Moms and Daughters: Understanding Female Same-Sex Attraction

I am a mom of two children: a beautiful girl who will be two in September and a handsome little man who is almost three months old. Becoming a mom is by far one of the best, most fulfilling things I have ever done with my life. I had no idea how intense a mother’s love could be until I had children of my own.

Motherhood is also one of the hardest things I have ever done and I realize I am just beginning this journey; the hardest parts are most likely still ahead. So as I write this post I would like to offer thanksgiving for God’s grace; the grace I know he will give me for the ways I will fail, and the grace that will be responsible for any success I may have as a parent. I am thankful for the grace God offers that restores relationships—our relationship with God and then with others. In this truth I find much hope.

My prayer is that this post would help equip some to skillfully shine truth and pour grace into many broken relationships.

 The Two Extremes

Women with SSA often describe their relationships with their mother in extremes of either connectedness or separateness (p. 61).


In cases of extreme connectedness women with SSA “describe the mother-daughter bond as more of a mutual absorption than a healthy attachment. They were undifferentiated from and emotionally enmeshed with their moms, often feeling what their mothers felt” (p. 62).

One woman shares about becoming her mother’s confidant at the tender age of 10 after her parents split up.

[my mother] would creep into my bedroom at night, and pour out her heart to   me…” (Howard, 1991, p. 84).

 She recalls other similar incidents,

“My friends arrived at the house to take me roller skating. As I kissed my     mother ‘goodbye’ she leaned back on the sofa and moaned softly, ‘Don’t go, dear,’ she whispered. ‘Mummy needs you here.’ I glanced at my friends, who were impatiently waiting by the front door. ‘But, Mum,’ I began, trying to loosen her grip of my arm. It was no good. She looked at me with those mournful eyes and I knew there would be no roller skating that afternoon…the birthday party I had to excuse myself from; the disappointment at missing summer camp; the cocktail party I had to attend as a twelve-year-old; comforting Mum several times when I found her sobbing in the bathroom. My childhood disappeared with her divorce. I lost all my friends because of her. Where was she when I needed her? I wanted a mother, not a friend!”

(Howard, 1991, p. 84-85)

Other women report their excessively close relationships with their mothers, included excessive worry about mother’s sadness and difficulty differentiating between their own feelings and their mothers feelings often leading to a dismissal or denial of their own feelings. These women perceive their mothers as being “dependent, weak, needy or childlike” (p. 62).


In cases of actual or perceived maternal detachment women describe their relationships with their mothers in one or more of the following ways:

  • “Total absence of warm emotional connection” (McDougall, 1970)
  • They perceived their mothers as being “dutiful but detached”; there but never truly “present”
  • They questioned their mother’s engagement with their inner thoughts and feelings
  • They perceived their mother as “a shell of a woman” and emotionally unavailable
  • Many women reported that their mother’s depression made it emotionally difficult for her to connect with their daughters (p. 63).
  • Some women report feeling “that they were a burden” to their mothers (pp. 62-63)

The Possible Affects:

“Regardless of how or why a girl’s attachment with mom is threatened or malformed, her future development will be affected” (p. 63).

Developmental Affects:

“A mother…is a little girl’s primal enduring home. It is through this warm, secure, ongoing attachment with mother…that a girl will form her basic sense of self; mirror, model and identify with mother; understand herself as a female; differentiate and discover her unique and individual identity; and learn how to do relationship. A girl’s primal attachment with her mother will act as a model for all future emotional relationships (Chodorow, 1978)” (p. 64).

Due to the insecurity and anxiety women with SSA felt in their relationships with their mothers, many developed a sense of mistrust and disrespect for their mothers and essentially “did not internalize a sense of mother as the home base from which they could develop an autonomous self” (pp. 64-65).

One woman recounts the lack of nurture she felt from her mother and how it affected how she related to other woman.

            “Through tears, I continued. ‘I forgive you, Mum, for not being the mother I wanted you to be. I forgive you that alcohol consumed your life and you weren’t able to see much beyond that. I forgive you for…for never holding me in love.’

 I was startled at the words that had just come out of my mouth. I sat silently while the reality sank in. Then came more tears. That’s it, isn’t it Jesus? That’s why I’m grieving. My mother never held me.

