Not, but not not


“Being gay is not about sex.”

But it’s also not NOT about sex. I mean, I understand what people are trying to communicate when they say it’s not about sex, as Justin Lee did recently in Homosexuality: It’s Not What You Think:

So that’s what people mean when they say they’re “gay.”

It’s not about sex at all.

It’s about what you feel inside. It’s about how you relate to other people. It’s about who you’re attracted to—not just physically, but romantically and emotionally. It’s about who you could—or couldn’t—fall in love with.

So… right. There’s more to it than guys putting “their you-know-what in another man’s you-know-where.” I’ve heard so many straight people in my life (and especially ones who call themselves “Christians”) minimize or discount homosexuality in this way. And so I totally get wanting to clearly communicate that there’s more to it than that. (For a less christian-y rant on the same topic, see Being gay is not all about sex.)

But it might be going a bit too far to say it’s not about sex at all. I mean, sex has something to do with it. There’s an opposite mistake of thinking that sex isn’t any part of it. In a straight marriage, it’s fair to say that a good marriage isn’t all about the sex. But that doesn’t mean that sex doesn’t matter. Sex is a part of marriage; and it should be. A mysterious, wonderful, intense, delightful, part of the relationship. Not the whole, but an integral part.

For most of my life I’ve hated my sexuality, been ashamed of it. So much effort poured into denying it, minimizing it, hiding it, rejecting it. In some ways it’s been easy. My life has been – and still is – full of wonderful things. After 20 years of marriage, I still love my wife deeply; and she clearly loves me. Our kids are healthy, happy, quirky, funny, (blah, blah, blah – puke on the parental bragging). I enjoy my job; we have a beautiful home; etc. etc. And so with all of this, I SO want to tell myself that it shouldn’t matter, that it doesn’t matter, that I live without expressing my basic sexual identity.

But in the end, I think, it might matter.


  1. Sex is not just about release and pleasure. It’s about closeness, and love and feeling the deepest possible level of communion with another human being, which includes desire. That is what I most miss, what hurts most, and what my wife will never give me, because she cannot, is not able to. She’s a lesbian, and I’m straight.

    We were both virgins when we married, and for her, it was simply unthinkable 40 years ago to live as a lesbian, so she has lived most of her life in deep denial. This is not her fault, or mine. We were both doing our best, trying our best. But the result has been to deny us both sexual fulfillment, real desire, deep physical connection. Fortunately for us, we share many other things. We are indeed good friends. One good piece of psychological advice from the scientific advances in understanding of the last year is to cherish small pleasures, rather than search for big changes and pleasures. And in thinking about this, I realized that my wife and I work together very well as a team, and we both enjoy doing things for other people.

    But there isn’t a day goes by when I don’t long for more. I’ve just started psychotherapy with a new therapist. He started by encouraging me to look at other alternatives: an open marriage. I said that would work for either of us, being against our faith and ethics. I said that I was starting to find peace in abandoning hope of any change in our situation, and in accepting that since my wife knows how unhappy I’ve been, if she doesn’t offer me any sexual intimacy, it is because she cannot, she simply is not able to. Her desires are for her sex, not for me and my like. Or rather, her long struggles against her same sex attractions have killed all desire, made her totally asexual. But it’s devilishly hard to feel lovable and desirable when you are NOT desired. This is a very deep wound for me, and one that I cannot and don’t want to share too much with her, because it will only feed her guilt and self-hate.

    I pray every day for peace and plenitude: that there are still good things to look forward to in life, and good things for us both. But I struggle with a deep feeling that God led us both astray. I now find it very hard to trust in a loving and guiding God. What is God’s will for us? For you? Does He have a will that He can make known to us? If so, how? Or do we just do the best we can, trying not to hurt others, trying to love and respect them, and God, as a loving presence, goes with us, wherever we go, whatever we decide, in the terrifying freedom that he has given us?


    1. Thanks for sharing your own experience so openly – it obviously mirrors my own in many ways, except that I am the gay spouse. I especially appreciate the reminder to “cherish small pleasures.” Like you, my wife and I have lots to be thankful for and are compatible in so many ways. But also, like you, I think we both want to feel desired and lovable in a context that matches our orientation.


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