For the past 16 years of my life, I have worked with men and women who desire to find change in their sexual orientation. The idea that someone can change their sexual desires/orientation is a controversial issue in the American culture. Even the Christian community is plagued by this question and confused partly because of misinformation about the issue.
The big question is whether homosexuality is genetic or not. Presently, there is no scientific evidence to date that proves that homosexuality is genetic. Dr. Neil Whitehead, biochemist and research scientist from New Zealand, did a 15-year-review of 10,000 scientific papers and publications on homosexuality. He found that there was no scientific evidence to state, for a fact, that homosexuality is innate. The best science can do is reveal a possibility that homosexuality may have some genetic components.
The perspective that there is a biological correlation with homosexuality grew tremendously in the 1990’s when three major scientific studies were released focusing on “proving” that homosexuality was genetic. These three studies included: Dr. Simon LeVay and the study of the INAH-3 in the hypothalamus, Dr. Richard Pillard and Michael Bailey’s twin study, and Dr. Gene Hamer and the Xq28 chromosome study.
When these studies were released, many media sources stated that the studies proved that homosexuality was genetic. I remember living in Chicago at the time and reading on the front page of the Chicago Tribune in 1993 “Gay Gene Found.” However, the authors of all of these studies stated that their research came to no such conclusions. Even the American Psychiatric Association states in their Fact Sheet on Sexual Orientation (2000): “There are no replicated scientific studies supporting any specific biological etiology for homosexuality”.
From a Christian perspective, all of life has been affected by the impact of sin, including our biology. Romans 3:23 is clear that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Paul explains to Christians in the New Testament that they were dead in their trespasses and sins. He states that he, too, lived in the lust of his flesh and indulged in his fleshly desires but now he is made alive with Christ (Ephesians 2). Being made alive means living anew, turning from desires that are natural and normal and turning towards Christ, to have the fleshly desires replaced by the desires of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26).
Read the words of Paul in Galatians 5: “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” What is natural is for us to live out sinful behavior. This is one major reason why we need Christ. We cannot live out the behaviors of a spirit-filled life apart from His power.
At some point, homosexuality may be proven to be genetic. However, this should not change our position as Christians. We are to encourage one another to not follow our natural desires but walk in the Spirit. Those with same-sex attractions are not the only ones called to resist their natural, fleshly desires. Every believer has this calling. Many heterosexual individuals want to have sexual relations with someone other than their spouse. This is a normal temptation, but they are called to the same way of life of renouncing natural desires and turning their hearts and desires over to God and the work of the Spirit.
What about the desires, though? Even if a person changes their sexual behavior, can they ever really change their sexual desires? The answer is yes. My story includes experiencing a transformation of my sexual desires from being exclusively homosexual to being exclusively heterosexual. Kristin Johnson, Executive Director of OneByOne, experienced transformation in having bisexual desires to having exclusively heterosexual desires. The process took ten years for me. Some don’t experience complete change and still others may not experience much transformation at all. However, I do think this lack of transformation is not without explanation. I teach a workshop on this very issue where I bring up at least 10 issues that hinder transformation in a person’s life. I will share with you a couple of these issues.
For the past 16 years of ministry in this area, I have found that unforgiveness is a major block to healing. Many of the individuals I have ministered to have a difficult time identifying how they have been wounded in the past. One individual I worked with thought he had no unresolved issues with his father, but after two years of going through my support group, he realized that there were some issues still unaddressed and that he had not forgiven him. Honestly facing where he had been hurt was crucial for his sexual healing. Those who choose not to forgive those that have harmed them will not experience a change in sexual desires. The reason is that unforgiveness always results in a hardness of heart which suppresses normal healthy desires that end up being redirected into one’s sexual desires.
Another common issue that hinders transformation in a person’s life is unrealistic expectations. Often men will come to my support group thinking that after twenty weeks, they will be completely heterosexual. The very first night of the group, I inform them that they will not experience transformation in twenty weeks. I experienced a complete change over a period of ten years and this is only as I was willing to face all of the brokenness and wounding in my own heart. Living in an American culture where we demand immediate satisfaction and have little patience for the transformation process hinders the progress for many individuals. Change is never quick and is never easy. God values both time and process, whereas Americans typically value the end result and do not respect the time necessary to reach their goal.
For those who have unwanted same-sex attractions and find transformation difficult if not impossible, they need encouragement and support. All Christians battle the flesh and will do so until we are in eternity with Christ (Romans 7; Galatians 5:17). May the body of Christ grow to be a place where all believers are not shamed or given license for their sinful behaviors but given grace and support to walk in the Spirit for God’s glory.