Does Islamic thought have a concept for “being gay”?
“In the Islamic tradition, there is no analogous term for the concept of “homosexual,” i.e., the notion of a person who experiences stable and exclusive erotic attraction to the same sex while not feeling such attractions towards the opposite sex. There is also no term for “heterosexual.” Islamic scholars have employed terms like luti to describe a person who committed the action of Qawm Lut. However, this is not what Westerners mean when they use the word “homosexual.”
“In the Western context, a “gay” person is one whose identity is defined by his attraction to the same sex. According to modern Western conceptions, an important and immutable characteristic of a person is his “sexual orientation.” Similar to popular notions of how a person can be born with a certain color of skin and, thus, belong to a certain race, a person can be born with a certain sexual orientation and, thus, belong to a sexual identity group, e.g., “gay,” “straight,” “bi,” etc.
“The Islamic tradition, in contrast, has no such conception of a sexual identity. While it may be possible that a person be born with more of an affinity and attraction to the same sex (or even have the desire to be anally penetrated, as in the case of the “ma’bun,” which the classical scholars discussed at length), nonetheless, as far as Islamic categories are concerned, this does not make that person a “homosexual” or “gay” in terms of one’s essential identity, “who one is.” This is because who a person ultimately is – internally and externally – is not based on what that person desires or what thoughts might occur to him. Islamic sexual categories having to do with identity all revolve around action, not mere desire, e.g., luti, zani, etc. Once an act has been committed and a person is convicted for that in a proper Islamic court, then that is the only time it is appropriate to use such terms in referring to specific persons. But this has nothing to do with being a “homosexual,” which itself is only a modern Western term coined in the 19th century CE (13th century AH).”
[From my recent essay on this subject: Tough Conversations: Explaining the Islamic Prohibition of Same-Sex Acts to a Western Audience]