- What identifies somebody or something; the name or essential character of an individual.
- Essential self; the set of characteristics that somebody recognizes as belonging uniquely to himself.
As the young boy ages, he slowly (and silently!) begins to perceive himself as “different”. By now, he may have learned what the term “homosexual” or “gay” means, but until he first begins experiencing homoerotic sensations (usually just prior to puberty), he does notidentify himself in those terms.
That lack of sexual identity usually dramatically changes with puberty.
Now the pubescent boy is confronted with the reality that he is indeed attracted to certain males and has indeed experienced homoerotic feelings. The teen boy may or may not begin experimenting sexually with other males (and may even incur sexual abuse). Now his sexual behavior demands he define himself in some way that will make sense to himself. Perhaps other friends, parents, media, teachers, etc. takeover that role – andthey define his sexual identity for him! One way or another, every male who has ever experienced ssa has had to repeatedly wrestle over his own definition of what he believes he should call himself – his sexual identity.
- “Are you gay?” Those males who have engaged in homoerotic lust and/or contact without a sense of guilt are likely to identify themselves as “gay”. Usually they have more publicly identified themselves this way, may be more likely to have a partner/lover, and are more likely to want society, family members, and churches to embrace their status as a gay man.
- “Are you ex-gay?” Usually men who claim this identity had earlier embraced a “gay” identity. By proclaiming that he is now an “ex-gay”, he identifies as someone who used to be “gay”, but now is intending not to act upon homoerotic temptations.
- "Are you a homosexual?” Men who identify with this term may be older or more conservative. They may not identify as being “gay”, may not have a male partner, may not want to be affirmed for having ssa – but they nonetheless acknowledge that they have no heteroerotic capacity.
- “Do you have same-sex attractions?” To the person unfamiliar with ssa, this may sound like just another version of asking the question “are you gay?” or “are you a homosexual?” However, to those of us who actually do have ssa, the question is really asking “are you capable of experiencing sexual sensations toward certain men?”
- “Are you a bi-sexual (bi)?” Men who use this term usually are confident in proclaiming they have both homoerotic and heteroerotic capacities. Usually (but not always) such men do not feel guilt about engaging in erotic lust or contact with either gender – they have experienced both sensations and enjoy them differently.
- "Are you straight?” Usually a “yes” answer is interpreted the same as saying “I am a heterosexual”. Meaning: I do not have any same-sex attractions.
How should someone respond if he has never identified himself as “gay”, but experiences ssa and has secretly engaged in homoerotic contact with men? He cannot call himself an “ex-gay” (since he never identified as “gay”). He feels hypocritical calling himself “straight” – but wants to project himself to others as being exactly that. He is likely to loathe himself, and spend immense energy trying to hide his sexual attractions and actions from his family, employers, and church. What a shame-filled life!
How should someone respond if he has never identified himself as “gay”, and has neverhad homoerotic contact with another man, but experiences ssa and homoerotic temptations? The term “ex-gay” does not apply. “Homosexual” sounds like he prefers to have sex only with males. “Bi-sexual” implies he has had sex with both genders – which is not true. “Straight” is inaccurate, because he indeed does have ssa and homoerotic temptations. What a confusing dilemma!ClosingFor those readers who can relate to this shame or confusion, I have a suggestion for how you can describe yourself. It is the same suggestion I provide my clients – and apply to myself. Are you interested? Well then, see you next time!