The plan was simple: start a college club by and for homosexuals. My university already had an LGBTQ org with various sub-groups for bisexuals, exploring gender identity, and even the intersection of religion and sexuality. What it didn’t have, and I felt it sorely needed, was a sub-group specifically for gay men and lesbians. We needed a club for homosexuals.
This was particularly clear during meetings which devolved into “genital preference discussions.” More accurately, members questioned the moral goodness of an exclusive same-sex orientation. The grand finale featured a student standing on a table and loudly encouraging trans members to remember that “those who don’t love you because of your body are wrong! They are shallow! The body changes, who you are inside does not.” A warm and enthusiastic applause rose and fell. I left the room.
Over the following weeks, I advertised for my new club with signs reading “celebrating homosexuality.” Our goal: affirming the complete moral neutrality of being homosexual. Anyone could join regardless of race, sex, creed, or gender identity. I made sure to highlight that trans students were welcome as full members, as long as they were homosexuals. The only factor bringing us together was an exclusive compatibility with the same sex. I knew that decision would be divisive. Ironically, the university LGBT org had become the last place anyone would loudly or enthusiastically discuss their exclusive same-sex attraction. But it wasn’t everyone, and surely homosexuality – no matter how divisive – could not be discoursed into oblivion. Homosexuality, imbedded in the very foundation of all LGBT activism, could be celebrated freely and loudly despite its detractors. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
Initial comments were the usual and expected slogans. Posters were torn down and replaced with pieces of notebook paper reading, “Trans men are men! Trans women are women!” Confused emails reassured me that a group which “didn’t exclude the most vulnerable members of our community” would be supported, but my language seemed to imply something more sinister. Again, I explained that homosexual trans students were welcome, to no avail. At least one suicide-bait floated through my inbox during the first two weeks. I was too busy replacing posters every other day to notice. The most memorable interaction took place during a campus movie night.
“You do realize,” they asked, “that your club will not include the majority of lesbians on campus, right? Most of the lesbians in our [LGBT] org are trans.”
“I understand,” I replied. “And this group is for homosexuals. This group is still necessary. ”
My coworkers and fellow org leaders did not agree. I was called into a formal meeting. Attendees included the org president, overseers from university student affairs, and the head of the entire LGBT affairs office. Everyone sat humorously interrogation-style, opposite to me in a large U-shape. “Homosexual on trial, accused of nefarious distribution of obscene literature!” I could hear the headlines as I settled into my chair.
The discussion was civil, though I shook with nerves the entire time. My voice cracked as I explained the basis of my still non-existent group, my motivations, and why a group for homosexuals was necessary. I described private, tearful conversations with gay and lesbian students (especially lesbians) who felt ashamed of their sexuality after years of trauma. As one individual told me: “I spent twenty years believing I was an abomination for being gay. Now, I’m right back at square one. Am I not allowed to just be a homosexual?” I referenced the all-time low attendance of gay men and lesbians within the org. I was corrected, of course, with a reminder that trans lesbians were attending with increasing numbers.
The topic of lesbian members was particularly important to my manager. Near the end of the rainbow-tinted interrogation, they paused before asking me to clarify something.
“You’ve talked about this group not including trans lesbians.”
“The club is for homosexuals,” I carefully clarified.
“I don’t understand. These women are trans. These women are lesbians. Why wouldn’t they fit within your group?”
“My club is for homosexuals,” I repeated, “Homosexuals are attracted to the same sex. Homosexuals are only compatible with someone of the same sex. That’s the whole foundation of being a homosexual.”
There was another pause.
“What do you mean by ‘attracted to the same sex?’”
“My club is for homosexuals.” The words had stuck in my throat as I said them. “Homosexuals are same-sex attracted; homosexuality is being exclusively compatible with the same sex.” Every word dislodged like phlegm and left a bitter aftertaste when I left the building. Two years before my makeshift trial, I was busy scrubbing “homosexual” and “same-sex attracted” from my life. I replaced them. “I am gay, and that’s okay.” It was a hesitant, definite step towards healing. Growing up in the evangelical Midwest, my sexuality was anything but “okay.” But that first statement, just embracing myself as gay, was particularly unthinkable years earlier.
