do not fit these false stereotypes may still be “men,” but we view them as “lesser men.” We have labeled such qualities as tenderness, creativity and sensitivity as feminine qualities. Not only does this affect the male species, but females as well. If a woman does not possess these qualities, she is labeled butch, less feminine. Therefore, many who truly belong to the definition of “man” or “woman” have been excluded from their rightful identity.
Think of it this way. Imagine one of those baby block games where you insert shapes based the corresponding holes. You have circles, squares, triangles, diamonds. Now imagine it with only three shapes—straight girl, straight guy, homosexual.
This is the dilemma of our society. We have a warped definition of what manhood and womanhood is, and those who do not fit are ostracized, when in fact, those we label “less of a man” or “less of a woman,” complete the whole picture of masculinity and femininity.
The football jock on the field is not more of a man than the artist expressing himself through dance. They are two sides of the same coin. Together, they complete the picture of masculinity. The strong-willed, ambitious business woman, is just as feminine as the “stay at home mom.” One is not less valuable than the other. They are both sides of yet another coin.
You may ask, “Brandon, does this really matter? Is it really that important of a factor?”
While drafting this chapter, I began watching YouTube videos of guys “coming out.” I watched story after story of boys “stepping out of the closet,” “embracing who they are.” I am not making light of their stories. It takes a lot of courage to confess those internal emotions to those around you. But I want to point out a consistent theme in every story I watched.
“Now looking back on how I was as a kid, I don’t know why I didn’t see I was gay sooner.” They then continue to share how they were always more sensitive than the other boys, how they loved to dance and valued the arts, how they could better get along with girls.
From a very young age I have been creative, imaginative, fashionable, relational and sensitive. I love writing, acting, singing and dancing. Starting in early elementary, I was writing stories, singing aloud in grocery stores, running around playing make-believe and even doing a handful of fashion shows with my female cousin.
By society’s standards of manhood I failed with flying colors, and in the words of Bradley Hathaway, “Society tells me all day long, that I have defined manhood completely wrong.”
But when did these qualities become telltale signs of homosexuality? Since when did the adjectives “sensitive,” “sociable” and “artistic” become synonymous with gay? Last time I checked, homosexuality literally means you are attracted to your same gender sexually. Thus, “homo,” meaning “same,” and “sexual,” referencing “sex.”
As I walked the halls of middle school, enjoying intimate conversations and spending my afternoons acting and singing, I was labeled “gay” and “queer”—a lesser man. I did not belong. As a result of the rejection from my close male friend and my gender as a whole, I began to distance myself from the “guys,” thinking I did not fit in. I was not fully man, when in reality that identity was my possession.
I was robbed of my birthright.
But no worries, society has crafted a solution for me—homosexuality.
* * * * * * *
Factor 2—Gender Hunger
A plane plummets from the sky over the Pacific. Upon impact with the crashing waves, everyone, except for a young woman named Rachel, dies. As water pours into the damaged plane, Rachel takes a deep breath, unbuckles herself and swims out a broken window. Desperate for oxygen, she frantically swims towards the sky above. Her nose and mouth breaches the surface. What does Rachel do? She inhales the most exhilarating gasp of oxygen in her existence. After looking around, gathering her bearings, she descries an island not far away and begins swimming towards it. The island that seemed not too far off, has taken Rachel hours to reach. When her feet finally touch the earth hidden beneath the water, she sprints towards the hot sand, flinging herself upon its bank. She regains her strength, after lying there for what seems like eternity. What is Rachel’s next immediate concern? Water. Rachel scours the island for a spring of fresh water. Once she finds it, she plunges headfirst into its depths, sucking down the most delicious gulp of H2O she has ever consumed. Evian could only envy. Finally, after first fulfilling her need for oxygen and water, she begins to notice a desperate hunger in her belly. She breaks off a nearby branch, carving a point into one end. Rachel is going hunting.
The body prioritizes its needs, nullifying the less important ones, to communicate to the conscious what is needed most. The soul is the same.
Too bold of a statement?
Last year, I spent two months in India, where I worked in a Mother Teresa Home. The facility housed 200 of the most destitute women of Mumbai. Absent limbs. Absent minds. Absent family. They are all alone in the world. However, every twenty-four hours the women receive three meals, plenty of water, proper medication and restful sleep. Their bodies have every physical need met. Yet as I walked the halls, I saw hopelessness, and later on I would discover multiple women die on a weekly basis, many of whom were completely healthy. Why? Though every physical need is met, the facility is understaffed. There is no time to get to know these women. There is no “tender love and care.” As my team and I desperately desired to help, we realized the best thing we could do was to simply hold their hand, to tell them their beautiful, to sing them a song, to simply be with them. As we announced our time in India had come to an end, the women wept, not because they would go hungry, but because their souls would be left starving.
