On Being Different

A reflection by Lindsey

This week, I’ve found myself reflecting a lot on my experiences growing up. As a kid, I was different. It was rare for me to find places where I perceived that I fit. No matter what the metric, there were ways I frequently experienced a strong sense of otherness. I constantly looked for opportunities where I was like the other people gathered, and by the time I hit fifth grade, I realized that these opportunities required that I travel outside of my typical geography.

You see, early on, I realized that I was smart. I was that nerdy kid, incredibly enthusiastic about seemingly random things. When I discovered science camps at my local university, I was in my element. Finally there was a place where it was okay to be that geek.

Consistently being different is hard, especially when we live in a world that values conformity. I think nearly every adult can identify acute places in his or his childhood where, no matter what, feelings of difference were a constant companion. Feeling different can be excruciating. I remember some of the questions that used to run through my head when I was younger: Why must I salivate over logic problems instead of waiting with baited breath for this week’s basketball games? Why would I rather bury my nose in a book than chat it up with the “cool” kids? Why is it that I can’t wait to get home to do my science experiment instead of play video games? And yes, I would have used the word “salivate” to describe my relationship with mathematics.

Regularly, I use concepts of otherness when discussing my personal comfort with using LGBTQ alphabet soup to describe myself. To me, LGBTQ simply indicates that I experience the world differently than cisgender, heterosexual people. To make sense of cisgender, heterosexual people, I try listening to them describing their experiences. However, the more I learn about said experiences, the more convinced I am that mine are different. I’ve accepted that there is an overwhelming majority of straight, cisgender people around me. But, just as science camps afforded me a place to relax and be myself, spend time around LGBTQ Christians gives me yet another space to experience a deep sense of belonging.

With some frequency, I find myself wishing that more conservative Christians could appreciate my desire for room to relax and just be me. When I was a kid, I learned that virtually every school had smart kids. The way to get a bunch of smart kids together was to create opportunities that acknowledged how our smartness could be used to create community. Similarly, I believe that it’s absolutely true that virtually every church has LGBTQ Christians. It’s worth creating space for LGBTQ Christians to gather, to have an opportunity to feel less different and more at home.

I remember the huge sense of relief when I walked into my first Gay Christian Network conference in 2008. All of a sudden, I was with 200 other people who were like me! However, I almost couldn’t work up the nerve to go. I had heard so many conservative Christians completely bashing any and all LGBT organizations. If these organizations claimed to be Christian, then they were certainly distorting the truth of the Gospel and merely parroting what itching ears wanted to hear. I didn’t feel like I had any space whatsoever to affirm an event like the GCN conference as a good thing. I have since attended five GCN conferences because GCN is one of the few LGBT Christian organizations that has any space to walk alongside me as I journey alongside Christ. To be sure, it’s only one space, but it is certainly a space where I feel an absolute sense of being at home.

In many ways, I felt that same sense of home when I first went to science camp. As I have grown older, I have heard many arguments about why schools should stop providing programs to gifted students. While I’m confident places like science camp will continue to exist, I hope every student has somewhere at school where he or she feels a sense of being accepted. Why are we so quick to tell people who find themselves in a minority demographic that nothing can be done in their backyards to help them feel more at home?

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Saturday Symposium: Are “Third Way” Approaches Even Possible?

Greetings, readers! Thanks once again for a great week of comments, feedback, and discussion. As usual, we’re a bit behind on email. We’ve received more this week than ever before in a single week! Later today, we will also be responding to comments on this week’s blog posts. Up to this point, we haven’t had much time to do that because Lindsey has been at a series of all-day job trainings and Sarah has been busily working on the doctoral dissertation. But no matter how busy we are, we do look forward to reading your comments, interacting with you on Twitter, and responding to your questions.

Let’s get to today’s Saturday Symposium question:

How this works: It’s very simple. We ask a multi-part question related to a topic we’ve blogged about during the past week or are considering blogging about in the near future, and you, our readers, share your responses in the comments section. Feel free to be open, reflective, and vulnerable…and to challenge us. But as always, be mindful of the comment policy that ends each of our posts. Usually, we respond fairly quickly to each comment, but in order to give you time to think, come back, add more later if you want, and discuss with other readers, we will wait until after Monday to respond to comments on Saturday Symposium questions.