There is a linguistic nuance within many Christian circles differentiating “gay” and “homosexual.” The rules were rarely written plainly, but they played out with painful clarity. To be gay meant an acceptance of one’s broken sexual urges. Gay men did not have successful relationships. Gay men always cheated on their partners. Gay men died of AIDS. However, to be “homosexual” or simply “attracted to the same sex” implied a cold, clinical, holy distance. Homosexuals could have successful marriages (to the opposite sex). Homosexuals could live long, healthy, godly lives. Homosexuals could dedicate themselves to life-long celibacy. There could be a homosexual Christian. There could not be a gay Christian.
A rose may “smell as sweet” by any other name, but the language we use to discuss sexuality is often far more influential. “Same-sex attracted,” “homosexual,” and a litany of other phrases haunted my teenage mind as I desperately worked to cure my “unhealthy emotional mis-attachment.” They were diagnoses of an inner-disfigurement, cold and factual. I could still live a moral life, as long as I wasn’t “gay.” Being gay meant loving your sinfulness. Being gay meant embracing your human brokenness. Gay men died of AIDS. So I wasn’t gay. I was just “same sex attracted.” I was a homosexual.
Then, I was gay.
I accepted my sexuality; I embraced and celebrated my love for men. I was gay and that was okay. I distanced myself from the clinical terms I’d flogged myself with throughout high school. There were plenty of words to describe who I was and who I loved. Losing one or two terms, caked with pain and soaked in past trauma, was one step towards self-love. So you can imagine the discomfort I felt, sitting in a trial of my peers, routinely forced to return to those old phrases again. My club wasn’t for “gay men” or “lesbians.” How could it be when “gay men” and “lesbians” are no longer necessarily homosexual? I wanted a group for people like me. I needed a group defending the exclusive compatibility for the same sex and denying that homosexuality was unresolved bigotry. It was not something to fix. It was not something to hide.
Tables turned as I desperately tried to defend my homosexuality among the people promising to provide a safe place for all members of the LGBTQIA community. I retreated to my closet, packed full of things I’d chosen to leave behind. A cardboard box, roughly shoved into the corner under the folding chairs, was dragged back into the living room. I poured the content onto the floor. “My club is for… homosexuals.” A little polish here, swiping away the barely-settled dust. “My club is defined by… same-sex attraction.”
I still don’t like those words. I still bristle, deep down, when I drudge up the same terms I used to harm myself, now in a desperate attempt to defend myself. Simultaneously, part of me is thankful for the “outdated” language I rely on today. As terms like “gay” and “lesbian” are expanded to the point of breaking, what other option do I have? When a “gay man” may have enthusiastic sex with women, when “lesbians” like dick, when being “queer” means “queering PIV sex” (whatever that even means), what language do I have left? I am gay, but let me clarify: I am a homosexual.
There are detractors, of course. I’ve been educated on the history of terms like “homosexual” by people who’ve never pinned the word to their chest and beat their face till their nose bled. What selfishness. What do I have left? When “gay men” can love pussy, when “lesbians” can have exceptions, when “queer” can mean heterosexual, what language do I have left? This is not a rhetorical question.
Thank God for those ugly words stuffed in the back of my linguistic closet. Thank God for those “outdated” words. Thank God for something. At least it’s something. But even having something, anything to accurately describe my life as a homosexual, is too much — So says another passionate DM telling me the history of reparative therapy. They chastise me for ignorantly using language I clearly do not understand. I recognize a few names from their list of infamous conversion therapy experts; they aren’t very good writers, in my experience. A few swipes away, a mobile ad for “queer yoga” encourages me to celebrate my identity with authenticity. The “#1 Queer Dating Site” offers 15% off this month’s subscription, a Pride Month discount. My feed starts with #Queer, remembering the murder of Matthew Shepherd. I guess only some language can be reclaimed.
24 thoughts on “A Rainbow by Any Other Name: In Defense of “The Homosexual””
Excellent! Bravo! This really needed to be said, and you have said it so well.
Same thing happening at my university. With a history of sexual trauma and struggling to come to terms with my lesbianism, the whole “if you’re not (sexually) inclusive of transwomen you’re a bigot” rhetoric pushed me over the edge and lead me to try and push my boundaries to become more ‘inclusive’, resulting in so much worse sexual trauma. There is less and less space for us physically and linguistically. I no longer feel safe in the very place that was meant to be safe for me at university. It was founded by lesbians decades ago and now lesbians (homosexual women) are treated with suspicion. And then there’s the historical erasure. How the hell did the natural and innate exclusive same-sex attraction of gay men and lesbians become moralized /again/, and on top of that from within our own communities?
