Words Can Never Hurt Me?
by Inge Anderson
The ancient children's ditty, "Sticks and stones can hurt my bones, but words can never hurt me!" was probably chanted in defiance of hurtful epithets, while the wounds went deep into the soul. Things don't change much for adults. Words do hurt. And Christ calls us to bring the gospel, the Good News, to all people, including gay and lesbian people. Thus we must learn to communicate with words that do not wound.
In order to communicate effectively and respectfully, it is necessary to observe the terminology used by given groups themselves and mirroring that language. God Himself set the example by speaking to us in the terms of human culture from the beginning of time as we know it. In Jesus He became man in order to communicate with us. And Paul, the chief New Testament writer, wrote of being "all things to all people."
With that in mind, we propose the following:
By far the most common and accepted language amongst persons attracted to their own gender is "gay and lesbian people." However, there is no real consensus. Some younger people prefer "queer" suggesting that it is more inclusive of all GLBT (gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, trans-gendered) people and makes a defiant political statement, re-claiming the word from those who would use it against gay and lesbian people. Many from the older generation object to "queer" as demeaning, and none seem to appreciate it when coming from heterosexual persons. Since few who prefer "queer" actually object to "gay and lesbian people," those are probably the most respectful terms (or the least disrespectful) terms for people to use within a public venue. ("Gays" and "lesbians" as nouns are often considered disrespectful when coming from heterosexual persons.)
A sure way to determine the term closest to consensus is to look at the names of a wide variety of groups of persons attracted to their own gender. What do they call themselves? It appears than no non-scientific groups use "homosexual" in their names. Gay and lesbian people recognize the term "homosexual" as signaling opposition and condemnation. They consider it disrespectful outside of a scientific context. And it's rather difficult to communicate the "Good News" in the face of such a perception.
Most gay and lesbian persons, whether Christian or not, feel that "homosexuality" places far too much emphasis on sex. They object that same-sex affectional attraction is lost sight of when all the emphasis is placed on homosexual. They argue that it is a gay man's nature to be attracted to a man, fall in love with a man and create a life with a man. Just as with non-gay people, sexuality is a part of that relationship, but hardly the over-riding aspect of that relationship.
Imagine if someone were to invite you into a conversation about the relationship between you and your spouse or your and your special friend. If that person then only asked about the way you have sex and implied that was all there is to your relationship, how would you feel? To reduce your relationship to nothing more than sex would be both misleading and demeaning. Gay and lesbian people feel the same way.
Therefore, on this site, we use the words "gay and lesbian" to refer to those persons who are primarily attracted to their own gender, without any reference to sexual practice. In fact, many gay and lesbian persons live celibate lives or are as happily married as the average heterosexual married couple. The difference is that their sexual temptations come through persons of their own gender, rather than the opposite gender. (Remember, a successful marriage is founded on the attraction between one man and one woman. Whether the sexual attraction to persons outside the marriage is to the same gender or the opposite gender doesn't really make a lot of difference.)
We pray that this site will facilitate understanding so that we, as Christians, may represent Christ to the world in which we live.