 No, she’d never nurtured me—at least, that’s the way I’d seen it. Now it made sense! That’s why I eventually turned to lesbianism. I was always looking to other women to satisfy my need for my mother’s love.

 A new reality struck me. I had withdrawn from any affection Mum may actually have tried to show me because I feared subsequent rejection. She may have tried, but I wouldn’t receive because I was in rebellion. No wonder lesbianism was a frustratingly hopeless lifestyle, I thought. It was built on rejection and rebellion.” (Howard, 1991, p. 87)

Two Responses:

In order to deal with the feelings of insecurity and abandonment and to avoid the pain of disappointment when their desire for affection or nurturing went unmet, many women with SSA consciously or unconsciously withdrew emotionally and/or refused to “emotionally connect” with their same-sex parent. Often this decision also included the “refusal to ever reconnect (Moberly, 1983)” (p. 65). This response is called defensive detachment.

            “I remember when I was 5 or so my parents had gotten into a fight. My          mother got into the car and just drove off. I was crying, asking, “Where is she going?   What’s going on?” My dad seemed helpless. I think that was when I checked out   with mom. I was devastated and remembered the feeling was just unbearable. So I checked out….I had this deep feeling of pain, realizing I can’t control this. Mom would leave and I don’t matter. It doesn’t matter. She will leave me. So it was sort of my way of making a resolve, Yes, mother will leave—she’s gone, she didn’t want you—now get over it. I had to detach to stop that feeling of abandonment.” (pp. 65-66)

Similar to attachment, defensive detachment is not a single event but rather “it is a progressive, patterned response within a girl to her ongoing dissatisfaction in her relationship with her mom” (p. 66). Sustaining this defensive detachment often required these girls to actively “detach from their natural longing and need for connection to and intimacy from mother (and others)” (p. 66). Unfortunately this defensive detachment further hindered possible opportunity for “a loving or warm exchange” and often resulted in “profound deficits in their own relational capacities” (p. 66).

In addition to defensive detachment many women with SSA did not identify with their mothers, feeling very dissimilar from them and reported a lack of desire to be like them (more so than other girls did). This behavior is called disidentification. The following is a list of ways in which disidentification can manifest itself:

  • Rejecting “behaviors, physical appearance, or fashion styles” that are similar to their mothers (p. 67).
  • Making a vow against appearing weak or needy or dependent on a man.
  • Showing “disgust toward anything even closely resembling femininity or female roles” (p. 67).
  • Rejecting “their own personhood associated with femaleness, including their female body parts and their tender and sensitive attributes (McDougall, 1980) (p. 67).


Helping a woman speak about, understand, and biblically handle her relationship with her mother is going to be an important step towards repentance, healing, forgiveness, and if possible reconciliation. I pray that some of this information will come in handy as you walk with women through this important part of their lives.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at otherwise indicated, all of the page references are from Hallman, 2008)

Hallman, Janelle. (2008). The heart of female same-sex attraction: A comprehensive counseling resource. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.

Howard, Jeanette. (1991). Out of Egypt: One woman’s journey out of lesbianism. Grand Rapids, MI: Monarch Books.

McDougall, J. (1970). Homosexuality in women. In Chasseguet-Smirgel (Ed.), Female sexuality: New psychoanalytic views (pp. 171-212). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

McDougall, J. (1980). Plea for a measure of abnormality. New York: International Universities Press.

Moberly, E. (1983). Homosexuality: A new Christian ethic. Greenwood, SC: Attic Press.

Homosexuality and the Parents

Family is important. The family environment and relationships play a huge part in shaping who a person becomes. For this reason I have found that looking into the real and/or perceived dynamics and relationships of ones family sheds light on what makes a person tick and can help a woman begin to understand the source of some of her feelings, desires, and behaviors.

This was the case with me. As a junior in college I began reading articles and books that significantly helped me take a look at my relationships and significant experiences throughout my childhood and young adult life that affected how I saw myself, my desire for connection with and affection from other women, and how I understood masculinity and femininity. As I began to pinpoint aspects of my relationships and experiences (and how I had perceived, processed, and internalized those things) through the help and power of the Holy Spirit, I was able to more specifically face and deal with both the hurt I felt and the sinful responses I had towards those things. I began to understand the dynamics of my SSA, why I felt and acted the way I did, and with this knowledge I was able to face it, fight it, and change it, instead of simply suppressing it or denying it.

