Thursday, December 28, 2006

Dialogue between camps

A gay reader writes in response to my Reformed reader:

I take hope from postings like your letter from a reformed reader. Sometimes it's easy to fall into a mindset that says that people of faith are all just a bunch of intolerant folks who are out to get us. It's gratifying that there are folks out there who are finding ways to do genuine soul searching and to ask the difficult questions without abandoning their faith. Unfortunately, people on my side of the argument often respond to questions that are raised by asking these folks to do just that. I'm including an expectation that these folks adopt a much more liberal interpretation of scripture as one form of abandoning their faith. I'm truly grateful for the hard work that you have been doing trying to find a way though these questions.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The hard questions

We have a problem in the church where as soon as you start contemplating questions out loud that spring more from honest struggle than orthodox thought, you get cluck-clucked into silence. Yet I’ve known lots of people who wonder, for instance, if God is evil, or if he’s just up there toying with us, or if he’s playing some kind of cruel joke. I’ve heard lots of gay Christian people ask why God has allowed them to be homosexual, thus consigning them to the hardships and ostracization that come along with that. (Even if you believe, as many do, that God created you gay, it only pushes the question back a step to why God would knowingly create someone to be a part of such a persecuted minority.) But you don’t have to be homosexual to be able to relate to having such questions. I think everyone who walks by faith has to deal with them at some level or other.

I’m still recovering from an emotionally draining study on Job I did for a women’s retreat last October. But I also came away inspired by Job’s gutsy confrontation of hard questions, where he pretty much accuses God of wronging him, of trashing his life for no good reason. See, normally when we study Job at church, we hear about the first part of the book, how God took everything away from Job, and how Job responded submissively and did not abandon his faith. But then the whole middle section, where Job’s three friends argue with him and Job starts asking tough questions, gets glossed over really quickly. Instead we skip to the end, where God appears to Job in the whirlwind, Job puts his hand over his mouth, God restores Job’s family life and wealth, and Job rides off into the sunset.

The reason the middle section gets glossed over is that it’s too gnarly to deal with. Job accuses God of being unjust, perverse, sadistic, you name it. Plus, it is dissatisfying because God doesn’t answer Job point by point. In the end it is faith that buoys Job, for in the midst of these accusations he brings, he is also clinging to the hope that God will give him answers. Yet when God does finally answer Job, God points merely to himself. And not mainly to his acts of moral goodness, as you would expect, but to the evidence of his greatness, wisdom and power. So Job is left to decide. Are his questions and his anger and his perplexity so great that they ought to outweigh his faith in the God who created all these wonders?

I think this is what it’s like for us too. I don’t think it does us any good to run from the hard questions. Job didn’t. I think we have to bravely ask them and determine what we really think. Do we really think God is evil? Cruel? Sadistic? In my own ponderings I’ve decided that I won’t answer those questions based on someone else’s relationship with God. You can always ask why God allows people to starve or get tortured or become orphaned or whatever. But that’s how God is dealing with another person’s life, not mine, and besides you will always meet people who’ve been through really bad stuff who can tell you with all honesty that God has been good to them. How God works in other people’s lives will always remain a mystery to those of us who aren’t them. As Aslan says in the Chronicles of Narnia: “That’s his/her story. That’s not your story.”

When I look at my own "story" I see that God has been good to me. Overwhelmingly good, far beyond what I deserve. The times I question his goodness are when I’ve asked him for something that I thought was good and I felt I got something evil in return. To borrow from Jesus’ words, I asked for bread and feel like I got a snake back. Likewise, I’ve known plenty of people who have prayed for years for God to take away their homosexuality, God didn’t do it, and they had to deal with all the consequences of that. I’ve known gay people who entered into opposite sex marriages, thinking they were submitting to God’s creation design, only to have it blow up in their faces years down the road. They too feel like they got a snake in return for their sincere, godly prayers.

Again, I don’t know why these things happen in other people’s lives. But there is one thing I’ve learned in my own life from walking by faith these twenty years, namely, that I can’t tell at any given moment how things will turn out, or whether there is a greater purpose for this apparent evil that’s befallen me. Faith pushes forward, seeking to know the good that will come out of it. My faith, for reasons that are often a mystery to me, cannot rest satisfied with the conclusion that God hates me and is out there screwing up my life. Even during the times I think that, I know deep down that I don’t really believe it, and I find myself waiting around for further developments. And I find that the things I do know about God, his great love for me, how he gave his Son to die for my sins, how the wonders he displays in his creation point to the far greater wonders of heaven, all these certainties draw my faith forward, and make me unwilling to wallow permanently in the apparent despair of passing circumstances.

