This post is not about chicken. It’s about words.
I’m not an American, so the Chick-fil-A drama is not something that directly involves me. But I hang out on Google+ a lot and have been exposed to lots of different posts about it, coming at it from different points of view.
And I’m afraid I now realise that somewhere along the way I’d got infected with bad terminology, and in commenting on one of those posts I used the L-word. No, not that one – I used the word “lifestyle” inappropriately.
It happened when a conversation got to the subject of whether or not being gay is a choice. I was trying to point out that there are two separate questions: one about the actual sexual orientation, and one about whether or not you act on it. If you’re talking about being gay in the sense of being a person who is sexually attracted to people of his/her own gender, then it seems to me pretty obvious that that’s not a choice, it’s just the way you are. Whether it’s nature or nurture or a mixture – that’s neither here nor there. You don’t get to choose either of those – you don’t get to choose your genes, and neither do you get to choose the environment in which you grow up. If you hit puberty and find that you’re fancying people who have the same XY chromosome combo as you, that’s not because of anything you chose.
But if you’re talking about being gay in the sense of having sex with people of your own gender, then that’s a different question, and that’s where choice comes into the equation.
Sadly, I realise I phrased it badly when commenting on that post. I used the phrase “gay lifestyle” as shorthand for this stuff, and now that I’ve chewed a bit on the way the conversation turned out afterwards, I think: whoa, “lifestyle” is really not a good word for this. Insensitive terminology. I can totally see why.
What do you think of when you hear the word “lifestyle”? Some words that spring to my mind are: materialistic, idealistic, bohemian, hippy, healthy, vegetarian, religious, nomadic, hectic, slow-paced, fast-paced, hedonistic… These are all ways that people might choose to live, and they might be what you choose for a time but you then go through some mid-life crisis or life-changing moment or just a change in circumstances, and your lifestyle changes.
Looking at this list, it seems quite ridiculous to add “gay” to it. If you are someone who has always been attracted to people of the opposite gender and you are happily married and sex is part of your marriage – do you think of yourself as someone who is living a “heterosexual lifestyle”? (not to mention a whole load of other permutations: you’re straight and sleeping with a boyfriend/girlfriend; you’re straight and sleeping with lots of people; you’re straight and not sleeping with anyone. Are all these things to be filed under “straight lifestyle”? I think not.)
When you’re talking to someone who has always been attracted to people of their own gender, and who has found the love of their life and they’re living together as a loving couple and doing the things that loving couples tend to do – like getting the shopping done and arguing over whose turn it is to wash the dishes and having friends round to dinner and so on, and, oh, yes, making love – when you say to someone like that that what they’re doing is a lifestyle choice, it’s belittling something that is so much more, it’s taking something so very precious and putting it on a par with whether you go on skiing holidays or fishing expeditions.
Yes, it’s a choice, but it is an extremely non-trivial choice. And I’m sorry I used such a trivialising word for it. I’m sorry I used terminology that makes it sound as though it’s easy. I know it is anything but. When I say I believe God says no, don’t do it, I realise that choosing to obey him on that would be very very costly. I just happen to believe that God’s ways are always the best for us, even when they’re very costly. I believe God is utterly good and perfect and he’s the one who made us, so if he says not to do something, there’s a good reason why. I trust him enough to obey without demanding an explanation – unlike my parents, who always got the “but why?” from me.
End of rambling.