Sunday, February 01, 2009

Talking About Words, Again

Hey everyone! It looks like once-a-week posting is the best I will be able to do for awhile. I actually like scheduling it that way, since everything else in my life seems to be similarly scheduled right about now. Blogging topics are still being a little difficult to come by, but fortunately I stumbled across something to which I think I can contribute some thoughts.

With fallen pastor Ted Haggard's media blitz concerning his recent HBO documentary, a lot of people (both online and in real life) who know about my "issues" have been asking me my opinion. Usually it's something like this: "I couldn't care less." But of course that's not really the nicest attitude to take, especially since Haggard is, like it or not, one of the most visible examples of someone caught between religion and their sexuality right now (and bridging that gap is somewhat of my personal blogging forte).

Of course, I still don't think I have much to say. My personal opinion has been that Haggard should disappear from the media. I mean, I was sad to learn that he felt he was a "failure" simply because he was reduced to selling insurance and taking University of Phoenix classes, as if there aren't thousands of Americans for whom those things are pretty standard. It's odd how these high-profile Evangelicals don't seem to cope with living, you know, a normal life. But cope is what I expected him to do. Have a normal life and work on the healing that his family obviously needs, and just face the fact that he's not going to be a celebrity anymore.

Wendy Gritter of Bridging the Gap actually made a very good post about the whole situation, and I especially liked this quote of hers:
It would seem that Haggard associates a number of other descriptions to the word gay other than the common cultural understanding that the term gay simply describes someone who experiences same-gender attraction. It seems that he is sensitive to the common evangelical assumption that to say you are gay assumes that you are sexually active with members of your own gender. Clearly, in fidelity to Christ AND to his wife, he does not want to say that. But it seems to leave him in a no-man’s land of struggling for authenticity – and being unsure of how to express that - with the knowledge that evangelicals are watching him carefully. Personally, I believe it is unfortunate that stereotypes about gay people continue to afflict the common evangelical understanding – leaving those who are persistently attracted to their own gender with very few options to express that honestly without a whole lot of extra baggage.

I think this search for authenticity is not only a problem for Haggard, but for many SSA guys. It can be very annoying, when asked about my sexual issues or identity, to say things like, "Oh, I'm just a son of Christ. I'm just Jay." That's certainly true, but the fact of the matter is I'm also a son of Christ who is consistently attracted to men. I don't like the word "gay," I'll admit, and if anyone ever point-blank asks me what my sexual orientation is (which doesn't happen too often, mind you), I just say I'm attracted to men and don't use any specific label. And yes, that means they will likely call me "gay." Oh well, big deal. Nothing I can do about what others think of me, especially if they refuse to actually get to know me in the first place.

There is just such a problem with language in the ex-gay/post-gay/whatever community. In fact, frequent commenter Jeff S. recently wrote about that on his blog. I believe that words such as "ex-gay" and terms such as "freedom from homosexuality" just really take the discussion to improper assumptions. The fact of the matter is that ex-gay men who proclaim freedom from homosexuality are usually still attracted to men, which means that the culture (again, like it or not) is going to call them "gay" and "homosexual." And based on the dictionary, they won't be wrong. Instead of getting up in arms about it, however, and trying to change the language, I think the best option is simply to just speak clearly. Say, "Well, I don't like that term. I'm still attracted to men, and you can call me what you want, but I don't use that term." But don't expect everyone else to conform to your terminology.

By the way, that was a bit of a tangent (but what would you expect?) I'm not saying Haggard is doing any of those things (although he does have a problem with speaking clearly). It's just something that I've noticed in the ex-gay world over the years, and frankly, I'm just getting a little tired of it. Luckily, it appears things are getting better.

And with that, comment away. Take care!

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