Open Forum: Ex-Gay Labels
The term “ex-gay” is probably the most common one used to describe people who enter into reparative therapy. One can call themselves “ex-gay” even if they have not shaken their sexual attraction to the same sex. After years of public scrutiny, groups like Exodus International can no longer declare outright that their single mission is changing one’s sexual orientation from completely homosexual to completely heterosexual. Even their leaders declare publicly that they “still struggle” and must pray daily to have the strength to “deny that which comes naturally” to them.
Recently, it seems the term “post-gay” has started to become more popular. Peter Ould and and Exodus V.P. Randy Thomas have adopted it. Rather than declaring one’s self “ex-gay,” as if nothing about them is “gay” anymore, “post-gay” supposedly acknowledges the fact that same sex attraction remains despite abstinence and prayer – the important thing being that one does not continue to identify as “gay,” but as “Christian” instead. It becomes about the “journey in Christ” rather than actually changing that core attraction. In fact, it is now apparently misleading to even refer to Exodus as an organization that “seeks to rid gay men of same sex attraction.”
It seems that these different labels can be confusing. Someone can be considered to be on the path to righteousness so long as they aren’t calling themselves “gay” out right, but at the same time, that person can still be as homosexually-attracted at the core of their being as they were before they entered into a ministry.
What do you think about labels in the “ex-gay” movement?
There is a big difference between “misleading” and something which Randy Thomas does not want used to describe Exodus. Misleading should probably be in quotes there. People who characterize Exodus as an organization that “seeks to rid gay men of same sex attraction” have, in many cases, more experience with their member ministries than either Randy or Alan.
With the increase in public awareness of the facts over the last decade or so, Randy’s desire not to be described as such is entirely understandable, even if it comes across as less than honest to those who know them well.
Post-gay already has a meaning and it’s about as far from Peter Ould’s meaning as possible. Unfortunately I imagine few of the people Peter communicates with will already be familiar with the term and realize he is co-opting it since it’s origin is in queer theory.
I’m not brushed up on my Queer Theory and only have heard of “post-gay” in its ex-gay context, but I believe you since I’ve heard this elsewhere. According to About.com’s section on gay life, “post-gay” in that context means:
Which makes sense to me. And since more and more people are coming out and “mainstream gay culture” becomes less and less about rainbows and parades that can sometimes have sexually explicit sections, I expect this might become more prominent. Ould, et al seem to be using “post-gay” to mean, “I’m over being ‘gay-identified.’ That part of me is just a ‘thorn in my side.'” as though for them, having same-sex attractions is just an inconvenient fact despised by them and God. To me, they seem to be striving for an existence more like “post-label,” which the same webpage defines as:
But then, associating themselves with any kind of queer theory would put them back in the queer[“-identified”] community, which is exactly the opposite of what they want to do. Oh well.
The term ex-gay is currently used to cover a variety of situations in addition to being misleading and dishonest.
Although this may come accross as a completely rediculous idea, they could always adopt labels that accurately describe their life situations (which could change).
Heterosexually married gay.
Sexually active gay considering celibacy.
If “post-gay” in that context means: “Term used to describe same-gender-loving individuals that do not identify or associate with mainstream gay culture.” Then what is the somewhat ridiculous “g0y” thing all about?
I’d suggest “Religiously Celibate” or “Religiously Asexual.” You could replace “Religiously” with whatever religion you might identify, such as “Catholic Celibate” or “Islamic Asexual” or “Christian Celibate” or “Jewish Asexual” or “Hindu Asexual,” etc., etc., etc…..
Post-gay sounds like they’ve moved from the fence to the fence-post. It might be more stable but you can still lean either way.
Googling “g0y” was certainly an odd experience. I’ve seen some group like that once before but it wasn’t quite as detailed. Lot of issues there I would say.
Former homosexual too seemed to have past its prime. I wonder is it because latest research already defined the “change” once and for all as “complicated heterosexuality and stable chastity”. The latter then should be called aSEXualism, as in NO SEX ACTS according to the Exodus dictionary of labels, since the existance of attraction itself is a “sin” as implied by Alan Chambers recently. But then, what is the use of Exodus if even celibacy is considered that?
As far as I can work it out, “post-gay”, in the sense in which Thomas, Ould et al. use the term, means being homosexual while attempting (with whatever degree of success) to live your life as though you’re not, and refusing to regard your natural sexual orientation as a positive aspect of your personality.