While there certainly is a possibility that women will use the dysfunction and hurt of their past to excuse their sinful responses, I believe that is a risk worth taking in order to help those women who truly do want to change. Those looking for an excuse to remain in their sin are going to find one, one way or another.

These next influences and environments that will be discussed are not unique to women with SSA, however “they seem significant in that they consistently arise as these women tell their stories” (p. 56).

“I cannot emphasize enough that it is more important to consider how an individual woman (with a certain biological blueprint) perceives and processes the effects of her environment or relational experiences than the actual qualities of the environment or relationships themselves. This is not to dismiss the significant impact that abusive or traumatic experiences may have on a little girl’s development but rather to gain an understanding of a girl’s internalized subjective experience. It is this inner perspective that may offer clues as to why some girls struggle with SSA and some do not” (p. 56).

In general, these experiences combined with the particular way these girls processed their experiences often lead to four categories of development that are “extremely conflicted”

  • attachment
  • formation of self
  • gender identity
  • socialization

Each of these categories and how they are affected will be discussed in conjunction with the common environmental themes in the lives of women with SSA.

Attachment: What is it? How can it go wrong?

Hallman observes that women with SSA typically experience perceived or actual “interferences, stressors or failures in their most primal attachment” which, for a girl is ideally the mother (p. 57). “Attachment is defined as an “emotional relationship that develops gradually, after weeks and months of daily contact, conversation, care giving, and cuddling” (Brodzinskey, Schecter & Henig, 1992, p. 32). A secure attachment is developed, maintained, and repaired over the span of a girl’s development rather than a single event (p. 57).

Interferences in a girl’s primal attachment often arise at birth and continue throughout childhood and are usually rooted in the following (p. 57).

  • Prenatal, birth and postnatal difficulties or complications
  • Accidental or uncontrollable separations from the mother due to maternal death, adoption, major illness, divorce or other extenuating circumstances
  • Maternal deficits or weakness arising out of the mother’s own personal attachment history and developmental difficulties
  • Actual maternal abuse or abandonment
  • Defensive detachment on the daughter’s part due to the daughter’s perceptions, sensitivities or negative conclusions and beliefs about her mother and the nature of their relationship. (p. 58)

The Parents:

It is common that one or both parents of women with SSA have themselves experienced “insecure attachment, relational deprivation or actual abandonment” as children (p. 61), creating relational and attachment weaknesses in their own lives which in turn can deeply and unknowingly affect their own interactions with their children. Women with SSA often fixate on these weakness in their parents and “are often not able to see their parents’ underlying care and loving sentiments because of their felt sense of relational deprivation” (p. 61).


Before we move on to discuss the maternal and paternal relationships in greater detail (which I will, Lord willing, do in my next two posts), I would like to end this post by stressing the fact that most parents of women with SSA never meant any harm to their children and that the purpose of discussing these parental relationships is not to lay the blame for a woman’s SSA at their parent’s feet. Rather it is to help a woman deal with a variety of issues which may include identifying and biblically dealing with hurt, whether caused by real or perceived failures, extending and receiving forgiveness for wrongs done, and understanding how their relationship with their parents have affected how they go about relating to others.

(Unless otherwise indicated, all of the page references are from Hallman, 2008)

Image courtesy of jannoon028 at

Brodzinsky, D. M., Schechter, M. D., & Henig, R. M. (1992). Being adopted: The lifelong search for self. New York: Anchor Books.

Hallman, Janelle. (2008). The heart of female same-sex attraction: A comprehensive counseling resource. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.

Is Homosexuality Genetic?

I grew up with four amazing sisters and great parents who loved each other and loved and took care of us. In college, especially during my last two years as I found the courage to fully admit my SSA to myself and God, I began asking myself and God “why me?” Although at times this question was tinged with bitterness and anger, it was mostly an honest heartfelt question. “Why did I struggle with this and not any of my other sisters?”

Hallman asked this same question as she points out that many women with SSA come from fairly stable families with parents who loved and took care of them. There are also women with SSA who had parents or family members who neglected or abused them. On the other hand, there are many women who come from abusive families who did not develop or struggle with SSA. How are such variations in background explained? (p. 51)

Since female homosexuality is multidimensional and complex it therefore cannot be explained by any one single factor. Instead a combination of factors and how each of those factors affects and relates to all the other factors needs to be examined. “All that is human, including sexuality, involves a mysterious weaving of our biological blueprint with our experiences, perceptions, cognitions, emotions, reactions and choices” (p. 51). Janelle goes on to say that “female homosexuality is a multi-dimensional infrastructure, intricately linked to a woman’s biology, experiences, cognitions, emotionality, relational networks, concept of self and inherent design as a female made for relationship and meaning” (p. 52).

