Every time 50 Shades of Grey comes up in conversation, I can’t help but shake my head at those heterosexuals and their crazy lifestyles. Having this kind of insight into heterosexuals and their sex lives is truly disturbing. Best-selling book on an abusive and controlling relationship? What’s wrong with you crazy heterosexuals?

As crazy as this line of thinking sounds, this is what it sounds like to me when people talk about the homosexual lifestyle. It sounds like a collection of the worst stereotypes bundled together and tossed like a grenade at the LGBT community.

Though I’ve heard the term many, many times, I’m still not sure what it means. I’m open to feedback from someone who uses the phrase. What do you mean? There must be a better way to say it.

From what I can tell, traditional Christians aren’t super comfortable with the word “sex,” especially if you put “gay” in front of it. So I guess the phrase “homosexual lifestyle” is actually a euphemism for same-sex sex. Certainly some people just think of all same-sex sex as a caricature of iniquity, but most are probably just trying to use kosher language.

Even if you personally don’t mean anything negative by it, the phrase has been used in recent history to paint a pejorative picture of LGBT people. When gay men were dying of AIDS by the tens of thousands, evangelical preachers such as Chuck Colson used our tragedy as an opportunity to talks about the evils of the “homosexual lifestyle.” Many times I have heard professors, pastors, and authors imply or outright say that LGBT people share one lifestyle that involves reckless sex and drug use. In my denomination, Seventh-day Adventism, the most well known and well-funded group addressing LGBT people intentionally perpetuates these stereotypes. They use the phrase “homosexual lifestyle” liberally.

Lifestyles are about the manner in which we live our lives: our habits, hobbies, and ethics. Just as being attracted to someone of opposite gender is not a lifestyle choice, neither is being attracted to someone of the same gender. Just as people who choose to pursue relationships with people of the opposite gender have all kinds of different lifestyles, so do people who choose to pursue relationships with people of the same gender.

Just like you, we have lives and not lifestyles. If you were to refer to my lifestyle, you’d have to add a lot more descriptors for an accurate picture. Saying that I’m bisexual just wouldn’t get it. I can’t be defined by the stereotypes of my sexual orientation, which don’t even come close to describing me, any more than you can be defined by 50 Shades of Grey.

As Peggy Campolo said, “Madonna and I are both heterosexual women, but we do not share a lifestyle.” Neither do I share a lifestyle with everyone else who’s bisexual.

If you would like to learn more about terminology and how to talk to LGBT people with respect, in a way that describes us as we see ourselves, please check out my glossary.

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