Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A rose by any other name

When I first starting coming to terms with my sexual orientation, I considered myself "struggling with same gender attraction". The SwSGA nomenclature is certainly more politically correct in our Mormon culture as well as the conservative american culture. It carries with it an underlying assumption that one doesn't want to be that way. Many people can relate with that - they cannot comprehend what it would be like to not be attracted to the opposite gender, and certainly wouldn't want to be that way. For them, it would be a constant struggle, trying to change from an unwanted proclivity to that of being 'normal'.

Yet, if I were to use the term "struggling with blindness" or "struggling with being short" then I would construed as being insensitive. I would come across as viewing someone different than I am with pity. It would be demeaning - as if being different meant that they were, somehow, inferior.

That is why I do not like the term "struggling with same gender attraction". I am attracted to guys - I don't struggle with it anymore than a heterosexual guy struggles with his attraction to girls. It's just part of what makes me be the unique person that I am. That's not to say I don't struggle - but my struggle is not with accepting me for who I am - my struggle is with lack of acceptance from others. My struggle is with living in a society and culture where having attractions like mine is viewed as perverted, revolting, even evil.

The question sometimes arises
If there were a pill to make you straight, would you take it?

There was once a day, in the not too distant past, when I would have said "yes" without giving it a second thought. That was back when I 'struggled with same gender attraction'. Today, my answer would be "no". As I've come to accept this part of me, I've realized that it is intricately interwoven into the very fabric of my being. Liking guys extends far beyond sexual attraction. It reaches out into my talents, my strengths, and my weaknesses. It influences my perception of love and other emotions. If you were to take this away from me - then what would be left? I would be like a piece of swiss cheese riddled with holes.

So, what should I call myself? If I I don't 'struggle with same gender attraction' then do I 'have same gender attraction'? Am I 'same gender attracted'? It is such an awkward term. In our american culture, the word 'gay' has been defined to refer to those who are attracted to their same gender. I am a simple man, and 'gay' is a simple word. Am I to reject a word simply because it is one that the world uses and not one that the brethren use? Much of the terminology used by the brethren is carefully chosen because their words are translated into multiple languages. That is not something I need to concern myself with.

The other argument against using words like 'gay' are the negative connotations they carry. But, this doesn't really apply to someone who is completely closeted like myself. People who know me (even if only through my blog) know that I do not engage in promiscuous sex, I do not take drugs, I've never been to a club (gay or otherwise), and I don't live a hedonistic lifestyle. If someone chooses to think these things about me then isn't that their problem and not mine?

So, I prefer to think of myself as simply 'gay'. We have been counseled to not use words like 'homosexual' and 'gay' to define ourselves - and I agree with that. My tag line says "An exploration of what it means to be Married, Mormon, and Gay" - the order I listed those is deliberate. Gay is not what defines me - it is just part of who I am.


Kengo Biddles said...

Gay. Homo. I'm both. and yet I'm neither, because I've chosen my path, and that means I'm a faithful Mormon and married father of two. And so I use the terminology, because it's what's understandable to those around me, rather than some strange portmonteau or new acronym.

Annabelle said...

I've found that my friends who "struggle" don't actually struggle. They thrive. It sounds like this is what you do as well.

GeckoMan said...

I think the term 'struggle' will get even more usage if we use it too. And so we shouldn't. I hope your sentiments are somehow carried 'on the wings of angels' to the Brethren! I don't think the choice of the term is an intentional put-down, it's just how they and most of the church happens to see it. Unfortunately, I think there are a lot more SGA members who do struggle, than those who don't. (And the church's public positions using terms like 'struggle' doesn't help that ratio get any better.)

Abelard, I really like your last thought: "Gay is not what defines me - it is just part of who I am."
This is where I feel I've evolved to as well, that 'gay' is just a part of the fabric from which I'm cut. Oh and BTW, thanks for previously linking to that Sunstone clip on You Tube with John K. He also said essentially the same thing, that the artistic, intellectual and spiritual sensitivities of gay members are a part of our personalities and its not just about sexual attractions.