With that being said, there are also several “common themes” that Janelle has observed while working with these women. She says, “By presenting the common traits and experiences of women with SSA, I will be suggesting how each factor may have an influence within a context of many other factors and processes; I do not believe that any single factor individually determines or directly causes female SSA” (p. 54).

Over the next several posts we are going to explore these themes; the first of these being “biological components.”

Biological Components:

 I want to start off by speaking to those of you who are a bit wary, and rightly so, of articles that speak about biological causes of sin issues. The fear is that if we allow for biology to play a part in why certain people struggle with certain issues then we have now given them an excuse to sin and have taken the responsibility for their sin off of them and onto their genetic makeup. I get that fear. I agree that the ultimate responsibility for sin lies with the individual and the sinful choices they make. However, most of us would agree that we all have a physical body that has been deeply and thoroughly affected by the fall and the sin nature that we were born with. To completely ignore the possibility of biological influence on the sin struggles of individuals would be, in my humble opinion, irresponsible and unbiblical. This topic could be hashed out further but since this is not the point of my blog I will ask those wary readers to, at the very least, keep an open discerning mind and hear me out.

For those interested in reading further about a biblical perspective of the dynamics between biology and sin issues I would recommend reading Blame It on the Brain? : Distinguishing Chemical Imbalances, Brain Disorders, and Disobedience. By Edward T. Welch.

Moving on…


Our biological traits affect how we see our environment and interpret our experiences. “Who we are directly affects how we perceive and process our worlds” which “in turn affects who we become” (p. 51).

In a recent study “Bailey, Dunne and Martin (2000)—pioneers in the research on causal factors of homosexuality…failed to find a significant genetic influence on homosexual orientation” (Jones & Kwee, 2005). This does not mean that genetics do not play some role in sexual orientation; it means that the exact role is inconclusive, is most likely small, is ill defined in terms of “underlying mechanisms,” and is one of many other psychobiological and psychosocial factors (Zucker, 2001, p.11)” (Hallman, 2008, p. 53).

Hallman’s Observations

Hallman lists seven characteristics and personality traits, most likely inherited, that she frequently observes in the women she works with:

  • They have above average intelligence.
  • They are profoundly sensitive and attuned to other people and relational dynamics.
  • They are observant and curious (Stevens, 1992), with a propensity to ponder, analyze and reflect.
  • They exhibit gender nonconforming abilities and interests (e.g., tomboyishness).
  • They have an innate sense of justice.
  • They are gifted and talented; their creativity is far reaching.
  • They have a high level of energy and are adventurous and often athletic. (p. 55)

It is not uncommon for the parents of these women to report that “their daughters exhibited special abilities and sensitivities and a passion for humanitarian concerns at a very young age” (p. 55). These women also often “hold postgraduate degrees, have received endless honors and awards, and have achieved national recognition in their field of expertise or athleticism” (p. 55).

The Role These Personality Characteristics Can Play

These characteristics of intelligence, sensitivity, curiosity and reflectiveness can cause a young girl to be “gravely affected by subtleties in parental influences or her broader environment,” in many cases causing hurt that was unintended and not a “matter for blaming anyone (Moberly, 1983, p. 3)” (Hallman, 2008, p. 56).

These characteristics can cause a child to feel burdened due to their hyper-awareness “of painful and difficult aspects of her family’s environment, including her parents’ personal and relational needs, weaknesses and imperfections” (p. 55).

In one example Hallman used, Pamela, who grew up in a generally stable and loving home was nevertheless “attuned to what she perceived to be an inequity between the men and women in her family” (p. 55). These perceived inequities created in her a deep resentment towards men.

Obviously there are women who do not struggle with SSA who have some of these same characteristics as well as women who do struggle with SSA who do not have these characteristics. These are simply characteristics that Hallman has observed are commonly shared in women with SSA and that often play a part in how they have perceived and processed their worlds, leading them to struggle with SSA.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

(Unless otherwise noted, all of the page references are from Hallman, 2008)

Hallman, Janelle. (2008). The heart of female same-sex attraction: A comprehensive counseling resource. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.