Our souls have appetites. It is not just our bodies.
Upon birth, the first person little Joey is drawn to his mother. Baby Joey registers he used to be one with this human entitled “mom.” From there, Joey begins to understand the importance of “dad:” the counterpart to mom. His soul breathes fresh air, as an unmatched loved pours forth from his parents. Security and belonging is established.
As little Joey grows, he begins to distinguish there is a difference between mommy and daddy, and that his anatomy is just like daddy’s. He begins to long for acceptance from other same-gender peers, from other boys. And thus, the era of “cooties” and their limited remedies was born. At this stage in life boys could care less about the acceptance of girls. Why do you think they call them “gross,” “dumb,” “silly” and an assortment of other wonderfully articulate vocabulary words? The genders are at war. That is why clubs like the “He-Man Women Haters Society” are born. The Joey’s soul is thirsty for belonging from his male peers. He wants to know he is “one of the boys,” that he “has what it takes.”
As he understands his “boyhood,” Joey begins to become curious of yet another group, his childhood sworn enemy—women. They no longer have “cooties.” “Circle, circle, dot, dot; they finally got the cootie shot.” Hostilities have ended; the war has ended, and they have become pleasant, an epic adventure to embark upon. Joey’s soul hungers for something new and exciting, and this occurs at the exact moment hormones begin to rage. The desire to be loved and accepted by women becomes a sexual one.
But what happens when a need is unmet? What happens when priorities get mixed up, and the soul is left parched, though sustenance surrounds him? Our souls need to breathe; they need to drink; they need to eat.
If our soul does not receive air, it does not care about its thirst or hunger. Once properly saturated with oxygen, the soul notices its thirst. But if the soul remains thirsty, it does not care about any hunger for the opposite sex, for their acceptance and promise of adventure. The hunger is overshadowed.
In my own story, I shared how I drifted further and further from the peers in my gender. I was scared of rejection. In my mind, I believed everyone saw me as gay, despite my efforts to hide it, and avoided me as a result. Homophobia.
This so called “phobia” is a curse to humanity. It isolates the very people who need masculine love the most (or feminine if the individual is a lady), and as that desperate thirst for belonging grows, due to its neglect, puberty hits, converting the natural urge to a sexual one.
If you have an attraction to the same gender, let me be the first to say, your longing is completely natural. It has just been blown out of proportion as a result of that thirst left unquenched for so long. But it is not just the stereotypical “gay” that is in desperate need of love and acceptance. For fear of “looking gay” men have long abandoned intimacy and vulnerability. If a dude cries, he is labeled gay—assimilated with weakness. So despite their crusty, rough exterior, inside is a desperate boy desperately desiring to be loved.
In my years “perusing” the internet, I found thousands of “straight” guys wanting a homosexual encounter. Ads on Craigslist would say, “Wife is out of town, needing a friend with benefits.” “Was just transferred to another base, feeling lonely.” “Never done this before, wanting to try it out.” During my time on Chatroulette sites, there would be numerous “curious” guys simply “exploring their sexuality.” It was actually during one of these moments online, that I discovered what I was ultimately looking for in a homosexual relationship.
“So have you ever been with a guy?” My random partner inquired, and for some reason, I decided to be brutally honest.
“How many times have you been with a girl?”
“Well… I actually haven’t been with a girl. I’m a virgin. I’m currently dating someone. I’m waiting till marriage (as I’m looking for virtual sex online!)”
“No way! I’m waiting too, dude!”
“Are you a Christian? Why are you waiting?”
“Yeah actually. In fact I’m a small group leader at my church, and I lead a Campus Crusade Group on my college campus.”
This guy was me! In fact, the more I scoured the internet, the more I realized there are thousands, if not millions of others in my shoes—raised a Christian, wanting a heterosexual relationship, saving sex for marriage, but looking at gay content online.
“Why do you think we do this?” I asked my mystery man. We then began to divulge more of our story to each other. Over the course of multiple hours, we discovered thing we wanted was simply intimacy, acceptance with deep vulnerability and exposure.
It is all about a thirst left unquenched, and as that thirst grows, we cannot even discern if our souls are hungry for the opposite sex. People who struggle with same-gender attraction think there is something wrong with them, something off. But the desire simply is composed of a twisted, parched soul. The desire, and even the attraction to the same gender, is completely natural. It has simply exponentially grown to unhealthy proportions.
* * * * * * *
Factor 3—Fear of the Opposite Gender
In my experience with female friends, I have found one of the main reasons women turn to lesbianism or bisexuality, is because they have a deep wound from men. Men cannot be trusted; they have hurt them too many times; they are viewed as chauvinistic slave masters; they are incapable of empathizing with their worries or concerns.
However, they have found a form of intimacy that is safe within their gender.
