Redeeming Our Sad Gay Situation: Understanding 1

 by Christopher Blake

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If You Know You're Homosexual


Homosexuals. Gays. Lesbians. Queers. Fags. Dykes. Butches. Fairies. Fruits. Femmes. Pansies. Homos. For some people these words roll off the tongue with ease, contempt, and loathing. And fear. 

For others who are homosexual, or who know a loved one who is, the words stab and scar with unimaginable force.

The fear for some people emanates principally from the mystery of human sexuality--a confusing, tumultuous, electrifying drive that can leave us breathless with wonder or plagued by guilt. Very simply, we are not quite sure of ourselves in this sex thing. The apostle Paul could have summed up eons of sexual tension with his admission in Romans 7:15: "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate."* 

In researching this article I've read hundreds of pages of articles, reports, surveys, anecdotes, and testimonials on the subject of homosexuality. I've received input, some of it unsolicited, from dozens of heterosexuals and homosexuals. Upon hearing that we're tackling the subject, people have commented, "I wouldn't touch that one." And "Good luck! You'll need it!" I'm not certain they aren't right in their concern. 

This past summer's United States political conventions featured, at least obliquely, the topic of homosexuals, and much rhetoric and plotting and posturing were devoted to the "lavender scare" on the campaign trail. Newsweek screamed on its cover, "Gays Under Fire: What America Thinks." In that issue Morris Chapman, president-elect of the 15 million-member Southern Baptist Convention, was quoted as predicting that "in the 1990s homosexuality will be what the abortion issue has been in the l980s."7 Christianity Today featured an article headlined "Born Gay?" with the subhead "How politics have skewed the debate over the biological causes of homosexuality."8 The Washington Post referred to "17 million plus voting age homosexuals."9 

INSIGHT ran a groundbreaking series of three articles on homosexuality, written by Colin Cook. in 1976,10 Since then our most recent major article appeared in 1981, although through advice columns we've answered personal questions on the subject. 

It's time to talk again. It's time for awareness and understanding on the subject of homosexuality, and it's time healing, especially. 

The following are 12 starting points for understanding homosexuality. 12 conclusions before healing can begin. 

1. There's a difference between being a homosexual
and practicing 'homosexuality. 

Understanding this difference is crucial in determining our Christian response to homosexuals, As Letha Dawson Scanzoni writes in The Other Side, homosexuals belong to "that minority of persons who find themselves romantically attracted, through no conscious decision of their own. to someone of the same sex. Their orientation is homosexual. To speak of a homosexual orientation is to speak of a way of being and feeling--whether or not those feelings are ever translated into sexual acts."11 

Other words used to describe this orientation are "inclination," "inversion," "desires," and "outlook." All of these are apart from actions or behavior. "It's like telling me I can't have green eyes," one homosexual says. "The color of my eyes is simply a natural part of me. Oh, I could cover them up for a while, wear blue or brown contacts, but that wouldn't change the reality. My eyes are green, and my sexual orientation is gay." 

The repeated theme one hears from homosexuals is this: "From my earliest memories, I always knew I was different." Their secret crushes and sexual arousals focus on persons of the same sex, and they often felt confused and trapped by their feelings. 

I talked with Larry, a homosexual who told me that to him the thought of sex between a male and a female was just as disgusting as is the thought to me of sex between two males. That perspective astounded me. I'd never considered it before (maybe you hadn't either). 

2. Nobody chooses to be homosexual. 

People may choose to engage in or not engage in homosexual acts, but sexual orientation, as defined earlier, is not a matter of choice. In this respect the term sexual preference is a misnomer. 

The exact causes of homosexuality are unknown. Many single cause theories abound, but in general homosexuality is "likely to be the result of an in interaction of several different factors, including genetic, hormonal and environmental actors."12 

Recently much media attention has been focused on the findings of Dr. Simon LeVay, a neuroscientist at the Salk Institute of La Jolla, California."13 Dr. LeVay examined the brains of 41 cadavers, 19 of which belonged to homosexual men, and found that a cluster of neurons in the hypothalamus, which is believed to govern sexual activity. is on average smaller in homosexual men than in heterosexual men.14 