I’ve read that Colin Cook (of Quest Learning Centre and Homosexuals Anonymous fame) encouraged homosexuals “to accept Jesus’ heterosexuality [about which, of course, we know zilch] as their own and thus to declare themselves heterosexual, even though they still have homosexual desires.” [See Michael W. Ross, ed., The Treatment of Homosexuals with Mental Health Disorders, 1988] That sounds to me like an example of playing the “post-gay” game.
It’s obviously not for me to dispute anyone else’s right to live their life in this way, if they so choose, but I do dispute that it’s a psychologically healthy way of carrying on, and I certainly wouldn’t dream of recommending it to anyone. To represent it as “freedom from homosexuality” is misleading and dishonest. Furthermore, I would strenuously deny Alan Chambers’s or anyone else’s moral right to call for legal or civil measures to discriminate against those who prefer to live their lives as the people they are and who decline to adopt such a “post-gay” lifestyle.
Sounds to me like an identity crisis. I also thought of the term “ex” anything as a very negative way to identify someone anyway. It has the sound of failure. But to those who are “gay to the core” but insist on living a heterosexual lifestyle, I guess the term “pseudo-heterosexual” would fit. They’re not really heterosexual just pretending to be.
As for those who are “gay to the core” yet chose to be celibate, just “celibate” is a good enoguh term. It’s neutral and doesn’t imply sexual orientation.
But to label onself “Christian” to imply they are no longer gay or no longer allowing themselves to be in a relationship with someone of the same sex is a misuse of the term “Christian.” Christian does not equal “straight,” and to those who are using that term as such misusing the term and it is an insult to the Chrisitan religion.
The fact that Exodus can NOT achieve its goal (turn gay men straight) means Exodus should receive the label “FAILURE.”
Dave R has asked me in a few sentences to try and outline what I mean by “post-gay”. Simply put, post-gay from a traditional Christian perspective is a way of understanding sexuality that moves beyond being labelled as “gay” (or straight). It looks at the Bible and sees that such labels simply don’t exist in it as ways of understanding humans at their deepest level, so it attempts to view oneself as neither gay nor straight, but simply male or female. As such it therefore assumes a conservative anthropology and seeks to move beyond an identity that is based upon who I am primarily attracted to and rather one in what I am called to be and do.
It has some common ground I guess with the queer theorists’ “post-gay”, but it begins with an utterly different anthropological basis.
Happy to answer specific questions, but I’d be grateful if you would not assume anything about what I believe until I’ve actually spelt it out.
Unless you also reject the cisgender dichotomy, which I do, and no doubt many “post-gays” do.
Funny thing is, ex-gays claim that, while they haven’t annihilated their same-sex attraction, they are “one with Christ” and have started “a journey in Christ.” Except, I thought that “in Christ there is no male or female.” No doubt I am missing something key that “proves” 1950’s June Cleaver gender identity and sexuality to be the Biblical Way.
NOTE: I recommend that people with questions specifically regarding Peter O.’s sexual identification please ask them either on his website or in a personal email. There is a history of thread domination that I personally, as the author if this post, would rather not occur here.
He’s not been banned from the site, and this is an open forum. There has been a history of problems as you describe, but unless he is banned we will need to deal with issues if and when they happen.
Open forums are, by nature, not necessarily topic driven.
I didn’t say he was banned, nor did I recommend a banning. But a history of thread-hijacking leaves me wary.
I am sorry but with all due respect I do not buy it. By your definition of “post-gay”, would it also be applicable for heterosexuals to be “post-straight”, and that too can be a viable option for them? (And I am taking it in the terms that homosexuality and heterosexuality are both different but equal in status.)Your explanation would be better suited for the term “post-sexuality”.
I personally do not find “post-(anything here)” relevant to me. If I were to move beyond labels and just be male or female in accordance to the Bible, do I discount myself as an intersexed being? And if I become “post-trans” am I supposed to live as a genderless being or being androgynic in line with who I am created to be in God? And I AM still a believer in Christ.
In the end, “post-gay” (a label too) is already misleading by itself. It negatively connotes that only gays should be past their sexuality. I wish a more neutral definer can be found.