While processing through my same-gender attraction, I was extremely fortunate to encounter a lovely elderly lady. She became like another wonderful grandmother in my life. One thing I love about this woman is her heart for single mothers. She has been all over the world, and the “type” of person she is most drawn to is single mothers, especially those who have been severely hurt by men. When talking about the book, she brought up, “Brandon, it’s not just a desire to be accepted by your gender that affects your sexuality, but a fear of being rejected by the opposite gender.”
Because this is not my experience, it was foreign to me. But then she started sharing story upon story of women she does life with. Many of them, after being abused or abandoned by their ex-husbands have become homosexual.
Their gender is safe. They understand the mind of a woman, and their “sister” is far more trustworthy than the questionable man hitting on her at the bar.
* * * * * * *
My generation (I am currently 23) has been labeled “The Fatherless Generation.” Never before has the percentage been so high of single mothers. But more than a literally absent dad, there are also dads who are physically present, but gone in affection and support.
It is a proven fact that affection of a father, specifically physical affection, helps to solidify in a boy’s mind that he belongs to the male gender. The funny thing is many fathers are under the false presupposition that showing too much affection to their son could make him soft or gay, but the opposite is true.
In my own story, I briefly shared how my father was never around when I was growing up. While running around the country in hopes to retire early, he missed out on a lot of my early childhood moments. But my dad has more than made up for it. Although I did not talk about it much in chapter 1, after my initial “exposure” with my dad, we have been reconciled and have a fantastic relationship.
But here is one thing that is critical for fathers to do—do not just tell your son to “be a man.” Show him how to be one; equip him to succeed, and show him he belongs to this elusive idea of masculinity—he is fully man.
Probably one of the number one things guys my age are frantically pursuing is mentors. We are looking for wise men to show us the way, to equip us and believe we can succeed. Why are we looking? I think the answer may be that we are looking for what we were meant to get from our dads.
But Fathers are not the only culprits.
While sitting in the office of a pastor, he shared with me the story of a frantic mother looking for answers.
“I don’t understand, Pastor.” The woman was frantic and emotional, because her son told her he thinks he is gay. “I don’t understand where this came from, or what we could have done differently. We had him in church all the time. We sent him to all the retreats. We made sure he didn’t date or get involved with pornography.”
“Maybe that’s where it came from.”
Overbearing mothers can devastate their children. I have often had to draw lines and boundaries with my own “concerned” mom. I understand that mothers are caring and worrisome. In the words of my own mother, “It’s in our nature.” Well, it also in my nature to feel like less of a man when my metaphorical balls are chopped off.
Men cannot be pampered all the time. We need to mature and learn how to stand on our own two feet. We need to get out, scrape a knee, fail in a business venture, live life and learn. Call it a narrow perspective, but men need to learn to be strong. It is part of what distinguishes a man from a woman… besides anatomy. We are called to be strong and courageous. How can we possibly do that if weight is never forced upon us? Or run into “battles” of our “not-so-terrifying,” 21st Century world, when a sword has never been put in our hands?
* * * * * * *
Before I conclude this chapter, I need to say something, and unfortunately, I could not come up with a quirky way of including it smoothly in this chapter, however it is something that contributes to homosexuality, and it is a problem that has to be addressed. The final factor in someone struggling with same-gender attraction is how the church responds to sexuality and homosexuality, and it is summarized in one word—taboo.
Taboo: proscribed as improper or unacceptable.
While growing up in the church, sex was rarely talked about, but when it was, it was always spoken about in a negative light. It was something gross and twisted—something that “nonbelievers” did.
From a young age, boys are taught to avoid vaginas like the plague, while girls are taught to cover every crevice that might remotely trigger a lustful thought in her “brother.”
But the fact of the matter is, humans are sexual beings. The very first command before “do not lie” or even “do not have any other gods” was “Be fruitful and multiply!” AKA “Have sex!”
Let me give you proof that sex is too taboo and viewed through a distorted lenses within the church. When I said the word “sex” walls in your heart rose, and when I said the word “vagina” offense swelled. Neither sex nor vaginas, neither penises nor breasts are dirty or wrong. In fact, they were crafted by God, believe it or not, and after He molded them, He said, “It is very good!”
But as hormones rage, and the natural process of the human body continues, the church would prefer it if we just keep pretending our kids are in Sunday school, without a “dirty thought running through their little brain.” But what does this communicate to little Tommy, taught about how sex is wrong with a pastel Noah’s Ark mural plastered on the wall?
Girls are a bad.
So what does he do with his progressing sexuality? It turns towards men.
To this day, even though my conscious has grown numb to gay pornography, I find it so “wrong and wicked” to look at straight pornography? Why is that? Sex is evil.
Funny story time, incorporating a serious lesson.
