This is a question that would be quite difficult to answer for many right wing bigots. As Rob Tisanai correctly points out, the seriously anti-gay crowd really does seem to believe that one’s sexuality only exists when you’re actually having sex. At least that’s what they think about gay people. Some examples:
Matt Barber of Liberty University threw a fit because Prop 8 Judge Vaughn Walker is gay, but he didn’t call the judge a homosexual. No, he called him “an active practitioner of the homosexual lifestyle,” and said, “Judge Walker apparently chooses to engage in homosexual conduct,” and wrote of Walker’s “alleged lifestyle choices.”
He quotes the Family Research Council:
[H]omosexual conduct is not comparable to other characteristics usually protected by civil rights laws (“race, color, religion, sex, or national origin”). Protection against private “discrimination” has historically been offered only for characteristics that are inborn, involuntary, immutable, innocuous, and/or in the Constitution-yet none of these describe homosexual behavior.
Notice the dishonest framing. None of the things protected by civil rights laws are verbs, none of them are behaviors. yet that is what they compare it to when talking about protecting gay rights — you’re not protecting gay people, you’re promoting gay sex. That’s why I often refer to Focus on the Family as Focus on the Gay Sex, because the anti-gay right seems absolutely obsessed with gay sex.
See? There’s no discrimination against homosexuals because there are no homosexuals. Just homosexual conduct. Homosexuality isn’t a state of being — it’s merely a set of actions. Hate crimes against homosexuals? No! Civil equality for homosexuals? No! Anti-bullying laws to protect young homosexuals? No! None of these things are necessary if there are no homosexuals.
This thinking is important when it comes to the “immutability” argument in Constitutional law. Is homosexuality a choice? Our opponents say that deciding to engage in homosexual acts is a choice, and people can stop being gay just by giving up gay sex. That makes sense, though, only if homosexuality is nothing more than same-sex sex. Obviously, though, it’s a great deal more — I was gay before I ever had sex, I’m gay when I’m not having sex, I’m gay right now as I type this (and there’s no man in sight).
And he’s right. And that’s why the question that should be asked of the anti-gay folks is the one in the title to this post: Are you heterosexual if you’re celibate? Does merely abstaining from sex change your sexual orientation from straight to something else? They can’t answer yes, of course. And answering no disproves their contention about homosexuality.
Sexual orientation and sexual acts are not the same thing, and the fact that one engages in a homosexual act does not make one a homosexual. There are both actors and actresses in porn, for example, who engage in acts that are contrary to who they are. And it goes both ways, gay actors and actresses having straight sex and straight actors and actresses having gay sex. And by the same token, one’s sexuality does not magically disappear when they’re not actually having sex.