So I weigh my certainty in the goodness of God against the doubts I have which are tentative, and I can only conclude that I ought to wait and hope. While it is not the answer, from the perspective of faith it is answer enough, enough to keep me seeking what the next chapter in my story might hold.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

From a Reformed reader

For those of you who viewed the controversy documents I mentioned in my 12/8/06 post, you should know there are also some Reformed Christians out there who are trying to approach the issue of homosexuality with thoughtfulness and humility. This reader writes:

I just want to thank you for all the work you've done through your website and blog. In many ways I agree this is some of the most important questions and considerations for evangelicals and Reformed folk today. Reading your thoughts over the past few years has affected me positively in so many ways; in how to interact with and love homosexuals as our neighbors and friends with biblical compassion and understanding, how to better comprehend the nature of sin, temptation, and the complexities of sexual orientation, and so forth . . .

I hope it is encouraging to know that there are Reformed individuals who are trying to follow your lead on this matter . . . It is a quest, I'm slow to give definitive answers on many things, but I do know the status quo attitude is depressing. And it's more depressing coming to grips with my own participation in that status quo. It really is so much easier to abstract homosexuality in a way that ends up subtly dehumanizing individual gays. I suppose it's something along the lines of a hetero-self-righteousness. With this sin [of self-righteousness] being so ingrained in our culture and conservative communities, there is the accompanying temptation of fearing man above God.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Gay and evangelical

For six years people have been writing to tell me about their struggles with being both gay and evangelical, and now at last there's a whole New York Times article about it:
But even when they accept themselves, gay evangelicals often have difficulty finding a community. They are too Christian for many gay people, with the evangelical rock they listen to and their talk of loving God . . .

Gay evangelicals seldom find churches that fit. Congregations and denominations that are open to gay people are often too liberal theologically for evangelicals. Yet those congregations whose preaching is familiar do not welcome gay members, those evangelicals said.

By the way Justin Lee, whom the NY Times interviewed for this article, has written one of the best testimonies I've ever read explaining to an evangelical audience what it means to be gay. It is the one I pass along to my Christian friends whenever they start asking me about homosexuality, and it is almost always well received by them. I highly recommend it.

Friday, December 08, 2006

More arguments for civil same-sex marriage

Should Christians oppose civil same-sex marriage because the Bible says homosexual relationships are sinful? Bill Baldwin points out that according to Jesus, God permitted and regulated the sin of divorce for Old Testament Israel, even though divorce was a violation of the moral standard for marriage that was established at creation.

But as Jesus points out, [divorce] is not the creational norm for marriage. As God created marriage, he intended it to be a permanent bond between a man and a woman. How dare a civil magistrate lower that standard? Well, when the civil magistrate is God, I guess we have to let things slide. Not only did the sin of divorce go unpunished under his theocratic rule, the sin was permitted and regulated without comment.


Even in the theocracy, God watered down the institution of marriage in the interests of civil order. We’re talking Israel, a holy people set apart to God. Even there God permitted and regulated divorce.

Do you see where this is going?

Is it perhaps possible that, given the current political and social situation in the US, it would be better to permit and regulate gay marriage than to ignore it?

Read the complete argument here, which is addressed to a largely Reformed audience that believes the State should impose laws and sanctions upon society according to biblical morality.

And if you’re confused about his references to “Misty’s controversy,” you can learn more about that here.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Defining homosexuality

I was having dinner with Christian friends last week when they asked me about the topic that I’ve become so famous for among people who know me. So I began to explain to them about the experiences of gay people I’ve met who are dealing with their sexual orientation. But before I could get very far, one of these friends was quick to point out how prone the human heart is to sinful self-deception, and basically took a guilty-until-proven-innocent attitude toward those who say they can’t help being gay. I tend to avoid arguing with people who are set in their ideas. Yet I can’t help but think that if Christians insist on being quick to cast doubt upon the experiences of homosexual people, we have no right to insist that they listen to our testimonies about how we “came to Christ” with any less hostility and skepticism. Shouldn’t I try to be receptive to other people’s testimonies and personal experiences if I want them to be receptive to mine?

