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?
Thanks for such a vulnerable post!
I too have questioned that several times over. Whether it’s “nature or nurture” I feel like it’s something a God knew about me and knew would be a part of my life, either just on the earth or in the eternities.
Some people talk about the envy of other guys’ bodies or wanting to be like them as the *cause* of SSA. I resonate with that envy, but I don’t attribute that to the root “cause” of my sexuality.
I also have little interest in being sexually active with men, although I do have a sex drive. I crave the emotional and spiritual much more.
I’m able to believe that God made me gay, or that He knew this was a part of me from the beginning, but also believe in a traditional sexual ethic.
Thanks for sharing, Alex. I definitely see envy somewhere in the root of my SSA. Wouldn’t go so far to say it’s the complete cause, but it’s probably a good portion.
Way back in the 20th century many ‘educated’ people thought that same sex sexual attraction was trauma based. Anything from mommy or daddy issues to molestation got named as the cause. Many uneducated people still believe that we were all molested by same sex pedophiles.
I think it’s all so much rubbish.
As my very good straight friend says, “it is what it is”. In the end it does not matter really. It took me 50 years to figure that out. I’m still gonna be gay whether God made me this way or Mom and Dad made me this way or some pedo did it to me. There is nothing I can do about it. There isn’t a cure and I’m not sure it needs to be cured. I might consider a vaccination if it was available (:^))), but at 62, it really won’t change much. And, by the way, there are people that think it’s caused by a virus.
In talking to others, what I believe is that, for whatever the reason, there is an entire spectrum of sexual attraction among humanity. Chalk it up to broken flesh or bad hormones in utero or whatever. It’s the way it’s always been. I don’t expect it to change.
Grateful for your perspective as someone in his 60s. Means a lot to have older folks in our community! I love the diversity here.
I relate to this so much Tom. I’m the same as you, completely attracted to men yet have never desired to have sex with them. Its very strange. And yeah, when one asks why it is that way, I’m not sure. Could be nature or nurture. I definitely agree that I’m attracted to men that have something that I lack as well, but that’s something that drives my lust rather than something that is behind my SSA. I have such a longing to be loved and accepted by men, sex isn’t even one of the main driving forces behind it. It goes much deeper than that. Some people seem to have the oversimplified view that homosexuality is basically just like heterosexuality but in reverse. But I feel its so much more complex and less black and white than that.
Heterosexuality in reverse…haven’t ever heard it put that way. I imagine heterosexuality is also filled with all sorts of sub-categories and differing desires. I always enjoy hearing a story I’ve never heard before. What a complex humanity we are. Encouraged that you could relate with much of my experience, Eugene. Helps me feel not as isolated in this sub-journey of sub-journeys.
Yeah, same here Tom. Sometimes I’ll talk to some Side B guys and they talk about how they really desperately want to have sex with a guy and I’m never sure what to say because I simply can’t relate to it. But yeah I definitely don’t think homosexuality is heterosexuality in reverse, I feel like there are many complex layers to it. Because we are drawn to things we already posess while straights are drawn to something different. But yeah, sexuality is complicated.
It’s so interesting that each of us has their own unique struggles with SSA!
I’ve read your past blog posts about your experiences with other guys in the nude and bro cuddling. I admire your ability to do these things and not want it to turn into sex. For me, I have to set boundaries for myself. I stopped going into the locker room at the gym because it was so triggering for me. Maybe it won’t always be this way…but for now I have to keep guardrails up to protect my heart and my mind.
Yeah, it is weird that even though we all do have the same struggle it can still be a different experience for everyone to one degree or another. And yeah, for me those experiences I’ve had do help me have a degree of intimacy with men without it being sexual but its definitely not for everyone. What can be perfectly platonic affection for one person can be hugely sexual for another.
Your openness and honesty has really challenged me. There is a lot to think over here.
Think away, Mark! Glad this post could challenge you.
In my work I find it like this: some born with gay attraction, others not, but develop gay sexual attraction due to prepubertal sexual abuse, while others a combination! For me, it’s the first — a temptation I’ve had for as long as I can remember.
It’s easier for the second group in therapy as their same sex attractions can even disappear. Not so for the first group for whom it becomes a cross to bear. And almost hopeless for the third group who develop comorbid mental disorders and need years of therapy.
