Shakespeare said "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet" but in the ex-gay/conversion therapy world it's all about semantics. I'm sorry honey, you may call it 'unwanted same sex attraction' but let's call a spade a spade; YOU'RE GAY!
the fundamental beliefs (homosexuality is a flawed, unnatural human
experience, a choice, a sin, and it can be changed) remain the same, many
things within the ex-gay world have changed over the last four decades since
its formal existence (Exodus founded 1976). The most dramatic of these being
the recent rejection of the reparative
more subtle and often unnoticed change has been the wording and terminology that is used.
the first twenty or so years, ex-gays and attempting ex-gays used terms like 'freedom
from homosexuality', 'struggling with homosexuality' or having a 'homosexual
problem'. It was not uncommon for people to label themselves 'former homosexuals'. It is difficult to pin point exactly when the shift in terminology
happened or who introduced it but around the mid to late 90's the
term 'unwanted same sex attraction' became the vernacular. Hence you will hear
people describe themselves as 'struggling with unwanted same sex attraction',
'suffering from unwanted same sex attraction' or 'overcoming same sex
Why the change in
were several reasons for the change.
Firstly, Christian men and
women who were same sex oriented didn't want to use the term homosexual, let
alone adopt the identity. This shift had already happened within the lesbian,
gay and bisexual worlds many years before as there were too many negative connotations
attached to the word homosexual. The word homosexual these days is mostly used
in a clinical/academic sense (homosexual/heterosexual) or by religious anti-gay
groups and people who refuse to use the term 'gay'. For people wanting to rid themselves of their
homosexuality the term unwanted same-sex-attraction was nicer/softer.
Secondly, using the phrase 'same
sex attraction' was a way of distancing themselves from the term 'same sex
orientation' that was becoming popular in academia. A sexual orientation (same,
opposite or bi) is far more fundamental/innate than an attraction. Having
unwanted same sex attractions could be perceived as being more about feelings, thoughts
or emotions than behaviour or who you are oriented to fall in love with. The
term same sex attraction is often used in academia these days, particularly
with youth. The acronym LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) had a Q
added to it. This often referred to the
inclusive word 'queer' but was also used for 'questioning', meaning young
people still trying to sort out their identity and not able or willing to take
on a gay or lesbian identity at their stage in life.
Thirdly, an ex-gay philosophy often promoted is 'no one is gay, deep down inside we are all heterosexual. You have attractions to the same sex because you are broken' Using the term 'same sex attractions' once again is an attempt to distance themselves from the reality of their true orientation. I cover that in more detail here. Acronyms like SSA or USAA are used to sound clinical, like an illness such as MS or dysfunctional behaviour such as PTSD. People with 'unwanted same sex attraction' strongly resist adopting a gay identity, so acronyms like SSA or USSA is another way of distancing themsleves from that. H
talking about their OSA or there unwanted opposite sex attraction (UOSA).
Finally, the change to 'unwanted
same sex attraction', was a way for ex-gay organisations to have the pressure
taken off them from pro-gay groups. In other words they could say 'but we
only work with people who have 'unwanted'
same sex attractions'. They would never say it is okay to be a Cnristian and gay, however, because then their message to the 'unwanted's' becomes redundant.
recently, terms like 'sexual brokenness' or 'relational brokenness' are used to
describe the same thing. If you do an analysis of 'ex-gay' stories,
particularly the high profile ones, you find common
elements. They ARE
broken. They always include stories of sexual abuse, sexual addictions/obsessions
and screwed up childhoods and relationships. What they fail to see is that
their brokenness is not caused by their sexual orientation itself but their
response to it including self-hatred, denial, suppression, fear, secrecy and unhealthy
behaviours. No wonder they end up in such a mess.
Why is the same sex
is the big question but pretty obvious when you think about it.
you are locked in a Christian culture that is ignorant about sexual orientation
then it is most likely 'unwanted'.
you have heard ill-informed sermons or messages that Sodom and Gomorrah were
full of homosexuals and that God condemns it, then it would be 'unwanted'.
you think that the acceptance or rejection of your sexual orientation has
eternal consequences (heaven or hell) then it would be 'unwanted'.
you think that coming out or accepting your same sex orientation will mean your
family, friends or church would reject you it would be 'unwanted'.
you have only heard 'stories' about people who have 'overcome' their unwanted
same sex attractions and are now married
with children then it would be 'unwanted'.
you have never met a well adjusted, fulfilled gay man or women or never heard anything positive about the LGBT community then it would be
Janetzki, on the Brisbane Christian radio station 96.5 FM, talked with Paul
Wegner from Liberty Inc about unwanted
same sex attraction. I think this ten minute snippet from the two hour show
will give you some idea about how defensive people have become about the term
'unwanted same sex attraction'. Maybe one of the reasons they were so defensive
was because of this.
© Anthony Venn-Brown
Anthony Venn-Brown is the co-founder and former leader of Freedom2b, Australia’s largest network of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people from Christian backgrounds. He is also an educator and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing the ‘ex-gay’ myth. Anthony’s autobiography 'A Life of Unlearning', details his journey from married, high profile preacher in Australia’s mega-churches to living as an openly gay man. Anthony has been twice voted ‘One of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians’ (2007 & 2009) and was one of four finalists for the 2011 ACON Community Hero Award. He is also the founder and director of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International.
Labels: ex-gay, exodus, gay christian, liberty inc, unwanted same sex attraction