In looking back at nearly two decades when I identified as ex-gay and one who struggles with homosexuality, I think a more accurate term to describe myself then would be ‘anti-gay.’ I stood opposed to a gay identity and same-sex attractions in myself. I went to war in order to destroy my sexuality for Jesus, and by extension I opposed the acceptance and advancement of gays who were comfortable about their sexuality. I discovered that the war within bled out all around me. I did this all believing that my actions were sanctioned and supported by God.
It took years to figure out that my religious motivation was a cover for homophobia and the effects of heterosexism.
These days I identify as Peterson, a happy, wholesome and holy homosexual.
No, Peter O, that argument won’t do.
Naturally, such labels as gay or straight, or any synonymous terms, don’t exist in the Bible. The biblical authors didn’t have the knowledge and understanding of human sexuality to form such concepts. (You won’t find, for instance, anything about blood groups in the Bible either.) Nor, if we use them today, are we implying that they are “ways of understanding humans at their deepest level”, but merely that they are (perhaps oversimplified) ways of understanding human sexuality, which is just one aspect of humanity.
By labelling myself as “gay”, I am not thereby assuming “an identity that is based upon who I am primarily attracted to”, any more than by describing myself as a baritone I am assuming an identity that is based on my vocal range and timbre. (There’s nothing about voice classification in the Bible, but that doesn’t make such classification illegitimate.) It is simply a description of one aspect of who I am. I see no more need to move “beyond” it than to move “beyond” being blue-eyed.
There’s a saying in Spanish:
“El mono aunque se vista de seda mono se queda.”
(A monkey, although he dresses in silk, is still a monkey).
Post gay, pre gay, part-time gay, prehistoric gay, whatever gay, is still GAY.
I don’t recall Christ asking for labels. There are lots of people who say they are something but it is ONLY in title. If you’re having an identity crisis, start with the label “accumulated star dust particles” and work your way up.
I’ve always found it amusing that Exodus staffers chastise the use of “ex-gay” at times, when the word was brought into existence largely through their own efforts. Certainly the popularization of it comes mostly through them.
I don’t have a real yearning to use “post-gay” for anything myself. However, it does seem rather confusing that some (e.g Randy and Peter O)are giving the phrase a meaning which distorts that which it already had. It is clear the term existed with the meaning from the “queer theory” sense years before Randy and Peter began using it in a modified fashion.
So for the sake of clarity, if nothing else, why not create a new label if you must have one? That has to be better than say, labeling oneself “gregarious” but having to qualify it by explaining that for you, that means you spend most of your time alone, but you are very open with God. What is the point?
So true! In fact, it was their battle cry. Their “I once was lost but now I’m find” anthem. The problem is that they are not “ex” gays they’re just gays who hate their own kind and themselves for that matter, and are trying desperately to make God love them (when God already does so it seems pointless) and to be accepted by others who will only love them if they “change their evil ways.” Also pointless because the only religious job an “ex-gay” can get is working in an “ex-gay” ministry.
This topic is one I think about a lot. I would be interested in hearing from readers who are gay on this thought….. as I’m speaking with contacts who are gay it seems for most that the use of the word gay is fundamentally descriptive for them. (ie. When they say, “I’m gay” what they really mean is “I’m attracted to my own gender” They are not making a statement about their political position, their theological position or whether they are or are not sexually active.) Would the gay readers here feel that is fairly accurate? It seems to me that some of the divide between the conservative Christian community and the gay community is the assumption the conservative Christian community makes about the use of the word ‘gay’ as having some political, theological connotation ….. and I’m afraid that assumption is really unhelpful – and causes people to speak past each other.
So my question is – if you identify as gay – what do you mean by that (and by extension – what are you not trying to communicate – if that makes sense)?
Thank you for helping me, as someone who does not experience same-gender sexual attraction, as I keep wrestling with how to best understand this thorny issue of identity.
When I say “I’m gay” or “I’m queer” (I like the term queer because I think it describes much more about my being than just my sexuality 8) ) I mean I am sexually and romantically attracted to the same sex.
I don’t rule out opposite sex attraction possibility; but there’s no question same sex attraction is dominant. I can’t ever see myself really being involved with a man, let alone married to one.
It has no bearing on my religious beliefs (I’m a fairly religious Jew, though I don’t keep Kosher) or my political beliefs (I like to call myself a radical centrist).
I never thought “gay” described anything more than attraction, but I think wendy’s hit something – when people like Randy describe “the gay worldview” what they’re probably talking about is “the liberal worldview.” For them, you HAVE to be “liberal” to think that gay sex is “okay” to have. THEY’RE the ones that politicize the gay movement the most, IMHO. None of the gays I know think of gayness as equivalent to liberal politics.
