Okay, so today we get to the part of the label "Christian Celibate Gay Man" in which I talk about the word "gay". Once again, if you want to read all the posts that led up to this, click the category to the right "On Labels". Also, a disclaimer: This is going to end up being a long post, and for that I apologize. I would do it in two parts, but I am honestly not sure when I will have the time to write the second part, so I will just do it all here and let you read it at your convenience.
So why, O why, would I ever chose to use the word gay in reference to myself? Let me start to answer that question by responding to some common objections that I hear to using the word gay, and then I will talk about why I chose to use it in positive terms.
1. The most common objection that I hear to using the word is that gay can often have the connotation of a certain lifestyle. Therefore, by identifying myself as gay, I am associating myself with a lifestyle choice that is sinful; namely, sexual activity outside of a one-man, one-woman marriage.
My response to that is that the word gay does not mean any such thing. I think Wesley Hill says it really well here: "'Gay' in current parlance doesn't necessarily refer to sexual behavior; it can just as easily refer to one's sexual orientation and say nothing, one way or the other, about how one is choosing to express that orientation." I really think that this is how the majority of people in our culture think about the term. If you asked someone on the street, "What does the word 'gay' mean?", nine times out of ten I believe that the answer would be, "Someone who is attracted to the same sex," and that would be it. There would be no assumption of sexual activity based on the label.
In fact, I think the ambiguity comes not with the term, but with how the greater culture views sexual mores in general. In our modern culture, it seems to be assumed that everyone is sexually active, whether gay or straight. So it isn't that the word gay carries connotations of being sexually active, but that sexual activity is assumed regardless of orientation. Therefore, if a single person identified as "straight" or "gay", I think that the greater culture would assume that person to be sexually active, because that is "normal".
Therefore, "gay" does not say whether I am choosing to express my attraction in a sinful way. Rather, it simply asserts the attraction itself.
2. The second objection I hear often in regard to the term gay is that I am using it as an identity marker, and that I should never find my identity in anything but Christ, and ESPECIALLY something sinful such as homosexuality.
This objection is based on two different assumptions. The first assumption is that by using an identity marker such as "I am gay", that I am necessarily finding my identity in said marker. The second assumption is that homosexuality is sinful in itself. Let me examine these assumptions in order.
First, the issue of finding my identity in something other than Christ. I have addressed this assumption in more detail here, but let me try and summarize. By saying "I am" something, I am NOT saying that I am finding my primary defining identity in that thing. If I did, it would be impossible to talk about my daily life. I wouldn't be able to say, "I am a man", or "I am a student", or "I am an extrovert". When I say those things, no one thinks that I am "finding my identity" in them. Rather, they are descriptors that are describing one SMALL part of who I am as a whole. This, by the way, is what I start my label with the word Christian. That IS where I find my identity, and it affects every other part of who I am, however small a part it might be.
Second, the assumption that homosexuality is a sin, and therefore I shouldn't associate with it at all. To that assumption, I would say, "Well what do you mean, 'Is homosexuality a sin?" For example, as I have also argued elsewhere, if someone asked me the question, "Is homosexuality a sin?", I would say "Well let me ask you a question: Is heterosexuality before marriage a sin?" You see? It isn't clear; we must define our terms. If you are talking about same-sex activity or even lust, then yes it is a sin. But if you are simply referring to being attracted to the same-sex, then no I don't think it is a sin. And since I just argued that the term "gay" does not include sexual activity, then I have no problem identifying my specific temptation in this manner.
Okay, so those are the two most common objections I hear in regard to identifying my sexuality as "gay". I'm sure there are others, so if I have not answered your specific objection, please feel free to leave it in the comments section (in a respectful manner) and I will either try to answer it there, or write a future post on it.
Now that the objections are out of the way, let me briefly share two reasons that I choose to use the descriptor "gay".
The first reason I have talked about already here, but in brief, I don't think that the term "person who experiences same-sex attraction" gets to the depth of what is really going on with my sexuality. That term makes it sound like the only time I am same-sex attracted is when I experience a specific attraction...but that isn't true. For example, right at this moment, even though I am not experiencing a specific attraction, I am still exclusively same-sex attracted. I walk around with it 24/7 regardless of what I am feeling at the moment. More than a specific experience, my experience makes up a relatively small part of who I am. Saying "I am gay" in regards to my sexuality does more justice in my mind to the totality of what is going on.
The second reason that I choose to refer to myself as gay - and this is far less important - is that there is a certain sense in which I do want to identify with the gay community as a whole. Now don't freak out! All I mean is that other gay people understand what it is like to be gay in ways that straight people cannot. In using the term, I feel a certain solidarity with other people who share a common experience. They get me, and there is a certain comfort in identifying with people who understand what it is like to be you on a certain level. This does NOT mean that I am affirming their lifestyle , whatever that may be. (Like I already said, "gay" does not automatically mean sexually active lifestyle, and there is a sense in which I as a Christian Celibate Gay Man am a part of the broader gay community...because I'm gay!) Rather, all it means is that we share something in common - we are all attracted to the same sex...we're all gay. And it is nice to identify with people who know what its like, at least on some level.
There is a lot more that I could say, so if you have further questions, leave them respectfully in the comments section and I will try and deal with them. Thanks, everyone! This concludes the formal series on labels, though I am sure that I will write much more on the subject in the future.