Sex is not penis in an orifice, then orgasm (even the hand can become an orifice). It’s to do with the mystical one flesh union God created. But, it takes two whole persons (male & female) to unite emotionally and then physically giving to each other (not taking) culminating in sex and orgasm. The former is learned and developed; the latter just happens (too easily for some, esp. those who masturbate too much and premature ejaculation is so problematic in those marriages).
Tom, you ask “who cares?”. I would ask: God, what is reality for these in this life? Some so broken; others less so. But that’s why you came Jesus: to make things right. Such hope!
yeah, my answer to that question at this point is the same. The way I figure it, there is probably a biological component that is triggered by environmental factors, but the combo of the 2 is never the same in any 2 people.
question, and I feel like you have probably looked into it. But do you feel like you identify at all with the asexual experience?
I haven’t done enough research into asexuality or listened to enough personal stories, but I definitely feel somewhere on that spectrum. Maybe not all the way in one direction, but somewhere.
honestly, info provided by the asexual community has helped me over the years disect the different types of attraction: aesthetic, sensual, sexual, etc. And a lot of what you described sounds a lot like what I’ve read by different people on the asexual spectrum
Great post (as always)! I’m envious of this lacking desire to have sex with a man! I’m the opposite, I have to daily fight these urges and longings to find a man, date, get married, and have sex. I know we are all different and struggle with different things, but I wish I could find sex with another man unappealing.
You bring up a good point about whether we are born same sex attracted or if this happens as a result of upbringing. To that I would say it’s probably a little bit of both. However, I want to make the argument that God did not create me to have same sex attraction, but rather by the sin nature each of us is born into, some of us are born same sex attracted.
Would love to know if there are other brothers struggling with desires for gay sex and thoughts on the nature vs. nurture argument for attraction.
Even at 62, the desire is still there. If the grocery store clerk or the barista smiles at me too long, I get a bit smitten. I can’t avoid running into men that I’m attracted to, so I just put up with it. I am at the point where I believe there is nothing wrong with admiring the beautiful men that God has created. I just have to be careful.
I’ve recently been contemplating at what point does my admiration for a man become lust.. sometimes it’s immediate….sometimes it develops overtime. I think I resonate with Tom, that often times there is a feature whether physical or social that I feel inadequate or insecure in that leads me to feeling this deep sense of attraction.
Everyday I try to surrender these feelings at the feet of Jesus! Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t, but isn’t that our two conflicting natures… one redeemed and one still sinful?
The flesh wants what it wants. It’s broken. Our spirits have been reborn however. We should be able to work with the Holy Spirit to keep the lust at bay, but every time, it’s a decision. Just remember, whatever we choose, the Holy Spirit does it with us. Being aware of that helps…at least I find it’s so. I would imagine that you are considerably younger than me and so it’s harder for you. I would hate to be twenty something in this present world. I do not envy you. Stay strong Brother.
I just turned 29, and it is hard and lonely at times.
Thank you for the reminder that we partner with the Holy Spirit when we say “Yes to God” and “No to Flesh”!
yeah brother, it is hard and lonely at times for sure. The sting and pain can be overwhelming at times, but I do believe there’s a special place in God’s gracious, kind heart for those who are lonely…and i have been encouraged many times with that thought. I trust the Lord to provide for you some friends who will stick closer than a brother…we need that (as i ask Him for that in my life too).
I’ll try and remember that next time it feels like the waves of loneliness are crashing over me.
Thank you for the encouragement about our Heavenly Father’s gracious and kind heart for this who are lonely.
I won’t repeat the comment I left, but you are not alone Landon. And if I’m understanding Tom and Eugene, they have sexual responses to the longing for connections with other guys.
Thanks Bluzhawk! 🙂
Thanks for being here, Landon. We all have various crosses to bear in this life, sexually or otherwise. Appreciate your vulnerability in sharing some of yours.
(I’ve been lurking for awhile, but I finally decided to drag myself from the shadows – although my profile pic is giving me fits)
I seriously could have written this entire thing! Like everything is 100% me, including why I love the Enneagram so much (2w3 – not a big fan of tritypes). And I almost starting crying at work because it hit so hard and so deeply. It’s nice to know that my subset of a subset isn’t as lonely as I thought it was!
