Why does the Brothers Road community (along with many others) tend to use the term “same-sex attraction” instead of the more common term “gay”?
To many of us, “gay” strikes us as a heavily loaded term, socially and politically. It suggests a certain “gay pride” attitude and an intent to live homosexually active lives (socially and romantically) that most of us don’t want for ourselves. To us, “gay” suggests an identity that most of us choose not to embrace and implies alignment with common gay ideologies with which we often disagree.
But we don’t much like the term “homosexual,” either. Too clinical. Too diagnostic.
So most of us have settled on the term “same-sex attracted,” or SSA. “SSA” suggests an experience, not a permanent identity. It implies a set of feelings, not a way of life. SSA is “what I feel, not who I am.”
In fact, the phrase “same-sex attracted” and its acronym SSA have been widely embraced throughout the world by men and women who decline to let their sexual attractions define them or to identify with the common politics and ideologies of gay cultures.
And what about the term “ex-gay”? It’s convenient shorthand, perhaps, but that may be about the extent of its virtue. Most SSA men and women don’t use it, or don’t identify with it, although we usually aren’t offended by it either. Many SSA men and women never really embraced a gay identity or lived in gay relationships to begin with, so how can they be “ex” something they never were, to begin with? (Others in our community were in fact in gay relationships in the past or have separated themselves from their former gay lifestyles, so they may identify with the term “ex-gay” a bit more.)
In truth, most of us don’t care much for labeling our sexuality at all. Our sexuality is just too complex and too nuanced for a convenient label, and we would rather not reduce ourselves to a sexualized or politicized term.
But the demands of human communication often require the use of sound-bite terms that convey shared meaning succinctly. So in our communities, we typically choose to call ourselves “SSA” or someone “who experiences SSA” or even someone with “unwanted SSA” or similar phrasing, rather than “gay.”
That’s our prerogative. We get to decide what to call ourselves. Gay communities—just because they are vastly larger in numbers and louder in their demands—don’t get to dictate how we refer to ourselves.
“I searched and prayed for many years to find a support network, a brotherhood of men who shared my struggle. Alone and isolated, I knew that there had to be other men who were in the same boat — sexually attracted to the same gender but choosing not to act upon it. I felt lost and confused in my search, fearful that I might just be alone in my desperation.
“That is, until I stumbled upon the phrase ‘same-sex attraction.’ I had never heard it before, but it perfectly fit what I was experiencing. And as soon as I discovered the term, the internet opened a whole world of resources that were previously unknown to me.
“Finding a support network in my local community and through Brothers Road has been an enormous blessing. I now know that I do not struggle alone, that there are many men who walk in my shoes and who are there for support, encouragement, accountability and friendship.” — Larry, Ohio, USA