How to Talk with Others about A Queer Calling

We have been blown away by the response our blog has been generating. It is truly humbling to check our daily stats. We have had readers joining us from all over the globe! So many people have shared links to our posts. We’re profoundly grateful to everyone who has encouraged another person to read our blog. Because you have shared and discussed our blog with others, you’re helping us tell our story. We appreciate it.

Conversations about members of the LGBT community frequently involve some discussion of how we use language. In this post, we’d like to talk about the language we use to tell our story in order to help you, our readers, better represent us to others. On all of our accounts, we’ve taken to describing ourselves as a celibate, LGBT, Christian couple or simply as Sarah and Lindsey. Since every post needs some degree of organization, we’ll take those characterizations in turn and explain why we use this language.

We are celibate. As we have shared many times, we have both felt a vocation to celibacy since before we met each other. We have spent considerable time trying to discern actively what celibacy means. Because we’re celibate, some people have described us as a “Side B” couple. We used to describe ourselves as such, mainly because Side B resources are sometimes the only places where any LGBT person who feels called to celibacy, single or partnered, can find support for living this way of life. The language of Side A and Side B has been around for many years as people asked whether same-sex relationships were morally equivalent to opposite-sex relationships. An organization called Bridges Across the Divide developed the language of “Side A” and “Side B” in an effort to create a more neutral terminology for some very contentious conversations. The Gay Christian Network also uses Side A and Side B to describe two positions on the Great Debate as to whether or not God blesses same-sex relationships (or interpreted in another way, whether or not God blesses sexually active same-sex relationships). As we indicate on our About page, we do not use the language of Side A or Side B to describe ourselves or our sexual ethics on our blog. Though we have previously participated in discussions using this language in other places on the Internet and we do have convictions regarding sexual morality for LGBT people, we believe that this terminology is limited, especially when it comes to the experiences of transgender and genderqueer individuals. Too often, the Side B position can be presented as an obsession with drawing lines to define sex or as a theological mandate to force LGBT people to be celibate. Similarly, the Side A position can often be presented as the “socially just” response to LGBT people while assuming that every person in favor of greater legal protections for LGBT people is also interested in reforming various Christian theologies of marriage to accommodate gay marriage. We find little in the Side A and Side B discourse that accurately describes our relationship as a celibate, LGBT, Christian couple, so we no longer use the language of Side A and Side B and have never referred to ourselves using this language on our blog.

We are LGBT people with a queer calling. As people have been sharing our blog, we’ve noticed that they tend to use gendered language to describe us. We’ve frequently been presented by others as a lesbian couple, two women, a same-sex couple, or even two girls. However, we consider using people’s own language to be the first rule of respect when it comes to talking about gender. For example, Lindsey has never used the word lesbian as a descriptor of choice while Sarah happens to be comfortable with the word lesbian and sometimes uses it and also the word gay in personal reflections. The fact that one of us is comfortable with the word lesbian does not automatically make us a lesbian couple. Additionally, we do not use pronouns for one another as we write. Occasionally, we might use pronouns to describe other people. We raise the issue of gendering language because our society has a way of automatically gendering everyone (and sometimes everything). For transgender and genderqueer individuals, the tendency to gender automatically can lead to dysphoria-inducing experiences of being misgendered. When writing together, we use the language of LGBT and queer because it is the terminology with which we are most comfortable, mutually.

We also identify ourselves as Christian. There are myriad Christian traditions, but thus far, we have not definitively identified ourselves on our blog as belonging to one particular Christian tradition. We have decided that we would like A Queer Calling to support people from a range of Christian traditions who are exploring celibacy. Many people have assumed that we must be Catholic because we make regular mention to the Roman Catholic Church and use other terms that many may perceive as Catholic. We tend to cite teachings of the Roman Catholic Church with some frequency because the Roman Catholic tradition of monks, friars, and nuns has produced a wealth of material about different kinds of celibate vocations.

Of course, you always have the option of using our names when you are talking about us. Using a person’s name can be a great way to show respect and regard. We feel especially blessed that so many commenters have chosen to comment using their names. Please feel free to ask us additional questions in the comments!

Comment Policy: Please remember that we, and all others commenting on this blog, are people. Practice kindness. Practice generosity. Practice asking questions. Practice showing love. Practice being human. If your comment is rude, it will be deleted. If you are constantly negative, argumentative, or bullish, you will not be able to comment anymore. We are the sole moderators of the combox.

15 thoughts on “How to Talk with Others about A Queer Calling

    • Kay, I keep reading your comments on this blog and I doubt you realize it, but you aren’t being very kind to the writers. There is no other blog on the internet that deals with this subject. There is a great need for the Church to hear the stories of celibate people in the gay community, and I think Sarah and Lindsey’s approach is much better and much more loving than most places you can find on the internet that just ram Church teaching down people’s throats. We don’t need more people telling us what we can’t do and what is demanded of us. They don’t have to be trying to convince people of rightness or wrongness of their actions. Like John Paul II said, “the truth has its own gentle persuasion.” I’m glad Sarah and Lindsey are telling their story. Maybe God will use it to show other people how happy one can be when living fully into the Church’s teachings.

