The names we use are powerful. In the scriptures, as well as many ancient cultures, new names are often given to individuals and groups in order to separate them from others, join them together in a common covenant, or indicate a significant change.
In the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin gives his people a new name . Later, those Lamanites who listen to the teaching of Ammon and his brothers choose to rename themselves Anti-Nephi-Lehies to distinguish themselves from the others while still retaining their unique identity.
If you have read my blog for a while, you will know that I I have a great deal of compassion for those members of the church who struggle with same-sex attraction, and I admire the faithfulness of those who despite their weaknesses, choose to bridle their passions and remain true to the teachings of the prophets. (see my previous posts here and here).
The names “gay” and “homosexual” are problematic because they describe such a range of behaviors and feelings. It is impossible for someone who hears another describe himself as “gay” to distinguish whether they mean that they are are a practicing homosexual or simply struggle with same-sex attraction but purposefully abstains from homosexual practices in favor of traditional morality.
David Benkof, who was formerly a practicing homosexual before returning to the religious practice of Judaism and becoming celibate, recently published an article in the Jerusalem Post in which he proposes a new name for people with same-sex attraction but who choose to live according to tradition by remaining celibate or entering into traditional, hetero-sexual marriages.
DELTA stands for “Deliberately Living Traditionally” and is the name he proposes for those who choose to live traditionally to distinguish themselves from “gays.”
Instead of gay or ex-gay, those of us who have stopped thinking of ourselves primarily as same-sexers can emphasize the fact that, whether we’re celibate or in opposite-sex relationships, we’re ‘Deliberately Living Traditionally.’ The handy acronym Delta corresponds to a Greek letter representing change; it can be a rival to the use of the letter Lambda to represent all things gay. Delta can serve as a new identity and community for people who are making or have made that tough transition….
The ‘Delta’ idea correctly focuses on how people behave and organize their lives rather than what their sexuality bar codes are. Such an attitude, by the way, is consistent with Torah Judaism. By contrast, the ‘ex-gay’ approach accepts the gay community view that all of us have an innate sexual orientation, merely adding that those orientations can be changed through ‘reparative’ or other therapy.
By trumpeting that they’ve changed sexual orientations, ex-gays also open themselves to charges of deception and failure. For example, Jewish writer Wayne Besen’s 2003 book attacking the ex-gay movement, Anything But Straight, makes a big deal of ex-gay leaders who later return to the gay community, and of evidence that for many ex-gays, the transition is temporary at best.
But for many of us, the trend away from homosexuality is not the wholesale fraud Besen and other gay activists make it out to be. Whether part of an organized movement or not, a number of men and women, mostly quietly, have purposefully left same-sex lifestyles, without regret. Many still have same-sex attractions. But they remain, if you will, Deltas.
I think this is a name that Latter-day Saints, whether they have same-sex attraction or not, could adopt and promote.
My only concern is that Elder Oaks has said that “…if you are trying to live with and maintain ascendancy over same-gender attractions, the best way to do that is to have groups that define their members in terms other than same-gender attractions.” Is using the new name LDS Delta inconsistent with that admonition?
Any thoughts? Reactions?