There are multiple different ways that Christians who experience SSA choose to talk about their sexuality. Many Christians whom I respect refer to themselves as "gay Christians." Some add the descriptor "celibate gay Christian." Others are okay with the term gay, but do not attach it to the term Christian. Still others refuse to adopt the term gay altogether, saying, "I am a Christian who experiences same-sex attraction." So what do I call myself?
If you have read the "About Me" section of this blog, you will already know that the label that I have landed on* is "Christian celibate gay man." Each word is intentional, and each word will have its own post devoted to explaining what I hope it communicates.
But first, why don't I simply say that I am a "Christian who experiences SSA"? First, let me say that I don't have an intrinsic problem with this label. In fact, there are many things that I appreciate about it. It seeks to not make "gay" the source of main identity, but rather puts the emphasis on "Christian" as the main identity, and then talks about sexuality in the realm of experience. I like that impulse! Also, it stays away from the ambiguity of the term "gay" altogether. Finally, it communicates a strong sense of fighting for holiness. By saying that one "struggles", it is clear that the person is not embracing homosexual desires, but rather fighting for as much holiness as possible. All of these things I commend! In fact, in situations where I need to be really clear and avoid potential controversy, I would even use this label for myself.
And yet, I am not totally satisfied with the term either. There are more reasons that I will hit on when I discuss the word "gay" in my chosen label of "Christian celibate gay man," but the main reason is worth discussing now.
My main problem with the label, "Christian who experiences SSA" is that it seems to minimize the depth of my sexual experience, as if to say that my sexuality doesn't make up a part of who I am as a whole. Rather, it insinuates that I experience my sexual attractions from the outside, as if they bombarde my otherwise normal self with a barrage of attractions that are unrelated to who I am as a person. In reality, I am same-sex attracted even when I am not experiencing a specific attraction. Classifying my sexuality as mere experiences that happen to me is reductionistic, and - in my mind - doesn't do justice to the depth of what is really there. I walk around with SSA all the time, 24/7! It is still there, even when I am not thinking about a guy. It just isn't presenting itself at the moment. I want a term that gets at that reality!
Now, I will acknowledge that I know my sexuality based on my experiences. If I never experienced an attraction, I would have no clue that they are always oriented to males. But the thing is that my experiences make up part of who I am as a person. Again, I will talk more about this later when I talk about why I adopt the term "gay" as an identity marker. But for right now, it is enough to say that simply saying that I "experience SSA" doesn't get down to what the experience it pointing to. It is pointing to part (a relatively small part) of the whole of who I am as a person.
Many more posts coming up about labels, and my chosen label. Stay tuned!
*This doesn't mean that this label is totally permanent, always, until I die. If my thinking changes on this subject, or if I change as a person, the label could change as well. This is simply my present thinking on the matter.