Should I use the term 'same sex attraction' or 'orientation'

Dear Anthony,

I have a question for you. I'm involved with an support organisation and we are producing some materials. One of the possible terms we are considering using is 'same-sex attracted'. 

In my reading on gay Christian sites, I noticed that participants didn't like that term at all. 

A gay Christian friend said to absolutely not use it as it is used in the ex-gay groups and is therefore a very negative trigger.

Is that the case in Australia too?
I was just sent this link from government funded community organisation,  which has 'same-sex attracted' mentioned more than once. So it seems that secular organizations in Australia don't have the same problem with it.

Could you please let me know from your experience how Australian gay Christians would react to this term?
Thanks for your time


Hi .......

It's been an interesting journey with terminology actually.

The ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapy movement stopped using "homosexual" around the early 90's and adopted the term "same sex attracted". The word "homosexual" had too much shame attached to it for the poor gay souls struggling in churches. And of course they would never use the word gay as that would be affirming of an identity. I will never forget when I was at the final conference of Exodus in the US last year to hear someone say quite confidently in one of the workshops "Gay is a cultural identity to be rejected. Homosexuality is a lifestyle choice. Same sex attraction is a feeling". Of course the term is frequently used with "unwanted" in front of the same sex attraction. You will hear young Christian people say things like "I have same sex attractions" (sounds like an illness doesn't it..Which of course to them it still is) or "I struggle with same sex attractions".

I'm not sure if you have read my piece about the changes in terminology but you can read that here. What is unwanted same sex attraction?

Around the mid to late 90's I began to see the term same sex attracted (SSA) also being use in Australian academic papers and LGBT organisations. I alerted those I could about the implications and connotations this would have in Christian/evangelical/ex-gay/reparative/conversion circles. It has continued to be used. It appears that the youth particularly feel comfortable with the term as it describes more their experience than wanting to take on a gay or lesbian identity at this stage.

Because I know of the history term, I purposely have chosen to never use it. I always use 'same sex orientation' or 'same gender orientation' as I believe this is closer to the truth. That is not just a feeling or an attraction but an orientation which is at the core of our being. Our sexual orientation involves brain wiring, thought processing, hormones and release of chemicals in the body with the final outcome demonstrated in our behaviour. Our true sexual orientation is reflected by:
1. The gender we are attracted to sexually
2. The gender we fantasize about
3. The gender we desire intimacy and affection with
4. The gender we are likely to fall in love with
5. The gender we want to partner with
6. How we identify ourselves

I hope this helps.

Anthony Venn-Brown
Founder and CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International (ABBI)
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Too much unnecessary suffering is caused to individuals,families and organisations because of ignorance and misinformation about sexual orientation and gender diversity. ABBI's mission is to create understanding and acceptance for LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual. transgender, intersex) people, empower community members and build bridges with religious organisations and leaders. This will be achieved by providing education, consultancy, resources and utilising social and media networks.

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