This past weekend I presented the workshop, "Homosexuality: Always God's Children" at the Credo retreat. We did not have time for the Q&A portion of the workshop, so the questions will be answered here during the next week or two.
Q. Could you explain gay identity more please? Is that those who embrace and act on it?
A. During Saturday's workshop, I clarified some differences within the realm of same-sex attraction. I mentioned three "layers," which I based on the work of Mark Yarhouse, who wrote a book called, Homosexuality and the Christian. The three tiers were:
1) Same-sex attraction: This is an experience I have of being interested in a person of the same sex. It might only happen one time or with one particular person.
2) Homosexual orientation: This is an experience I have of being continually attracted to those of the same sex.
3) Gay identity: This is a choice I make to identify myself by my same-sex attraction. It typically involves embracing the idea that if I do not act on my attractions, then I will not be happy.
Notice that the first two layers are experiences -- things that happen to me -- and the third, gay identity, is a choice I make.
Typically speaking, "gay identity" involves acting on one's same-sex attraction. It usually includes embracing some degree of the "gay lifestyle." That might include involvement in events like "gay pride" parades that proclaim one's identity as a same-sex attracted individual.
But as we discussed on Saturday, same-sex attraction is not one's identity. Who you are is not a "homosexual person." Who you are is a son or daughter of God, loved into existence and called to participate in God's love eternally.
The Church doesn't use terms like "gay" or "lesbian" because your sexual attraction is not your identity. The Church reminds us that it is "unfounded and demeaning" to assume that someone with same-sex attraction must compulsively engage in same-sex activity. Rather, the Church is clear that God has given every human person the gift of freedom (the ability to choose the good) and free will (the ability to choose between good or evil). Our attractions, inclinations and desires do not dictate our actions. Rather, we are given the gift of choosing how to respond.