That’s why I always find discussions with others about this topic to be frustrating. I’ve been wrestling with the idea of a committed, celibate relationship with another guy recently, but when I bring up the subject to someone else, their first thought is “won’t your need for sex get in the way?” It’s hard for someone sexual to understand that I have not, do not currently, and most likely will never feel sexual attraction to another person. Sometimes I feel like a bird talking to fish! But thankfully the Lord gives grace to all of us in our weaknesses.
Glad this post could finally beckon you from the shadows! It’s good to have you with us, Alexei. Thanks for sharing your perspective. I’ve got a lot of awesome Twos in my life. In many ways I aspire to be more like one.
Hope you’ll continue to comment here! Lots of birds and fish to go around, whoever you like talking to best.
I really appreciate you sharing your story Tom because it helps me better understand my own situation. It’s interesting how we can all be a part of the same sub-category yet still all be so different. I’m actually almost the opposite from you in many ways. My attraction to the same sex is almost exclusively sexual. Emotional connection will completely turn off that switch. Never had any desire to be in a relationship with a man. However I find myself emotionally drawn to the opposite sex and relationships formed with women feel natural.
Why and how is my form of SSA so different from yours? I’ve always considered my case to be nearly totally natural but who knows. The one part of your story that feels very familiar to me is the need to be accepted by men, especially when I was at a point in my life where I did not feel connected to my own masculinity. I feel that less now that I’ve gotten older. I don’t necessarily feel much more masculine, I just frankly don’t much care how other men perceive my masculinity anymore. I believe that shift has altered my sexuality slightly… but if I’m being honest at 31 I’m still just figuring all this out as I go along.
You’re in good company, Eddy, as far as figuring all this out as we go! Thanks for sharing your opposite but same story.
You gotta tell me this isn’t true: “For as much as I’ve learned these last few years, I still know nothing.” Maybe you haven’t figured it out fully but you, as well as the other guys who post, have figured out a lot. Before YOB, I thought I wasn’t like others at all in terms of ssa and being a Christian, I thought it was either-or. But reading others’ stories, I’ve come to realize that sexuality is no obstacle to being spiritually alive to God. The love and devotion to Jesus by those who post and comment is a massive encouragement that this path isn’t as lonely as it sometimes feels.
Maybe “nature vs nurture” isn’t that helpful. What if it’s more like the man born blind and the disciples wanting to know if he was born that way or because of sin, and Jesus’ answer was neither, he was there so that the glory of God could be seen in him. Maybe we just are so that Christ can be seen in us.
Sexuality always feels like I’m chasing something I’m missing that got screwed up growing up. And while I don’t want to actually be with another guy, I sure can fantasize and lust that I am. I used to think I was afraid to be with another guy, but time has shown that I choose to pass on the reality. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t make me asexual, more like screwed up that I long for things I don’t actually want to happen. I’m thankful that in whatever that is, there’s a way forward in Christ.
I like what you said about fantasy vs. actual desire. I’ve never been with a man, and so perhaps what I “want” is a fantasy… and if I ever did partake in it, my feelings on sex with a man might change?
I resonate with your comment: “The love and devotion to Jesus by those who post and comment is a massive encouragement that this path isn’t as lonely as it sometimes feels.”
I’m so thankful for the guys who are willing to share their stories and encouragement we have in Christ!
If what you believe to be true about God is that you’ll lose fellowship & life with Him having sex with guys, that loss is worse than anything that you get out of it. I’ve been with a few guys when younger, but it wasn’t the romance and dating you talk about, it was with strangers chasing things that had gone wrong. Fwiw, fantasy never fixes reality. The real deal are those guys you trust who point to Jesus.
Thanks friend! You are so right, “Fantasy never fixes reality”, no matter what I think I might gain in my imagination won’t fix the brokenness and loneliness I feel now. I absolutely believe that no experience on this earth is worth forsaking my relationship with Christ! “For better is one day in His courts and better is one day in His house….than thousands elsewhere”
Praying for all of us in this battle!
I appreciate that affirmation that we’ve figured out a lot. Didn’t mean to come across as *totally* self-deprecating. I just mean to say that there’s always so much more to learn, and I always want to remain humble that there’s another story out there I’ve never heard. And I need to listen and hear it.
Hey, you can only let things go to God when you’ve been humbled by the journey. fwiw you’re like the perfect guy to lead YOB.
Aw, that means a lot. Thanks, brother.
I second that motion about Tom being the perfect guy to lead YOB!
