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The phrase "Same Sex Attraction"  [message #67232] Tue, 11 December 2012 16:17 Go to next message

Has no life at all
Location: UK, in Devon
Registered: February 2003
Messages: 13694

I'm in email correspondence with a very nice chap who enjoys in a professional sense, our pages on Anal Sex. I don't mean he's a hooker! I mean that he is a sexual therapist, a proper professional. As we got talking he used the words 'Same Sex Attraction'. It's a phrase I have difficulty with. So I need to explain before I ask my question.

My experience of usage of 'Same Sex Attraction' is with the "compartmentalise the queers before recommending reparative therapy for them" brigade, the rogues, quacks and charlatans of the ex gay liars and scam artists. A Google search for the phrase reinforces that view. I find they use it as a shorthand which demeans those who are attracted to the same sex. The term is accurate. We are attracted to the same sex, but the way it's been deployed makes 'Same Sex Attraction' tainted, certainly to me. I've asked him to consider the phrase in his work and whether it has a place. He's a decent bloke, and he's asked what one might replace it with. What he's said to me is:
What term do you suggest in place of SSA?  I used it because I can use it in a passive voice...or a non-active verb description. It has been less accusatory than "Do you feel attracted to men?"  That is such a scary place for so many men to go. "Having" something, seems to objectify it...it's not me...so I can regard it from a distance before owning it.  I'm just seeking a safe way to term being attracted to men that will open doors.

I understand his question. I made him some sort of reply:
I think I would stay flat. "it's not uncommon sometimes to feel attracted to other people of the same sex. It's pretty much normal, really. Have you (wondered if you / thought that you might have) felt that at times?" There are sufficient wriggle words in that type of phrasing to allow them to become comfortable with starting to identify with part of it.

I am, though, a single person and I may be uniquely upset by the phrase I dislike. So I would like to open this to the floor. The chap I'm talking to is one of the good guys. How would you advise him in this area? I'm asking because the answers might allow him to help someone in pain, in need. I'm not correct, nor are you, but together we are better than apart.

[Updated on: Tue, 11 December 2012 16:25]

Author of Queer Me! Halfway Between Flying and Crying - the true story of life for a gay boy in the Swinging Sixties in a British all male Public School
Re: The phrase "Same Sex Attraction"  [message #67233 is a reply to message #67232] Tue, 11 December 2012 17:04 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Kitzyma is currently offline  Kitzyma

Likes it here

Registered: March 2012
Messages: 215

For me, the phrase "Same Sex Attraction" is simply descriptive and neutral, and it doesn't have any negative or positive associations in my mind. Obviously, though, like any other word or word combination, it may have strong emotional connotations for others, depending on how it has been used in their own experience. Even simple words like 'father' can have very different and strong emotional connotations for someone who had a loving caring father than it has for someone who had a father who frequently got drunk and beat him.

The context of the usage is also important in the emotions it evokes. For example the word 'gay' in 'I am a proud gay man' does not feel the same as the same word when it is used by a teenager to taunt his classmate with, "That's so gay!".

At the moment, I cant think of a simple single alternative to "Same Sex Attraction", except perhaps "Same Gender Attraction". Being attracted to a member of the same gender isn't exactly the same as wanting sex with them. (I've felt sexually attracted to someone without actually wanting to have sex with them - is that odd?).  So you can't simply replace the question "have you ever felt Same Sex Attraction?" with "Have you ever wanted to have sex with with someone of the same gender (as yourself)?".

I suppose in the context of the original post, the only thing that really matters is what connotations or associations the phrase has for the clients of this particular therapist. For some people, the idea of admitting the fact they might be attracted to the same sex is far more emotionally charged than the actual phrase used. Perhaps the therapist, knowing the individual client's background, can assess whether or not that client might react negatively to the phrase or, like me, find it totally neutral.

[Updated on: Tue, 11 December 2012 17:12]

Re: The phrase "Same Sex Attraction"  [message #67234 is a reply to message #67233] Tue, 11 December 2012 17:15 Go to previous messageGo to next message

Has no life at all
Location: UK, in Devon
Registered: February 2003
Messages: 13694

'Gender' is a grammatical term for the gender of a noun. Gender is masculine, feminine, or neuter. 'Sex' is the term for the sex of a living creature. Sex is male, female, sometimes hermaphrodite. The Political Correctness brigade have hijacked 'gender' for their own ends, feeling it is in some ways more acceptable than 'sex'. Unfortunately they are insidiously contagious, and suck the unwary in.

Author of Queer Me! Halfway Between Flying and Crying - the true story of life for a gay boy in the Swinging Sixties in a British all male Public School
Re: The phrase "Same Sex Attraction"  [message #67235 is a reply to message #67234] Tue, 11 December 2012 21:15 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Nick Deverill is currently offline  Nick Deverill

Toe is in the water

Registered: November 2012
Messages: 78

As medical terminology goes, it's pretty good. Does not insult, applicable to both men and women. True it needs further qualifying but it's only a headline term. It also abbreviates nicely in the way medical (and broadcaster) folks like, 'Same Sex Attraction'; SSA. I don't feel SSA falls over as a term if someone with SSA doesn't want to have sex with their target sex. After all, that would imply all people with SSA are sex maniacs which is a quite different medical condition.

The word "gay" can have political implications and since the word also has other meanings, to describe someone as a gay person does not mean the same thing to all readers. SSA is certainly free of both of those problems.

I'd be happy to accept another phrase or word, but I can't offer any suggestions as to any suitable ones.

Re: The phrase "Same Sex Attraction"  [message #67278 is a reply to message #67235] Tue, 01 January 2013 18:42 Go to previous message
saben is currently offline  saben

On fire!

Registered: May 2003
Messages: 1537

Timmy, gender and sex are two different things, at least in theory on the subject. Sex is a physical trait, gender is the social dimension of "masculinity". Not sure if you've heard the phrase "cisgendered", but it refers to people that have a unity of bodily sex and gender. Men who identify as men and have penises. Women that identify as women and have sarlacc pits. To non-cisgendered people the distinction matters.

It's not so much that "gender" is more PC than "sex", rather than "gender" denotes something that there previously wasn't a word for because for so much of history we expected 1:1 correlation between sex and gender. At least in Western societies. In some Eastern and Native American societies there were three genders in language and culture. Despite there still only being two sexes (well, that discounts hermaphroditism and other forms of intersex).

That means that Same Sex Attraction and Same Gender Attraction would have slightly different meanings. One is about the bodies you find attractive, the other is about the identity you find attractive.

I think terminology matters as this distinction shows. Similarly with "Same Sex Attraction".

I'm not entirely comfortable with the term as in my experience it has been used to create a disconnect between my feelings and me, as a person. It was used frequently when I came out to people in my church. The role seems to be decoupling sexuality from identity and sense of self.

However, for those struggling with coming to terms with their sexuality it may be the very term they need for that reason. They can start to understand their feelings by not being confronted by them. "Being gay" or even "being attracted to men" is far more direct and confronting than "having same-sex attraction" is. That's why churches and reparative groups use it, I think. So given its clinical neutrality I think it may be the word that is needed for particular clients. Though I agree that finding other ways to phrase the question may be something I'd be more comfortable with because of my own experiences with the term.
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