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"SSA" and "Being Gay": The Power of Words

SSA stands for “same-sex attraction”.  It describes the phenomenon where a person’s legitimate desire and need to connect with someone of the same gender has been romanticised or sexualised.    It is not a choice (as some have suggested) nor is it necessarily a life-sentence (as others have suggested).  Most studies indicate that the cause for this phenomenon is based on events and reactions to events which happen during developmental years.

Unlike the term “SSA”, the term “being gay” is used to describe a person.  It implies that a person has sexual desires for someone of the same gender and that they act from those desires.  “Gay”, in this sense, is a new term.  It’s a term which seeks to put an identity on person rather than describe a feeling or inclination a person may have.   It is a term which implies a necessary relationship between desire and behaviour.  It assumes that if you have a romantic or sexual feeling towards a certain group or individual, you should seek to act on it.  It is often suggested that to fail to do so is being “repressive”.  This is part of the new “born that way” culture we live in which encourages people to sexualise their same-sex needs with little or no thought to other issues such as family of origin.

I find it unhelpful to describe anyone as “being gay” even if they are happy to self-identify as such.  I don’t like the term because it assumes that a person’s core identity is based upon their sexual inclinations (The same is true of the terms “homosexual” and “heterosexual”).   Sexual inclinations can change just as a person’s physiological makeup and character can change.  I have known people who had sexual attractions to the opposite gender change to begin to have attractions to the same gender.  I have likewise known people with attractions to the same gender grow and develop attractions to the opposite gender.  These attractions aren’t always as “fixed” as some would have us to believe. 

I also find the term “gay” unhelpful because it fails to distinguish between attractions and behaviour.  A person with SSA may choose not to act on their attractions and therefore not engage in SSP (same-sex practice).  “Being gay” fails to make this distinction between attraction and practice. 

“Gay” is not the only unhelpful term out there.  “Paedophile” is another term which seeks to describe a very different category of person.  As a pastor, I have come across men who (for various reasons) are sexually oriented towards pre-pubescent children.  Thankfully, many men with such attractions nobly refuse to act on them for moral or spiritual reasons (and yes, some are motivated by the more self-preserving reason of not wanting to get caught).   Some men, unfortunately, do act on these inclinations and bring great misery to others in doing so.  The term “paedophile” (like “gay”) makes no distinction between a person who exercises self-control and one who do not.

“Gay” and other newer terms do a disservice to our humanity whether we ever deal with SSA personally or not.   These terms assume that if we have an itch, we must scratch it; if we have an appetite we must satiate it.  We are created differently from the animals in many ways, one of which being our moral use of self-control.   If a man cheats on his wife by committing adultery with another woman that he is sexually attracted to then simply using a creative self-identifying term like “non-monogamous” or “polyamorous” is not a sufficient justification.  We are not animals.  Part of the dignity of being human means that we are more than the sum of our appetites. 

But it would be foolish of me to end this post here.  As humans, we often know what is right but fail to have the power to act on it.  We have all failed to be the man or woman we ought whether it is sexual failure or some other area of morality.   We fail morally because we are dead spiritually.  If we are living apart from God then though it is possible to have a strong sense of righteousness we will never have the inner spiritual life to walk in it.  Jesus said, “You must be born again”.  We need a new life on the inside which only he can give.  Only he has died in our place, for the sin of us all. Only he has risen again in power to give us new life.  By coming to him we will find new life.   He has a big and generous house and has left a light on for you.  

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  1. This is a very helpful article for those struggling with SSA and the ones helping them. By the way nice blog and congrats for your book.


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