For centuries the "nature versus nurture" debate on the cause of homosexuality has fueled fires in science and society, and at first glance this discovery would appear to point to a genetic origin for homosexuality. But LeVay's work will do little to douse the flames until other questions are answered. As just one example, does the size of this cluster determine homosexuality, or does homosexuality determine its size? Nobody knows. Even LeVay admits his study leaves key questions unanswered.15 William Byrne, resident of psychiatry at Columbia University's College of Physicians and surgeons, comments: If you look at any one piece of that evidence, it is inconclusive. It's like trying to add up a hundred zeros so you can get one." Richard Nakamura of the Internal Institute of Mental Health echoes the majority of scientific opinion by concluding, "it will take a much larger effort to be convinced that there is a link between this structure and homosexuality."16 

Why is the origin of homosexuality such a charged topic? At the heart of the controversy is this: Is homosexuality a changeable condition or not? If the root causes are strictly genetic, the chances for change are comparable to changing a leopard's spots. If the environmental context caused the condition, then changing the "environment"--even if it's the paneling of a mind--is a process that can effect change. 

However, subscribing to an either/or approach can create overdeveloped conclusions. The genetics theory may lead some to believe that fate, or God's will, mandated the homosexual orientation. This in turn could he interpreted to mean that nothing substantive can be (or should be) done about it. 

The environmental theory can leave parents of homosexuals having great sighs of remorse. Maybe I was a dominant or binding mother. Maybe I was a harsh or distant father. Maybe I didn't buy the right brand of breakfast cereal. The guilt index can rocket through the roof. 

Moreover, homosexuals themselves may grapple with oppressive guilt over their part in their sexual orientation. In that sense, however, nature versus nurture becomes a moot question. Whether a person is born with the orientation or it develops as a result of his or her upbringing or it's a complex combination of both (which is most likely), it is not a matter of choice. 

A child chooses neither how she is born nor how he is raised. We shouldn't hold a person responsible for her or his sexual orientation any more than we hold a person responsible for skin color (nature) or how a preschooler is dressed (nurture). Blaming the homosexual for his or her sexual orientation is both wrong-spirited and wrong.

3. "How many people are homosexual?" is widely disputed. 

The Washington Times says "10 percent of American men are homosexual and 5 percent of women are lesbian (Nov. 19, 1991). USA Today refers to 25 million gay men and lesbians (Nov, 13, 1991), based on 250 million population in the United States. The American Psychological Association claims that homosexuality is "an orientation found consistently in about 10 percent of the male population and approximately 5 percent of the female population."17 The famous figure of 10 percent is often cited when referring to numbers of homosexuals in the United States. Where does this figure originate? 

The figure comes from a study conducted in the 1940s. In 1948 Dr. Alfred Kinsey and others published Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, in which they cited the 10 percent figure based on their findings. What is not generally acknowledged, however, is that their study was seriously flawed. 

  • Approximately 25 percent of the 5,300 individuals in the study were prison inmates who by the nature of their confinement couldn't have heterosexual sexual relations. Moreover, 44 percent of these inmates had had homosexual experiences while in prison.18 
  • Kinsey admitted that "several hundred male prostitutes" were used in his sample.19 
  • Because people responded to an ad to take part in the study, a "volunteer bias" was evident. "Research has shown that those responding to a study as intimate as the one Kinsey was doing would not be representative of the general population. In fact, the widely renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow pointed this out to Kinsey before his findings were published, but he refused to listen."20 

In addition, contrary to what is often reported, the study did not contend that 10 percent of the U.S. population was homosexual. Rather, Kinsey's conclusion was that "10 percent of White American males were 'more or less' exclusively homosexual for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 65. 

The statistic for females was 5 percent. The actual percentage of those thought to be exclusively homosexual for their entire lives was only 4 percent of men and 2 or 3 percent of women."21 This was all based on his allegedly representative sample of the population. 

Other studies have been recently conducted with different results. One study conducted between 1984 and 1987 by David Forman, senior staff scientist at the Radcliffe Infirmary (Oxford. England), found that only 1.7 percent of men in the sample had ever had homosexual intercourse.22 And a 1989 study conducted at the University of Chicago resulted in a figure "less than 1 percent exclusively homosexual."23 

What is "exclusively homosexual"? Kinsey developed the "Kinsey Scale of heterosexuality and Homosexuality," a scale that runs from 0 (zero) to 6. Category 0 includes all people who are exclusively heterosexual in experience and attraction. Category 6 represents those who are exclusively homosexual in experience and attraction. The remaining categories are in between, in differing degrees.24 

In one sense, knowing the most accurate figures possible matters a great deal. Understanding how many people are likely to experience a homosexual orientation makes us better able to respond to groups and to individuals. 