      • Gina, welcome to our blog! Thank you for your support. It’s true that very few resources on the topic of celibate partnership exist. We hope that our writings will be helpful in starting more conversation about this topic.

    • Kay, that is correct. We started this blog in order to promote positive conversation about celibacy and celibate partnership as meaningful ways of life. We do not intend A Queer Calling to be an apologetic for forcefully mandating celibacy.

  1. What would you do if a gay person that wasn’t celibate commented on your blog? Would you still let them be heard or would you silence them?

    • Alex, I’d like to remind you of our comment policy that we place at the end of every post: “Please remember that we, and all others commenting on this blog, are people. Practice kindness. Practice generosity. Practice asking questions. Practice showing love. Practice being human. If your comment is rude, it will be deleted. If you are constantly negative or bullish, you will not be able to comment anymore. We are the sole moderators of the combox.” As you can see, our basic expectation is that all commenters treat us and other commenters with kindness and respect. We do not censor comments based on a person’s beliefs or way of life. All readers who are willing to abide by the aforementioned comment policy are welcome to participate in discussion here. -Sarah

  2. I hear people use the phrase, “… there is no male or female” as Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28 to back up the idea of same sex attraction and more broadly sexual minorities as being affirmed. Do you think that is a good fit ?

  3. Can you help me further understand what it means to be LGBT with a Queer calling? I just don’t really understand what that means. I was about to try and Google it, but I figured I’d just ask you to further define it for me. I’m more “comfortable” with the Side A, Side B because it helps me to more concretely understand a very complex issue with which I am trying to be sensitive and understanding, but really have no frame of reference for. While I’m not really into having labels and needing to define things, since you are attempting to define them, I’d like to better understand your definition! Hope that makes sense.

    • Hi Emily. I’m sure you’re probably familiar with the term LGBT in that it is an abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. Many people in the LGBT community prefer to use one of those terms specifically. I usually refer to myself using the term “lesbian,” but sometimes I’ll use the term “gay.” But as a couple, we have decided to use the abbreviation itself because there is not a more specific term with which both of us feel comfortable. We initially chose the phrase “queer calling,” a term we coined ourselves, to describe how we see our vocation because the word “queer” can have a double meaning. It can be a catch-all term for people with various sexual orientations and gender identities who do not identify as straight and/or as cisgender. But it can also mean unusual. A vocation to celibacy can seem unusual, especially in a society that places a high value on the institution of marriage. What makes our situation unusual on another level is that celibate, LGBT couples are so rare. We do know others, but we’re still a rare bunch. I’m glad you find the use of Side A and Side B language helpful. That’s why it came into being in the first place–to help people sort out some very difficult and controversial issues in theology and sexual ethics. That language just doesn’t work well for the specific purposes of our blog. Because we intend our writing to be more personal and reflective rather than an apologetic for a particular theological position, the language of sides doesn’t fit well within our project here. In engaging in the Great Debate in other places on the Internet, we have also noticed that the question, “Are you Side A or Side B?” often prevents deeper conversation from happening on questions such as, “What do I feel is my vocation as an LGBT Christian?” and “How can I work toward cultivating a meaningful way of life with God’s help and within the context of my faith community?” Both Lindsey and I agree that the discussion about LGBT people in the Church tends to focus too much on questions of rightness and wrongness, and because of this, both liberal and conservative Christian traditions can get so wrapped up in defending theological positions that they fall short in supporting LGBT people to grow in Christ and in healthy relationships with other human beings. There are several strong arguments concerning the Great Debate that have already been made online, and we hope that our writing project is able to contribute something different. I hope this helps. Blessings! -Sarah

  4. I long for the day when we can live ithout labels. I beleive the Kingdom will fully come when we accept each body, heart and soul as fully beloved of God. Until then thank you Sarah and Lindsey for providing this space for dialogue.

  5. The more I read about your lives together, the more I get a sense of you two as writers and more importantly as people, the more my admiration and respect grows. Thank you for your openness and for pushing the conventions of language, but more importantly, thank you for taking the time to develop a style of writing that can accurately portray some of the important and complex issues on which you focus. It’s just really neat to witness.

    • Hi Rachel, thanks for the kind words here. Relative to language, we think it’s important to be mindful. So many people can feel pushed to the margins when others refuse to acknowledge their language of choice. Using another’s language can be a great way to expand one’s own appreciation of the human experience while communicating to that person that he or she has an important story to tell. We know a lot of people on the LGBT spectrum who have difficulty finding language that fits them, and we are always willing to share a bit more of why we’ve gravitated towards the language that we have chosen for ourselves.

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