19 May 2010

Why I Hate SGA

Drug dealers refer to their "product." Partial birth abortion advocates refer to "the fetus" rather than "the baby." American slave owners and segregationists had various names for African-Americans, but "citizens" and "people" usually weren't on the list. We tell a young child that grandma "went to be with God."

Why do people do this?

It's because some truths are more brutal than others, more difficult to face. And sometimes we want to shield ourselves from cold, hard reality, too. So we avoid driving through the ghetto. We skip the financial section if it seems to have bad news. And we use soft evasive words to mask reality. Few people like dealing with rough stuff. If we ignore it, maybe it'll just solve itself, or someone else will take care of it. That way we won't be responsible. We won't have to go through the hard work of wrestling with difficult questions that may not have easy answers.

"Gay," meet The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other Christian churches which have decided that you don't exist. You are but a temporary adjective masquerading as something real, an ephemeral affliction imposed or allowed by God for reasons unknown as a test (of what, God only knows) for some unfortunate people during mortality. You aren't a permanent condition, a true feature of someone's personality or spirit. Eventually you'll go away. So we're going to try to smother you if we can, you pesky noun. We must call you something else, like Same Gender Attracted. Brazen people who are really daring can actually say Same Sex Attracted if they want, we suppose, though most pious types would prefer to avoid that word.

How does the LDS Church know this specifically? Simple. Nouns have stability. Credibility. They are actual things. They imply permanence. Well, at least more than adjectives do. Compare "I am gay" with "I struggle with same-gender attraction." Which is more definitive, sounds more permanent, more confident, more intractable?

And that's the issue. LDS doctrine assumes that every man ever born will, should, must want at some point--if given the chance--to marry a woman for eternity and have lots of babies to make an eternal family. And that every woman ever born will, should, must want, at some point--if given the chance--nothing more than to be the wife to such a man and to be the mother of countless kids. The whole vast edifice of Mormon theology rests on this one unquestioned premise.

So when somebody comes along and says "That's not what I want, that's not who I'm attracted to, that's not what my soul resonates to, I'm a guy and I love guys and I want to be with one special guy forever, I have no interest in women and it's impossible for me to love them that way," Mormon theology is dumbfounded. Stunned into silence.

"But, but, but," it sputters, "you MUST! If you're a man, you can't possibly love another man that way and not want to love a woman! That's not real love, you must be mistaken. It must be temporary. You're just in lust, not love. God will fix you eventually. Meanwhile, you must be made to fit the system here and now! We can't allow anybody to think otherwise.

How do we do that?

Well, we learned our lesson when Kleenex brand tissues came out decades ago and it didn't take long before the name was generic, everybody called disposable paper hand tissues a Kleenex. Words are powerful things. They influence beliefs. So you guys who think you love guys, and you gals who think you love gals, we can't allow you to call yourselves what you want because you don't know what's best for you. We can't permit the use of any name that implies your aberration isn't . . . well, aberrational. You must conform to the system. And it requires that you be straight! If not now, then later. But you must do it.

In fact, your condition is so dangerous it's contagious. So we cannot permit any admission that it isn't temporary. So you must use adjectives and euphemisms. Not nouns. You're not "gay," you simply struggle with a changeable condition that we can't explain right now. Eventually it'll go away.

What's that you say? You know your heart and mind better than we do? You've felt this all your life and it's not going away? You're happiest loving a man and miserable when you try anything else?

Impossible. You must be deceived. True, we admit we don't understand anything about your condition. True, we've subsidized tortuous junk science in the past that's tried to "cure" it and then refused to own up to the damage we did, much less apologize for it. But you must ignore all that and trust us, we know what's best for you because we speak for God. Never mind that we've said wildly inconsistent things in God's name. We know that what's best for you is to call your temporary condition SGA. Or SSA.

Just don't call yourself gay. Because that would mean that's the way God made you. "Gay" is a mistake and God doesn't make mistakes."

Shorn of all doctrinal dress-up, all soothing PR processing for palatability, that's the message.

In one sense, it's right. God doesn't make mistakes. And that's why I hate SGA. 'Cause it's a mistake, a mask to hide truth, a euphemism concocted and flogged by a group of people with an agenda that doesn't want to face reality. But the gay ain't changing. It ain't goin' away. Even the quacks who peddle "conversion" or "reparative" therapy now reluctantly concede that the best they can do is teach coping skills. But the orientation itself, like any other permanent God-given attribute, is just too stubborn to succumb to the snake oil.

Anybody who advocates "SGA" or "SSA" is averting their eyes from the truth. Like those who call heroin "the product" or our African brothers and sisters "the coloreds," they think soft words will make their discomfort go away. That may make them feel better, but they're avoiding reality. And I say with Emerson: "Give me truths, for I am weary of the surfaces."

Truth has a tendency to be stubborn, you know. So I'll tell the truth. I'm gay. And never happier than when I finally found the courage to shuck the euphemisms, stop pretending, hold my head high, face forward, smile, and say "Yeah, that's me. That's the truth. The truth sets us free, remember?"


LDS Brother said...

I tend to use SSA for the fact that not everybody who has SSA are gay. They could be bi. Also, instead of "I'm struggling with SSA", one could easily say "I'm embracing my SSA".

Anonymous said...

I agree COMPLETELY with your post. You are a gay man. I am a gay woman. I HATE the terms SGA and SSA. Those terms sound like some Geometry class and I am trying to prove two triangles congruent.

And, I think the church, and many, "hide" behind these terms SGA and SSA. Gay is gay.

If I have to be reduced to a three-letter term, let it be gay and NOT SGA or SSA. Gees.

Kurt said...

i wish i wrote it :)


Romulus said...

When I think of SSA, I think of the Social Security taken out of every one of my paychecks........ So, I totally disagree with this post. I struggle with SSA every other Friday.

GeckoMan said...

Yeah, man. Great post.

And another thing that broils me about this 'Same Sex Attracted' term is the insidious insistence that it's all about sex. Because really, it's not about one's attraction to sex, it's about being who you are, who and what you love, and not being fake or struggling with anything. If the church would get off the sex topic (eeuuw, tell me it's not true!), then it might let folks see all the rest of the equation, and that would be helpful.

Anonymous said...

They'll come around; I hear the word, "gay" in church, not from the pulpit but from members. It's too much of today's culture. A while back the church discouraged members from using, "Mormon," a futile attempt to separate the modern church from the historical "Mormon" church. But now when the church sets up a website for non-members--you guessed it, "Mormon.org."

Butterflies and hand-grenades said...

I hate the term as well and have, mentioned something very similar on my blog about "MOHO" and labels. I hate when the term is used. No one word or phrase can describe any person completely and when people try to do just that, it sickens me and destroys people's originality in favor of conformity. Labels are for soup cans...SSA sounds like some nasty soup.