In another sense the numbers don't matter. Whether in this one country there are 25 million or 4 million homosexuals, as with any human beings, they all need and deserve our attention. 

4. Many gays are not gay about their sexual orientation. 

I wrestled with terminology in this article, i.e., Should I use the term gays to refer to both male and female homosexuals, or the politically correct terms gays and 1esbians? And should I call heterosexuals straight? No, I decided, too much is implied there. A heterosexual can be crooked in a thousand ways. 

Really, many gays aren't gay in the sense of carefree happiness; they can in many cases be characterized as frustrated, angry, alienated and depressed by their situation. (Of course, heterosexual people can be frustrated. angry, alienated, and depressed. too.)

Strict literalness may not be called for -- most Blacks aren't black, and Whites are not white. Still, the term gay in itself appears as a self-enclosed irony, an entombed oxymoron. Tim Stafford writes, "Over 15 years ago I started a column on love and sex for Campus Life, a Christian youth magazine. Among the letters I received was a steady stream from young people who felt sexually attracted to their own gender. Nobody could express more fear and despair. They wanted to be Christians yet feared they were damned."23

Homosexual men are six times more likely to have attempted suicide than heterosexual men. Studies also indicate that at least 25 percent of homosexual men and women are alcoholics (the national average is 7 percent).26 These statistics may say as much about heterosexuals as they do about homosexuals. Sick people in the "straight" community have long been bent on guaranteeing that life for homosexuals is a living hell. 

The religious community hasn't always helped in the understanding and healing process either. Pastors, ignorant as to the nature of homosexuality, write off their homosexual parishioners as basically bad people, destined to be eternally lost.27 Is it any great wonder that homosexuals lose hope and turn to suicide? 


  1. Bill Turque et al, "Gays Under Fire," Newsweek, Sept. 14, 1992.
  2. Joe Dallas, "Born Gay?" Christianity Today, June 22, 1992.
  3. Michael Isikoff, "Gays Mobilizing for Clinton as Rights Become an Issue," Washington Post. Sept. 28, 1992.
  4. Dec. 7, 1976; Dec. 14, 1976, Dec. 21, 1976.
  5. Letha Dawson Scanzoni, "Can Homosexuals Change?" The Other Side, special undated issue: Christianity and Homosexuality--A Discussion of Biblical and Ethical Issues," copyright 1990.
  6. Tineke Bodde, "Why Is My Child Gay?" a booklet published by the Federation of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Inc.
  7. See, for example, David Gelman et al, "Born or Bred?" Newsweek, Feb 24, 1992.
  8. Curt Suplee, "Brain May Determine Sexuality," Washington Post, Aug. 30, 1991. Note this cluster is the size of a grain of sand.
  9. Denise Grady, "The Brains of Gay Men," Discover, January 1992.
  10. In Dallas.
  11. Cited by Family Research Institute is reported in Joseph P. Gudel, "Homosexuality and Fiction," Christian Research Journal, Summer 1992.
  12. "The Ten Percent Solution, Part II," Peninsula, October/November 1991.
    Also see Judith A. Reisman and Edward W. Eichol, Kinsey, Sex, and Fad (Lafayette, La. Huntington House Publishers, 1990), p. 23. In Gudel.
  13. Alfred Kinsey et al., Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (Philadelphia: Saunders Company, 1948), p. 216. In Gudel.
  14. See Abraham Maslow and James M. Sakoda, "Volunteer Error in the Kinsey Study," Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, April 1952. In Gudel.
  15. See June M. Refinish, dir., The Kinsey Institute New Report on Sex (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990, p. 140.
  16. Reisman and Eichol, p. 194. In Gudel.
  17. Ibid., p. 195. In Gudel.
  18. Bodde, p. 2
  19. Tim Stafford, "Coming Out," Christianity Today, Aug. 18,1989.
  20. Sy Rogers and Alan Medinger, "Can Homosexuals Change?" Exodus Standard, Winter-Spring 1991. See also Paul Cameron, William L. Playfair, and Stephen Wellum, "The Homosexual Lifespan," Family Research Institute, Feb. 14, 1992.
  21. See Elvin Benton, "Adventists Face Homosexuality," Spectrum 12, No. 3 (1982); 34.

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