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Religious Tolerance logo

Definitions of the term "sexual orientation"

By religious and social conservatives

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Sexual orientation according to most religious conservatives:

Most Christian fundamentalists, evangelicals and other religious conservatives rarely use the term "sexual orientation" to refer to heterosexuals, bisexuals and homosexuals. They avoid the term for two main reasons:

bulletReason 1: They do not view homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality as related to sexual attraction towards another person. They define the words in terms of sexual behavior:
bulletA homosexual is a person who has recently engaged in sexual behavior with a person of the same sex. Thus a homosexual can become an ex-gay by deciding to remain celibate.
bulletA heterosexual is one who has engaged in sexual behavior only with a person or persons of the opposite sex. Alternately, a virgin is a heterosexual .
bulletA "bisexual." is a person who has had sex with both men and women. A bisexual can become an ex-gay by deciding to restrict their relationships with the opposite sex only. Many religious conservatives rarely use the term "bisexual."
bulletReason 2: The word "orientation" implies a fixed property  -- a factor that is a foundational part of a person's being that cannot be changed. The word implies something that is discovered, not chosen. Many Christian conservatives believe that homosexuality is chosen and changeable. They base this belief largely on Corinthians 6:9-11:

"Or know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with men, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye were washed, but ye were sanctified, but ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God." (Emphasis ours).

The implication is that once a person is "saved," persons with a bisexual or homosexual orientation change so that they have a heterosexual orientation. It is worth noting that many theologians believe that terms such as "effeminate" and "abusers of themselves with men" are a mistranslation.

Religious conservatives frequently prefer the terms:

bullet"Sexual preference" or "homosexual preference." That implies that gays and lesbians are really bisexuals. i.e. they are attracted by both men and women, but they have a "preference" for members of the same sex. Thus, they could all choose opposite-sex partners if they wished.
bullet"Sexual lifestyle" or "homosexual lifestyle."  That indicates that a homosexual orientation is not innate. It is a "lifestyle" selection, as in the choice of whether to marry or remain single, whether to get a job or be self-employed, whether to drive a car or ride a bicycle, whether to live in the city, suburbs or a rural area, etc.

Their preferred terms imply that homosexuals have chosen to be gay and that they can easily change at any time.

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A novel fundamentalist Christian definition of sexual orientation:

Fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians often assign unique meanings to commonly used words. A few influential fundamentalist Christian groups have taken this to an extreme by broadened their own definition of "sexual orientation" far beyond the three that other groups recognize.

They combined:

bulletThe three sexual orientations: heterosexuality, bisexuality & homosexuality;
bullet Two sexual identities, transsexuality and being transgender;
bulletA large number of paraphilias; 10 and
bulletSome criminal acts like prostitution and incest.

They define the whole bunch of over 30 terms -- mostly behaviors -- to be sexual orientations. This causes mass confusion and makes dialogue essentially impossible.

More details.

Site navigation:

 Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > Basic data > Orientation > here

Copyright © 2007 & 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2007-JUN-05
Latest update: 2009-MAR-12
Author: B.A. Robinson

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