Moberly, E. (1983). Homosexuality: A new Christian ethic. Greenwood, SC: Attic Press.

What Exactly is Female Same-Sex Attraction?

“Danielle, 45, lived with one lesbian lover for over a decade, She believes God called her out of lesbian relationships but has little hope she can ever relate to a man.

 Cathy is 37 years old, married with two children. She has had three nonsexual emotionally dependent relationships with women. Although she longs for a woman’s touch and comfort, she does not identify herself as homosexual.

Rebecca was surprised to find herself in the arms of one of her female friends three years ago, at the age of 22. Although the closeness and affection felt great, she does not want to further explore or pursue a same-sex relationship. She has always wanted to marry and have a family.

 Lisa, who is 55 years old, has tried to have same-sex relationships but struggles with knowing how to build any kind of relationship, with either a man or a woman. She doubts anyone really wants to be with her (p. 21).”

The above sketches illustrate the reality that every woman who experiences SSA, does so uniquely. However, the following four descriptions, lay out the feelings each woman with SSA admits to having on some level (p. 22).

Same-Sex Attraction: “Same-sex attraction includes any desire toward another woman, in reality or fantasy, that may involve erotic feelings, sexually charged sensations or a strong preoccupation with nonsexual physical affection such as being held, hugged, casually touched or cuddled” (p.22). It is important to note that this only refers to the desire, and not any actual behavior.

Same-Sex Sexual Behavior: This includes any actual sexual behaviors with other women. Woman can and do engage in same sex sexual behavior without having same sex attraction (a phenomenon I may discuss later), or it may be accompanied by same sex attraction. Likewise, same sex attraction does not necessarily mean there is any same sexual behavior (p. 22).

Same-Sex Emotional Dependency: “The state of a same-sex relationship wherein one or both of the women become intensely emotionally and psychologically dependent on the other for a sense of self, attachment, identity, purpose, security or well-being” (p.22).

Sexual Orientation: “Sexual orientation is typically assessed by evaluating one’s sexual arousal patterns, attractions, fantasies, yearnings, behaviors and identity. If a woman reports most of these factors as being predominantly associated with other women, especially across her life span, she would be said to have predominant homosexual or same-sex orientation” (p.23).

Many women who experience same-sex attraction, emotional dependency, behavior, and/or orientation do not necessarily assume those things as their “fundamental identity” (p.23). A woman can experience just one or all of the above. So as you counsel women with SSA it will be important to not assume what they identify as or that they are using these terms in the same way you do. As my last post stressed, you will need to listen and ask questions to understand how each woman has/does experience her SSA. I found that thinking through these different categories and experiences of same-sex attraction beforehand was helpful in this process.

Janelle, throughout her book, has chosen to “rely on the acronym “SSA” to encapsulate all of these broader definitions and possible struggles and identities within a woman’s life” (p.24). I will be doing the same.

(All of the page references are from Hallman, 2008)

Hallman, Janelle. (2008). The heart of female same-sex attraction: A comprehensive counseling resource. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.

Understanding and Addressing Female Same-Sex Attraction: Safe Relationships Part II

Creating A Safe Place

Practically what does creating a safe place for women with same-sex attraction look like?

Listen: Sounds simple, obvious, and easy but it will take a lot of time and patience. It may take time for a woman to “find her own language to unfold her experiences, beliefs, identities and…goals” (p. 24). For many it will be an emotional and painstaking process that will most likely take more than one meeting. However, don’t underestimate how valuable a listening ear can be. For some, simply the process of talking things out and sharing their pain and struggle with someone who they know will not be wagging fingers can be extremely healing. In our busy world time is a valuable commodity and patience is a virtue not often exercised but it can be one of the best gifts you can give to a woman who is in conflict with her SSA.

For me one of the most healing times in my life was when I was able to share my past and present struggle with a friend through e-mail and received her gracious response of understanding.

Ask Questions: Actively seek to understand her. The best way to do this is to ask questions. As I post more about some common experiences thought patterns etc. of women with SSA you will be helped in knowing what questions to ask. For now I will say that just the fact that you are taking the time to ask thoughtful genuine questions will communicate that you want to understand her thoughts, feelings, relationships, and decisions that she has made in life, regardless of how you may agree or disagree with them.