Good for you for speaking up! Solidarity!
Thank you, V for your courage. Courage for standing up for homosexuals (like me, a 75 year old lesbian) and for writing this eloquent piece. The world has become very strange for us in recent years. Don’t give up.
This is so enraging to hear. That in 2021 same-sex attraction can be regarded as bigoted is disturbing. These supposed “queer” activists have a disturbing disregard for boundaries and consent. Wishing you the best.
Yep where do we go….where can we go? We are constantly told to suck dick, gays are constantly told to fuck pussy, gueer means all now, they change our terms, insult our flags, insult the rights we faught for, silencing us. Belittling us, t
Forcing us to bow down to the trans assholes when they have no respect for us.
I brought awareness to my college and everyone hates me now. They actually tried expelling me for it, but I fought back. I didn’t fight for my right to be a lesbian to have new age queers shit on it….they can go fuck themselves.
Loved the read.
Seems we all struggle with it now
This new age woke homophobia crap has got to stop. If it’s not coming from the toxic left LGBTQ community it’s coming from the left extremists. Its about time we put a stop to their over reacting bullshit.
This was so well written and seriously important. I loved Rusty’s art!
Thank you for writing this article. Thank you thank you thank you.
Not everyone knows this is happening, not everyone is aware. I wish more spoke out about it. I wish I wasn’t so frozen in fear every day; that I had spoke out about it in the past. I am so inspired by your strength and your resilience.
I talked to my friend who is gay yesterday (I am a lesbian, I am female. That’ I have to say that is so insane to me) and he had no clue this is happening. I asked if he’d be open to having sex with a trans male and he told me he has thought about what he would do in that situation and said he has no clue. That he wasn’t sure he could do something like that because it goes against everything he’s fought for. What we have fought for.
Gay people, homosexuals, DON’T want to hurt people. We aren’t hateful and we aren’t bigoted. We are just trying to live our lives and be happy. To tell me I would be happy with a man dressed as a woman, even with surgery, makes me feel like I did all the way until I was 18. Feeling gross. Being suicidal. Because I “KNEW” something was wrong with me for being a lesbian. I had to live my life for others. I had to prove I was a good person.
“Not anymore.” I told myself those words years ago. I just barely got comfortable using the word lesbian to describe myself two years ago and I’m 33. To now turn around and tell me I’m not a lesbian? That I don’t understand? That I’m less than a woman for being female???
I stood back for long enough. I want to do something. I want girls like me to be able to look at themselves and know that they are worthy. That being female isn’t wrong. That being male isn’t wrong. That being gay or lesbian isn’t wrong. We’ve invited trans humans into our spaces, but now it’s time to make our own again and to remember why we aren’t ashamed to be alive.
Infuriating. Funny how they don’t bully straight people. Nobody’s telling straight men, for instance, that they have to consider trans women as potential sex partners OR ELSE! Wonder why? Bullies and narcissists pick on the weak. We may be a minority, but we’re no less deserving of sexual/romantic boundaries than any straight person.
Keep standing your ground for all of us L’s and G’s.
My (large, publicly-traded) employer’s HR department has gone down the rabbit hole with this BS, to the point where I today received a self-ID survey request that invited me to identify as a “same-gender attracted homosexual”.
I am fucking irate. But I feel like if I say anything to these woke assholes, I’m going to get put on an internal “list”, and my mortgage isn’t going to pay for itself.
How do you even go about addressing this stuff?!
seriously. wtf is a same-gender attracted homoSEXual? Maybe they meant homogenderal? Snark aside, it is very upsetting. I don’t want to answer questionnaires about my preferences! Or state my pronouns. All these new practices are coming down as mandates. It feels awful
These are patriarchist attacks – reinforcing toxic gender norms and the catastrophe of imperial neoliberalism – against Lesbians, against gay men, against bisexuals, and especially against all born-that-way women, hat tip to Lady Gaga.
How in the world have things degenerated, mutated to the point that same sex attraction is not acceptable in the LGBTQIAabdxyzlmnop community?
Bravo for writing this.
Dangerous Hypocrites and cretins they are!
