We have been moving around this topic again for awhile. I thought I would bring it back after reading a well written post at Disputed Mutability regarding terms and how same-sex attracted people describe their changes or lack thereof.
Here is a quote from DM’s post:
We have an important responsiblity to communicate clearly, honestly, and accurately. We might find it unfortunate that the world should use and understand words in a certain way. But we have a responsibility to be aware of how our words will be understood, and to take care that people will not get the wrong idea. Civilization as we know it depends on words not being able to mean whatever we want them to mean. If I am â€œcompletely heterosexual,â€ all is permitted.
DM also makes three broad suggestions that might provoke some discussion here:
1. We ought not to be absolutely allergic to speaking in terms that people will understand.
Even though we may dislike certain words with their common meanings, sometimes they are the best way to convey the truth. Sometimes, if someone asks you if you are gay or homosexual, the best answer is â€œYes, butâ€¦â€ or â€œWell, sort of, butâ€¦â€ We have to recognize that in most cases people who ask us these sorts of questions, though their conceptual foundations may be messed up, are primarily interested in our sexual attractions, or sometimes our behavior. They are generally not primarily interested in our sense of identity, especially if they already know what our beliefs are. So we need to acknowledge this in the answers we give to them, and answer in a way that communicates the truth. If our attractions are predominantly homosexual, and we are responding to the questions of someone who may not be able to understand a complex explanation of our views, sometimes the most accurate, honest, and IMHO most God-honoring answer to the question â€œAre you gay?â€ or â€œAre you homosexual?â€ is â€œYes.â€
2. We can turn our conversations toward a vocabulary we find more suitable.
Weâ€™ve done this pretty well with â€œsame-sex attracted,â€ I think. (I personally prefer â€œhomosexually-attractedâ€ or â€œhomo-attractedâ€, partly because theyâ€™re easier to understand, and partly because I think a lot of people just need to get a grip when it comes to applying any â€œhomo-â€ word to themselves, but whatever.) Some of us donâ€™t feel that words like â€œgayâ€ or â€œhomosexualâ€ accurately convey what weâ€™re talking about, so we use different terminology.
I think itâ€™s fine to tell our conversational partners that we canâ€™t express our views fully in their preferred vocabulary, and to share our own with them. And with minimal creativity and effort, we can explain our sexuality and our convictions without using any orientationist buzzwords at all. We can say things like, â€œWell, Iâ€™m attracted to men, but because of my religious beliefs that sex belongs in the context of marriage between a man and a woman, Iâ€™m not looking for a sexual relationship.â€
I honestly think this is the best way to handle both how we present ourselves to others and how we think of ourselves. If youâ€™re really worried about gay identity, then stop thinking and speaking of yourself in gay-related terms altogether! Saying â€œIâ€™m not gay!â€ buys into a gay identity worldview just as much as saying â€œIâ€™m gay!â€ does. You cannot â€œmove beyondâ€ the latter without moving beyond the former as well. The same goes for â€œheterosexualâ€ and â€œhomosexual.â€
If we donâ€™t like the orientationist vocabulary of â€œgay,â€ â€œhomosexual,â€ â€œheterosexual,â€ â€œsexual orientation,â€ and the like, we can simply decline to use it, for the most part. We do not have to abuse it by employing it in a way that misleads others.
3. If weâ€™re going to use the worldâ€™s words differently from how others are using them, we ought to make that clear.
So, my personal feeling is that we ought not apply the adjective â€œheterosexualâ€ to ourselves unless we are overwhelmingly predominantly attracted to the opposite sex. And, we ought not to describe ourselves to outsiders as â€œnot gayâ€ or â€œnot homosexualâ€ if our attractions are predominantly directed towards people of the same sex. (Within exgay circles and with those Christians who understand what their words mean, I suppose people can use whatever lingo or dialect they want. Iâ€™m mostly concerned with how we present ourselves to those who wonâ€™t understand our linguistic eccentricities.)
