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Trying not to push buttons
Suggestions for Talking Across the Divide 
  How We Agree
  Trying not to push buttons
Suggestions for Talking Across the Divide 
by Maggie Heineman

From How we Agree:
"We are agreed that care must be taken in the use of  language, because many cultural differences that have grown up on the opposite sides of this divide are reflected in the choice of words that are used. We are learning that words which seem simple and straightforward to one group can seem terribly 'loaded' to another. We are working to discover why this is so, and to educate one another and be educated so that a clearer understanding of the language that we use can form the basis of further discussions."

Defining the Divides

(SideA) There are people from many backgrounds who for religious or other reasons believe that homosexual relationships have the same value as heterosexual relationships and (SideB)  there are those of many faiths who disagree, believing that only a male/female ationship in marriage is the "Creator's intent for our sexuality." [nb: we recognize that there are also objections to homosexual behavior by those who are not religious, who do not believe in a creator, but we haven't been in conversation with them.]

D: The proper approach to people on the other side is to denounce them, avoid them, keep them away from the children, name them as dangerously evil and do whatever must be done to either change them or silence them. Government should be called in at some level to make sure that happens. 
E: The proper approach to people on the other side is to recognize their humanity, try to hear them, love them, learn where their pain is, and stand in solidarity with them as human beings in opposition to the approach taken by D. 

Quotes. In general, using quotes is offensive. If you are not comfortable with using a term from the other side, then find a substitute which doesn't involve quote marks.

Words mean different things to different people. It does not help dialogue engage in semantic arguments about the correct usage of words.  It is helpful to find out how people are using words so that you understand the meaning of what they are saying.  Those on SideA generally use "gay" to refer to sexual orientation, consequently they tend to consider all same gender attracted (sga) people as gay. Many on SideB use "gay" to refer to identity, not to attraction and possibly not even to behavior.

Ask people what they want to be called.  An exgay once posted to our email list,  "Having just attended a conference on transsexuality, I have learned the following piece of helpful information: " call each person "him" or "her" depending on his or her preference only, not on biology.    In the absence of knowing which pronoun the people want, the conference recommendation was, Just ask them "    This can be applied across the board  in respect to labels -- if you don't know what people want to be called, just ask them.

Terminology and concepts developed by Fritz Klien help bridge the divide.

Using the Klein Scale to Teach  about Sexual Orientation explains, "Sexual identity (how people think of themselves) sometimes has little to do with their sexual behavior."

sga: Same Gender (sexual) Attraction 
sgb: Same Gender (sexual) Behavior 
sgf: Same Gender (sexual) Fantasy 
sgi: Same Gender (gay) Identity 

oga: Opposite Gender (sexual) attraction 
ogb: Opposite Gender (sexual) behavior 
ogf: Opposite Gender (sexual) fantasy 
ogi: Opposite Gender (heterosexual) identity. 

Same Gender Attracted. The term same gender attracted is not only more specificthan "homosexual or "gay"  it recognizes that those who identify as gay and those who do not have experienced the same attractions and may have shared the same childhoods of isolation due to the societal rejection of those with homosexual desires. [See Gays and Exgays sharing the pain of the past ]

Divisive terms and slogans

Ex-Gay -- The term ex-gay is one which many ex-gay, as well as gay, pro-gay people are not comfortable with. We use it (without quotes) on this website to refer to people who have experienced same gender sexual  attraction (sga) and who, for religious or other reasons, have chosen not to embrace a gay identity and not to engage in same gender behavior (sgb).  Ex-gay does not necessarily imply past same gender behavior (sgb) nor does it specify the degree of significant change in same gender sexual attraction. We also talk about people choosing to follow the ex-gay path which correctly shows that overcomers are involved in a process. In Exodus circles the word strugglers is used for those who are struggling with sga. 

The Lifestyle --  Because of the rhetoic of the Political Religious Right (PRR),  the lifestyle has become a loaded, polarizing term even though the phrase was used by gay and lesbian people in the past. Among themselves exgays speak of when they were in the lifestyle to mean "when I identified as gay."  It refers more to identity than to behavior.  The word gay is preferred by gays and pro-gays. The term gay-identified or the phrase identifies as gay are suggested as alternatives for those can't bring themselves to use the word gay without quotes. 

Hate the sin, love the sinne -- As Thomas Schmidt, author of Straight and Narrow? Compassion and Clarity in the Homosexuality Debate, writes in Christianity Today

Our heterosexual sin includes hatred toward homosexuals.Whenever we initiate or tolerate slang terms, demeaning jokes, or derogatory offhand comments, we send a strong message that these people for whom Jesus died are, in civil-rights terms, niggers; or in biblical terms, Samaritans. In so doing we make a lie of the slogan "hate the sin and love the sinner." That slogan, known and despised by homosexuals, is tired and needs to be replaced. A more appropriate motto would be "look in the mirror before looking out the window." 

Religion and Politics
The following terminology makes a distinction between SideB religious beliefs and the political activity of those hold those beliefs.

PRR - Political Religious Right. The term is descriptive, not derogatory. Obviously the term "religious political extremists" is inflammatory and we don't use it. However, "family values groups" implies that those on the Liberal Left (LL) do not have family values and therefore we don't use that either. 
PRL -Political Religious Left. Those who support gay rights, and liberal politics for religious reasons. 
cC - conservative Christian. On Bridges-Across (B-A) we use conservative Christian (cC) to refer to SideB Christians. Although it's somewhat inaccurate, it's how we have defined, and use, cC. Actually, not all SideA Christians are liberal Christians. There are SideA Christians who hold a belief in the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection of Christ, a personal relationship with Jesus, and other tenets of conservative or  evangelical Christian (eC) faith. 
CC - Christian Coalition (a PRR organization) 
RR - Religious Right. An ambiguous term, which we avoid in favor of the more specific cC and PRR terms. A person can be RR without being PRR.We use cC to refer to the beliefs and PRR to indicate political activity. 

Here is a page on terminology at an exgay site. SideA people will have issues with it, but it is useful for SideB people who want to talk to those on SideA.  

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