But in some discourse I've seen, that kind of statement by conservative religionists seems meant to diminish gay attractions, to reduce them to some minor component of the human experience. If sexuality is only sex, the thinking seems to go, then being celibate or marrying someone of the opposite sex might be possible. If a "same-sex attracted" individual can be celibate or with an opposite sex partner, they need not call themselves gay, because they haven't succumbed to the defining characteristic of a homosexual - gay sex. If the person messes up and succumbs, still, they need not call themselves gay. They can believe their same-sex attractions are unwanted, believe their sexual instincts have been pathologized, and believe themselves to just be a broken heterosexual. Whatever the form of the denial, mentally the goal is to disown the sexuality. It is to see the attractions as foreign to one's core identity. This way of thinking leaves their brains and my stomach in knots. Such intentional mental and emotional compartmentalization must be a terrible way to construct a happy whole human being.
The belief that sexuality is just about sex is wrong. Humans spend much more time engaged in pairbonding behaviors than they do in actual sex. Many people probably spend a lot of time thinking about sex, but no one gets as much action as their libido thinks they're entitled to. Humans enjoy non-sexual affection, they nest, they daydream about romance, they find emotional security in having a significant other, they merge their lives and marry. They engage in a lot of behaviors related to their innate attractions that don't involve sex. We are a remarkably social species and the forms of our interpersonal relationships are diverse.
"Sexual orientation" is in many ways a poor term. If one gets to the heart of human attractions, I believe that we could just as easily describe a "romantic orientation" and an "emotional orientation" as we could a sexual orientation. I cannot speak for all LGB people, but when I'm attracted to someone of the same sex, I am not just interested in sexual contact. I'm interested in sharing adventures, holding hands and cuddling, smiling, crying, having interesting conversations, spending time together (even doing boring things!), or appreciating a beautiful spot in nature. A few such things can be done by myself, and many more with the welcome company of friends, but how great to share them with someone about whom I have piqued interest!? If I live the rest of my life without having sex again, I will still be gay. I will still wish to pairbond with my own sex.
Put simply, sexual orientation is really just about who one falls in love with. It isn't everything about a human being, but it is a heck of a lot. It doesn't need to be the sole defining characteristic of a person, but it doesn't need to be diminished either. So, perhaps if I am to put a label on myself, I should just say that I am homophilic*. I'm homosexual, but I am also homoromantic and homoemotional. I fall in love with guys, and the amazingness of the opposite sex notwithstanding, my brain is just wired for men.
*Though of Greek origin from "philia" indicating a friendship-like love, I'm using the suffix as we would in modern English to simply mean "an affinity towards". The Greeks had multiple words to describe different aspects of love, and many of them are applicable to the feelings I describe in this post.