But, if some of us feel that we absolutely must say, â€œIâ€™m not homosexual,â€ then we ought to explain why: â€œâ€¦because I believe that nobody is really homosexual,â€ or whatever the reason is. If we are predominantly same-sex attracted and we say, â€Iâ€™m not gayâ€¦â€ we had better add â€œbut you see, I think that gayness is a matter of identity rather than attraction.â€ Specifically, if we are going to talk in non-standard terms, we ought to be explicitly crystal clear about our attractions. â€œI consider myself heterosexualâ€¦but when Iâ€™m real stressed and tired and lonely, I sometimes still get turned on by a good-looking guy.â€ Yes, we might sound like idiots, but better to sound like an idiot than to deceive others. And that fact that saying those things sounds idiotic may indicate something about whether we should be saying them at all! (See my two preceding suggestions.)
There’s more good stuff in the post but that should be more than enough to get us going. I know some like the term ex-gay whereas many do not. I wonder what will become of it.
34 thoughts on “Ex-gay – Do terms matter?”
I realize this discussion is a bit old. But I think this link is relevant. Pay attention to the introduction and how the newscasters describe the “Love Won Out” conference.
Also, take a look at some of the related links and how other news broadcasts described the conference. How well do you think “Love Won Out” is conveying the message about what it is they do?
Jim Burroway is covering this ground a bit over at Box Turtle Bulletin – he even has a survey.
Michael, I was completely in accord with your last comment until you assumed and assigned motives…or reading more into the situation than what is there. Yes, I did say that the term ‘ex-gay’ was intended to be ‘provocative’ but I did not say or mean that it was intended to ‘provoke’ as you suggested. Ex-gays then and now found themselves victimized by the media. If we made a charismatic sounding statement, we were portrayed as mindless chandelier swingers; if we tried to accommodate psychology’s terminology, they’d use those soundbites to make us sound schizo. It’s called “spin”. We didn’t aim to provoke in the sense of make angry or agitate; instead we wanted to provoke a deeper discussion…we wanted people to ask us what we meant by ex-gay so we could explain our faith and the rather unique challenges that faced us. We knew people brought pre-conceived notions to the table, that’s why we needed a new term but, as I said before, some pre-conceived notions run so deep that there’s no sensible way to deal with them. I still remember one honest question: So, are you a regular Christian or are you one of those born-again types? Think about it. The questioner obviously had notions of what they thought was a ‘regular Christian’ and what they thought was a ‘born-again’ and yet they were under the impression that they were asking a fair and open question. I think that may be the crux of it. We felt that the questions themselves were baited, biased and begging for a particular response. Most of us opted to speak from a faith framework under these circumstances. Our detractors would always choose to misunderstand but those who shared our bibical view would hear enough to pique their interest. Yes, we wanted media attention…but it wasn’t for money or personal gain, we simply wanted our network of like-minded sojourners to grow. Color me guilty!
One important thing has changed, though. Exodus has now begun making statements in political forums. Now, there isn’t just the confusing collision of psychology and christianity but politics is thrown into the mix. This is another area where I tend to agree with you. I wish Exodus would stay out of the political arena. I worry about sheep among wolves but I also see the tremendous potential for miscommunication and misinterpretation. I have shared my concerns with Alan Chambers at Exodus. I could not persuade him to my point of view and, while I can understand his motivations for political involvement, I still disagree.
Michael, I’ve got to tell you that the first part of your last comment was right on the mark. Not only accurate but also extremely well said. I only take exception to the ending as I elaborated above.
And Jim, thanks! Mine ‘dove-tailed’ with yours so closely that I felt I needed to clarify that I was actually responding to the one preceding it. But it did feel good to know that a few of us were starting to think and communicate along the same lines. Feels like progress to me! Time to go and enjoy the blizzard!
When I read your comment (#11070), I actually thought you were using my comment as a jumping off point…
They say great minds think alike. I won’t tell anyone otherwise if you don’t. 😉
Responding to Ed: So “ex-gay” seems to have both a public and a private usefulness. One (the public use) is a “provocative” use of the word to attract media attendtion. The other is used to describe a wide variety of Christian individuals (celibate, bisexual or still homosexually oriented — but not straight) who need a way to refer to themselves in light of their commitment to be obedient to what they believe is God’s law.