Thank you for your honesty, Tom. I really agree with the point you made to tie everything together. Namely, people are just people. One doesn’t necessarily need to categorize another in order to listen to, understand, and support them.
Whether it’s nature or nurture: ¯_(ツ)_/¯ . Based off many of the classes I took in undergrad, I’d say both.
One thing I’ve learned from other people’s stories is definitely that sexuality is much more complicated than gay or straight. Your case is a great example of the complexities that many people experience. I wonder if 100% straight people think sexuality is complex, too? Or maybe they think it’s as easy and simple as a, b, c.
I often wonder about straight perspectives on sexuality and how nuanced and diverse it is. I don’t blame anyone for thinking it’s as easy/simple as ABC, as I’d probably think the same way.
haha yeah I’d have to agree. Certainly cannot blame anyone. But it’d be interesting to hear
So. Much. Resonance.
I have also scratched my head on the nature/nurture side of things. There are certainly things I can point to from childhood that could have influenced my sexuality, but I also come back to the answer “So what?” Regardless of how my sexuality came to be, I am left with the task of figuring out how to walk before God in holiness with it.
One revelation from another person’s story you say? How about that you were the first person I heard put into words the idea that I could be attracted to other men without wanting to have sex with them. You are probably the closest person I have found who has described how their attractions play out.
99% of the time, when it comes to my own sexuality I think men are pretty, and I want to touch them, but I don’t want to touch them that far. Only rarely has that desire been there, and never strongly. I found my sexuality played out similar to yours, in “admiration of the male body… Never a sexual thought accompanying.” Only instead of “never,” for me it would read “very rarely.”
Wow, I was the first huh? That’s humbling. Glad I could put that into words for you (and me). This whole concept of same-sex attraction but not sexual same-sex attraction is still new to me, even. Such a simple yet profound concept as I put more and more words to it, both publicly in digital content and in my own daily processing. Thanks for sharing your side of things, Ben!
This is a really thought-provoking post, thanks Tom! I have found with the nature/nurture question that ultimately, I don’t need to know. Neither one, nor a combination of the two, would actually change my beliefs about what is right and wrong. If the answer appears one day, that would be cool to know, but it doesn’t actually change anything.
Glad I could provoke some thoughts, Tam. I’m right there with you. Would love to know the exact ratio of nature and nurture just for curiosity sake, but other than that. Here we are. Onward.
The more posts and talks I see from this site, the more depressed I get that churches don’t dive into these territories. I was thinking about this earlier. I don’t know how y’all feel, but sometimes it feels like the church in general is stuck in a defense mentality that does want toacknowledge, or ignores these other issues under the umbrella of homosexuality. I began wondering today if the church in general had honest, open discussions on these topics, they wouldn’t feel the need to go to the LGBT community to feel understood and included. As cool as this site is, it’s a shame this kind of thing isn’t mainstream in the church. I recently accepted the fact I am gay, so bucking up the courage to talk about with my Christian friends has been difficult. I don’t know why, but it feels easier talking to another gay guy about it than someone from my old church. Sorry I’m off topic, but I wanted to leave my thoughts someplace and this is tge most comfortable place I could think of.
In relation to your post Thomas, I agree ss attractions can be a combination of nature and nurture. For me personally, it’s probably more of the former. Gay attractions came easily for my around my prepubescent years (if my memory is correct). I didn’t think much being attracted to guys until I was about 16. It just kinda came on its own, I think. Still weird as heck, though! XD
Brilliant post 🙂
I first started noticing I was gay when I was ten, seeing me movie ‘Clash of the Titans’ and the character Perseus in that skimpy outfit, and ‘Flash Gordon’ with Sam J Jones in leather underwear. I did my best to ignore it. Then my best friend committed suicide as we were starting puberty. Around that same time I started experimenting with gay sex. It sucked (no pun intended). When I had my stroke in 2012, I had no idea I was gay. Just a few years later, God showed me my friend’s grave, and for the first time I began to grieve for him. I realized that I never had, pretending to be okay when I wasn’t. God helped me realize I was having sex with men because I was missing him, not because I liked it. In fact I hated every aspect of it. Am I still attracted to men? Yes. Do I want to engage in sex with one? NO! This question comes up with the topic of gay marriage. I don’t like the way it was passed, but I can’t deny I would have married my friend if he had lived. Miss you David! Love you!