I have always used the term gay just to describe that I was attracted to men and nothing else. No political or religious connection at all. From the Exodus perspective, they assign political, social and religious values to the word gay, ,but society in general does not. I think that comes from Exodus folks viewing the simple acceptance of the reality of being attracted to the same sex as some sort of radical departure from the Exodus ideology.
I have always thought of the term queer as much more ideological. To some degree that may be age related (I am in my 40s) and grew up with queer as an insult, until activists reclaimed the term for themselves. I think you are younger than me and that might account for the difference with regard to this word. But take heart, old dogs can learn new tricks. I don’t take offense to the word queer unless it is purposefully used as an insult.
If I was given a questionaire asking to check what is my sexual orientation is, I would check mark “gay” meaning I am attracted to men. Like John, it does not denote my political affiliation, my religious convictions, or anything else.
To say calling oneself “gay” it defines ones political, religious, and social status is like saying because someone is Catholic they are automatically against abortion or divorce.
I would agree generally with the others here. I’ve never run across anyone in the “real world” that didn’t take gay to mean simply attraction to the same sex (and usually male). It was only after I started dealing with the world of Exodus, et al, that I found people who felt the need to qualify it with things like “gay-identified, SSA, etc.” I find such terms passive-aggressive (certainly the first one).
While I don’t use the term myself, I can understand why some wish to use the term “post gay,” at least the more common meaning (not the one described by Peter above). I can see wanting to get beyond the need to differentiate between gay and straight entirely, but I don’t see that actually becoming a reality for quite some time.
In the same way that some people still feel the need to describe someone as a “nice black woman” or such (and would never think to do the opposite), people long into the future are likely to describe someone as “a young gay man” or whatever.
Then we have PFOX, which as far as I know is the only group that actually tries to suggest that “ex-gay” is a separate orientation. Try to wrap your brain around that one, lol.
But PFOX is but a few people, and even if we were to take everyone associated with ex-gay ministries, reorientation therapy and even those who attempt to do the same thing themselves, I honestly doubt it would be a significant fraction of the gay population. So using the term as most understand it would seem to be the best way to communicate.
As one who identified myself at one time as “ex-gay”, I no longer use the term for various reasons and I try not to get hung up on the whole label issue. Just as the label “gay” is just one part of who a person is, so is the aspect of identifying oneself by any type of self-identified “struggle”. Contrary to what Alan S says, when I did apply the term to myself, in no way did it include “hating my own kind”, nor was I “desperately trying to make God love me”. God loves us unconditionally. At the same time, I won’t argue the point that some “Christians” will only love gays if they change, and people like Andy Marin and others are working to sensitize the evangelical Christian community and the gay community to learn to build bridges and communicate better with each other.
Also contrary to another point made by Alan S, that “the only religious job an “ex-gay” can get is working in an “ex-gay” ministry”, I know many men in evangelical ministries who struggle with same sex attraction but do not identify as either gay or ex-gay. Their main job may not be “ex-gay” ministry, but they are not hiding in a closet. They are pastors, missionaries, counselors, lay leaders and youth directors. It is something that they disclose on a personal level to others, as I do, when it is germane.
I recent posted on my blog on this same subject of the “ex-gay” label, where I talk about labeling myself as a “new creation in Christ”:
If I want to identify myself further in the context of a specific group of people or sharing with some individual seeking support, I may add to that by saying that “I have struggled with same sex attraction.” This is not something I push on gay people, but neither do I hide it and it is a way for me to be honest and open about an intimate area of my life when I choose to.
Jeff S said:
The mere fact that you use the term “SSA – Same Sex Attraction” is a red flag for me. It tells me that, yes, these “SSA” people may work as pastors, missionaries, counselors, lay leaders and youth directors, but they have to use terms like “I’m struggling with SSA” and have to openly state SSA is wrong and a sin, and that it is against the Bible, etc. in order to keep those jobs.
Just a couple of things:
1. What would be a suitable description for someone who’s struggling with other sex attraction?
2. What do Christians who go along with the ex-gay or the post-gay philosophy think about the following as a way of overcoming same sex attraction?
