Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Gay vs. homosexual

The other day a gay friend was 'explaining' to me the new understanding that differentiates "gay" from "homosexual". Who knew it was now wrong to use these terms interchangeably?

According to my friend:
  • "Gay" refers to a person who has sex with someone of the same sex but also dates people of the same sex, desires to have a relationship with someone of the same sex, and views him/herself as 'living a gay lifestyle'.

  • "Homosexual" refers to a person who has sex with someone of the same sex but does not date or desire a relationship with someone of the same sex. They date and desire a relationship with someone of the opposite sex, and therefore do not view him/herself as 'living a gay lifestyle'.

This kind of reminds me of Bill Clinton's infamous statement "I did not have sex with that woman" because in his mind 'sex' meant 'genital penetration'. A blow job that ended with a climax? Why, that's an entirely different thing!

I suppose this new understanding of the subtle yet important difference between "gay" and "homosexual" is very convenient for the Senator Larry Craigs and the Glenn Murphy Jrs of the world. They can emphatically repeat to the public "I am not gay" without the slightest prick to their consciences. As long as they're married or date women, they can have sex with men and not be gay!

Personally I don't buy it. Everyone I know uses the terms interchangeably. "Homosexual" is the clinical term while "gay" is the slang term for the same thing: people who have sex with others of the same sex. Several dictionaries I consulted support this. But if there is a difference between "homosexual" and "gay", would it also imply that there is a difference between "heterosexual" and "straight"? Does a "straight" person have sex with the opposite sex and 'live a straight lifestyle', while a "heterosexual" person has sex with the opposite sex but does not claim to 'live a straight lifestyle'? In this age of 'love the sinner, hate the sin' and other such forms of double-speak, it seems to me that people have simply found another way to not be honest. Everything, including sexual behavior, seems to be vulnerable to a 'spin' that would make it seem somehow different than what it truly is.

When you peel away the personal and political embarrassment for Republicans like Craig and Murphy who've been voting against equal rights for gays, it really just comes down to honesty.

Craig could have said "I'm married and I love my wife and children, but occasionally I feel the need for sex with a man. I don't know why, but I'm human and this is who I am. I've kept this a secret in order not to hurt my family or my career, but its out now, so I'm telling the truth." I think most people would have respected such honesty, and would be more likely to forget about the arrest. But instead, he denies any interest in sex with men, despite repeated but unproven allegations of such spanning the last 40 years.

Murphy could have said "As a leader in the Republican party it may seem incongruent that I have, yet again, been charged with attempted non-consensual sex with a man. I am having difficulty reconciling these things so I'm going to do some personal work with a therapist and try to get things sorted out." Once again, such honestly often allows the public to give the alleged offender the benefit of the doubt and the situation could have been dealt with privately from then on. But instead, Murphy resigns from his position to follow some other job that was too good to pass up.

Will public people (and the rest of us for that matter) ever take responsibility for our actions and behaviors? Or are we doomed to hours and hours of TV shows like last night's Matt Lauer interview with Senator and Mrs Craig, where the facts and motives just get pushed farther and farther into the background in favor of debating the small details of what was and was not said to the arresting officer?

"Gay" vs. "homosexual". "Straight" vs. "heterosexual". Why don't we all just try and be "honest"? If its furry, has teeth, and BARKS, I'm calling it a dog.

Drag Queen name of the day: Patty O'Furniture


Uncle Phatato said...

I was blog-hopping and came across this post. Very well written. I liked what you had to say about "honesty." I really don't know what happened and really don't care with that man, but at the same time, you make a very strong point about forgetting what he did if he was just straight-forward. Alas, we all care too much about what someone might think of us.

dirk.mancuso said...

Um...I think someone is fooling himself. "Gay" and "homosexual" are the same thing.

A person who has sex with someone of the same sex but does not date or desire a relationship with someone of the same sex is a slut. This also refers to our straight counterparts.

Maybe it's just me, but can't we just lose all the labels and be ourselves? People are people -- let's just appreciate the differences and make fun of the ones with really ugly clothes.