Written by Steven Liechty
I'm confused. Is it possible to love another person deeply and in all ways regardless of gender? I loved a woman in all ways. She died. Now I love a man in all ways, much to my surprise. Do I have to label myself "gay" or "straight?" Could I be somewhere in the middle on some sort of continuum?
Confused in the Middle
Dear Confused in the Middle,
You speak longingly of "some sort of continuum" of sexuality, which might have options besides "gay" or "straight," as if such a thing were only to be dreamt of in some utopian future ages hence. But the future is now, Confused! Or rather, the future began in 1948, when biologist and human sexuality researcher Alfred Kinsey published what became known as the Kinsey Scale. The Kinsey Scale maps sexual orientation onto a numerical range running from 0 for exclusively straight to 6 for exclusively gay, with 5 whole gradations in between.
Whatever the critiques to be made of the Kinsey Scale, its basic premise that sexual orientation exists along a continuum, rather than in two sharply defined categories, is widely accepted today. Which means, Confused, that as you seek to understand your newly-expanded sexual identity, you have a whole range of options available to you besides "gay" and "straight."
Perhaps, as you reflect on your feelings and delve into this brave new world, you'll decide that "bisexual" is the term that best captures your capacity to love "deeply and in all ways regardless of gender." Or maybe you'll land on "pansexual," "gender-blind," the winking "heteroflexible," or the umbrella term "queer." Or you might decide that your orientation has changed over time; you were gay then, and now you're straight. Perhaps you'll opt to embrace the glorious mystery of human sexuality by eschewing labels altogether.
Wherever this adventure leads you, and however you ultimately choose to identify, or not, remember that your most essential identity is not in question: "there is no longer Jew nor Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). However destabilizing this development may be to you, know that your orientation is not disorienting to God. Like the Psalmist, you too are "fearfully and wonderfully made," and nothing in your newfound capacity to love is a surprise to the God who has searched you and known you, who is acquainted with all your ways, who knit you together in your mother's womb (Psalm 139).
Bless you, and may you be a blessing,
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"Dear Theo" is written anonymously by three UCC ministers of different ages and backgrounds—one main writer and two respite writers. We welcome questions spanning all kinds of topics: from sexuality and relationships to church culture and conflict to mental health, family drama, ethical and moral dilemmas...and everything in between.