Wednesday, February 2, 2011

'Suffering' from SSA

What do you call someone who is a man and has sexual attractions towards other men, or is a woman and has such attractions for another woman? This is the center of one of those big language-political debates, and most of us can’t even hope to be on the forefront of politically correct usage, even if we wanted to. In the Catholic world, the “correct” term is generally “same-sex attracted,” which is allegedly neutral and which also, to give it some credit, occasionally appears in scientific literature by pro-gay advocates.
Now, I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with “same-sex attracted,” or “same-sex attraction” as terms for homosexuals/homosexuality (apart from the fact that they’re clinical and totally non-euphonious.) The problem is that they very often appear in compounds with the verb “suffering from.” Catholics who are trying to appear balanced, sane, compassionate, non-offensive, etc. will say that so-and-so was “suffering from same-sex-attractions.” I myself have been described in this way. The problem is that no one suffers from same-sex attractions unless they are already more or less firmly in the Catholic/Christian camp. People who desperately want to be chaste and/or heterosexual, and who find this difficult, really do suffer. But when you apply that terminology to the LGBTQ community in general, you sound like an idiot – or worse, like a patronizingly nice member of some paternalistic sect.
The problem is that the verb “to suffer” already contains a very specific judgement about the nature of same-sex attraction. Someone who makes racy CGI videos celebrating the Sapphic sisterhood, or who buys a homoerotic casket in which to be buried next to his Eromenoi, doesn’t see her/himself as suffering from anything. The moment that you use that kind of language, you’ve already shot yourself in the foot in terms of dialogue – you’ve revealed a profoundly discordant paradigm, one that conveys that you simply don’t understand, and that you’re probably not willing to.


  1. How do you call them? Homosexual and Lesbian? Gay? And I had never heard of homoerotic caskets or Eromenoi. Is gay also a euphemism? Excuse my ignorance but I do really would like your thought on this.

  2. Good point -- "suffer" needlessly raises hackles.

    What do you recommend as an alternative? I've been saying "people who are SS-attracted" or "experience SSA."

  3. I agree. If you want to reach people, there's no point in using language that will drive them away right at the start. Personally, I refer to those who "experience same-sex attraction."

    What do you suggest?


    Host Marcus Grodi and his special guests discuss their personal conversion stories

  5. Marcus Grodi with Scott McDermott. conversion story

  6. I agree, with a mild bit of reservation and that is because it is possible for someone to be suffering without an awareness of it, but it is definitely not the way to begin a conversation.


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