This week’s Saturday Symposium question: We decided upon this week’s question after receiving a significant amount of feedback on Lindsey’s reflection Some Thoughts about “Third Way” Churches. Some readers expressed uncertainty about whether Third Way approaches to issues of sexuality would have any possibility of working within conservative churches. We received many questions along the lines of, “Isn’t a Third Way just asking everyone to give up their convictions and say, ‘I’m okay, you’re okay, we’re all relativists?'” We have some thoughts on this matter, but would be interested in hearing from more of you. Do you think Third Way approaches necessarily require Christians with more conservative sexual ethics to give up their beliefs? Is there any kind of Third Way approach that might be equally fair to both conservative and progressive Christians on this matter? Are Third Way approaches more possible within some Christian traditions than others?

We look forward to reading your responses. If you’re concerned about having your comment publicly associated with your name, please consider using the Contact Us page to submit your comment. We can post it under a pseudonym (i.e. John says, “your comment”) or summarize your comment in our own words (i.e. One person observed…). Participating in this kind of public dialogue can be risky, and we want to do what we can to protect you even if that means we preserve your anonymity. Have a wonderful weekend!


Sarah and Lindsey

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.

The Story of Our Gravatar Icon

We believe that inside jokes can be great fun, and our readers who have been with us since our first month are well aware of this. Once early on in our blogging adventure, we shared about why we think it essential for us to bring a camel to church. Since it’s Friday and we’re sure some of you are just as in need of a smile as we are, we thought it would be fun to let you all in on another of our inside jokes.

If you follow us on Facebook or happen to glance at our Gravatar icon here or our profile photo on Twitter, then you may have seen a curious image. For quite some time, we’ve had a few observant readers contacting us to inquire about this seemingly random pair of rodents.

A Cambodian striped squirrel and a Dzhungarian hamster

A Cambodian striped squirrel and a Dzhungarian hamster at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC

Why in the world would we have a squirrel and a hamster standing together on a platform as our chosen Gravatar, Twitter, and Facebook images? As you might expect, the story of this photo is a bit of a wandering tale.

We are two quirky nerds who love doing life together. Very early on in our friendship, we started talking about introverts. The ever-extroverted Sarah was having trouble understanding why anyone would want to hide in a room after a day at work interacting with a lot of people. Lindsey responded to Sarah’s confusion by sharing Dr. Carmella’s Guide to Understanding the Introverted. This extremely helpful cartoon guide opens with, “Introverted people live in a human-sized hamster ball.”  We talked about how it’s always important to respect an introvert’s hamster ball by not invading personal space too quickly. Since Lindsey is an introvert, it became a routine for Sarah to ask, “May I come into the hamster ball?” when wanting to occupy a seat on the same sofa, or enter into a Skype conversation (as we weren’t living in the same city at the time). It wasn’t too long before Lindsey became known as “Hamster.”

Lindsey’s honestly rubbish about making up nicknames of any kind. We spent many hours talking during our early days of friendship. One of the first things Lindsey learned about Sarah was that Sarah loves wildlife. Lindsey wanted to think of an animal that described Sarah, but was struggling until Lindsey noticed Sarah’s big, thick, bushy hair. When it’s tied up in a ponytail high on Sarah’s head, it looks like a squirrel’s tail. And because we already knew about our mutual love of kids’ movies, Lindsey decided to pay homage to Up and start calling Sarah, “Squirrel.”

Ever since, we’ve been constantly referring to ourselves as Hamster and Squirrel. Over time, this odd little inside joke has expanded to include some of our closest mutual friends. Sarah, the wildlife nerd, memorized the information on hundreds of animal profile cards as a child and can still recall all of it, so it didn’t take long before we started seeing admirable animal (specifically rodent) qualities in people who play significant roles in our lives. One of our friends is tall and lanky and conducts himself much like a ferret. Another friend is soft, cuddly, and warm like a chinchilla. Sometimes we let our friends pick their own creatures. We have friends who have chosen capybara, agouti, kangaroo rat, and the like. With so many fun creatures, we decided to start looking for the array of our friends’ animals whenever we would visit zoos, pet stores, or museums. Photos of said animals make great accompaniments for “We miss you and you should come visit us soon!” text messages.