My second friend, however, tried to take a more compassionate approach and has latched onto the idea that homosexuality is parallel to alcoholism. Just as you hear people say “I am an alcoholic,” in the present and not the past tense, so you have to accept that someone who is homosexual will always be homosexual. The problem with his view is that he sees homosexuality as an addiction, just as alcoholism is an addiction. Now, when I meet an evangelical Christian who takes this position, as much as I disagree with it, I have a hard time getting too down on that person. Because if a Christian is treating someone who is homosexual with the same care and sensitivity that he would an alcoholic friend, at least it means he won’t be acting like a jerk. I told this friend that even though not all gay people would agree that their homosexuality is comparable to alcoholism (I said “not all” because his experience is largely with ex-gays, many of whom have used that analogy with him), I let him know that I appreciated his willingness to acknowledge that this is something people are going to be dealing with the rest of their lives. It is better than threatening to kick people out of the church unless they “overcome their sin” and transform into heterosexuals.

That said, I am still unhappy with the analogy of alcoholism because it doesn’t comport with the experiences of gay and lesbian people I talk to, nor does it comport with what I see in their lives. A sex addiction doesn’t leave room for love in a relationship, yet I see genuine love in gay relationships all the time. The reason homosexual love exists is because homosexuality, in itself, is not a sex addiction. It is about people who are no different from regular old heterosexuals in terms of their sexual needs and drives, but who are oriented toward people of the same sex.

When people use the term “homosexual” some think of a chosen lifestyle, some a personality type, some a sex addiction, some a psychosis, and some simply a sexual orientation. The best definition I’ve come across is from L. R. Holben’s excellent book What Christians Think about Homosexuality, Six Representative Viewpoints. Using Holben's definition on page xvii of his Introduction, this is what I mean whenever I speak of someone who is “homosexual”:

In what follows, when referring to gay people, gays and lesbians or homosexuals, I will not be talking about an individual who might have had several sexual experiences with someone of the same sex. Neither will I mean to indicate a person who, at one point or another, has had strong, even passionate, feelings about a same-sex friend. Nor will I be referring to someone who doesn't happen to fit current cultural stereotypes as to appropriate male or female interests, activities, skills or appearance.

Most importantly, in referring to the gay, lesbian or homosexual person, I will not have in mind mere erotic itch, what 'turns one on' physically and nothing more. Rather, I will be speaking of a person in whom not only the sexual drives but also the deepest emotional and psychological urges for self-revelation, intimacy, connectedness, bonding, closeness and commitment--all that we call romantic/erotic love--find their internal, spontaneous fulfillment not in the opposite sex but in the same sex.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bill Baldwin's blog

My friend Bill Baldwin, whose exegesis of Romans 1 appeared in an earlier post, has started a blog called Better Covenant, Better Promises. I was going to wait a couple of weeks to let him get going before mentioning it, but already he's posted something that's too good to ignore. Here's Bill talking about Christians who call for gays to "take up their cross," while caring little of what that would entail for them:

We don’t suffer, yet we call gays to a lifetime of suffering. And we behave as though we, unlike they, don’t need to suffer. We’ve redefined discipleship so it isn’t about bearing the cross, it’s about family. Now the Christian life is centered around a husband and father who’s the head of his house, a wife who submits, and children who obey. It’s hard enough for straight singles to latch onto this paradigm. But at least singles have hopes. One day they too may enter the ranks of full-fledged Christians by becoming a loving husband or a submissive wife with children in tow.

But what about gays? We call them to become eunuchs for the kingdom while we live comfortable lives. Or perhaps we tease them with the enticement that God will “cure” their homosexuality if only they have faith. That’s even less kind than telling cancer patients they’ll be healed if they convert.

As gay marriages and civil unions become more common, that call to costly discipleship gets even tougher. We’re calling them to abandon the family they have (or at least to complicate that family life rather severely). And for what? So they can come to a place where they’re not allowed to have a family. When we define the Christian life in family-focused terms, that essentially means we’re calling gays to be second-class citizens in the kingdom of heaven. Come to Christ! You can sit in the back of the bus. The call is snobbish and condescending if, indeed, we bother to make it at all . . .

