Updated: Sep 2
Message from a reader:
I’m 56 and recently discovered that I am pansexual.
Why did I make this discovery so late in life?
How do I get over the shame of desiring a connection with someone of the same gender?
This goes totally against my Christian upbringing.
Thank you for your question! It is not an uncommon one when someone has been raised in a conservative religious culture that highly shaped their sexuality in a right/wrong paradigm.
As humans, most of us are more complex than this. We have all kinds of preferences for who we are attracted to and experience wider gender orientations than this black-and-white way of thinking.
In reality, humans how we act sexually and feel in our bodies is much more varied than what's portrayed in society or religious circles.
We see this when we examine the Bible and how sexuality was actually lived out, and we see this today with how people live out their sexuality. Yet so often, culture portrays the sexual behavior ‘in secret’ or ‘as an anomaly’, when often it is common practice. For example, we still have 13 states in the U.S. where oral sex is considered illegal.
Therefore, it is ultimately very hurtful that our culture and our religions do not teach sexual health, consent and safety, media literacy, gender and sexual orientation, and skills in relationships and intimacy.
If we all grew up with sexual health knowledge as standard, and knew how to honor and respect ourselves and others, we could then craft intimate relationships that matched our preferences and attractions without secrecy and without shame. The focus would be on how we treated each other, not on who we cared for or what we did or did not do.
We could also do this while experiencing the gift of our sexuality and thus hold on to our appreciation and faith in the one who gave it to us in the first place.
Organized religion or the empire church has been about power and control.
Sexuality has been used over the ages to control people, minorities especially (anyone who is not a white, cis-gendered, straight, and land-owning male). These men made the rules for the church and then excused themselves and covered for each other whenever they violated the very laws they put in place (in cases of child-abuse, affairs, rape, etc.). There’s a long ugly history many children and women know all too well. I don’t believe this is how it was meant to be. Horrific sexual shame has been the result for most everyone else.
I want to give you the operational definition of sexual shame so you can see how detrimental it can be to your life and sense of self- and then suggest you read my book (Sex, God and the Conservative Church - Erasing Shame from Sexual Intimacy) and Matthais Roberts book Beyond Shame to learn how to heal.
Sexual shame is a visceral feeling of humiliation and disgust toward one’s own body and identity as a sexual being and a belief of being abnormal, inferior, and unworthy. This feeling can be internalized and can also manifest in interpersonal relationships having a negative impact on trust, communication, interpersonal relationships, one’s culture and society, and subsequent critical self-appraisal (a continuous feedback loop). There is also a fear and uncertainty related to one’s own power or right to make decisions - including safety decisions - related to sexual encounters, along with an internalized judgement toward one’s own sexual desire.
You were created unique, just as each of us are! I’m sorry that wasn’t celebrated as you were growing up. I hope your healing can begin now so celebration can come and continue for a long time!
Sex, God & the Conservative Church - Tina Schermer Sellers
Beyond Shame - Matthias Roberts
You and Your Gender Identity - A Guide to Discovery by Dara Hoffman-Fox