Ex-gay doesn’t refer to a change from gay to straight or even the lessening of gay attractions. Instead, the term refers to a new “identity”, a different way of defining oneself and responding to homosexual impulses — even if sexual orientation never changes. It reminds me of various “rights of passage” in which a member of a group is given a “new name” to refer to a new status and purpose.
Read between the lines and Ed sounds like Dr. Throckmorton — Ed is not talking about changing people’s sexual orientation but just helping folks to live in accordance with their values. But that’s kinda boring, and it doesn’t attraction much media attention, huh Ed? For that reaction you need to switch to the “public use” and “provoke” the media with the still misleading term “ex-gay” — whether it is your intention to mislead or not..
“I honestly donâ€™t think that Exodus or its leaders ever intended to hide the reality of ongoing homosexual feelings”
I disagree. I think it would be highly doubtful that in all the discussions/debates/arguments Exodus has had over the years, Exodus didn’t realize that people where (mis)interpreting their use of the word “changed” to mean change from being gay to being straight. I think Exodus deliberately fostered this idea with carefully worded testimonials from people who had changed.
When one of their poster boys for change, John Paulk (sp), had been caught (more than once) in gay bars, he claimed he was there because of some sort of “outreach”, not because he still had homosexual attractions.
LOL. I checked in on the site and got pulled away and then came back to ‘leave a comment’…wrote and posted without having read Jim’s comment that precedes mine. Well said, Jim! I intended to address the different theologies that were within Exodus but only hinted at it with my reference to charismatic theology. I think a fair number clung to a ‘works’ theology and a greater number to a ‘pilgrimage/journey’ theology more familiar to Lutherans/Episcopalians. I must confess that I haven’t kept up with Exodus for more than a decade but I would suspect that the three theologies (charismatic, works, journey) still prevail. Many individuals are likely a blending of two or more. I know I am! 🙂
I honestly don’t think that Exodus or its leaders ever intended to hide the reality of ongoing homosexual feelings but I did note that some Exodus agencies were far more charismatic in their theology than others. These would be more likely to make ‘faith confessions’ or ‘faith professions’ of where they thought God was leading them TO rather than where they actually were. I came from a charismatic Bible school and am embarrassed a bit by some of my earliest writings–you can really see the charismania–but within six months I was writing some of the gutsiest stuff. I’d speak of RECENT temptations and how God somehow provided me the grace to resist usually with a lesson attached. This was month after month…and yet, I’d still have people say things like “oh, it’s easy for you”. They treated the fact that I hadn’t fallen with another man as ‘proof of change’ and conveniently forgot that I regularly admitted to ongoing temptations.
Sometimes when someone has a preconceived notion, absolutely NOTHING you say will get through. With this issue, preconceived notions abound. Sometimes you just lay it out the best you can and hope that someone will get the point.
The real issue here is NOT the term ‘ex-gay’. At the heart of it all is a confusing collision between psychiatry and christianity. Psychology has one definition of what a homosexual is…it’s how you think, feel and do; Christianity says its ‘the company you keep’ and what you do. So, on the one hand they can rightly be classified as a homosexual; on the other, they can’t. Since their Christian beliefs take priority in their minds over psychology’s viewpoints, they refuse to classify themselves by psychology’s definition. So, they can’t claim ‘homosexual’; they can’t claim ‘heterosexual’…they needed(need) a term that captured the ‘otherness’ but gave one very strong hint: I used to identify as gay. Any disclosure beyond that point ought to be dictated by the situation. If it’s a public pronouncement by a leader in a political situation, then that leader should be compelled to explain who they are as an ‘ex-gay’. In a teaching situation this would also be true. In most other circumstances, though, I’d encourage us all to ask ourselves first: We know they are Christians who used to identify as gay, is ‘where they’re at with that’ important to THIS discussion?