But wait. It gets worse.

The problem is more than calling gays to suffer when we don’t suffer ourselves. The problem is that Reformed and evangelical Christians have been the cause of much suffering among the gays. Sure, we say we hate the sin and love the sinner; but do our words and our actions really reflect that? How many gays would look at the evangelical church and say “Those Christians sure do love us”?

Why don’t they see our love for them? Is it perhaps because the love isn’t there? Or is it that the love is unexpressed? At the very least we’ve got a serious communication breakdown, don’t we?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

This day

Today some of you will be sharing Thanksgiving with family or friends, but some of you may not. If you are fortunate enough to have your loved ones around you this year, there may have been Thanksgivings in the past where it wasn't so. I know that a lot of us straights don't understand that. We blithely wish you a "Happy Thanksgiving," taking the many things we have in our own lives for granted. A lot of you will be in my thoughts today. This day I'm grateful for what you've taught me and shared with me that has made my own growth possible. Thank you for that.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"They Will Know Us By Our T-Shirts"

I've added another defunct blog to the sidebar. They Will Know Us By Our T-Shirts is a real gem, though sadly short-lived, created by an evangelical who comments on the ridiculousness of Christian culture, and was able to write from a particularly keen angle during his brief stint working at a Christian bookstore.

Thoughts on his job:

My coworkers and I are thinking about writing a book. We'll call it, How I Almost Lost My Faith and Committed Murder Working At a Christian Bookstore.

And on the merchandise:
We sell these bumper stickers that say, "Angels protect this car."

I'm probably evil for thinking this, but if I ever see a car with that bumper sticker, I want to run it off the road. Then I'd ask them, "Where were your angels? On their cigarette break?"

Like I said, I'm evil.

Enjoy, and be sure to start from the beginning.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Gay Restorationist

Sadly, Gay Restorationist stopped blogging last May. Nevertheless I'm adding this short-but-sweet blog to the sidebar for the quality posts you can find there, written by a 25 year-old gay man who is grappling with his homosexuality and his ultra-conservative Church of Christ upbringing. One of his best posts is called A Letter, written to his father but never sent (as far as I know). I've linked to it before on my Musings On website, but in case you haven't seen it, here's how it begins:


I’ve given much thought in recent months about our relationship. I’ve wanted to call you, tell you everything that’s going on in my life and in my head. I’ve wanted to open myself up to you in hopes that you could understand what, exactly, I am doing and thinking (and correspondingly, why I am doing and thinking those things).

But I haven’t called to talk. I haven’t written, and I decided not to talk to you when I was visiting home. I can think of a few possible reasons why (but, frankly, I’m not sure which is the real reason):

I think I haven’t talked to you because I’m afraid of losing you and Mom again . . .

Read the rest of the letter here.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Moderate evangelicals on Haggard & homosexuality

Normally I'm hard-pressed to find any good in the media frenzy that feeds off scandals and personal failures surrounding public figures. Yet it seems that one positive fall-out from Rev. Ted Haggard's situation is that it has given more politically moderate voices within the evangelical community a chance to sound off.

From Tony Campolo
I have heard so many of my colleagues in ministry express deep concerns over what this scandal will do to the image of the evangelical movement, but I have heard little concern among us for how all of this will impact those Christian gays and lesbians that we know. They are in our churches. They teach in our Sunday schools and sing in our choirs. Most of them are closeted brothers and sisters who suffer in ways that are impossible for the rest of us to even imagine. They are good people who do not take drugs or visit prostitutes. Will the ugliness of this sorry mess feed a diabolical stereotype of them, which is too often circulated in our churches by unkind preachers who have little, if any, understanding of homosexuals?

From Meredith Efken at Violet Voices
I’m angry that our leaders–with our support and encouragement–have made things like gay marriage such a key battle that we destroyed any opportunities to reach out to the gay community and build friendships and open honest communication with them. And then when one of our own is struggling with his sexual identity, he had no safe place to turn, no network of support.

