While the majority of voices here are from single and celibate same-sex attracted Christians, it remains important to maintain heterosexual marriage as a viable vocation for some who are attracted to the same sex. As Ron Belgau notes, the narrative of orientation change has often been over-sold in Christian circles. However, as a response, many have dismissed heterosexual marriage as a impossibility for any same-sex attracted Christians (be those attractions closer the gay or bi portion of the spectrum). In the face of these extremes, we have sought to offer a more nuanced approach to the possibility of heterosexual marriage.
This post provides a roundup of some of the ideas writers at Spiritual Friendship have shared as we have reflected on what is sometimes known as mixed-orientation marriage (MoM).
Kyle Keating shares some of his own story of marriage, arguing that, in between the dual narratives of marriage as orientation change and marriage as a betrayal of your true self, there is a place for healthy heterosexual relationships that value honesty and communication. He also pushes back a bit on the language of “mixed-orientation marriage”, especially when it’s used condescendingly instead of descriptively.
Melinda Selmys offers her thoughts on the distinction between orientation-change and mixed-orientation marriage, saying that mixed-orientation marriage “opens up the possibility of creating a model for conjugal relationships between gay people and opposite sex partners that is positive, appealing and that retains everything that is really authentic and important about queer identities.” You can find more of her thoughts on marriage and a smattering of other topics in her two books: Sexual Authenticity and Sexual Authenticity: More Reflections.
Another story run by Christianity Today of a man in a mixed-orientation marriage displays the diversity of stories that fall under the blanket term of MoM as well as the critical question: “What does discipleship look like for me as a married man who experiences ongoing same-sex attractions?”
Additional insight can be found in the personal stories of writers like Mike Allen and Nate and Sara Collins, who have reflected on different aspects of their marriage. These stories help to illustrate that there is no single script that all couples will follow. (Mike also offered this clarification for those who thought his initial post offered a too pessimistic view of mixed orientation marriage.)
But amid this diversity of experience, what principles should guide same-sex attracted folks thinking about marriage? Surely it’s not appropriate to simply tell gay people to “just get married” as a way of avoiding the problem of single people in the church, as Chris Damian notes. Rather, we should consider good and bad reasons to get married, as well as clearly saying that heterosexual marriage is not the answer for all, or even most gay people. Finally, Kyle again offers his thoughts on the types of attraction needed for a healthy marriage.
While marriage is not the only vocation for same-sex attracted Christians, marriage can provide a viable and even flourishing context in which to live life coram deo. However,
Marriage is not an easy calling. Everyone called to marriage, regardless of their sexual attractions, must be willing to die to their own desires and expectations, in order to be transformed by their calling to marriage. This dying to self is not empty sacrifice, however: it is in the service of true love, a love which has the power to transform us so that we look more truly human (read: like Christ) than ever before.
Kyle Keating is a M.Div. candidate at Covenant Theological Seminary and teacher of Bible and Theology at a small Christian school in St. Louis, Missouri where he lives with his wonderful wife Christy. He can be followed on Twitter: @KyleAKeating.