I forwarded this to a former same sex attracted lesbian student now in school admin who read it with her partner. Here is what she said in reply:
“Thanks for sending this, Thom. This is a piece of what finally drove
me to retire from Austin ISD. This language and thinking is permeating the entire organization. Ugh!!”
“Thank God for those ‘outdated’ words. Thank God for something. At least it’s something.”
Damn. Yeah. You really hit the nail on the head.
This is Queer Theory at work. Queer Theory does not accept the existence of exclusively same-sex attracted people. No, you are basically a heterosexual person who deviates, at will, from heterosexuality. So of course, heterosexual folks can identify as “queers”, and you can sleep with people who are opposite-sex-bodied. In fact, you MUST. At the end of the day, it’s all about erasing the reality of Lesbian and Gay identity. You are “queer”, damn you, and your sexual practices must conform to “queerness”! If these incidents teach you nothing else, please recognize that “queer” is NOT an interchangeable term with “Lesbian” or “Gay” or even “Bisexual”!
Homophobia is back in style! Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. We live in extreme right-wing times and this insane shit is the evidence. True leftists are nearly nonexistent. Now you’re allowed to claim to be progressive while slobbering all over straight (white) male (“transwoman”) dick. Uphold the self-styled “rights” of the oppressor class and get “woke” points!!!
Really well said.
God bless you for the work you’re doing/have done, which I need you to know is NOT in vain–and for sharing this experience so eloquently. In doing so, you have helped many, including myself, to feel less alone in this renewed struggle we’re facing, together. Don’t give up. You are loved, my brother, and you make me proud to be a homosexual.
In recent years, I have noticed that certain gay and lesbian publications have been “hijacked” to focus on transgender issues. I have always thought that same sex attraction and transgenderism were separate matters, and questioned why they were increasingly lumped together as LGBTQI+. Thank you for writing an article that explains what is happening here.
This needed to be said. And more people need to understand it.
I can’t even call myself a woman anymore without trans “activists” terrorizing me for it. They’ve stolen the word, Woman, and refer to me instead with the most dehumanizing, hypocritical language. I’m a “female, bleeder, uterus-haver,” (except I lost mine to surgery)
It’s infuriating. I’m a woman. I’m not parts of a woman’s body. But I can’t even say THAT without being called all sorts of hateful things, especially, TERF. I wish more people cared at all about these things going on, right now. They’re erasing us. They’re infiltrating our spaces. They’re raping women, AND young girls, in bathrooms. If you go past the first page of propaganda on Google, you’ll find the news articles about it. The crime reports.
When confronted with this shit, I usually say, “if I’m being forced to identify as something, then I identify as an adult human male who is gay. If you don’t have that classification then please add it.” If they pretend like there’s some confusion over what ‘gay’ means, then I add “you know ‘gay’, as in one adult human male who is attracted to other adult human males.”
Thank you so much V! You are exactly right.
As a gay man myself, I’m shocked how literally gay men and lesbians (homosexuals) are being erased and redefined for another group’s “dignity.” If that’s the best way to explain why they feel that way, I’m not really sure.
I’ve graduated from college for some time now, but back in 2011 was on the board of our LGBT group at my university and remember fighting to help transsexuals (not transgender-whatever that means now- it changes every week) have access to their own bathrooms.
It’s so bizarre that we literally have to defend what being a gay man or lesbian is. I’m sorry but a trans man or trans woman is not the same as a gay man or lesbian (homosexual terms not terms for anyone and their mother to use). Vice-versa we have different experiences growing up and to scream in a gay man or lesbian’s face that we shouldn’t “care” about genitals is completely contradictory toward the definition of gay men and lesbians.
What I don’t get (well I think I can come up with a few ideas) is a question to all the trans men and women who are yelling at homosexuals about sexually and romantically being with them. Aren’t they kind of sexually fetishizing a group of people who won’t love them back the way they would like to be loved and sexually desired? I hated it and still do when gay men won’t leave straight men alone. If this is not okay, why should it be okay to be done to gay men and lesbians (homosexuals)?
Anyways, sorry for rambling. Great article and very insightful.
If Transmen and Transwomen are so wonderful, abundant and really ARE MEN & WOMEN, they should have relationships with each other.
thanks so much for the article- it’s crazy being told that your same-sex attraction is ‘transphobic’ and I am glad to hear there are other people who have experienced this like I have.
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