This is the conclusion of a three-part series on my particular attractions to other guys. Check out my previous posts on the what and the when of my same-sex attraction as I now dive into the why . . .
“So, why are you attracted to men? Were you born that way, or did it develop over time?”
I get this question a lot. It’s a complicated question; sexuality is complicated.
But I never hesitate in answering this question anymore: “For me, it’s some combination of nature and nurture. Not one over the other, but both, together.”
Was I born gay? Yes. And no.
In all seriousness, I’ve had at least a decade to process my sexuality, why certain men “do it” for me and why others do not. I’ve already written about what kinds of guys I’m attracted to and my cycles of physical and emotional same-sex attraction.
But am I sexually attracted to men?
The answer has become so clear over the last couple years: no. I have never wanted to have sex with another man. Or a woman, for that matter. But that probably goes without saying.
So, why am I only physically and emotionally attracted to other guys but not sexually?
To be honest, I’m not completely sure.
When men and women talk about their puberty years and suddenly wanting to have sex, I have no idea what they’re talking about. I still don’t get it decades beyond puberty.
I have some kind of sex drive, certainly. I get aroused. I masturbate. There is something sexual swirling inside of me.
But have I ever wanted to insert my penis into any sort of orifice? No. Nope. Never.
The fact that I do not crave sex with another man, at all, is my biggest hangup with exclusively using the “gay” identifier. Being a gay man is more than desiring sex with another man, of course, but it’s also a big part of it and one that I do not share in common with seemingly the vast majority.
That being said, I also don’t shy away from the gay identifier since I feel way more “gay” than “straight.” It’s not even close.
I was never abused as a kid, but I could rattle off some other possible nurture reasons why my sexuality is the way it is.
Sex was never brought up when I was a kid, and its foreignness always had more of a fear attached to it than the curiosity most experience.
Sex seemed — and is — scary.
I’ve also wrestled with body image since I was a pale, acne-clad youngster. Being naked by myself was so horrifying that I’d use the bathroom in the dark so I didn’t have to see myself in the mirror. The idea of getting naked with another human has not appealed whatsoever. To then do sexual things with said fellow naked person — no, no, no.
I don’t pretend to be some super Christian immune to sexual temptation. But in this regard, with three-plus decades of nurture, I honestly can’t see a scenario where I’d willingly partake in gay sex.
Perhaps this is premature of me to say, considering I’ve never had sex, but I get the sense that sex with another man, if I were to “try it,” would feel really empty. I’ve listened to a lot of stories with heart-swells that ring true for me: sex, and then an unfilled desire for something more.
I desire intimacy with men, certainly. I desire shared vulnerability with men and deep, genuine friendships with men.
Sex to me seems like shortchanging the entire process. A cheat code that wouldn’t work.
I haven’t had sex to be certain of this, but I’ve cuddled with men and still felt that shortchanged feeling. A vortex of physical touch and emotional energy that only leaves me longing for more.
Beyond this issue of sex and touch, beyond forces of nature and nurture, I think I’ve started figuring out why my sexuality is the way it is.
In essence, I want what I’m not. I desire and aspire toward the better versions of myself — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I want to be better looking, I want to be confident, I want to be funny and respectable and wise.
I want what I feel I’m not, and I see it in men around me. At my worst, I envy them and lust after them; at my best, I want to be sharpened by a “better” man as I sharpen him with my “better” qualities, too.
Opposites attract, and I’ve seen the truth of that in my desiring of “the other.” For most people, it’s growing up as a boy pining for that cute girl or a girl sliding notes to the cute boy.
For me, it’s been growing up as the boy who never felt he measured up to the other boys, a man who still feels this lingering feeling he doesn’t measure up to the other men, isn’t enough. Someone who always connected more seamlessly with the girls because they were on his emotional wavelength.
Girls were safe. Boys were not.
Boys were risky — they still are — and oh the thrill to this risk. The thrill of chasing what I’m not in hopes of filling what I lack.
At various junctures, this male pursuit has been obsessive, maddening, defeating, and utterly unhealthy.
But here’s the thing I need to say, something that maybe you’re already screaming at your screens: I am a man. I am such a man.
I don’t always feel like one — I often feel a decade behind all the other men my age and where I “should” be — but I’d be foolish not to listen to the dozens of loved ones who look me in the eye and tell me with confidence, again and again, that I am a man. That I’m even more of a man than many others because I am grappling with my brokenness rather than pretending it doesn’t exist.
If only I’ll step out with faith and claim my masculinity. Day after day after day.
Ultimately, sexuality is a complicated algorithm. Who knows why any of us come out of the oven the way we do?
Some of us are completely attracted to the opposite sex and not at all to the same one; some vice versa; some literally half and half; some 90% one way and 10% the other; some only physically to one sex and emotionally to the other; some sexually to all and some, like me, sexually to none.
At the end of the day, I see sexuality with all its intricacies as representative of this mosaic of humanity.
Learning more about my own sexuality — the what, the when, the why — and how I differ from others has encouraged me to ask more questions and listen more closely to stories different from my own.
And this rings true not just in areas of sexuality. But in all issues. Issues of gender identity. Racial issues.
For as much as I’ve learned these last few years, I still know nothing. I’m only scratching the surface of understanding.
It’s natural to assume all other people must be oriented (for lack of a better word) just like us, in all areas of life, sexually or otherwise. I’m guilty of this.
I judge others for not behaving the way I would behave, sexually or otherwise.
Tangent, but it’s why I love the Enneagram so much: a system of learning how other people are motivated by things different from — and also similar to — me. The Enneagram has allowed me to better see life through another’s eyes.
Maybe this is such an obvious thing to say, but gosh it’s taken me 30+ years to figure out: we are not all wired the same way. From sexuality to infinity and beyond.
We are incredibly dynamic creatures. Beautifully diverse in a zillion ways and broken in at least that many ways, too.
I want to be done with demanding certain labels for another soul’s existence. Done with giving quick and easy prescriptions for mind-bogglingly complex issues.
Nature, nurture — who cares?
Let’s grab some coffee and listen to each other and be human together and exchange some puzzle pieces of understanding as we all figure out this thing called life.
Do you ever ponder the “nature/nurture” question regarding your sexuality? What is one revelation you’ve learned about sexuality in hearing someone else’s story?