For the most part, my clients all had unique visions of where they were going in their journey out of a homosexual identity. Some simply wanted to obey their interpretation of the Bible. Others expected a healing of the hurts they associated with ‘the homosexual part’ of themselves but could see no further. Some chose celibacy from the start. Still others believed that heterosexuality was possible. Of these, some had a lot more to proceed with than some others. (More ‘bi’ to begin with….). Some lived in fear of a God they thought hated them while others knew a more understanding and merciful God. “Ex-gay” was a term that fit them all. The one thing we all had in common was that we were ‘From A Gay Background’.
(We even toyed with that phrase instead of ‘ex-gay’ but it got voted down. Someone would surely shorten it to F A G Background. Not good at all!)
Re: â€œA new identityâ€ does not equal a new sexual orientation
A neuron just triggered in my oh, so very Catholic mind.
Evangelical Christians “claim” their justification by faith, and because of that, they are saved. That’s it; no questions asked. (I know this is a gross simplificiation, but bear with me here).
Catholics (East and West) understand salvation as being a something that we “work out”, and while in our “working out” we can never be saved, our faith alone doesnt’ cut it. Even after we stake our faith in the sacrifice of Christ, there is more “work” to do. The two go hand in hand (Again a gross simplification, but maybe yuo can see where I’m going here.)
It just somehow struck me in reading Michael’s comment that Exodus is a very “Catholic” oranization (it’s a struggle, lots of work to do to overcome, etc) with a very Evangelical vocabulary (identity in Christ, new identity, etc.)
Not that Alan Chambers is claiming ex cathedra infalability or anything… 😉
Ed: No one (at least not me) is saying that you don’t have a right to “believe what you believe”. I just don’t want you to deceive. You say this is not your intent, and I believe you.
I understand the Christian logic you use when you say “I am no longer homosexual” — but it terms of your sexual orientation, you ARE. I used to use this same logic, and I realized that people were getting the wrong impression. They thought that they would become straight by coming to EXODUS. They thought they would become “normaL”. And the “provocative” label was part of the problem. Media tricks should not be part of a Christian ministry.
You are certainly not heterosexual in the common sense of that term. You are homosexual. You are choosing not to act on it, you are choosing a “new identity”. And you have EVERY right to live in accordance with your faith. I get it.
You admit that the term “ex-gay” was meant to be provocative. You admit that it does not mean heterosexual. You admit that that “ex-gays” will coninue to struggle with daily “temptations”. (I should point out that straight men don’t have this struggle. Homosexual “ex-gays” do.)
I thank you for your honesty. Put it all together (Alan Chambers’s comments, Joe Dallas’s definition, your own explanation above) and it becomes VERY clearr that the term Ex-gay really only refers to a Christian who would rather not have (and is trying not to act upon) his basic homosexual orientation. “A new identity” does not equal a new sexual orientation — and the public has a right to know.
I just want to clarify that the term ‘ex-gay’ was never meant to be misleading; instead, it was meant to be provocative. It was intended to make the media ask us what we were about so that we could talk about the somewhat unique journey we had undertaken. Some of us were very aware of the broad spectrum of people we represented and wanted a term they could all identify with to some degree.
To me, it’s always meant “out of”. I wound up teaching a number of classes at Exodus conferences with practical lessons for dealing with everyday desires…reckoning with the roots, the reality of temptation, overcoming the obstacles, etc. I was saying–and Exodus by selecting me to teach these classes was saying–that an ‘ex-gay’ still contends with homosexual desires. (I personally believe that the day after an ex-gay man decides he is beyond temptation, he will be tempted again.) Anyway, Psychology and Christianity differ strongly at this point. Because of my ongoing desires, psychology would still label me as gay. But because of my committment to stop acting on those desires, Christianity would not label me as homosexual. We KNEW we weren’t hetero; as described above, we were no longer homo…so we came up with a new term that said we were no longer gay identified. It spoke to where we’d been and said nothing more than we weren’t there any more.