The National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC has a Hall of Mammals. This exhibit has hundreds of specimens on display. Naturally, on one of our visits there, we started looking for our friends’ respective rodents. We were rather impressed that we found a ferret, a capybara, and a chinchilla. Not surprisingly, Lindsey wondered whether the museum had a hamster. We continued our search and discovered that, yes, the Museum of Natural History does, in fact, have a hamster on display…and the hamster even stands next to a squirrel. We knew immediately that we had to snap a photo.

This story might sound silly, immature, and perhaps trivial. But having fun together is an essential part of an authentic relationship. One of the reasons why we love our adventures in spotting members of the order rodentia is that this inside joke has extended far beyond the two of us and marks out our family of choice. Sharing life together involves celebrating our mutual quirkiness. Finding people who appreciate your unique qualities can be challenging. We’re interested in hearing from you in the comments about seemingly trivial or unusual aspects of life that, odd as they may be, are important components in the bonds you share with your own family of choice. Have you seen any signature quirks extend far beyond the small group where they originated?

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.

Some Thoughts about “Third Way” Churches

A reflection by Lindsey

As I’ve been hanging around Twitter, I’ve seen a number of people asking questions like, “What does it mean to be a Third Way Church?” The question comes after a Southern Baptist church in California decided to adopt Ken Wilson’s approach to questions of LGBT people in the Church. Wilson proposes a Third Way where the hallmarks include “welcoming and embracing” LGBT people rather than adopting an “open and affirming” position. From what I can tell, many of the Third Way churches are trying to shift thinking found in Evangelical churches. It’s worth noting that Wilson’s book is arguing for a different approach than a Roman Catholic documentary by the same title. I have a soft-spot for what Wilson is trying to do because Wilson pastors a Vineyard church. In college, I used to attend a Vineyard church before coming into my current Christian tradition. A significant number of my close friends identify strongly with Evangelical traditions, and my reflection here should be read as coming from the perspective of an outsider musing on different things I’ve observed.

Culture war issues invite binary thinking. Many commentators say, “You either affirm gay marriage or you don’t,” or “You teach homosexuality is a sin or you don’t.” Within the binaries, I think it’s fair to say that there is no middle ground. However, I am no stranger to the conversation about LGBT people in the Church. I’d posit that approaches like Third Way and Generous Spaciousness are trying to move people away from asking binary questions about LGBT Christians. In the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t had any time to actually read Ken Wilson’s A Letter to My Congregation yet, and I don’t intend to describe his exact approach in this post. Nevertheless, I think Third Way approaches are becoming increasingly common.

Many evangelical churches have a Third Way style approach to questions of baptism. Whether a particular congregation would prefer to perform adult baptisms, many churches argue rather strongly for the idea that a person should only be baptized once. If a person has grown up in the church and was baptized as an infant, many congregations accept the newcomer through a letter of transfer. Some churches ask every newcomer to meet with the pastor, choosing to acknowledge a new member through a public affirmation of faith. Churches that strongly prefer adult baptisms frequently perform infant dedications or adopt a posture of quietly looking away when parents visit a church associated with members of their extended family to have the child baptized. Equally, it’s common for churches that have infant baptism to wait for parents to make a decision about whether and when a child should be baptized. There’s generosity in giving people space to discern their timing.

Relative to questions of LGBT Christians, I think many Third Way evangelical churches consider the status of various newcomers to their communities. Has an LGBT couple been married in another Christian tradition? Is civil same-sex marriage available in communities around the church? Does an LGBT couple have children they want to raise in the Christian faith? From what I can see of authors advocating a Third Way, these authors would say, “Let these families come and participate in the life of our church.” The communities generally strive to maintain uniform expectations for everyone in the church. If membership requires serving on a ministry team, then LGBT families are welcome to serve on a ministry team. If pastors ask people to participate using their various gifts and talents, then the pastors consider everyone’s gifts and talents. If the church has a newsletter that gets mailed, perhaps the church includes the names of everyone in the household on the address label. The choice to receive everyone who comes through the door with open arms seems to be a driving motivator of churches to adopt a Third Way approach.

