If you know me, you know that I hate the term “ex-gay.” The term presents many faulty perceptions; the biggest being that all who move away from a gay identity, never experience same-sex attractions (temptations). The term “ex-gay” alludes to the fact that one can move from 100% homosexuality to 100% heterosexuality.
While I would agree that some persons have experienced this type of transformation, the majority of people with same-sex attractions do not. As such, many either give up and re-embrace their gay identity, or they continue to pursue after an ideal that may never come, rather than the One who gives them their Identity (i.e. God’s child).
Whenever I use the word (for the lack of a better term), I use it with quotes (“ex-gay”). However, after reading a post by Peter Ould, I now prefer to use the word “post-gay”. The term isn’t new (Peter wrote this post in 2007); and I’m sure it carries with it plenty of debate. Still, the word offers a realistic approach to describing ones journey away from a gay identity. The term “post-gay” isn’t a label one wears, but a path one walks. Here is some of what Peter wrote about the term:
Post-gay isn’t an ontological statement, it’s a vectorialstatement. For those uninitiated in the deeper arcane magicks of mathematics, a vector is simply a description of a direction and magnitude. It describes a movement, not a position (which is ontology). Post-gay then is less about being straight or gay and rather about a choice of a journey.
Perhaps a personal example to clarify. I’m post-gay because I chose to leave “gay” behind. I chose to no longer accept “gay” as an explanation of who I was and instead to begin a journey away from it. I chose to do so because I was convinced from the Scriptures that “gay” wasn’t a suitable way to describe myself, that it wasn’t a valid way for a Christian to establish identity. I was compelled not just by reading the normal passages on the subject but also from the story in John 8:1-11 of the woman caught in adultery. In particular Jesus’ last words to her are “Go now and leave your life of sin”.
He doesn’t magically transform the women from a harlot to a saint (and contrary to common belief, there’s nothing to associate this woman with Mary Magdalene) but rather simply gives her an instruction of direction – leave this place you’re at (adultery) and move on from it. His command is vectorial, not ontological. It is the call of discipleship – it says “follow me to wherever I take you – I don’t promise you riches or immediate perfection, but I do promise you hope”.
This is why post-gay is a far better description for those who have left homosexuality behind. It describes a journey away from a false identity constructed around one’s emotions and a true one constructed in following Jesus. For some of us that journey involves changes in our sexual orientation, perhaps marriage and kids. For others they see no change in their sexual attractions, but they have left behind the place of false-identity, of seeing themselves as “gay” and that as a defining a unchangeable aspect of their being.
Some aspects of that journey have been clearly marked for us. A dispassionate reading of the Scriptures shows very clearly that God didn’t intend for us to have sex outside of the marriage of male and female. So I could see very clearly that that life option (same-sex activity) and those things that celebrated it (“gay”) were not the direction God wanted me to take. But other parts of the journey only become apparent as we set out to walk the road God has called us onto.
What’s interesting in my case is that I only walked the first of those two possibilities above (change and celibacy) after having reconciled myself to the second. I remember on my post-gay journey reaching a point where I was seeing no change in my attractions and was getting angry with God about it. Wasn’t this ex-gay choice meant to work? Shouldn’t God be doing something about it? God challenged me over the course of a few days with a clear message – “If I want you to stay like this for my purposes, why can’t I do that? Will you follow me wherever I take you, not just only to the places you want to go?” That night I surrendered my sexuality and future to God, reconciled to a life of celibacy but not a life of “gay”. It was only in the surrender to God’s path for me that I then later saw him taking me on the journey to where I am now happily married.
Now the one challenge you might still make to me from an ontological perspective is whether I still have same-sex attraction. Am I 100% heterosexual or not? But as if that matters on the journey. The idea of gay/bisexual/straight is an attempt to ontologically categorise men and women and normally continues into trying to define morality as dependent on ontology. It sees “homosexual” as a statement of one’s being and therefore prescriptive of the “normative” behaviour that derives from that being. Post-gay rejects that way of thinking about sexuality.
A friend of mine is an alcoholic. He hasn’t touched a drop of alcohol in over 20 years, he runs a successful rehab centre, but he would still freely call himself an alcoholic when each week he attends his 12 steps meeting. Why? He knows that he could always return to drinking alcohol to solve emotional and relational issues in his life – it worked in the past and it could work again. In the same way, I’m happy to be described as a homosexual. I know that when I’m down or tired or feeling inadequate I could seek catharsis in the embrace of somebody of the same sex in an attempt to shore my own masculinity. But I’ve also, like my friend who realises that he’s an alcoholic, discovered that that behaviour is counter-productive in the long run because it is simply catharsis and not actually redemptive.
So post-gay is quite happy to admit to a myriad of sexual attractions, but it refuses to be defined by them, not least because the Bible never refers to men and women as homosexual or heterosexual. Rather it is defined by a direction, a journey, a path towards God and his will for our lives.
You can read the full post here. I agree with Peter’s thought. In fact aspects of his journey resemble my own. When talking about the issue of change and transformation – especially in regards to our walk with Christ – getting our focus right is important.
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