And, I must confide that I am very aware of that attitude that Michael described so aptly. Of my six brothers, only 2 (born-again Christians) feel I shouldn’t find a nice man to settle down with. The others feel I’m crazy (delusional?) to believe as I do. They’re family so they say it gently but I’ve had situations with other people where it turned downright abusive. In one situation, a friend pointed me out to a woman and said ‘he used to be gay’…certainly not the phraseology I would have chosen…she approached me, introduced herself and then proceeded to rant all over me for fifteen minutes before I managed to escape. What the hell was that all about? Am I not allowed to believe what I believe? I wasn’t making any statements…supporting any causes; I was looking for a karaoke songbook since my turn was approaching.
Another thought. Yes, my impromptu survey disproved my assumption that people would interpret “ex-gay” as meaning that the person “no longer was homosexual.” All 25 thought THAT idea was completely ludicrous. They believed that sexual orientation changes “very rarely” if at all.
They group laughed when they heard the term “ex-gay” and thought that it indicated “denial” and “pretending to be something you aren’t”. Here’s the definition of ludicrous: “absurdly ridiculous: utterly ridiculous because of being absurd, incongruous, impractical, or unsuitable — from the Early 17th century — the Latin word ludus “play,” from which ludicrous is derived, is also the source of English allude, collude, delude and elude.”
My impromptu (admittedly unscientific) survey revealed that my respondents felt the whole idea of being “ex-gay” was rather delusional and that the term was elusive. They thought the term was being used by someone who wanted to hide the truth and wished they were straight even though they were still gay. Sort of like Joe Dallas’s definition of “ex-gay”: “A Christian WITH homosexual tendencies who would rather not HAVE those tendencies — it just rolls of the tongue easier.” Ed seems to be saying that it doesn’t matter as long a HE knows what he means when he calls himself “ex-gay”.
I still agree with the original post from DM: “We have an important responsiblity to communicate clearly, honestly, and accurately. We might find it unfortunate that the world should use and understand words in a certain way. But we have a responsibility to be aware of how our words will be understood, and to take care that people will not get the wrong idea.”
OK — I give up. Ex-gays can use whatever term they want and have it mean whatever they want. It doesn’t really matter. They can aslo use “change” to mean whatever they want. It’s useless debating this thing any longer. Ed has proved my point that it certainly doesn’t mean “straight”.
LOL! Michael’s informal survey supports what I’ve always believed. 1) that the term ex-gay DOES communicate some type of connection to homosexuality 2) that most people would question what it meant and 3) that no one thinks it means ‘straight’. So, Michael’s impromptu survey actually disproved his claim that “They would assume that any person using the label was trying to convey that they USED to be homosexually oriented but are now straight instead.”
Also, I consulted a 1970’s era dictionary when checking the meaning of ‘ex’ because that’s when the phrase was created. I just checked the online encarta dictionary and found “out, outside, away”, “not, without” and “former”. Couldn’t find that added emphasis of “no longer”.
We like to find terms to box things up, to summarize, to compartmentalize and then we get frustrated because something doesn’t fit neatly. Even the term “ex-wife” leaves a lot open for interpretation. I know some people who absolutely hate their ex and have absolutely no contact with them. But I know others who, although they are no longer married, will remain in a lifelong relationship with their ex. I know some others who, now that they are no longer married, are great friends. So the one ‘ex’ is hostile; another is cordial and the other is downright warm and friendly. The terms ‘ex-wife’ or ‘ex-husband’ don’t tell the whole story because they weren’t meant to. They simply tell that the marriage has been dissolved.
“Ex-gays” are simply trying to say that they have ‘divorced themselves’ from a gay identity and from the gay world that they were a part of. Some have become hostile; some have become quite ‘warm and friendly’ while most, IMHO, seek some form of cordial relationship…like this blog on a good day:-)
Just curious – does your class know you are gay?