Third Way approaches to certain issues do seem to be remarkably viable over the long term, at least in certain communities. I lived in England when I worked towards my Master’s degree. As such, I was invited to attend services at a lot of Church of England parishes. I was rather amazed at how the Anglican church takes a Third Way approach to the elements of communion. I remember attending one service where the person on my left was a strident defender of the belief that the Eucharistic elements became the body and blood of Christ while the person on my right thought the wafer was a poor substitute for Passover bread. Personally, I was experiencing a huge deal of cognitive dissonance. Things started to click together when the celebrant offered the Eucharistic prayers that had contained wordings very similar to the following:

“Accept our praises, heavenly Father, through thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, and as we follow his example and obey his command, grant that by the power of thy Holy Spirit these gifts of bread and wine may be unto us his body and his blood…

Wherefore, O Lord and heavenly Father, we remember his offering of himself made once for all upon the cross; we proclaim his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension; we look for the coming of his kingdom and with this bread and this cup we make the memorial of Christ thy Son our Lord.”

In the wordings of the prayers, the theology was communicated as body and blood AND bread and wine. It seemed to me like the people on my right and on my left were self-selecting what parts of the prayers to pay attention to. As I queried different celebrants, I consistently heard answers that the English people had quite enough of Protestants killing Catholics and vice versa, and that the current approach allows people from different perspectives to worship together peacefully. These clerics thought it was admirable to bring previously warring people to the same table and to have a wide tent. While I can see where these clerics were coming from, I was still inclined to look at the situation more than a bit cross-eyed and would posit that most Catholic and Orthodox believers would resist this line of reasoning. One challenge of Third Way approaches is that they compel Christian traditions to determine where there is and is not space for disputable matters.

Suffice it to say, I do think Third Way churches are welcoming a great deal of liturgical soul-searching (for lack of a better word). How do these churches understand marriage? Might they take an approach of answering questions in the particular (i.e. Should we extend our blessing on these two men to share life together?) rather than saying, “Yes, we absolutely affirm the rights of all LGBT people to get married in our church.” Would a pastor consent to officiating a service held in a venue other than the church? Might the church adopt an approach of providing LGBT couples with legal counsel to navigate different ways of recognizing the relationship? Does the church want to dive deeply into exploring visions of celibate vocations that can be truly life-giving? Would the church consider crafting rites to allow people to enter a celibate vocation?

Here at A Queer Calling, we’re constantly talking about the need to help LGBT people discover truly life-giving vocations that empower them to live into the fullness of the Gospel. In my opinion, churches seeking a Third Way are trying to transition from a legal binary of “Yes/No” into a more holistic view of Christian discipleship. I think churches with a traditional sexual ethic do well to look at the fullness of their traditions in an effort to move beyond mandating LGBT people to a “vocation of No.” I also think that churches with a modern, liberal sexual ethic might consider listening to people seeking guidance in discerning vocation. As an observer looking in on the conversations, it seems like many people with a modern, liberal sexual ethic would say that LGBT people should be able to marry without providing any support to LGBT people who want guidance about living a celibate vocation. Likewise, many people with a traditional sexual ethic would say that all LGBT people should either be celibate or enter into opposite-sex marriages without considering the question, “What if a legally married same-sex couple came to my church, encountered Jesus in a real way, and sensed that God was asking them to grow in faith within the context of my Christian tradition?”

I’ve been in communities that I regard as Third Way communities. The Gay Christian Network works tirelessly to ensure that LGBT Christians feel welcome, independent of their conclusions on sexual ethics, providing support to LGBT people with both traditional and progressive sexual ethics as well as those who are still grappling with the questions. As a community, we’re committed to doing life together. Different people make various decisions about what to do in certain situations. However, we also know that every invitation to share life together is considered independently. Passing on one gathering does not mean that a person won’t be at the next. Despite differences in how we approach sexual ethics, we know that we’re diverse in just about every other way imaginable as well. For all of our diverse approaches, we hold in good faith that everyone is interested in growing towards Christ wherever he may lead. I think the community continues to exist because the people gathered constantly assert that as long as we all focus on Christ, we’re going to get even that much closer to living our lives in accordance with His will.