I went to a Bible school immediately after high school (as shared in Chapter 1). In this school, students were kicked out for any form of PDA (Public Display of Affection, but Christians are very conscious of that acronym). The director even shared a story of how a guy was removed from the school because he caressed a girl’s ear.
One day, during one of our banquets, a lively song was playing. My friend Alyssa and I got up to dance. We were reprimanded. To kind of make fun of the situation, we “danced” with each other, but now standing four feet away from each other, not touching at all. We were reprimanded again. Then a guy friend of mine jumped in, spun me around and started dancing with me. No questions about our motives were made.
A little bit distorted? I think so.
But, if you are lucky, your church will talk about sex, in a special seminar, when you are a senior in high school, with parent permission of course. A topic that will never be spoken about within the confines of the “four walls” is homosexuality, and the vow of silence regarding this topic is devastating.
Without a word uttered, what does that communicate to a girl or boy wrestling with thoughts of same-gender attraction?
They are the only ones. They will not be accepted. It is the worst of sins.
Unable to process, they let the thoughts and feelings boil inside. Where will they go for answers? Where will they turn for comfort?
I guarantee you, it will not be the elder board.
* * * * * * *
With the whole “Duck Dynasty” nonsense, I heard a wonderful response from a professed lesbian. She spoke of true tolerance, how we as tolerant people, need to tolerate other people’s beliefs. It is true tolerance to say, “Mr Duck man, you are entitled to your opinion about homosexuality.” That, my friend, is true tolerance.
From there she attempted to explain why Phil Robertson believes the way he does. It was in that statement a revealing remark was made. “The fact of the matter is, we don’t know where homosexuality comes from. I was raised in the church like Mr. Robertson. My homosexuality could simply come from the fact that every human is sinful, and we each have our ‘sin’ to deal with, but we don’t know.”
This is a really important factor. In fact, if all the other causes had to have a source, I would say it comes back to this tree letter word, infamous within the church. You may not be a Christian. If you are not one, props to you for getting through this blog. But regardless of your worldview, every human being has to come to terms with this prevalent fact—the world is broken. If that were not the case, homicide would not happen, kids would not be raped, genocide would not occur. But it does. Why? The world is broken, and that brokenness, I believe, comes from sin.
A wonderful mentor asked me a question the other day, regarding the blog. “Don’t you think that some people just struggle with homosexuality, that it’s the ‘button’ Satan pushes.”
I think we can all agree with that sentiment there there is that one thing, that habit we just cannot kick, that temptation that is always there. Could homosexuality simply be another symptom of the depravity of man?
Maybe. Possibly. Likely.
However, I do not view “sin,” as we have come to term it, as the root issue. I believe sin is simply what was stated just two sentences prior—a symptom.
Let me ask you a question: if a child had a fever and was covered in rashes, how effective would it be to cover the rashes and put ice on the forehead? If that was the only advice you received at a pediatrician, run. The fever and rashes are only symptoms of a greater issue. A good doctor will start doing tests to see what is going on internally, the root, and that is what he will treat. Not the rashes, not the fever. He is after the cause.
Jesus came to seek and save the lost, to be the “Great Physician.” He said, “I did not come for the holy, but sinners. The well do not need a doctor, the sick do.”
Jesus came for the root—Sin (Capital S). He did not come for your habits or failures. He came for the root, and do you know what that elixir of the soul was? Unconditional love.
Our hearts are cracked and bleeding. We are hurting inside, and “hurt people, hurt people,” as the saying goes. Moments of healing did not come through endless counseling sessions; they did not come through moral discipline. They came when I tasted that sweet love or a shadow of it in those around me.
I sampled God’s love when a leader refused to fire me in spite of my failures.
Traces of that love, lingered on the pallet of my soul when a friend held me and cried with me as I shared all my “baggage.”
A scent drifted from eternity into the temporal when a Pastor asked, “What do you want to be? You’ll be loved to matter what.”
But more than mere samples, scents and tastings occurred when I heard God Himself said, “Stop worrying about the sin or how to behave. Your only concern is getting to know me. I’ll take care of the rest.”
The problem with unconditional love, the thing Christians have termed agape (based off the Greeks), is that it cannot have conditions. “But what about sin? What about righteousness? If we take off the all restrictions, what’s to stop people from sinning?” The very thing you will not allow.
It is a scary thing to remove all restrictions, all guidlines, all clauses, and simply say, “You’re loved… no matter what.” It is a leap of faith, but God is not after “caging the beast,” He wants to transform it. No laws or guidelines are needed if the character of the creature is good.
We, as Christians, need to believe that this was the aim of Christ, not renewed morality wrapped up in one commance. Otherwise, we are going to continue to get wrapped up in behavioral management, which simply paints a clown smile on an already rotting corpse.
We have to believe it is the remedy.
Which brings us to our final question—Is homosexuality something to be cured?
Lets talk about that next.