From Brian McLaren of the Red Letter Christians
Perhaps this painful story will help more preachers (like myself) to back away from the easy answers and binary thinking that are so easy to dispense, and to reject the simplistic moralism Jesus diagnosed in the Pharisees, who, he said, loaded up burdens on the backs of others that they themselves couldn't bear.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Fresh insights on Romans 1

Here are some terrific insights on Romans 1 sent to me by an ordained Reformed minister, my good friend Bill Baldwin:

I've been thinking a bit about Paul's point in Romans 1 where he singles out the "degrading passion" of homosexuality as an example of ungodliness and wickedness. Why this particular passion among so many others that degrade? Many Reformed and evangelical Christians assume the answer is obvious. Paul chooses homosexuality because the particular sins resulting from that passion are of the most depraved sort. It doesn't get any lower than that.

But of course a thoughtful reader of Scripture has two immediate problems with that idea. 1) It does get lower than that. Most of us would rather have a homosexual than an axe murderer for a neighbor. 2) Paul never again spotlights homosexuality as the worst of perversions. Nor does any other New Testament writer. In fact, whether you consult Paul or Jesus, you'll get the same answer when asked what the worst of sins is: Pharisaism. Jesus and Paul really just held legalists in utter contempt. They couldn't stop talking about how bad such people are.

So why in Romans 1 does Paul go after the homosexuals? What's so special about homosexuality? Well, it's a Greek sin, isn't it? He's writing to his audience of converted Jews and he's setting them up. I imagine those Jews as being something like the conservative Christians today. Family-oriented. Squeaky clean on the outside. Primly disapproving of the excesses indulged in by the surrounding culture. The way to "witness" to your homosexual neighbor is by making sure he's aware how shocked you are by his behavior.

So Paul starts by talking about how God has given some people up to homosexuality and how they've followed that perversion by rejecting God and embracing behavior contrary to his image. And the converted Jews all say, yeah brother Paul! Preach it! Tell them how dirty they are.

That's when the gotcha comes.

He suddenly turns on his audience. He doesn't say, "Therefore they have no excuse." That's a sentiment his Jewish hearers could get behind. He says, "Therefore YOU have no excuse, WHOEVER YOU ARE, when you judge others." And he goes on to tell those Jews they're just as bad, just as sinful, as ... the homo Greeks! They never saw it coming.

In short, Paul chose homosexuality because it was the worst of sins in the eyes of his audience, not in God's. That way, when he tells them they're just as bad, they sit up and take notice. It's the same rhetorical ploy Jesus uses when he tells the Pharisees that tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the kingdom ahead of them.

The real perversion enters in when modern evangelicals read Romans 1 and stop there. "Look!" they say. "The Bible says right here that homosexuality is the most degrading of passions, the most sinful of sins." They imitate the self-righteousness of the original audience and fail to notice how Paul implicates them as well.

So what's worse than a homosexual? A "Christian" who looks down on homosexuals and says they are the worst sorts of sinners. And what's the easiest way to drive that "Christian" into a rage? Tell him the homosexuals will enter the kingdom ahead of him.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I guess I shouldn't have worried . . .

James Dobson has already quit the panel to counsel Ted Haggard.

But when I predicted in Monday's post that Haggard's support would dry up, I didn't expect it to start happening so soon.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Thoughts on Rev. Ted Haggard

My thoughts on Rev. Ted Haggard have oscillated between feeling like the chickens came home to roost for someone who tried to run with big boys James Dobson and Chuck Colson in opposing same-sex marriage, and feeling sick at heart knowing what he will have to face over the next few years, in repairing his relationship with his wife and kids, and finding out how many friends and supporters will actually stick around now that the whole house of cards has collapsed. After reading his letter yesterday to his former congregation, I feel relieved for his sake that he finally stopped running, opened up his soul and came clean.

How can I begin to talk about the problems in the evangelical church that lead to this sort of thing happening over and over again? Let me put it this way. It seems to me Rev. Haggard basically has two options from here on out: 1) he can continue living at some level of denial about the reality of his own homosexuality, or 2) he can try bravely to grapple with this issue in a brutally honest, soul-scouring way. Evangelicals will continue to be supportive of him as long as he goes with option 1, treating it as merely “temptation,” “addiction,” or “demonic oppression” that can be fixed. But taking that road is what has caused the pressure cooker to explode into this current mess in the first place. Surely Haggard must know that. As he explained in his letter, “Through the years, I’ve sought assistance in a variety of ways, with none of them proving to be effective in me. Then, because of pride, I began deceiving those I love the most because I didn’t want to hurt or disappoint them.” In other words, he had to pretend to others that he was making progress in overcoming his homosexuality because he couldn’t bring himself to admit to them (or maybe even to himself) that, in fact, no progress was being made.