I thought it might be interesting so, I just conducted a very informal “survey” of 25 students of a class I was teaching — and got these responses:
!. Everyone in the room agreed that heterosexuals are attracted to the opposite sex and NOT the same sex. Some called heterosexuality “normal”, “just the way you are” and one said “Biblical”.
2. Bisexuality was “being attracted to both sexes” but not necessarily “50/50”. Members of the class agreed that bisexuals could probably “change” — but that gays and straights could not — or it would be “very rare”.
3. All 25 students agreed that “gay” and “homosexual” were synonyms just as “straight” and “heterosexual” were.
4. No one could clearly define what might be meant by “ex-gay”. They said they had never heard of such a thing. When I asked for a definition, there was actually laughter in the room. Some said “denial” was the definition. Another said “fronting or pretending to be what you aren’t.” Some said “being celibate” or “not acting on the gay feelings”. When I asked, “Would ex-gay mean straight?” the unanimous response was NO.
I’ll design one. But I think that just asking the question “What does EX-GAY mean?” would yeild some very intersting responses — and I’ll bet Eddy that not ONE of the 100 people asked would come up with “from” or “out of”. What do you say, Eddy? Willing to wager?
We should do that – ask a bunch of people what they think it means. Anyone want to make up a 3-5 item survey?
Eddy said: “Iâ€™m still not sure where the emphasis on â€˜exâ€™ meaning â€œno longerâ€ comes from.”
Well, Eddy, it comes from the dictionary — as one of the common meanings of the prefix “ex”. Eddy is right that ONE of the meanings of the prefix “ex” is “out of” or “from”. But I am willing to bet you that your average divorced man on the street will never refer to his former spouse as his “out-of-wife” or “from-wife”.
I am also willing to bet that if you asked 100 random people what the term “ex-gay” might mean that not ONE of them would say a “out-of-homosexual” or “from-homosexual”. They would assume that any person using the label was trying to convey that they USED to be homosexually oriented but are now straight instead.
But even the leaders of the “ex-gay” movement have admitted that the term does NOT mean that — and that the label should be “retired” because it is confusing and inaccurate. I agree with Alan Chambers that we ought to use terms that most English speakers readily understand — and drop the EXODUS “new-speak”.
This has been a lively discussion. I remember when the term “ex-gay” first surfaced. It was not intended to mislead or miscommunicate; the original intent was to find a term that would be more inclusive. The fledgling ‘ex-gay movement’ was beginning to get noticed–from the church and the press. Both tended towards ‘sound bites’ (i.e. ex-gay rather than “I’m an individual with homosexual attractions who believes that, biblically, ….)”
I supported the term mostly because it said more than any of the others that were bandied about. As a wordsmith, I appreciated the fact that ‘ex’ was a prefix with multiple meanings. To me, this meant it could be embraced by people at different places on their journey. The most common definitions of ‘ex’ are: out of, from and former. “Out of gay”, “from gay” and “former gay”; I’m still not sure where the emphasis on ‘ex’ meaning “no longer” comes from.
The umbrella organization was EX-odus…recalling both the flight from Egypt and the years of wandering in the wilderness…they were ‘out of Egypt’, they were ‘free’ but they also had quite a few years in the wilderness ahead. I felt this also added substance to the term.
To be honest, I still support the term but I do recognize the validity of what writers on this site have mentioned…that some are using the term to obscure the truth of where they are in their journey. I especially appreciated one point in the original piece that mentioned that we ought to consider the audience that will be receiving our words. If we know that term will be misinterpreted, then it’s either lazy or downright dishonest to use it.
My statements were made based on a presumption that ex-gay refered to someone that was homosexual and was now heterosexual. They were in response to JAG’s question about why would someone like that identify as “ex-gay” rather than “heterosexual”.
Your excerpt (and response) made it sound like I believed that “ex-gay” did mean someone who was once gay and became straight. I think the caveat I gave made it clear I do not believe this.
As for my opinion on conversion therapy, I believe actual conversion from gay to straight is very rare, if it occurs at all. Further, I believe there has been no rigorous research on the matter due to politics (by people on both sides of the argument).
