Queer Bird

Queer Bird

Gay or straight. Homosexual. Same-sex attracted. Queer.

Language is powerful. Words are powerful. They shape our thoughts, our perceptions, our interactions with one another, and even our day to day decisions. Our choice of words reveals how we conceptualize the world and relate to everything in it. Through the words that we choose to describe ourselves, we disclose our allegiances and aspirations. Or maybe we reject labels, and thus confound other people’s attempts to categorize us.

But powerful as it is, language is also imperfect. Descriptors are approximations. Words carry baggage – denotations and connotations. Sometimes too much baggage, sometimes not enough. Language is an imperfect representation of reality, often close enough to get the job done, but sometimes just plain wrong.

Take an example: when I say the word “bird,” what do you think of? A small flying animal that has wings, lays eggs, and builds nests? A prototypical bird likely matches all of these descriptors, but lots of birds do not. Some birds aren’t small (emus, ostriches, condors); some don’t fly (penguins, kiwis, cassowaries); and some don’t lay eggs (male birds of any species!) Are penguins, condors, and male sparrows not birds? Of course they are, but just don’t expect any of them to fly into your tiny back-yard bird house and lay eggs.

Gay or straight. Homosexual. Same-sex attracted. Queer. Which label fits? Any of them? All of them? None of them? Does it matter who is applying the term, and to whom? I definitely don’t label myself “straight,” even though to an outsider, my life would seem to best match that script. I won’t use “homosexual,” as it strikes me as too clinical, as if describing an illness. I reject “same-sex attracted,” even though it literally applies. The denotation is right, but the connotation seems belittling, as if my attraction to men is analogous to a straight guy’s preferential attraction to blonds. It’s like describing humans as “food-oriented” because we’re attracted to eating food. That leaves “gay” and “queer.” I feel like either one or both of them apply.

I’m curious readers (all three of you), what term or terms do you use describe yourself? Is there one in particular that really seems to fit, while the others do not? Do you use more than one of them interchangeably? Or perhaps you use one term for certain situations and audiences, and another for others? I’m not really looking for definitions, which I can find all over the internet, but rather personal responses – how do you relate to these words or how do they relate to you?

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11 comments

  1. Ha! As one of your three readers, I’m proud to be the first to comment.

    I agree that language matters, and in my “ex-gay” days, I made it a point to not label myself as “gay.” I tried to find my identity in Jesus and to “claim my true identity” as a straight man. But I learned quickly that – in this case at least – my words didn’t magically change my orientation. I’m gay, through and through.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with Jonathan, there’s something powerful about being able to describe yourself as gay. It makes me feel like part of a community (though some of my more conservative friends and family think it may be detrimental to be in too much community with “those people”). For a long time I used same-sex attracted because I was worried that people would read intention and behavior into the term gay. Through a combination of the rapid evolution of the term gay in the Christian world and a growing refusal to care what other people think, I’ve come to a place where I can happily say that I’m gay. Although, I think if we are going to have an intentional discussion with someone about this topic, we need to be aware of the baggage they’re attaching to whatever word we use. Thanks for the post, Greg!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Matthew – I appreciated your post A Response to Brant Hanson, which was one of the things that got me thinking more about this topic in the first place. Your last line above makes a great point – it’s not just the baggage a word carries for US, but also what it carries for those we are speaking to (which may not be the same).

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  3. “Gay” is what I use, although I don’t really have opportunity outside of my blog to express that part of me.

    There are other terms I use to describe myself…but I’ll keep this G rated. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I guess you have more than 3 readers! Congratulations! Funny that Jonathan David was your first as that is my Facebook name. Okay, so growing up, I was called Fag and Queer a lot in school, so I’m not ever going to like those terms. I never identified as gay, I just thought I also liked men, but maybe it was a phase, or a secret sin. I fought it as long as I could. I considered myself heterosexual for years. I was married to a woman, after all. I came out to my wife in 1988 by telling her that I fantasize and think about men. I did not have a term. I did not tell her I was gay. That day changed our marriage forever. Around 2011, I did try therapy and joined an ex-gay ministry for Christian men with same sex attraction. Okay, so using the letters SSA seemed the best thing thus far at that point. It was the first time I used a label. But my wife hated it. She hated that I was calling it something, acknowledging that there was really something going on. She did not want me using any term, just admit I was a sinner and repent. Then after leaving the SSA support group after 2 years, (they were not helping me) I started online searching for people like me and came across the g0y movement. This made the most sense and I related the most to it and the men I met as part of it. But my best friend did not understand my use of g0y… and as he questioned me and others… he calls it BS and begs me to let it go and just embrace being gay. (but he also wishes me to remain married and just be celibate). I do use the term gay when commenting on the GCN MOM forum. It is a gay site, so that is the term they all recognize. But there is much about being gay or the gay lifestyle that I disagree with or don’t relate to. I find that some gay friends (or liberal str8 friends) seem offended that I remain in the closet and don’t use the term gay, but g0y or SSA, rather than embracing being gay fully. Not sure why it matters so much to other people.. it’s my life. If I am complicated and can’t quite figure it out.. that’s my business. It’s not like it matters to anyone else but me anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hello Greg. I simply don’t label my self, but live my life. I am a man married to another man, and I don’t hide my love nor do I hide my relationship. I some times get asked about things. When I worked in the ICU I would have a female ask me out and I would say I was gay, or someone would mention how lucky my wife was, and I would simply correct them and say my husband and give his name. If asked in conversation my sexual orientation I reply gay, or say I am attracted to men or males. I do not like the word queer for part of its definition is totally wrong for us and unflattering, plus it was also used as a huge insult in my childhood. So I have found that simply living my life openly solves the problem of having to have any labels. Best wishes. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

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