Yet how can Haggard go with option 2? Even though it would be the road toward a genuine healing of the soul and most likely lead him to the conclusion that he will be homosexual the rest of his life (i.e., that he is gay), it might also mean watching the support of his family and friends dry up faster than rubbing alcohol in desert heat.

While I’m not unaware of the hypocrisy Haggard has indulged in, in the end I can only look upon his situation with a heavy heart. Being evangelical means being in a culture where facing the truth about one’s own homosexuality is not an acceptable option. Even if someone does eventually face up to the truth about himself, managing to fight his way out of the dark maze of his own soul, he does not emerge blinking and smiling into a warm and welcoming light. More often than not his reward is bile and accusations and painful rejection from those closest to him. There is so much incentive to stay in the darkness of the maze, lying to oneself and to others.

I was disappointed to learn that one of the counselors Rev. Haggard will be submitting himself to during this “healing and restoration” process will be James Dobson. On the other hand I also sense from Haggard’s letter that there is a genuine person in there, who seems to understand that embracing honesty and humility is the only way to be free from this nightmare. As I’ve learned from various experiences in own my life, sometimes undergoing the humiliation of a big crashing failure is the best thing that could ever happen to your faith. I hope this is the case here. I hope and pray that Rev. Haggard will find his way out of the maze and into a place of peace with himself and with God.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Rev. Ted Haggard's letter to New Life Church

You may find Rev. Ted Haggard's letter to the congregation of New Life Church at Chris Rice's blog, A Desperate Kind of Faithful

Important quotes:

"The fact is, I am guilty of sexual immorality, and I take responsibility for the entire problem. I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I've been warring against it all of my adult life. For extended periods of time, I would enjoy victory and rejoice in freedom. Then, from time to time, the dirt that I thought was gone would resurface, and I would find myself thinking thoughts and experiencing desires that were contrary to everything I believe and teach . . ."

"Our church's overseers have required me to submit to the oversight of Dr. James Dobson, Pastor Jack Hayford, and Pastor Tommy Barnett. Those men will perform a thorough analysis of my mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical life. They will guide me through a program with the goal of healing and restoration for my life, marriage, and my family . . ."

"Please forgive my accuser. He is revealing the deception and sensuality that was in my life. Those sins, and others, need to be dealt with harshly. So, forgive him and , actually, thank God for him. I am trusting that his actions will make me, my wife and family, and ultimately all of you, stronger. He didn't violate you; I did . . ."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Why I favor the "m" word

The latest ruling in New Jersey has gotten a lot of people talking about the question of “civil unions” vs. “marriage” for gay couples. The general feeling these days is that taking the “civil unions” stance is the more moderate position, with people such as mainstream Democrats and even a few centrist Republicans willing to get on board. But supporting full-on marriage rights is supposed to be more radical and extreme. Although most professing social conservatives would prefer that gays just stayed in the closet so we wouldn’t be having this discussion at all, even they are hoping to hold the line at civil unions. Maybe tossing that bone out would help keep the peace, and prevent gays and lesbians from breaching the dam into the sacred ground of marriage.

Here’s why I support civil same-sex marriage with the “m” word and all. It is basically the point Jonathan Rauch made several years back, which is that as a social conservative I have never been comfortable with the idea of rewarding heterosexual “domestic partnerships” with the same legal benefits as regular old married couples; and as far as I can tell establishing a “civil union” status for gay couples would be the same situation. I am actually more sympathetic toward a gay couple that is “C-U’ed” than toward straights who shack up with their girlfriends/boyfriends, because most likely that gay couple would be married were they not legally barred, whereas the straight, live-in girlfriend-boyfriend couple is avoiding marriage by choice. So now we have a situation where after years of griping about the moral cesspool this country has become with people shacking up in sexually irresponsible relationships while demanding benefits for their “partners” just the same as us married couples, along come gay couples who want to be legit and take the plunge into the full nine-yards of marriage, and social conservatives would rather tell them, “No, no, just shack up and we’ll allow you the same benefits just like the rest of us.” Whatever.

