There’s no doubt that the subject of homosexuality has been quite popular within media, politics and even family-dinner conversations. America is currently undergoing a “gay revolution.” Issues ranging from the highly-publicized gay marriage debate, to the darker subject of AIDS in the gay community have been infiltrating mainstream culture.

Coming out at a relatively young age, I was a bit nave in knowing what it actually meant to be gay. Disclosing one’s sexuality plays an important role in self-acceptance. However, when coming out, does one really know what it means to be gay?

“Cruising” the Internet for answers, I found the Oxford English Dictionary definition for the term “gay.” According to the Web site, the first definition of gay is, “full of or disposed to joy and mirth.” Of course, it’s obvious that we no longer live in the 1950s, so I moved on to the second definition. “Of a person – homosexual.”

Homosexual? Just homosexual?

I realized my search was going to be more difficult than I had thought. Can the definition of my chosen lifestyle be stated in one word? Trying to distinguish the words “gay” from “homosexual,” I searched for the latter’s definition. “Of or involving sexual activity with a member of one’s own sex.” Once again, I was unsure how to differentiate the two.

Perplexed with the similarities between the definitions, I couldn’t help but attempt to answer my own question – can one be a homosexual but not gay?

Mainstream society often interchanges the two words, without consciously thinking in context. Some argue that using the term homosexual, as opposed to gay, is more politically correct. However, each word holds different meanings.

People do, in fact, choose to be or not to be gay. Throughout history, countless men and women have lived in denial about their sexual orientation -8213;living the societally accepted life of marrying, having children and dying. Despite being homosexual, they have chosen not to live a gay life.

Being a homosexual is just a factor in living a gay life. The label “gay” has evolved into a cultural identity – essentially a completely separate identity from what it once stood for. Homosexuality is a sexual orientation – not the way one lives.

Ultimately, being a homosexual may not be a choice, but living and embracing a gay life is.

Buitrago can be reached at

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