If you are unsure whether your friend or counselee would welcome your questions about this very personal issue in her life simply ask her permission to ask questions. Tell her your desire to understand her and where she is coming from and more likely than not, especially if you have been a good listener up to that point, she will welcome your questions.

Listen and Ask Questions Before Your Try Anything Else

In most circumstances what will be the most effective first step to helping a woman with SSA is to compassionately and humbly listen and ask questions before you try to help. Honestly, this is what most of us want from the people we seek help from regardless of the issue we are struggling with. It is a huge part of creating a safe place for a woman who has most likely taken great risk in making herself vulnerable to you.

The following quote sums it up nicely.

“It will probably require a tremendous amount of courage for a woman to make the initial phone call to, let alone show up in, a counselor’s office. She comes scared, tentative and unsure of her goals for therapy yet possibly is unable to continue life on her own without support and outside help. Most women with SSA enter therapy believing they are bad people—dangerous, malformed and even repulsive to God. Shame often shades every aspect of their being. It seems to me that the last thing they need is for their new therapist to focus on perhaps the most shameful issue in their life in an effort to affirm or disaffirm. I have observed that as I offer my respect by first getting to know my client and understanding all aspects of her life, bolstering her sense of dignity and value, she is then able to expose and explore these deep and perhaps shameful aspects of her life” (p. 33-34).

Hallman shares 4 things she does with each new client she counsels.

1. She communicates that her client has value.

2. She works to know her client as an individual.

3. She commits to her client “as a person, not to a particular therapeutic outcome.

4. She works to “support growth and development” in all aspects of her clients life, “promoting her overall welfare and well-being.” (p. 34)

As a biblical counselor in training I feel great tension concerning Hallman’s last two points and I am still wrestling with what, as believers who have been entrusted with the truth, our response should practically look like to counselees who choose to embrace their same-sex attractions. I realize that we must take into consideration biblical passages that speak of church discipline and the difference between those who claim Christ but without a care embrace sinful lifestyles and those who are unsaved and are simply living as unsaved people live. These are questions I will consider attempting to address in future posts but for now my hope is that this post will help you understand the value that the relationship itself can have in someone’s life and how creating a safe place for a woman with SSA is the first step towards creating an opportunity to speak truth into her life. Truth certainly needs to be shared, for our love would be incomplete without the sharing of truth, but let us first work to love and understand so that the truth we hope to share can be shared skillfully and without the atmosphere of coercion or threat of rejection as a person.

(All of the page references are from Hallman, 2008)

Hallman, Janelle. (2008). The heart of female same-sex attraction: A comprehensive counseling resource. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.

Understanding and Addressing Female Same-Sex Attraction: Safe Relationships Part I

safe place

The Importance of the Relationship

Hallman shares a story of a woman who, after the breakup of a three-year relationship with her female partner, entered therapy and over the next several years experienced incredible significant changes in her “core negative beliefs about herself and God,” her defensive behaviors, her paths of emotional escape and her dependent and sexualized friendships with women. When this woman was asked, “what helped her stabilize and make such incredible changes,” she replied,

“My therapist! She was focused on me, She cared about all of my life. She showed respect. But even more than that she was always the same, even when I was wrung out with anxiety and thoughts of hurting myself. She was consistent, attentive and patient. Her calming voice, her strong boundaries, her availability, her listening ears, her gentleness and her femininity all somehow changed me! She never gave up on me. She gave me hope” (p. 18).

Hallman posed this same question to over 20 women who fought with unwanted SSA; “what affected them most about psychotherapy or lay counseling?” She received the same answer from all of them: “the relationship” (p.20).

Most of us would agree that there is a biblical precedent for the importance of relationships in our sanctification*. Many of us can testify to a time when our lives intersected with another and were forever changed for the better because of it. These relationships, characterized by love, patience, humility, perseverance, and stability are in and of themselves curative and invaluable to helping a woman with SSA (Hallman, 2008).

Safety and Trust  

Most women with SSA need to feel safe first, before they can feel loved and begin to trust (p. 20).