Ken: I didn’t realize I was quoting you out of context and II can’t misrepresent your views on conversion therapy because I have no idea what they are. Perhaps you could fill us in.
My “strong opinions” have mainly to do with the sloppy and (I believe) sometimes deliberately deceptive use of language by proponents of conversion therapy. Going back to the original post by DM on the importance of using language that others will understand:
“So, my personal feeling is that we ought not apply the adjective â€œheterosexualâ€ to ourselves unless we are overwhelmingly predominantly attracted to the opposite sex. And, we ought not to describe ourselves to outsiders as â€œnot gayâ€ or â€œnot homosexualâ€ if our attractions are predominantly directed towards people of the same sex.”
I agree with DM that “If weâ€™re going to use the worldâ€™s words differently from how others are using them, we ought to make that clear.”
To Ken: Yes, I did read your caveat and it didn’t make sense. How was I “quoting you out of context and misrepresenting your views”? Maybe we could all choose one dictionary and agree to use those definitions in this discussion.
God invented dictionaries for a reason, ya knowâ€¦
Some might also remind us that God scattered the languages at Babel. Maybe that’s what’s going on here. 😉
Did you read the “Caveat” I put before my statements and what I was *SPECIFICALLY* responding to?
I understand you have some strong opinions on this matter. However, I would appreciate it if you did not allow knee-jerk reactions to quote me out of context and mis-represent my views on the matter of conversion therapy.
Let me state the obvious: That one CAN reproduce does not make one straight. A person may BEHAVE heterosexually, but still have NO sexual interest in the opposite sex — and having to fantasize about men in order to have sex with my wife proved nothing — except that I am hetero-CAPABLE. By the same token, a straight male could be forced at gun point to give oral sex to his male assailant, but is certainly doesn’t make the victim homosexual.
I don’t know which post said: “â€¦If we donâ€™t like the orientationist vocabulary of â€œgay,â€ â€œhomosexual,â€ â€œheterosexual,â€ â€œsexual orientation,â€ and the like, we can simply decline to use it, for the most part.” That’s just plain silly. Using that logic, why don’t we all just make up our own private languages and use words however we please? That way, I could “pay my taxes” by which I mean “I had a blast feeding the slot machines in Las Vegas”. I don’t think the IRS would be satisfied. If words mean whatever we WANT them to mean, how can we ever hope to communicate? God invented dictionaries for a reason, ya know…
…If we donâ€™t like the orientationist vocabulary of â€œgay,â€ â€œhomosexual,â€ â€œheterosexual,â€ â€œsexual orientation,â€ and the like, we can simply decline to use it, for the most part.
For some part anyway…
The problem here is that “heterosexuality” means far more than a mere “sexual orientation”. Even gay and lesbian humans are 100% “heterosexual” in the reproductive sense of the word. There is no “reproductive equivalent” to the term homosexual, which is purely about “orientation” these days. Sex is a much broader concept than mere “genital pleasure”, but orientation is limited to just that small slice of sexuality — pleasure.
The two common terms for sexual orientation are not equal sides of the same coin: even Mary Cheney is “heterosexual”, when she decides to become a mother. There is simply no other way to go about it.
I do not agree with Ken when he asserts that “ex-gay” gives more information. Left undefined (as it almost always is) “ex-gay” actually confuses and conceals more than it reveals — and Alan Chambers of EXODUS agrees. Quoting Alan: “It’s more negative than anything and does not accurately convey what the change process is really about. …It should be done away with entirely.”
Ken also says that “Ex-gay conveys that the person has experienced both types of attraction (same gender and opposite gender), whereas, straight implies the person has not.” Again, I disagree.
This may be true of SOME “ex-gays”, but the vast majority of the ex-gays I have met have NOT experienced “both types of attraction”. They are still exclusively homosexually attracted. “Both types of attractions” are what BISEXUAL “ex-gays” have experienced.
