I recently read a very interesting and well-written article by Joshua Gonnerman called Why I Call Myself a Gay Christian. It has me thinking about a lot of things, and I want to talk about one of them today.
The concept of lifestyle.
First of all, I should point out that the article itself is more about identity and self-identification, though he does, in passing, mention the concept of lifestyle. What troubled me, though, was that in a huge number of comments on that article, straight readers couldn’t seem to get past the notion of lifestyle. If someone self-identifies as gay, they seem to say, that person must be engaging in risky sexual encounters with multiple partners of the same sex. That person must be wearing rainbows, marching in parades, in-your-face, out and proud. That person must be the embodiment of all that is other.
It begs the question: are lifestyle and identity the same thing?
First of all, let me state that I’m coming to this blog post as a straight girl. I’ve never experienced same-sex attraction. So I can’t tell you what gay identity is. I can’t tell you what gay lifestyle is.
I can tell you what single identity and lifestyle is.
I identify as single. That means I check the “never married” on survey forms. I count the number of people in my household as “one adult”. I have a single income. I don’t have kids (though many single people do).
Now let me tell you about my lifestyle. Because if you watch TV, you probably think singles go out clubbing four nights a week, show up at work hungover, glitz off on weekend trips to Vegas or the Virgin Islands or whatever, and spend countless hours in coffee houses alternating between angsting over their single status or gloating about their most recent hook-up.
My life is…well, not as seen on TV.
I’m a member of a church, where I used to be much more involved than I am now. I used to serve in youth ministry and attend every week. At the church before that, where I grew up, I served in various leadership positions and sang in the worship band.
I don’t drink coffee or hang out in coffee houses. I don’t really like clubs, either, though if there’s an Irish pub in the vicinity, I’ll be more than happy to hang out there, drinking Smithwick’s and singing along with the live band. I’m more likely to be playing Warcraft or reading than going out all the time.
I have several good friends, but unfortunately a lot of them live in different parts of the US. A lot of us went to university about thirty miles from here, but I was the only one who stayed local. Other friends I’ve met online and have formed real-life friendships with as a result.
I have two cats, and I freely admit they rule my life. I suppose I might be a geeky cat-lady, if you want to pin a stereotype on me. Does my self-identification inform my lifestyle? Sure. If I had a husband and kids to take care of, I probably couldn’t spend as much time on Warcraft or playing with the cats. Is my self-identification the sum-total of who I am? No way.
So my challenge to you is this: think about how you self-identify. Does your identity automatically equal lifestyle? Or is it just one of many factors that go into who you are and how you live?
I have to think that it’s no different, regardless of orientation, marital status, financial class, or denomination.
How do you identify?