Hallman explains that safety is a particularly difficult thing for women with SSA to find. The debates and controversy that surround homosexuality particularly in regards to the topic of “change” can leave a woman overwhelmed and exhausted. She goes on to say, “These women long for a safe, quiet place to simply be…They want to be known as a person, not just a woman with SSA…They are so much more than the sum of their sexual expression, yet—like all women—need a place to explore and ask personal heartfelt questions about life, love, sexuality, gender and God without being rejected or worrying about political correctness. They need a safe place” (p. 21).

Hallman goes on to say that one of the first goals a counselor should have when meeting with any woman with SSA is to offer this safe place. She suggests that what provides this safe place is “unconditional love, acceptance and genuine desire to understand a woman’s choices with respect to her life” (p. 33). Our relationships should reflect “God’s undying faithfulness and enduring presence to these women.”

Hallman concludes by stating that she “therefore remains committed to a woman regardless of her current decisions” (p. 33). Tomorrow I will be posting a bit more on what creating a safe place practically looks like. Enjoy your Saturday evening and have a blessed, restful and worshipful Sunday.

Note: While I may not agree with everything Hallman says in regard to this particular topic of what a counseling/therapeutic relationship should look like, I greatly appreciate her general approach and have learned much from her. While Hallman may be speaking from the perspective of a professional therapist much of what she says can be applied to less formal discipleship relationships as well as friendships etc.

(All of the page references are from Hallman, 2008)

*(Ephesians 4:11-16; Galatians 6:1-2; I Peter 4:10; James 5:16; Hebrews 3:13, 10:24-25; I Thess. 4:18, 5:11, Colossians 3:16)

Hallman, Janelle. (2008). The heart of female same-sex attraction: A comprehensive counseling resource. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.

Understanding and Addressing Female Same-Sex Attraction: Things to Keep In Mind

I am under no allusion that everyone is going to agree with everything I write in this blog. My husband and I spent several hours last night talking about the difficulties that come with writing about homosexuality, particularly in a blog format. We came to the conclusion that I cannot assume people will know the basic assumptions and context I am writing from. So, in this post I am going to talk about 4 basic assumptions that I want you all to keep in mind and remember as you read my other writings concerning this topic. I hope this will help alleviate misunderstandings, particularly with my more conservative friends. For my friends who may disagree with the assumptions themselves I would love to dialogue with you about those disagreements but in the end we may have to simply agree to disagree. I pray God would help me communicate my beliefs in a gracious and loving way.

The Sinfulness of Homosexuality

My belief in the sinfulness of homosexuality was established in my last post. I am not going to belabor the point here since debating the right or wrongness of homosexuality is not the main goal of this blog. I will simply say that the reason I believe homosexuality is a sin is because I believe the Bible is the authoritative Word of God, that it makes clear that homosexuality is not part of God’s divine design for sexuality, and it is therefore sinful. (For those of you who would like to read more about what I believe the Bible says about Homosexuality I would recommend a book by Kevin DeYoung, What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality?) Below is a link to a review of DeYoung’s book.

The Need for Both Grace and Truth

In Ephesians 4:15 Paul tells the Ephesian church that they are to speak the truth in love for the purpose of growing and maturing believers in Christ. Earlier in the same chapter Paul instructs the church to “walk in a manner worthy” of their calling, which includes walking with “all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” and they are to do this with an eagerness “to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3). Passages like this are full of tension that Christians must wrestle with and live with every day; the tension between standing by and speaking truth but doing it in a loving, patient, humble, longsuffering way.

The circles and churches I come from tend to have the truth side of this tension down. We are zealous for truth, we know what we believe, and we know why, and we are convinced of the importance of sharing this truth with others. Truth is important; it is good to know what you believe and why you believe it and it is imperative to let people know what God thinks and says regarding all sin as well as the mercy and grace offered to all who repent and believe. However, in this blog I am going to focus on the grace, side of things; how we can bear with others in love, humility, and patience. This is what many conservative churches need to develop and learn how to do practically; not just in word but deed.

Love and Acceptance

Loving, accepting, creating a safe place for, not judging. These are words that mean many things to many people, and can vary by context. Over the course of my writing I anticipate these concepts will be fleshed out further. When I use them, I am not suggesting we should condone or celebrate someone’s lifestyle. I am saying it is possible to genuinely love and accept someone’s dignity, value, and relationship, even if they have no intention or plan to change.