With all due respect, as I am out and about in the church across a pretty wide spectrum, more and more I encounter an acceptance of the reality of the experience of same-gender sexual attraction as morally neutral – even if there are theological boundaries on same-gender sexual behaviour. I actually rarely encounter church leaders who feel that experiencing same-gender attraction is a sin. My experience is that there are pastors / leaders who experience same-gender attraction, do not personally choose to identify as gay, are quite discreet about who they disclose their sexual realities to, but have been honest and open with their senior leadership, and carry on with their life and work. The senior leadership accept their realities with a shared understanding of boundaries related to behaviour (which is the same situation for anyone in the arena of expectations re: sexual behaviour).
Though I can understand that the process of paradigmatic change is going far too slowly for some, I think it fair to say that the process of attitudinal change is happening quite quickly comparative to other comparable ism’s that have undergone slow change over generations. I think those committed to bridge building need to live in the tension of both gratitude and holy impatience as we both work and wait for injustice to be rooted out.
This is a very interesting discussion. One that I see cropping up periodically. I have changed the label I use to refer to myself several times over the years. But I simply don’t like labels. I don’t like the term “ex-gay” and I haven’t used “post-gay” since it didn’t feel genuine. Too PC or something. Although, reading the queer theory definition of it here, it makes more sense why some would want to use it. And I can see Peter’s point.
I tend to phrase things differently depending on who I am talking to so that I am most clear in what I mean. Terms mean different things for different people. And for me good communication is the primary goal and so I am sensitive to who I am talking to when I describe myself. For some that means saying “gay,” for others that means saying “I have same gender-attraction” or “I’m attracted to women”, etc.
I don’t refer to myself as “gay” all the time because it feels like too much of a box. “Queer” offers more flexibility, but feels too PC or activist to me.
I work in the disability field and we make a point of saying, “person with a disability” as opposed to “the epileptic” etc. The disability pride movement has a “post-disability” mentality of not being defined solely by a particular disability even as they take pride in being who they are as a person with a disability. I see the gay label similarly.
To say “I’m gay” feels normal sometimes. And at other times feels more like I’m saying “Hi, I’m Karen The Lesbian.” And that is not how I see myself. My attractions are merely a part of me, they are not my identity. Plus, I have a completely different worldview where I don’t see desire as a basis for identity. Romantic/sexual desire is something I experience not something I am. Just as feelings of happiness or depression or any other emotional or physical sensation does equal who I am. Rather it is merely an experience. I see the term “heterosexual” the same way. Its all social construct.
All that to say, I am interested in new terminology being developed. But, efforts so far in these kinds of discussions don’t seem to come up with something that quite fits. Some suggested “Christian celibate” or “celibate”–but that doesn’t describe me either. I am being chaste for the moment, but I have not made a vow to celibacy, etc.
Labels feel too much like confining boxes. And I have friends in the gay community who don’t like the boxes either. To say “I have same-gender attraction” is just as clear as saying “I’m gay” so why does it matter? Why would someone insist I use the term “gay” if I can just as easily say “I’m attracted to women.” It feels very inflexible and even politically driven to demand that a person must use the term “gay” or “lesbian” at all times.
To say Queer, Gay, Same Sex Attracted, Same Gender Attracted all mean the same thing is disingenuous at best and borders on being an outright lie at worse.
Words carry distinct weight and power, this power and weight is given to them by the groups who use them and the way in which they are used. Those words end up further charged when a group tries to repurpose a word for their own group. I love the example above when the attempt to reclaim Same Sex Attraction became Same Gender Attraction, the very swapping of Sex for Gender shows a greater thought and understanding of the sub text of the issue and meaning of sexuality then is generally carried by the blithe use of Same Sex Attracted.
People who are gay, or homosexual, or queer, or same sex attracted use and choose each identifier for the group they are in and for the message they want to send. This is true of any identity tag that sets a person apart from the “norm”. Is a person Catholic, Christan, or Religious? Is a person Mexican American, Latino, Hispanic? Is a person Disabled, Visually Impaired or Blind? The asnwer to that question usually depends on the group they are speaking with, their message, who they are trying to reach, and what they are trying to say.
All these terms have meanings and they all attempt to tell us something about the person or group they are attached to. They all carry a meta message, baggage of years of use by different groups attempting to control the debate. It is always wise to remember that when we have such discussions and not try to hand wave or apologize the differences away. We should be willing to analyze and defend our use of language. This need doubles when we are attempting to cross cultural barriers and debate issues as profound and misrepresented as sexuality.
