Why does our community 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 intent to live homosexually active lives (socially and romantically) that most of us reject. It implies an identity that we choose to not embrace and suggests gay liberal ideologies with which we often disagree.
But we don’t like the term “homosexual,” either. Too clinical. Too diagnostic. Too sexual.
So most of us have settled on the term “same-sex attracted,” or SSA. It suggests a present state or experience, not a permanent identity. It implies a feeling, not a sense of self. 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 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. Most SSA men and women have simply never embraced a gay identity to begin with, so how can they be “ex” something they never were?
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 “dealing with unwanted SSA” or similar phrasing, rather than “gay.”
That’s our prerogative. We get to decide. 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.
“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