Young People Ask . . .
Why Do I Have These Feelings?
“I feel like a war is going on inside me. I don’t know where to turn.”—Bob.
MANY youths suffer similar mental torment. Unlike their peers who seem consumed with an interest in the opposite sex, they find themselves increasingly attracted to members of their own sex. For many, this is a devastating realization.
One woman said of her daughter: “She began to fail in health, was unable to eat or sleep, and became depressed and moody. She even attempted suicide.” The major cause of this distress? “She had Lesbian feelings.” For some it may not be easy to overcome such inclinations. “When I was a preteen,” confesses a young man we’ll call Mark, “I began having homosexual encounters with some of my friends. I continued this on into adolescence until I started studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. But sometimes I still had wrong feelings lingering inside me.”
What causes a youth to be attracted to his or her own sex? And what should a youth do if he or she is afflicted with such feelings?
Nature or Nurture?
Nowadays it is popular to say that homosexuals are born that way and that sexual orientation is unchangeable. Time magazine, for example, dramatically announced: “A new study suggests that there is a structural difference between the brains of homosexual and heterosexual men.” However, this study was made on the brains of men who had died of AIDS. Surely this does not prove the point!
Another theory involves hormones. Scientists observed that laboratory rats deprived of male hormones displayed “female” mating behaviors. They concluded that homosexuals may similarly be the victims of a biological mishap—an exposure to too many or too few male hormones before birth. Many scientists believe, though, that the odd behavior among rats is little more than a reflex—not really ‘homosexuality.’ Besides, humans are not rats. The Harvard Medical School Mental Health Letter argues: “It is extremely unlikely that prenatal hormones influence . . . human sexuality in the same direct way they organize reflexes involved in the mating behavior of rats.”
Much attention has also been given to genetic studies. Among homosexual males and females who have identical twins, about half of their twins are likewise homosexual. Since monozygotic [identical] twins are genetic duplicates, it seemed logical to conclude that some mysterious gene caused the deviation. However, note that half the twin siblings were not homosexual. If this trait were really genetically programmed, would not all the twins have it? True, genes and hormones may play some role. Even so, Scientific American reported the findings of some that the evidence “strongly suggests that environment contributes significantly to sexual orientation.”
Consider the environment of ancient Greece. Spurred on by the erotic stories about some of their mythological gods, the writings of philosophers such as Plato, and the culture of the gymnasium where youths performed unclad, homosexuality became the rage among the elite in the Greek-speaking world. According to the book Love in Ancient Greece, “it was considered shameful in Crete for a well-born boy not to have a [male] lover.” No mysterious gene or hormone caused such decadence. It flourished because Greek culture permitted, yes, encouraged it! This well illustrates how powerful a role environment can play.
No doubt the flood of pro-homosexual propaganda has done much to spread that viewpoint today. Allusions to homosexuality abound in TV, movies, music, and magazines. Cable television has given some youths easy access to hard-core pornography. Androgynous (unisex) styles of dress and grooming have become chic. Some experts also feel the antimale propaganda promoted by some feminists has contributed to the rise of lesbianism. Youths may also receive exposure to bad influences by association with classmates who openly advocate the homosexual life-style.—1 Corinthians 15:33.
Father and Son
Sometimes, faulty family environment also seems to play a major role, especially among males.a A father makes an important contribution to a child’s emotional development. (Ephesians 6:4) The book Making Your Family Life Happy says: “The influence of the father’s masculine qualities can make a vital contribution to the development of a rounded-out, balanced personality.”b A boy also needs acknowledgment, love, and approval from his father. (Compare Luke 3:22.) What can result when a father fails to give his child this needed attention? Emotional distress. Mental-health writer Joseph Nicolosi claims that male homosexuality is “almost always the result of problems in family relations, particularly between father and son.”
It may be that a mother unwittingly aggravates the situation by disparaging her husband or by being overly possessive of her son. One study of effeminate boys made this observation: “Some of the parents had wished for a girl instead of a boy and had subtly encouraged their young son to dress as a girl or dressed him that way.”
This is not to say that distorted sexual feelings can automatically be blamed on one’s parents. Many men who have grown up with possessive mothers and negligent, absent, or abusive fathers have still developed masculine personalities. Furthermore, not all with homosexual inclinations necessarily come from dysfunctional families. It does appear, though, that some boys are wounded in a very specific way. “As a consequence of his early sense of rejection by father . . . ,” claims Dr. Nicolosi, “the homosexual carries a sense of weakness and incompetence with regard to those attributes associated with masculinity, that is, power, assertion, and strength. He is attracted to masculine strength out of an unconscious striving toward his own masculinity.”
A young Christian man named Peter writes: “My father was an alcoholic and regularly beat my mother and, at times, us children. When I was 12 years old, he walked out. I keenly felt the lack of a father. I always longed for someone to fill the void I felt every day. When I finally developed a friendship with a fine Christian man who I thought could fill that need, I began to experience sexual feelings for him.”
Interestingly, significant numbers of homosexuals are victims of childhood molestation.c Such molestation can produce lasting physical and emotional damage. For some it may create what one writer called a “distorted sexual identity.” This evidently occurred in ancient Sodom, where young boys manifested a voracious appetite for perverted relations. (Genesis 19:4, 5) Clearly, they were a product of adult exploitation.
The Moral Issue
Scientists may never resolve exactly how much of a role nature and nurture play in same-sex attraction. But one thing is clear: All humans are born with the tendency to succumb to wrong thinking and inclinations.—Romans 3:23.
A youth who desires to please God must therefore conform to His moral standards and shun immoral behavior, though doing so may be agonizingly difficult. True, some individuals may very well be prone to homosexuality, just as some individuals are, according to the Bible, “prone to wrath.” (Titus 1:7) But the Bible still condemns displays of unrighteous anger. (Ephesians 4:31) Similarly, a Christian cannot excuse immoral behavior by saying he was ‘born that way.’ Child molesters invoke the same pathetic excuse when they say their craving for children is “innate.” But can anyone deny that their sexual appetite is perverted? So is the desire for someone of the same sex.
Youths who find themselves attracted to the same sex must therefore avoid giving in to their feelings. Why, though, does the Bible so pointedly condemn homosexuality? Is that life-style really sick and perverted? If so, what can a youth do to steer clear of it? These questions will be discussed in a future issue of Awake!
a Relatively little research has been done on the development of female homosexuality. No doubt, though, family influences also play a role therein.
b Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
c Child exploitation was evidently a factor in the growth of homosexuality in ancient Greece. The older seducers of young boys were commonly referred to as “wolves”—the “symbol of greediness and audacious fierceness.” Their young victims were called “lambs.”