Yeah, I’d say “Post-Gay” already has a well defined meaning that is very much counter to what Exodus, et al want it to now suddenly mean. What’s interesting, I find, is that Post-gay is used more often to identify ideas, works, movements, rather than actual people. For example, a play that has gay people in it as main characters but is not about them being gay might be described as post-gay.
Wendy, absolutely, I use “gay” as an identifier of my sexuality, nothing more. But I have met a few hardcore conservative gays of the “Straight-Acting” variety who literally think
Gay = Loud, feminine, liberal-democrat, screaming, drugged out queen. These people prefer to be called “homosexuals” rather than gay. They generally refuse to believe that the majority of us who call ourselves “gay” think it only describes our sexuality.
And this gets into another subject. The same group that calls themselves “homosexuals” rather than gay are also a very “I don’t like labels” crowd.
I’ve noticed, and forgive me if I’m harsh, but I’ve noticed that those who claim to object to labels, think labels are wrong, etc are actually only bothered by certain specific labels, usually labels that they themselves have attached a negative meaning to. Example above, the “homosexuals” think that gay = “a bunch of stereotypes I don’t want to be connected to” –whereas those of us like me, who use the word to simply describe the kind of person I’m most likely to be kissing on a regular basis have no problem with the word “gay”.
Labels, at the end of the day, are merely words. They are not good or bad, but only have the value we assign to them. It’s so easy to get all up in your head about labels and think “gay” doesn’t describe me, “queer” isn’t right either, “homosexual” is too clinical and focused on sex….quite frankly we end up creating new labels that end up having the same identical meanings as the old labels, or no meaning, or are just downright pretentious and useless —- anyone ever heard the terms “ambi-sexual”, “omni-sexual” or “hetero-flexible”? —-they all mean bisexual.
Gay, to me, is just fine. It describes me as accurately as left-handed or bald. Yeah, someone else might assign negative meanings to gay, left-handed, or bald, but that’s on them, and I can’t be bothered with triffling people and their hangups. Or, at least I try not to be.
Jason, I disagree about “omni-sexual” = “bisexual.” There are people who don’t believe sexuality is a simple dichotomy. That is why they use words like “omni-sexual.” I support people using those words because I think that they ARE different from “bisexual.”
I also think there is the reality of a meta message that needs to be addressed ….. do you have any thoughts on navigating through the baggage in a way that is helpful for people from diverse starting points to better understand each other?
I certainly advocate for personal relationship and listening to another person’s story and experiences. But at a macro level there just seems to be a lot of generalizations, talking past one another, assumptions, and misunderstanding. The diversity of motivations, perceptions and fears within both Christian communities and gay communities makes the complexity significant.
I am glad that that is a reality for you, and hopefully for many others like you. As an Orthodox Christian who has found a home in an Episcopalian Church, I can say pretty much the same. It truly is a spiritual home and a safe house for gays especially those of a RCC and Orthodox background. But I know just up the street there is an Evangelical Church that would rather welcome the devil himself into their church before they let a gay person in (unless they repented and swore off being gay).
And there are thousands of churches just like them all over the U.S. If there are safe haven churches for ex-gays, post-gays, past-gays, future-gays, prehistoric gays, whatever gays, then that is truly a good thing. But I haven’t seen them, or heard about them – at least not in the sense that they can come clean to their congregations as a whole, and at least not in the U.S.
All I have seen, witnessed, and heard about are churches that treat ex-gays on a lower level. And that their acceptance is conditional. And it usually involves not revealing anything about their past unless they accept it as something evil that God delivered them from.
Wendy, you expressed well what I was trying to say in response to Alan’s comment, about others in the church who deal with same sex attraction but choose to not identify as gay or act on it sexually. More and more it is being understood as something people deal with while choosing not to pursue same sex relationships based on their understanding of scripture. At the same, there needs to be more open support and encouragement of such people so it is not something stigmatized or driven under the rug. I pray that the new DVD series “Bridging the Gap: Conversations on Befriending Our Gay Neighbours” and Andy Marin’s book “Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community” both have tremendous impact in bridging the church with the gay community and anyone who self-identifies it as a struggle. How cool that both of these new resources are coming out around the same time.
