Informed Conscience

What is homosexuality?

Definitions and Distinctions

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines homosexuality as:

Function: noun
1 : the quality or state of being homosexual
2 : erotic activity with another of the same sex 1

Homosexual is defined as:

Function: adjective
1 : of, relating to, or characterized by a tendency to direct sexual desire toward another of the same sex
2 : of, relating to, or involving sexual intercourse between persons of the same sex
Function: noun
: a homosexual person and especially a male 2

Gay is defined as:

Function: adjective
1 a : happily excited : MERRY b : keenly alive and exuberant : having or inducing high spirits
2 a : BRIGHT, LIVELY b : brilliant in color
3 : given to social pleasures; also : LICENTIOUS
4 a : HOMOSEXUAL b : of, relating to, or used by homosexuals
Function: noun

It is thus accurate to refer to someone as “homosexual” if the following condition is met - they have a tendency to direct sexual desire toward another of the same sex. This alone is sufficient - no other conditions are necessary i.e. they do not have to engage in sexual activity with another of the same sex.

Also, the term “gay” may be accurately used in place of the term “homosexual” (whether used as an adjective or as a noun).
The terms “gay” and “homosexual” have been used interchangeably throughout this website.

When discussing homosexuality, it is vital to distinguish between attraction and behavior. Being gay is characterized by a sexual attraction to others of the same sex. No assumptions may be made about the activities (sexual or otherwise) of a gay person.

Gay and Lesbian

Unless otherwise indicated, whenever this website uses the term “gay”, it is used inclusively to refer to both men and women.

Inaccurate Terms

Unfortunately, the term “sodomites” is sometimes used in ignorance to refer to homosexuals.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a sodomite as:

Function: noun
: one who practices sodomy 4

Sodomy is defined as:

Function: noun
1 : copulation with a member of the same sex or with an animal
2 : noncoital and especially anal or oral copulation with a member of the opposite sex 5

It is thus not accurate to refer to “homosexuals” as “sodomites” because being a “sodomite” always requires the practice of a sexual act whereas being a "homosexual" does not (as has already been explained).

Interestingly, the definition of sodomy includes oral sex between heterosexuals so the term “sodomite” would be more correctly applied to a heterosexual who engages in such behavior rather than a homosexual who does not engage in any sodomitic behavior. Of course, using this term at all is not recommended since many people find it offensive.

1 Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
2 Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
3 Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
4 Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
5 Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

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