Language seems to be a dominant conversation in LGBT+ Christian discourse, or at least in conservative subculture. I have some brief thoughts on the phrase “struggle with same-sex attraction”.
I respect an individual’s choice of language when it comes to sexuality descriptors. I do, however, have concerns when a non-straight person doesn’t use LGBT+ self-identifiers; not because I want to force them into a box, but because their reasons for not doing so usually include mistaken ideas about gay identity. So when someone says, “I struggle with same-sex attraction”, I will say they are “same-sex attracted” and not insist they call themselves gay, but I’m going to leave the verb “struggle” out of my future sentences. You might be asking why that matters. It matters because using this kind of language is a refusal to take ownership over actual sin in our lives.
To be fair, I do believe being non-straight comes with a whole host of struggles, but where is that suffering coming from? It usually comes from voices that are telling us we aren’t beloved children of God, that our lives are going to be filled with loneliness if we can’t get married, and that being gay is unfortunate at best and disgusting at worst. We live in a society where LGBT+ people suffer from familial rejection, homelessness, job discrimination, and a long litany of injustices. A queer life does include suffering and we shouldn’t minimize it, but we can recognize it without equating all forms of suffering as sinful.
But what about sexual sin struggles? I’ve talked before why sexuality is morally neutral and not a sin itself. Heck, it’s not even temptation itself. Every orientation encompasses good, bad, and neutral inclinations. Some of the most chaste people I know are LGBT+. If you woke up tomorrow as a straight person, I doubt you’re going to stop struggling with unwanted temptations.
You don’t struggle with same-sex attraction. You struggle with lust.
Saying you struggle with same-sex attraction because you lust is like saying you struggle with your pretty rad hairstyle because you happen to be vane about it. You’re taking a morally neutral component of yourself and saying that is the source of your sin. It’s a subtle and common form of homophobia when Christians take every common sinful experience and attribute it to being gay.
If it’s evident that heterosexual people are afflicted with sexual sin, then it frees us from shifting blame for our sins onto our sexual orientations. There is nothing unhealthy, maladjusted, or shameful about having a non-straight orientation. Jesus Christ calls us to refrain from looking at human beings as sexual objects. Stop blaming your morally neutral orientation. Start taking ownership over self-control, repent of internalized homophobia, go to counseling, and find yourself a non-homophobic spiritual director. Commit to prayer practices, accountability, and solid friendships.
Unlike conservative critics suggest, I’m not interested in a victim mentality. It’s interesting to me that this accusation is thrown around when we call the Church to corporately repent of unjust treatment to non-straight people, but then they go on to box us into victim language of affliction, suffering, and despair.
I was baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I am enabled to love other men and reject lust. Let’s allow God’s grace to transform us by taking ownership over our sins, using spiritually edifying language for queerness, and surrounding ourselves with robust community.