Emily, with all do respect, your response reveals your limited understanding of the word “bisexual”. On what evidence do you believe that bisexuals, in general, regard sexuality as a “simple dichotomy”? I have yet to meet one bisexual who regards sexuality as “simple” period.
Having read thoroughly on the subject (yes, I’m one of those gays who thought he was bi in college), I’m confident that there is even less philosophical cohesion or consensus among bisexuals than there is among gays and lesbians. Both omnisexual and bisexual describe people who have the capacity to love and be sexually attracted to people regardless of gender. The word “omni-sexual” is no more or less precise than bisexual and is both pretentious and useless, it attempt to make a distinction where none is warranted, needed, or helpful.
All your post shows is that you’ve boxed “bisexuals” into an idea that most bisexuals would regard as lacking. Thus, how can “omni-sexual’ be anything other than a synonym?
I’m looking at the words from an etymological point of view. “bi” = two. bi + sexual = two sexualities. This lends itself to the word “dichotomy,” which comes from the Greek dichotomia (divided): dich- (form of dícha, in two, asunder); tomia– a combining form meaning cutting, incision, excision of an object.
Both words have “two” inherently part of their structure.
omni = “all” or “every.” which is more than two.
Therefor, I will never see the two words as being synonymous, since they are based on different roots.
My reasoning is not based on feelings surrounding the word. Nor did I say that “all bisexuals only see a dichotomy.” If anyone has emotionally charged the words, you have, especially by deciding that people who use “omnisexual” are doing something “pretentious and useless,” and “attempt to make a distinction where none is warranted, needed, or helpful.” I’m sorry that you saw my polite disagreement as being a personal attack on yourself or all bisexuals, but it was not.
Language is fascinating, no?
This conversation reminds me of the time I declared on a messageboard that I chose to be gay. No, really. I didn’t choose to be homosexual, but I did choose to be gay.
At least, as I use the words.
Homosexuality is inborn. You’re homosexual if you’re sexually attracted to others of the same sex. I am. That’s that.
Gayness, I think, is slightly different. You’re gay if you can say you are without wincing. Arguably, gayness is a Western cultural phenomenon. And no, gay does not imply camp.
I find that hard to take seriously, but it does seem offensive.
My definition of gay is simple. You’re gay if you recognize that you are homosexual and accept it.
If nothing else, “gay” has a common meaning — and it means attracted to the same sex in a way that wholly aligns with what “straight” means.
Neither imply much about anything as regards behaviour at any point in time, the quality of relationships, or an individual’s quirks/likes/dislikes/openness etc etc etc. They are not meant to. They are a short-hand way of describing the direction of a person’s attractions.
(We prefer to qualify if needed for further accuracy ie ‘openly gay’, ‘bisexual’, ‘anti-gay gay’)
As for the common use… I’m sure more than the large majority of people opened their newspapers on the morning after news of Larry Craig’s dalliance broke and said “Hmm, I didn’t know he was gay.” I have a feeling his wife probably thought the same thing.
And I don’t think ‘gay’ is a Western invention. It first gained common currency in the West, but there is a reason the word has travelled like wild-fire — because it both describes and is short-hand for something recognised the World over. The attractions, the orientations, are the same; what differs is the way they can be (and are) expressed within societies.
Well, that’s what I was driving at. You don’t have any choice about whether or not you’re homosexual, but if you think you are not gay, then, arguably, you aren’t.
If one wishes to make a distinction between “homosexual” and “gay” – and I can see a case for doing so – then Lynn David’s definition is both straightforward and useful.
If, having accepted your homosexuality, you later allow yourself to be persuaded that there is something “wrong”, “bad” or “disordered” about it, then it may make sense, if you are using the above terminology, to describe yourself as “post-gay” or even “ex-gay”.
That doesn’t mean that you have in any meaningful sense become “post-homosexual”, “ex-homosexual” or “a former homosexual”, or that you have succeeded in “leaving homosexuality” (the title of a forthcoming book by Alan Chambers) – even if you are no longer “practising”.
Lynn David probably said it better than I did, but I think we’re saying the same things.
Emily, first, I know you have a polite disagreement. I didn’t mean to imply anything else.
You DO have a point about dichotomy based solely on the etymology, I will give you that 100%, however, MY point is based in usage.
I have yet to meet a bisexual who subscribes to a dichotomous view of sexuality. Therefore ominisexual and bisexual are synonyms in usage, while not necessarily so in etymology.
