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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Talking about homosexuality

Keep recalling your connection to real people with real lives

Many people of faith wonder how to talk about the issue of homosexuality. I have two suggestions.

First, we ought to ease up on our use of the word homosexuality. I'm not saying eliminate it from the dictionary. Just shelve it further back in your speech, alongside all those other spices in the cupboard you don't regularly need for cooking, like cardamom, cubeb and wattleseed.

People are drawn to use the term homosexuality, in part, because it has the word sex tucked inside. We may not admit to this unconscious association, but it's real. Every utterance of the term "sex" conjures up juicy thoughts, wild imagination and passionate opinion. To use any variation of the word to classify another human being easily gives a mistaken impression.

Our identity is not defined by sex. If my dominant assessment of you involved an obsession with your sexuality, I'd be a troubled soul. Imagine all of the rich texture in your life and close relationships that I would miss — your talents, energies, gifts, loves, insights, generosities and hopes.

To inform you that I am heterosexual reveals absolutely nothing about my sex life. In fact, you wouldn't need to know one mustard seed's worth of information about the presence or absence of sexual activity in my life in order to catch the fullness of my personhood. Actually, I would hope that your mind not go there whenever you think of me or my name.

Notice how seldom we use the term heterosexuality when referencing a person. When I saw my family physician for an appointment recently, never once did he ask how my heterosexuality was doing, much less my sex life. He cares about me deeply, and in very holistic ways. Yet Mark never mentioned my heterosexuality once. Is he avoiding the subject, or missing a potential diagnosis where my heterosexuality might aid in some treatment? I doubt it.


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