Select Page

What is Same-Sex Attraction?

Man-05Summary: Same-sex attraction (also known as homosexuality, gay, lesbian, or LGBTQ) refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to people of the same sex. This section defines common terms, and then discusses attractions, identity, and behavior.


Same-sex attraction refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to people of the same sex. This interest may include desires for their attention, friendship, and intimacy, or a fascination with their bodies and other gender traits. It may also include erotic thoughts, feelings, and behaviors directed toward the same sex. The term homosexuality refers to the entire range of issues that includes attractions, feelings, desires, sexual behavior, identity, and all its associated aspects, such as gender identity, self-perception, emotional dependencies, and relationship issues.

A person who experiences same-sex attraction may experience one or more of the following:

  • Intense attractions toward people of the same sex. (These feelings may or may not be sexual or erotic.)
  • Intense emotional involvement with people of the same sex.
  • Sexual behavior.

The term homosexual is a clinical term that is considered offensive to some people when used as a noun to identify people who self-identify as gay. It may also be offensive to people who experience same-sex attractions but don’t identify themselves as gay. The former typically prefer the terms gay (referring to men) and lesbian (referring to women) and the latter sometimes prefer the term same-sex attraction because the terms gay or lesbian also imply a political, cultural, and social identity. (Read more about gay identity, gay rights, and gay activism.) Note that same-sex attraction is also sometimes referred to as same-gender attraction, although these are clinically different issues. (See a clinical definition of terms.)


From a traditional Judeo-Christian perspective, emotional and social interests in individuals of the same sex are healthy as long as they are not excessive and don’t develop a sexual or erotic dimension. When same-sex interests become extreme or are eroticized, they cross the line that God intended for relationships with people of the same sex. (For a discussion of these religious issues, see the section “Spirituality.”)

Same-sex attractions develop without any conscious choice. At some point in your life, you may have realized that you were sexually attracted to other men. (See footnote below.) These inner attractions may have become intense sexual thoughts toward other men and may have consumed a great deal of your thoughts and energy. If the sexual attractions are not understood and addressed, they can grow into obsessions that interfere with your ability to function at work, at school, and at home, and can be destructive spiritually. (It is interesting to note that same-sex attractions are often more compelling than opposite-sex attractions because they may be symptomatic of more than just sexual desires—they are sometimes attempts to fill fundamental unmet emotional and social needs.)

Many men report they first noticed these attractions before puberty—before they felt or understood sexual feelings. The feelings were not inherently sexual, but at some point became eroticized. Men have social and emotional needs towards other men, and when these needs are not filled in the normal developmental process, they may become sexualized toward those of the same sex.

Thus, the attractions may actually be attempts to meet the emotional and identity needs that were not fulfilled in the normal developmental process. Ironically, although the needs are felt as sexual, sexual intimacy may not fill such needs. The solution is not to suppress the needs nor eroticize them, but to fill the needs through healthy emotional (nonsexual) means. Here, then, is the irony—same-sex attraction may have little to do with sex. The needs may not be homosexual, but homoemotional.


Many men with same-sex attractions report they felt different as boys but didn’t know why. For them, the pain of growing up with same-sex attractions was not so much the pain of being attracted to boys, but the feelings of being different. If this describes you, these feelings of being different may have become self-fulfilling prophecies as you separated yourself from the very boys you needed to bond with. You may have longed to feel you were on par with other boys, but this longing only widened the gulf between you and the rest of the guys. Feeling different may have created a mindset that influenced your self-perception and development. When other children sensed this hesitancy, they may have attacked it, confirming that you were different. Thus, you withdrew from other boys to defend yourself from the pain.

You may have sensed your attractions were abnormal because of the “fag” jokes you heard, so you learned to keep the feelings to yourself, creating further problems of isolation and secrecy, which are powerful forces that kept your relationship needs from being fulfilled. When the rest of your male friends seemed normally attracted to females, you may have wondered why you were attracted to males. If these attractions were in conflict with your religious beliefs and society’s norms, you may have felt that your innermost feelings were wrong and since you didn’t choose to have these feelings, you may have wondered if there was something inherently wrong with you. This may have created an internal struggle as you desperately tried to understand the these feelings and make sense of them in terms of your own internal values and religious beliefs.

Read more about gay identity, gay rights, and gay activism.


As discussed above, for many men, these homoemotional needs may intensify the drive behind homosexual behavior.

Same-sex attractions can be strong. Because of the intensity of these sexual desires, you may have participated in sexual activities to fill the void you felt. The satisfaction of the sexual activity may have caused further confusion, leading you to believe that your needs were inherently sexual rather than emotional. In a desperate attempt to satisfy these building tensions, you may have become involved in sexual activities that provided a temporary gratification of the sex drive, but also left you with deeper feelings of emptiness, loneliness, and frustration. Rather than satisfying the relationship needs for acceptance and companionship, the sexual behavior may have only intensified the needs. (Read more about controlling homosexual behavior.)

Not all men find themselves involved in sexual behavior. Some men have participated in only limited sexual behavior and others have not acted sexually on these attractions.

Read the section: What Causes Same-sex Attraction?

Footnote: As explained in the About Us section, most of the information on this website relates to men. Some of it may also be helpful to women who experience same-sex attraction and some of it may not.