“For example, say â€œIâ€™m heterosexual,â€ rather than saying â€œIâ€™m an ex-gayâ€ (Iâ€™m NOT gay anymore). It conveys a sense of wanting to dissassociate with that groupâ€¦rather than simply being a part of another one.”
Caveat: for this response only I’m assuming that someone who is ex-gay has a heterosexual orientation.
The reason someone might use the term ex-gay rather than simply straight is because ex-gay gives more information. Ex-gay conveys that the person has experienced both types of attraction (same gender and opposite gender), whereas, straight implies the person has not.
The trouble with the term ex-gay is that it gives a false impression. Most English speakers use “gay” to mean “homosexual”. They use gay as the opposite of straight. So people hearing the term naturally assume that “ex-gay” refers to a person whose basic sexual orientation changed from gay to straight. But it has NEVER meant that. Even EXODUS’s Joe Dallas has said that “ex-gay does not mean ex-homosexual”. So what DOES it mean? Here are some of the things it has been used to describe:
1. A person who never had gay sex but has been troubled by gay feelings and wants help to not act on these feelings.
2. A person who was deeply involved in the bar/drugs/bath/sex club scene who has found Jesus and no longer does these things — even though he has no heterosexual attraction and still has unchanged gay attractions.
3. A person who actually has more gay sex than he did before he got involved in a “change” ministry but is now meeting other gay Christians who “sometimes fall” like he does.
4. A bisexual who has decided to be faithful to his wife.
5. A pre-operative transsexual who found Jesus and had second thoughts about going through with it.
6. A gay guy who has settled down with one woman with a low sex drive and tries to remain faithful to her.
You get the idea. It’s a useless term. I agree completely with Alan Chambers that it is way past time to “officially retire it”. But watch — “change” ministries will most likely come up with something just a vague, misleading and open to multiple interpretations.
It is interesting that by using this language it says much about where you see individuals in society.
People seem quite fragile in their sense of self…why not just say what you are rather than what you are not. For example, say “I’m heterosexual,” rather than saying “I’m an ex-gay” (I’m NOT gay anymore). It conveys a sense of wanting to dissassociate with that group…rather than simply being a part of another one.
This is the crux of the matter: “We have an important responsiblity to communicate clearly, honestly, and accurately. We might find it unfortunate that the world should use and understand words in a certain way. But we have a responsibility to be aware of how our words will be understood, and to take care that people will not get the wrong idea.”
For way too long, proponents of “change” therapies have sidestepped their responsibility to use words “cleary, honestly and acurrately”.
Now, after years of pressure from its critics (and I am sure a lot of soul-searching within EXODUS itself) EXODUS is finally doing away with the term “ex-gay” –because it gives the wrong idea. Alan Chambers says he wants to “do away with the term entirely and see that it is never used again”. He says the term is “mostly negative” and “does not accurately describe the change process”. Kudos to Alan for a level of honesty about language that has not been seen under previous EXODUS leadership.
Why not just use common language? It’s a really cool human skill. If you need/want to communicate with someone about your sexuality, use terms that are in common use — words that both speaker and listener are likely to understand. If you are using a word in an unusual way, say so. This is the golden key that unlocks the debate. The question “can gays change?” depends ENTIRELY on what you mean by “gay” and what you mean by “change”.
Yes, we might sound like idiots, but better to sound like an idiot than to deceive others. And that fact that saying those things sounds idiotic may indicate something about whether we should be saying them at all!
My first inclination on reading this post was to poke fun – especially after a long week on the road in miserable weather. On further thought I remember how important it was for me the first time I told someone I was gay. Before that first time I had been deceitful. Not with others, but with myself. Accepting that we are who we are is an important step towards maturity.
I question how often people are asked whether they are homosexual. I only remember one instance when someone asked me. The truth is that we tend to recognize each other no matter whether we want to be recognized.
If exgays are frequently asked about their sexuality, well, that tells us something.
but if everyone spoke in language that was direct and not deceptive, that would eliminate about half of my objections to ex-gay ministries, and we can’t have that
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