In Christians circles, especially among those associated with the Gay Christian Network (GCN), there’s much talk about Side A and Side B. They’re shorthand for what an individual believes about same sex relationships and how gay people should choose to live their lives. A person who is Side A believes that gay people should be allowed to enter into same sex romantic and sexual relationships — though possibly with some caveats, such as only with a long-term partner with whom one is committed to lifelong monogamy. A person who is Side B believes that gay people should seek to maintain a life of celibacy.
As I understand it — though I can’t find the sources that led me to this understanding to confirm it — the concepts of Side A and Side B originally started among gay Christians themselves and indicated a personal choice of how the individual felt it best to respond to their sexual orientation in their own life. This is reflected in that GCN welcomes both people who are Side A and people who are Side B.
At some point, heterosexual people who started joining the conversation about gay people in the church also began to adopt the labels Side A and Side B for themselves. The thing is, heterosexual people are not gay, so the original understanding of the concept that which “side” they belonged to no longer represented how they chose to respond to their own sexual orientation. Instead, for heterosexual people, their Side A or Side B status mostly began to represent how other people — namely people who actually are gay — should choose to live their lives1.
This has apparently caused some problems for at least one person. Yesterday, Misty Irons blogged about the misunderstandings that tend to be formed when she identifies as Side B:
A recent article written by Stephen Parelli, who was present at the conference, called “Celibacy at Gay Christian Network: What’s that all about?” characterizes me as advocating celibacy for all gay Christians.
She spends a good deal of time in her post making it clear that she does not advocate celibacy for all gay Christians. She makes it clear that she believes that Side A Christians — even Side A gay Christians — are saved. She states that she believes Christians should follow their own conscience in this matter.
I would argue then, that calling herself Side B is pointless, meaningless, or both. She’s not telling other people what they should believe or how they should live. She’s not making a choice about how to live her own life since — to the best of my knowledge — she’s heterosexual and she doesn’t even have to answer the underlying question for herself.
So why pick a “side” at all? Why not simply say “I believe those who are in a position where they need to make that choice need to pray and follow their own conscience” and leave it at that?
If a heterosexual is not prepared to moralize — that is, tell others how they should live their lives or even look down on those who choose to live their lives differently — then declaring oneself Side A or Side B serves no real purpose. Other than possibly to promote the silly notion that their opinion on the matter is actually important. And who has time for that silly notion and the privilege it represents?
1I suspect at least some gay Christians also feel that other gay Christians should be making the same Side A or Side B choice they are and would like input on how other people are living their lives as well. Moralizing is not the sole domain of the heterosexuals after all. However, at least with gay Christians, there’s still the sense that being Side A or Side B is (hopefully) about a personal choice in their own lives first.