Now as you can see from my previous post, I live only 15 minutes from this bizarre place called Hollywood. Hollywood folks are always bombarding the rest of us ignorant civilians with their high moral pronouncements, one of which is to decry the institution of marriage as a hideously unromantic, love-killing institution where the shackles of legal commitment intrude into a perfectly blissful live-in relationship and destroy all feelings of tenderness and authenticity. If you want true love, they say, shacking up is the way to go because then you know he is staying because “he wants to” not because “he has to.”

I guess there’s nothing more romantic than a guy who insists on keeping the back door open so you can wake up every morning for ten years and rejoice to see that he hasn’t walked through it. And how unromantic of you to suggest that maybe he ought to love and respect you enough to get rid of that back door altogether. Marriage is the ultimate declaration of love because it is about commitment. Awesome, ballsy, B.S.-free commitment. There is no greater gift a person can give than him- or herself, and this commitment says, “Everything I am, all that I’ve worked for, all that I hope to become, I give to you unreservedly.”

“Oh, but my boyfriend just said those exact words to me the other night after we finished making love. He says he’s totally committed to me, only he doesn’t want to get married, that’s all.” Well, dear, I’d say that’s because he wants all the privileges of “commitment” without any of the responsibilities that come with it, that's all. The reason why marriage means commitment, and anything other than marriage is less-than, is because getting married means he is becoming family with you. Your parents become his parents, your siblings become his siblings, your gossiping aunt and alcoholic uncle become his problem relatives too. It is the deepest of moral commitments because he is willing to pledge to your ex-military father and overprotective mother that he will take care of you, their baby, as if you were his very own family, as if you were the child of his own parents. Just as someone would have to be some kind of sick bastard to abuse his own sister, that’s the stigma he’d be willing to bear if he ever mistreated you--not to mention the wrath of your parents and siblings--because now he is family and is expected to act the part. But he is willing to do it because he loves you and it would never cross his mind to do otherwise. That is what marriage means.

Social conservatives are a slightly cynical bunch when it comes to human morality. We suspect that if left to ourselves without any social constraints to encourage us in the right moral direction, we would all be on the verge of degenerating into some kind of Lord of the Flies chaos. That is why the institution of marriage fits into our moral agenda so perfectly. It brings the ideals of love and the dubiousness of sexual drive together into a socially respectable relationship under the watchful eyes of parents. Oh yeah, it doesn’t get any better than that, baby.

And now along come these homosexuals, at whom we have been spitting bile for years because of their shoddy sexual morals, and they want to be a part of this thing too. They don’t want just sex and shacking up with the back door wide open. They want the in-laws, the joint bank accounts, Thanksgiving at Aunt Bessie’s every year even though you are allergic to her cats, and the stigma of being “divorced” if this whole endeavor should fail. Yet instead of being smugly delighted and giving that fatherly, “I knew you’d come around someday” smile, we’re panicking and falling all over ourselves to prevent them. Uh . . . why?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Thanks, Andrew

After six years of exchanging emails with Andrew Sullivan through his blog, we finally got a chance to meet this past Friday night while he was in L.A. for an appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher. I'm still recovering from the blur of activity, starting out with the car ride to CBS studios (apparently that's where they broadcast the show) and winding up at the pool deck of the Mondrian Hotel talking until 2 a.m. It's been a long time since I've stayed up that late actually having fun (as opposed to getting up to feed the baby).

What I've always appreciated about Andrew is that he has faith in other people. He aims to reach the few conservatives who might listen to him amidst a sea of those who might not. Reading Virtually Normal (subtitled, "An Argument About Homosexuality") back in 2000 changed my life. Part of the reason I had to take his arguments about homosexuality seriously was because I saw that he was taking me seriously, someone with a conservative Christian outlook on politics and life. Religious conservatives are not used to having their values and concerns taken seriously by those who disagree with them. After I got hooked in by the novelty of the experience, it wasn't long before I was convinced by his arguments, except that conservative Christians aren't supposed to be convinced by arguments in favor of legalizing gay civil marriage. Too late, it was already a done deal.