To be sure, there benefits and drawbacks to a Third Way approach. I completely agree that there are some issues where it does not make sense to try and work towards a Third Way. Even in this post, I shared that I am absolutely uncomfortable when communities try to take a Third Way approach to what happens to the Eucharistic elements. However, I do think that there are issues where it can be absolutely beneficial to take a Third Way approach. When communities take a Third Way approach, I see them saying, “You know, as we’re listening to the Holy Spirit together, we seem to be raising many different kinds of pastoral considerations. It’s worth moving prayerfully and humbly towards Christ in the midst of all these questions. We can be okay that we all feel like we’re trying to find our way in a fog. Let’s commit to remaining a community together as we focus on Christ and trust Him to guide us along the way.”

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.

What’s in a Name? LGBT, SSA, and Alphabet Soup

Sharing one’s story as a celibate LGBT or same-sex attracted Christian, single or coupled, rarely comes without controversy. Many people experience a good deal of cognitive dissonance when they first meet folks like us, often navigating some degree of paradox. How can a person be both LGBT and celibate? Why is it so important to talk about issues of sexuality in the first place? Why might a same-sex couple regard celibacy as an important aspect of their partnership? As we’ve been blogging, we have seen several different attempts to reconcile our own story, and the language we use to tell it, with a range of preconceived notions about sexual orientation, gender identity, spirituality, and theology.

Celibate people navigating questions of sexual orientation and gender identity frequently choose between two sets of descriptors. Increasingly, people have shown willingness to use one or more LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender) terms to describe their experiences. However, many others prefer to describe themselves as SSA (same-sex attracted) or struggling with SSA. Because the two of us prefer LGBT language and do not view our sexualities as struggles, people ask us a barrage of questions: “What do you think about people who advocate for gay marriage? If you’re celibate, shouldn’t you shun all language associated with the LGBT community, including partnership? Why don’t you spend more time describing your struggles against homosexual sins? Shouldn’t you describe yourselves as people who experience same-sex attraction instead of LGBT?” At the same time, we’ve noticed that people who have stories markedly different from ours also get bombarded with questions: “If you’re a guy who’s sexually attracted to guys, what’s the big deal with saying that you’re gay? Wouldn’t it be better for you to get a boyfriend and settle down? Are you simply using the language your church wants you to use in a desperate attempt to please people?”

Questions are not bad things. But at times, those who pose questions do so in attempt to convince the recipient to change his or her mind. Every leading question hides myriad assumptions about what is best while also asserting, whether implicitly or explicitly, that the questioner already has the answers. We’ve noted that this conversation trend seems especially pronounced when people discuss what labels best describe a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity, or inquire as to whether any label should be used at all. Even among celibate LGBT/SSA people, there can be considerable controversy regarding labels. Some people feel very strongly about always using particular monikers, while other people see the language they choose as a question of “What fits best, so I can communicate with my current audience?”

LGBT/SSA Christians navigate their personal questions of coming out very differently. Within some conservative Christian traditions, there are concerns that using LGBT language could lead a person could adopt an ungodly identity. People on both sides of the linguistic divide can appoint themselves representatives of the language police. Overlapping concerns of sexual orientation and gender identity can lead to questions about how gender is used in the world practically. Voices from all corners can forget that particular terminology arose in response to specific cultural controversies. Equally, people have navigated questions about what terms mean in diverse contexts. For example, the word “gay” is likely to have a different meaning for a person who used to frequent gay bars in order to find nightly hookups than it has for a person whose introduction to LGBT people happened at an inclusive church.

Because non-celibate people do not always understand why celibate LGBT/SSA people choose the language we use to describe ourselves, we thought sharing a bit about our own processes might be helpful. From our perspective, it is important that all people have language they can use to their describe their own experiences as they understand them. We respect that every person has unique considerations when determining what language he or she is going to use. We believe that fostering civil conversation about LGBT/SSA people and the Church requires telling stories with integrity. We would never deny an individual the opportunity to tell his or her personal story, and we resist weaponizing narratives from a certain subset of the population to enforce a single linguistic code as uniformly acceptable.

