UNDERSTANDING HOMOSEXUALITY meets STRAIGHT INTO GAY AMERICA, a conversation between pastor/author David Glesne and pastor/author Lars Clausen. Today Clausen challenges the use of the term "gay lifestyle," and "homosexual lifestyle."
First I want to wish you a good return from your vacation.
Second I want to thank you for saying that you could have chosen a better wording by changing from the “lifestyle of homosexuals” to “the homosexual lifestyle.” I appreciate our willingness to learn from one another
Third, I want to keep pressing the challenge because even the change to the terms “the gay lifestyle,” or “the homosexual lifestyle” are seen by many, including myself, as highly charged sterotypes/caricatures.
I feel we’re at the third bridge in our conversations. The first was your kind acceptance of this dialogue, The second was your agreement to engage my concerns. At this third bridge, I sense the need to address camp-talk and see if we can move past it. I’ll state my concerns, set them before you, and see if we can get to a new place. If we fail, I worry we’ll be stuck in our camps.
I believe the words “gay lifestyle” and “homosexual lifestyle,” used in the manner you suggest, function something like code language on the websites and in the talk of religious fundamentalist organizations such as “The Moral Majority,:” “Focus On The Family,” and “Exodus.” This language is part of what inspires fear that homosexual men are despicable, commonly running around licking one another’s anuses and urinating on one another.
I did google “gay lifestyle” and read the descriptions on the first two pages. I found two websites using “gay-lifestyle” in an anti-gay manner. On the other eighteens sites the term is used in a wide variety of ways within the LGBT community, addressing issues of relationship, travel, work, sex, and other facets of life. Used in this second manner, by the LGBT community, it seems comparable to the many popular lifestyle magazines that are published each month for our culture at large (Country Living, Oprah, GQ, etc)
I searched the PFLAG website (Parents, Friends, and Families of Lesbians and Gays) and found only 7 pages come up on that large website, and most of the references challenge the use of the term “gay-lifestyle,” as it is used by “ex-gay” and similar concerns to caricature LGBT people.
Dave, if you’re serious that you find the term “homosexual lifestyle,” or “gay lifestyle” to be an acceptable and descriptive term of LGBT immorality, I’m concerned that you’ve taken most or all of your research from within the anti-gay camp. If so, this leads me, regretfully, to suggest that your research may be partial at best, inaccurate at worst.
I deeply regret the need to write this concern. I believe you when you write you feel you’ve developed a deep compassion for homosexuals, but I can’t let this concern remain quiet.
In your last response you wrote that you’d made the distinction between homosexual attraction and homosexual behavior on page 19. Yet nowhere on that page is there any discussion between what you wrote last time as the
“further distinction in my mind between behaviors that are quite likely to be engaged in by male homosexual persons in general (mutual masturbation, fellatio, and anal intercourse, for example) and those behaviors which go beyond these which are more specific to what might be called a subculture characterized by the “gay lifestyle”, behaviors that are condemned by many gays. Right or wrong, the “gay lifestyle” in my mind has additional and different relational and behavioral elements in it than the what we normally think of as behaviors of “everyday” homosexual people.”
You then ask, “But do these distinctions come through in the chapter?”
I’m sorry to report Dave, but I can’t find the distinctions coming through about subculture or lifestyle, either in your book or in your explanation. You quote the question from your book, “But what really goes on in homosexual encounters,” as evidence that you’re talking about “the gay lifestyle.” This only works if one makes assumptions about the term, assumptions that are not generally held by the subject group in question. Your subsequent words make it more difficult, not less difficult to believe that you’re talking only about a sexually immoral minority and not homosexual people in general. In your third chapter you write
"homosexuals who maintain long-lasting, stable relationship in society are very, very few"
"While acknowledging the difficulty in arriving at exact figures in such a subject matter, the testimony about homosexual behavior coming from both sides of the debate paints a fairly clear picture of the kinds and frequencies of behavior engaged in by homosexual persons. I shall start with the least disturbing…"
"Ninety-two percent of homosexuals engage in something called “rimming.” "
"The homosexual acts described by Dr. Monteith are taking place regularly in homosexual lifestyle encounters. We never read or hear about them from gay activists who want us rather to think of loving, caring, monogamous homosexual couples sitting on park benches with their arms around each other. But this is the gay lifestyle homosexualists want society to accept as a perfectly acceptable alternative to the heterosexual relationship. "
When I read your question about “what really goes in homosexual encounters,” I’m thinking about Greg and Willie, Sara and Danielle, Mel and Gary, Brenda and Nancy, Sara and Cheryl and many, many other long-term faithfully monogamous couples.
If I ask the question, “What really goes on in heterosexual encounters?” I could be thinking about anything from whorehouses to high school proms to the movie Grease to the nights that my children were conceived. There’s no qualification in this question to help me know which of these heterosexual encounters we’re talking about.
To give the statistics that you do about rimming, fisting, and golden showers, and to assume that people are going to share what I understand as the ex-gay movement - fundamentalist Christian - political right understanding of “gay lifestyle” is beyond me. I can only understand your use of these statistics if I assume that you’re writing from within the camps where these terminologies are commonly used. And if you’re writing from within one or more of these camps, then we have another bridge to cross.
That bridge seems to me
- A need for me to better understand those camps and their “agendas.” I’m up for this journey. Perhaps my central interest in this conversation, besides my hope for equal rights, is to better understand the worldviews of these camps, and the factors that motivate these worldviews.
- And if I need to go into these camps to increase my understanding then perhaps, if I’m correctly catching what’s behind your assumptions and your use of the terms “gay lifestyle” and “homosexual lifestyle” then you might benefit from coming outside of these camps and hearing why the term “gay lifestyle” is so often heard as a caricature.
When I think of compassion, I think of Jesus, Mother Theresa, Desmond Tutu, Gandhi and others. And when I think of compassion, I always think of listening and the openness to come out of an encounter different from the way that I came in.
I hope that all of us involved in the journey of this conversation hold the openness to come out of this encounter changed. I feel that we are at the third bridge in this journey. I lay this at your feet, and I await your words.