I want to be careful how I answer this question, as some people have twisted the premise of sexual fluidity in order to sanction reparative therapy. Reparative therapy, or conversion therapy, is an outdated, harmful, widely discredited, and often illegal practice that seeks to change someone’s sexual orientation. To be clear, there is nothing in the Bible that states that being attracted to the same sex is sinful; therefore, reparative therapy is not just harmful, it is completely unnecessary.
This destructive method has not only been the source of overwhelming psychological, emotional, and spiritual pain, it has also caused people within God’s kingdom who do not have a heterosexual orientation to feel as if they are outcasts, unworthy, and inherently shameful.
As of now, science has determined that sexual orientation is not an innate trait like eye color.[i] Rather, sexual orientation is a combination of both biological (nature) and environmental (nurture) factors. We are all born with certain biological predispositions. Throughout the course of our development, different life factors influence these biological propensities and send us on a unique trajectory distinct from anyone else’s. Perhaps a good parallel trait with which to compare this would be humor.
It could be argued that humor, like sexual orientation, has a biological component to it as well as an environmental component. So, can humor change? Somewhat. If you’re asking if Jerry Seinfeld could ever be mistaken for Adam Sandler in humor style, then no. But I am sure that Jerry Seinfeld’s humor has developed and morphed over his many years of honing it, including being influenced by the people in his life and in his field, his different life experiences, and the influence of different aspects of our society.
Similarly, sexual orientation in an individual cannot do a 180-degree flip, but for some, it can experience some fluctuation along the continuum, based on the person’s unique biological factors and life experiences. Sexual orientation develops throughout our pre-adolescent and adolescent years. Like humor (and other non-innate traits), it can fluctuate for some people. It is subject to influence from the society we live in, the people we surround ourselves with, what we watch on television, and our exposure to social media, pornography, traumatic experiences, and so on.
Dr. Lisa Diamond, one of the leading experts on sexual fluidity, has found that variability in sexual attraction exists for both men and women. Though sexual fluidity is more common in women, there is substantial evidence that some men also experience variability in their sexual attractions.[ii] In fact, bisexual attractions are more common than exclusively homosexual attractions for both men and women.[iii]
So, can sexual orientation change? For some people, variability in sexual attraction does exist. For other people, it does not.
Perhaps a more important question is: Should we try to change our sexual orientation? No. This could be futile and harmful. If our goal is holiness, who cares what our sexual orientation is? Perhaps your sexual attraction will experience variability, perhaps it will not. Either way, our target remains the same: holiness.
[ii] Lisa Diamond, “Lisa Diamond on Sexual Fluidity of Men and Women,” Cornell University, 17 October 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2rTHDOuUBw, 4:32.
[iii] Ibid., 17:09.