Growing up, Lindsey did not have much exposure to the LGBT community. Once Lindsey started exploring sexuality-related questions in high school, Lindsey resisted counsel from secular gay organizations that seemed to advocate for sexually active relationships as a necessary means of self-acceptance. An introvert, Lindsey has never had any particular interest in going to gay bars or attending any event where the only commonality between people is sexual orientation. Lindsey has typically gravitated much more towards opportunities for Christian fellowship, but in college found resistance within a number of ministries aimed at young people. Many of these ministry organizations considered any LGBT affiliation a cause for scandal but tried to help people conform themselves to cisgender, heterosexual norms. These groups taught that a subset of cisgender, heterosexual people occasionally “struggled with same-gender attractions” but that Christ could empower everyone to live a holy life. Lindsey grew increasingly disillusioned about how these groups treated Scripture, failed to establish any sense of positive community, and constantly assumed everyone was seconds away from acting out sexually. Eventually, Lindsey connected with the Gay Christian Network and appreciated how this organization encouraged LGBT people to focus on Christ’s light and love as empowering holy living. Lindsey has always had a slightly complicated relationship with various letters of the alphabet soup, but appreciates the umbrella nature of LGBT to capture the nuances of Lindsey’s experience, however imperfectly.

Sarah had no exposure to the broader LGBT community until college. During Sarah’s formative years, Sarah heard significant vitriol from family members and occasionally from folks at church anytime the word “gay” arose in conversation. Within religious contexts sexuality was never discussed, so it took Sarah several years to make the connection that the word “gay” had anything to do with sexuality. As Sarah began to ponder questions of sexual orientation and seek spiritual counsel, Sarah’s spiritual directors dismissed these questions. Immediately, some asserted that defining oneself as gay or lesbian would be the same as defining oneself as a murderer or a rapist, so it was best for Sarah to say “I struggle with same-sex attraction.” However, Sarah knew people who were openly LGBT, both celibate and non-celibate, who were not promiscuous or living the stereotypical “gay lifestyle,” and this was confusing. For Sarah, over time the term SSA began to seem like a tool used to oppress and clobber people because Sarah’s spiritual directors aggressively forced the language. Sarah understood sexuality as being a broader construct than simply one’s sex drive or the kinds of sexual encounters one would like to have. For Sarah, sexuality was about a pattern of relating to the world. From Sarah’s vantage point, the term SSA was much more focused than LGBT language on sex and sexual acts, so using the language of SSA would actually go against the spirit of the spiritual director’s counsel. Eventually, Sarah met a priest who could understand that Sarah’s experience of sexuality is about far more than questions of desire. Sarah uses the word “lesbian” because Sarah does not see sexual orientation as being principally about wanting to leap into bed with a person of a particular sex. In Sarah’s view, sexual orientation involves perception of beauty, human connectedness, and comfort in one’s own skin.

Having said all of this about our own experiences, we also understand why some people feel more comfortable using the language of SSA. Some folks experience extreme distress when they realize their sexual attractions are oriented towards members of the same sex. When these people go through puberty, they might ask themselves, “Why do I like people of the same sex instead of the opposite sex like all of my friends?” Describing oneself as same-sex attracted, for some, can be an effort to assert a reasonably high degree of sameness with other people, i.e. “I have the same moral values you do, but I’m attracted to people of my same sex.” We understand that people can experience sexuality in very different ways. There are people who see sexual desire as the defining attribute of sexuality. When trying to live chastely, it’s not uncommon for some to experience intrusive sexual impulses they want to resist. If these impulses are constantly directed towards members of the same sex, then a person might say that he or she “struggles with same-sex attraction” and wants to make moral choices that align with a celibate way of life. The widespread availability of pornography can also impact a person’s sexual development by providing a particular lens of what it means to be gay or lesbian. Rejecting the label of “gay” might be an effort to distance oneself from gay pornography or other highly sexualized parts of the gay community.

We’ve only scratched the surface as to why people might prefer using LGBT, SSA, or other monikers to describe their sexual orientations and gender identities. Nothing in our reflection should be read as a comprehensive explanation or applicable to all people who use a particular term. We’d love to hear from our readers about why you use the language you do to describe your own sexual orientations and gender identities. Additionally, we’re curious about how you decide what language best describes a friend’s sexual orientation and gender identity. We look forward to some excellent discussion in the comment box.

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.