I stick by my saying that omnisexual is pretentious and useless as it gives no more clarity or insight than bisexual, it seems to be based soley on an etymological objection, not an actual distinction between the way “bisexuals” and “omnisexuals” think, feel, or actually go about their business. That, to me, is why it is pointless and pretentious. It’s redundant.
To look at it a different way:
I might wish to start calling myself “homo-amourous” as I LOVE men rather than women. Some might take to this new term because it gets away from the sexual aspect, something that the Virtuecrats seem to fixate on.
Would my new term “homo-amorous” be any more accurate than homosexual? No. Does it highlight or provide insight into the differences between myself and “homosexuals” – No, because none exist. The same is true for “omnisexual” vs. “bisexual”– while their construction is rooted differently their common usage and understanding are identical. That is why I said they mean the same thing.
Beware the etymological fallacy, Emily.
…Except that, the etymological fallacy doesn’t seem to apply to the words “bisexual” and “dichotomy” because they both mean what they meant when they first came into use.
“dichotomy” still means what it originated from, and “bisexual” (being an especially young word) still means what it meant when it was first coined – attraction to both sexes.
The fallacy would more accurately apply to, for example, the word “nice,” which originally meant “ignorant.”
It strikes me that another problem with the term “omni-sexual” is that, since the prefix “omni-” means “all”, it is likely to be interpreted as indicating that you’re prepared to have sex with everyone and everything – even with children and animals.
Unless this is what it’s intended to mean – and I’m sure that it isn’t – then I’m inclined to agree with Jason D that the term is superfluous to requirements.
What a fun post you have dished up.
With regard to labels, mainly Side A and Side B to determine gay sexual beliefs; could a new term/label maybe being called Side F possibly be coined as a useful new label referring to Fundamentalist views of sexuality?
Homosexual: of the same sex.
A friend of mine was lalking the Side F conversation the other night. Small world.
From his view side F would indicate that the religious right has failed with marriage, failed with abstinence, failed with sex education in schools, failed on understanding homosexuality.
I’ve always seen Side A as the mover shaker very cool Alpha males/females. Then there is the ever struggling Side B meaning Benched. If Side F stood for Fundamentalist sexuality Failures, well it would seem to umm, Fit.
I want to return to a point I raised earlier in this discussion. Post-Gay to me seem disingenuous to the real message behind Randy Thomas’ and Peter Ould’s use of them. Really their stand is anti-gay. They have opposed homosexuality in themselves and the world around them.
My partner, Glen Retief, responded to Peter Ould some time back about his mis-use of the term Post-Gay.
He concludes by writing,
You can read his full comments and a subsequent comment here.
Now I better understand the generally accepted definition of post-gay.
I think that Randy Thomas and Peter Ould should be held to that definition.
For example, when Randy talks about being post-gay, we should respond that we are so glad that he has let go of his anti-gay campaign and accepts same sex and opposite sex relationships as ethically and morally equal. We have been waiting for a long time for Randy and other at Exodus to come around, and it is nice that a new day has dawned…
If Randy and Peter faced the real meaning when then used that term often enough, they will abandon it out of embarrassment… (kinda like FOX news and their “teabagging” protest against the Obama “stimulus”… some things you just can’t make up!)
Your gay history is a bit off kilter.
Anti-gay (as a label) was also used by the same people who tried to promote the term post-gay in the 1990s. Both terms weren’t popular (or even noticed) beyond their ‘alternative’ art-scene/media origins.
And it’s very unlikely that anyone in Queer Studies would have used the term post-gay before the late 1990s. The original post-gay commentators (who were mostly journalists) hated the dull conformity or ‘groupthink’ of Queer Studies far more than they disliked the shallow identity politics of mainstream GLBT culture. They were more Camille Paglia than Ellen DeGeneres.
Anti-gay was a (mid-1990s) spin on post-gay. It meant more than “take the gay for granted”. It was coined (by the most fearlessly OUT people you could imagine) to heap contempt on mainstream GLBT culture. ‘Anti-gay’ commentators didn’t just want everyone to move out of the ghetto – they wanted to burn down the ghetto and heckle all the ‘lame’ queens still doing the PRIDE thing.
So, ironically, anti-gay originally meant anti gay culture – not anti-homosex.
A few years later some very perceptive straight teenagers had more success at mocking shallow GLBT/gay culture – and they achieved it by simply using “gay” as an alternative word for lame.