The “Poverty” of Homosexual Orientation

In my last post I made the case that sexual “orientation” as defined by secular culture today is conceptually far removed from the dignity of the human person and is an abstract and generic form of data collection that does not even accurately describe one’s total experience of sexual attraction once we have found “the one”—our spouse—in marriage.

With this as prelude, now we can ask what all this means for homosexual “orientation.” Three terms are important to our discussion:

1. Sexual attraction: My experience of being attracted to specific sexual values.

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2. Gender identity: Who am “I” as a sexual being?

3. Sexual orientation: The generic “blueprint” of collected data based on my experience of sexual attraction.

Previously I posed the question “If we can have fifty-something flavors of gender identity [as on Facebook], why not more than the three categories describing sexual orientation?”

The answer is simple, yet disturbing: secular culture has inverted the truth about both gender identity and sexual orientation. How so? First, by taking that which is, by nature and according to God’s plan, “binary” (my identity as male or female) and distortedly expanding it beyond recognition. Second, by taking that which is, by nature and according to God’s plan, something specifically unique to every human person (so-called “orientation” toward specific sexual values) and reducing it to a depersonalized and effectively meaningless category (men, women, both).

Put another way, “identity” is no longer male or female—it can be anything you claim. But “orientation” has to remain almost binary—the only thing important about sexual attraction is whether I’m attracted to men, women, or both. Why does society favor this inversion of God’s plan for sexuality?

I believe it is for one crucial reason: it is one way to elevate the experience of disordered sexual attraction to a category considered in parallel with ordered sexual attraction. If people are viewed solely as being attracted only to men, women, or both, this enhances the “standing” of homosexuality alongside heterosexuality. Indeed, the only reason to really make reference to heterosexuality is when one is considering those disordered attractions that exist apart from male-female complementarity.

Therefore, the relatively recent creation of sexual “orientation” favors the standing of homosexuality (“gay” as a mere alternative to “straight”) and thus relativizes the true meaning and purpose of sexual attraction. Similarly, pluralizing “gender identity” relativizes and weakens the truth of our being created “male and female.” The end result is that both sexual identity disorders and sexual attraction disorders are being culturally “normalized.”

“Test-Driving” Homosexual Attraction
Picking up the analogy I employed before, wherein sexual attraction is likened to being whisked away magically to the driver’s seat of a car, already running, ready for me to “test-drive” or not,  the “poverty” of homosexual orientation is not only found in the data-collection “blueprint” of the various cars I am attracted to, but the real impoverishment is the car itself. That is, “orientation” itself is a reductive concept objectifying a person’s sexual values, but in the case of homosexual attraction, the very “vehicle” itself—the car attracting me to “test-drive”—is compromised, because the very sexual values I am being attracted to are not, in fact, complementary to my own.

Think of it like this: with same-sex attraction, the car that I’m sitting in to test-drive actually has square wheels. A car with square wheels is really not intended for driving. But that doesn’t mean that some folks may not go ahead and willingly put it in “drive” and try to go somewhere with it.

Again, sexual attraction is the “urge” or “drive” that is not willed, nor is it “love” itself. It comes unbidden upon us, and thus every time requires us to respond somehow to it. With same-sex attraction, the test-drive analogy makes it clear—not only is a square-wheeled car not meant for driving, it also can never be the vehicle in which we reach the intended destination of “the one”—the beloved spouse to whom all our experiences of sexual attraction are ultimately intended to lead us.

Homosexuality and “The One”
So, where has the precarious inversion of exploding gender identities and restricted “orientation” to “man-woman-both” ultimately led us? Or: What happens when a bunch of people unite in thinking that test-driving square-wheeled cars is not only possible but also gets them somewhere?

Enter so-called “same-sex marriage.”

Experience will demonstrate that sexual attraction is often severed from its intended spousal goal of union with “the one.” In doing so, such attractions are clearly disordered (think pornography, masturbation, fornication, adultery, sexual abuse, etc.). But what happens when a disordered sexual attraction like same-sex attraction continues to pursue “the one” despite the square-wheeled car?

You end up with the real havoc that arises from an unreal goal: trying to “marry” someone who cannot really “complete” me. You cannot give what you don’t already have, and you cannot receive that which you already are. It’s that simple. The illusion here is that my homosexual-orientation “blueprint” data collected after test-driving all these square-wheeled cars is justification for my claiming “the one” must exist among those persons whose sexual values I’m attracted to.

Or, surprise! Something else might happen that both shatters the concept of sexual “orientation” and makes clear its poverty and unreality: It is just barely possible, that, in the midst of all these test-driven square-wheelers, I could still find myself magically whisked away and sitting in the driver’s seat of a round-wheeled car after all, ready to put in gear! Even one such experience of “opposite-sex” attraction might well lead me genuinely to “the one” despite the overwhelming number of occasions my sexual attractions have been directed to the sexual values of someone of the same sex. And if that does happen, that means that sexual attraction really did do its job on that occasion after all, even if I still experience later impulses of same-sex attraction.

Illustrating this are the clear examples of people with same-sex attraction who still manage to experience sexual attraction to a person of the other sex, whom they go on to marry. Such examples are hard for secular culture to make sense of, based on its inverted definitions of identity and attraction. But these examples do make sense if we understand God’s real plan for sexual attraction and jettison the cultural falsehoods about it.

Furthermore, we can abandon the entire issue of “orientation change” as defined by culture. I don’t have to worry about whether the healing I seek for same-sex attraction enables me to predominantly experience attraction to the other sex, or not. Rather, I merely have to prepare at least for the possibility that I may really—concretely—encounter “the one” person of the other sex with whom spousal union is possible even in the midst of my experience of same-sex attraction.

Granted, this may be neither common nor possible for everyone experiencing same-sex attractions. Jesus Himself reminds us that not all are called to marriage in this life, and that’s quite alright. We must remind ourselves that finding “the one” in this life, as beautiful as it is, is not our ultimate and universal calling. The ultimate, universal, and eternal calling is to union not with “the one” but with “The One”—God Himself–Who beckons to us even more “spousally” than any human lover ever could. Who would not be willing to exchange the human poverty of sexual “orientation” for the eternal human-Divine complementarity we are called to experience with our Creator?

In this way, we all share the same eternal “orientation.” My (and your) ultimate orientation is “The One” Who bears the Name above all Names—Jesus Christ.


  • Jim Russell

    Jim Russell lives in St. Louis, Missouri. He writes on a variety of topics related to the Catholic faith, including natural law, liturgy, theology of the body, and sexuality. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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