I was walking my dog with some neighbors of mine last week, and I asked them if our new neighbor was a student at our seminary. “Oh no,” one of the girls replied, “He’s a homosexual.”

“Right, I know that,” I replied impatiently, “I asked if he went to our school.”

Nervous laughter, followed by, “No, I don’t think we have any homosexuals at our school… at least not any practicing homosexuals.”

“We used to have one,” my other neighbor added helpfully, “I knew her, but she’s doesn’t go here anymore…she was in recovery, anyway.”

“Recovery?” – this, from me, choking as I say it

“Yeah, you know, the way she explained it, its like any other sinful addictive cycle…you can go into recovery.”

I am really choking by now: “Well, what if you don’t consider it an addiction?” With that, the conversation was effectively ended, the subject changed to something along the lines of homework and upcoming papers.

Now there are several things that can be said about this conversation, starting with the fact that I am developing this oddly impulsive reflex that makes my skin crawl every time I hear the word homosexual. Perhaps I am being quirky and overly sensitive, but I’d like to know if it would be too much to ask for them to just go ahead and say gay, or lesbian, or LGBT, or just about any of the other dozen options. I know that we are supposed to work on reclaiming the very words that have been used against us, and I understand that, and maybe one day I even will be able to… but for now, I still hate hearing people use the word homosexual in every day civil conversation like it isn’t the very word I’ve heard used my entire life to condemn people to hell. I learned in my clinical skills class today that a therapist can use “I wonder” statements to bring a client to an entirely new levels of realization. And so here is my wondering statement for the day: I wonder if it would be too much to ask for us all to go around to the people in our lives who identify differently than we do, whether its ethnically, sexually, or culturally, and find out what the are comfortable being called. I’d venture to say that hardly any of the people you talked to who identified as something other than straight would ask you to please refer to them as “a homosexual.”

Now, on the other hand, “practicing homosexual” is a label I am growing increasingly fond of. I mean, really, does anybody else sense the humor in this? What, exactly, does it mean to be a practicing homosexual? I don’t get any closer to the definition by flipping it around and considering what the implications might be of a practicing heterosexual. So really, that leaves me to form my own interpretation, which is to say: why yes, I am practicing, and I am actually getting much better… thanks for asking.