The Ultimate Problem and The Ultimate Answer I believe that sin is the ultimate problem in all our lives and Christ is the ultimate answer for all our sin problems. However, I do not believe this means other considerations aren’t helpful in the process of healing and change. Part of learning to love practically is being able to say more than just, “this is sin, repent and change!” It is also learning and acknowledging that there are other influences, experiences, and biological tendencies that can lead a person, many of them from childhood, to homosexual feelings and behaviors. We need to be able to compassionately and patiently help men and women work through and find healing from those influences and experiences. In my own life I have found that identifying those influences, experiences and biological tendencies that led me to same-sex attractions has helped me identify more specific sins and lies in my life than just the broader category of homosexual feelings and behaviors. While the statement “this is sin, you need to repent and change!” may be true, it is not very helpful.

I am training to be a biblical counselor; learning to skillfully unpack biblical truths and apply them to people’s lives is extremely important. However, we will not be able to skillfully apply the Word to people’s lives until we become familiar with those lives. I can attest to the damage that can be done when we assume we know people and what they need before we spend time with them, get to know them as complete people and more than just a sexual problem, humbly and respectfully ask to be let into their lives, and truly seek to understand where they are coming from.

Conclusion Like I said above, I anticipate that many will disagree with some of what I write even with the above assumptions made clear. I know some of you may disagree with the assumptions I am working from. That is ok. Feel free to voice those disagreements but please do so in a respectful way that promotes loving, humble, open discussion and I will address and answer what I can. I pray especially for my fellow believers that you would lavish me with grace as I attempt to share about this difficult but relevant topic.

The Heart of Female Same-Sex Attraction

Heart of female same sex attractionOver the past week I have read many posts, blogs, and articles that have discussed the recent Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage. Most of these writings have discussed the political, theological, and sociological reasons for or against gay marriage, and while I am certainly not against these types of articles, I have noticed that there has been a lack of articles that have aided in helping us (particularly Christians) understand the homosexual psyche and struggle. This is my burden for the church.

While there is a place for the church to continue to resist the normalizing of homosexuality and gay marriage in our culture, and especially in our churches, I think it is just as important for the church to prepare itself to reach out with love and real understanding. We must do this for both those in our churches who struggle with same-sex attractions and those not a part of the church who are actively living the homosexual lifestyle. Just to make it clear, I believe homosexuality is not part of God’s divine design and that living a homosexual lifestyle is sinful. However, God has redeemed into His church sinners of ALL kinds and I have great hope that God will draw to himself, redeem, and begin to change many gay and lesbian men and women, and we the church need to be preparing ourselves to be tools that God can use to this end.

With this in mind, for the next several months I will be sharing from a book I have been reading, The Heart of Female Same-Sex Attraction by Janelle Hallman, and to a lesser extent from my personal struggles in this area. My purpose and hope for doing this is to help those who may happen to read my posts develop and deepen their compassion and understanding for women in and outside the church who live with Same-Sex Attraction (SSA) and in a very small way help equip both myself and others to love, understand, and help.

For those who would like to know more about the author Janelle Hallman and her preparation for writing this book, she is a licensed professional counselor who has spent 25 years counseling, befriending or formally interviewing, “hundreds of women with SSA and emotional dependency.” In addition, she has “interviewed over fifty mothers of self-identified lesbian daughters” (Hallman, 2008, p.18). Janelle has mainly worked with women who are “part of a faith tradition” and are “conflicted about or desire to change or manage their same-sex feelings and behaviors in a way that is congruent with their religious beliefs,” (Hallman, 2008, p.19) and are therefore seeking counsel and help. Hallman has also “interviewed many seasoned psychotherapists who specialize in helping women in conflict with SSA and reviewed most of the research and academic literature focusing on etiology, demographics, mental health and clinical consideration of female homosexuality” (Hallman, 2008, p.19). In short, Hallman is well informed and experienced…she knows what she is talking about ☺.

For those of you interested, even if it is just a few, my prayer is that some of what I share will be useful to you and your ministry and will even motivate some to pick this book up for yourselves and study further. As believers, the recent events in our country should concern us, but rather than allowing this concern to lead us to fear, compromise, hatred, or isolation it should motivate us more than ever to equip ourselves to speak the truth in love to those struggling in our churches and to a world confused, lost, and hurting.

Hallman, Janelle. (2008). The heart of female same-sex attraction: A comprehensive counseling resource. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.