What followed was six years of musings, the creation of a website, and now this blog. In other words, all the trouble I've gotten myself into ever since is all Andrew's fault. Seriously, it's been a wonderful journey and a tremendous blessing, and I wouldn't change a thing about it. Thanks, Andrew!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Homosexuality and pedophilia: there are differences, you know

Years ago I was planning on writing a fictional story about a kid who got placed in foster care, which led me to research the foster care system in this country. Sadly enough, I learned the whole system is shot through with abuse. This led me to research the subject of child abuse, which led me to ordering a bunch of materials from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), produced by a division of the U.S. Dept. of Justice in collaboration with the FBI. (I’ll bet you never knew how much research goes into writing fiction.)

If you are a parent as I am, it is a good idea to be informed about the nature of pedophilia and the tactics of predators so that you can protect your children. (Sample advice: Avoid the 40 year-old single guy in the neighborhood who has the cool electric train set—i.e. bait—set up in his open garage on the weekends.) But honestly, after a few weeks of looking through the materials, I couldn’t stomach the subject any longer. One morning right in the middle of eating my breakfast cereal, I felt like I was going to be sick. I put away the materials and decided my fictional character will be taking a different course in life.

A couple of years later I started researching homosexuality because of a friendship I was trying to establish with my gay neighbors, which is why I ended up starting my website and now this blog. Looking back, I’m glad that I had done that research with the NCMEC materials earlier, because I was never confused about the difference between homosexuality and pedophilia, even though the propaganda of the religious right has tried to conflate the two.

You have to wonder why the religious right feels the need to do so. Isn’t it because they know that the issue of homosexuality, in itself, is not enough to strike the panic button for a lot of people? After you get over the initial weirdness of, “Gosh, how on earth can someone be attracted to other people of the same sex?” you start getting to know people and see that it’s not much different from the feelings that heteros go through when mutual attraction is discovered and enjoyed. Even if you don’t feel comfortable with it, or agree with it, or think it’s the moral ideal, you are capable of reaching some level of understanding, because there’s something human going on there that you can relate to. And just like in heterosexual society, you will see some people handling their sexual desires in a safe and responsible way, and others in a dysfunctional and irresponsible way. How that pans out depends on the individual, not upon the issue of sexual orientation itself.

During the six years I’ve been “researching” homosexuality (which pretty much amounts to enjoying some great friendships I’ve made over the years), I’ve never even come close to having the same freaked-out experience that I did with the NCMEC materials. I couldn’t even last a month reading about pedophiles, and I commend those FBI people whose job it is to confront that evil every day. It is an evil because to act upon it necessarily involves exploitation of the innocent and defenseless. Homosexuality may not be the norm, and it may not be what my faith regards as God’s ideal, but it isn’t a psychosis, it doesn’t involve exploitation, and it isn’t criminal. The fact that some feel the need to conflate pedophilia with homosexuality to make it sound criminal shows that maybe they understand the difference too.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The spin for this November

What's this malarkey I keep reading about how the Republicans are going to lose Congress this coming election because of the Foley scandal? Like, they weren't already fixin' to lose just by being their regular incompetent selves? The election was already going down the tubes due to the fact that this administration 1) supports torturing prisoners to the point where the moral distinction between our policy and Saddam Hussein's has become practically non-existent, 2) is fighting the war in Iraq with about the same level of competence as they provided aid to Hurricane Katrina victims, and 3) is spending money as if there is no tomorrow.

The Foley scandal will probably just be the nails on the coffin. But I already hear the whirrings of a spin machine. My fellow Republicans will probably blame any loss of congressional seats on a secret homosexual agenda to infiltrate the party and sabatoge it from the inside out. It will never occur to them that the real credibility problem is, that it has been bad enough the way Republicans have pandered to the religious right which slanderously tries to conflate homosexuality with pedophilia in the name of "protecting our children," but then when there is an actual gay congressman in their midst who does prey sexually upon teenage boys, they turn a blind eye in order to protect their own political interests.

I hope we lose big time this November.

Human suffering

I've been studying the books of Job and 1 Peter because of a women's retreat this past weekend where I had to give some Bible studies on the topic of suffering. The question of why human beings suffer in this life is something every major religion has to deal with, because if God is truly benevolent, then to allow suffering would seem to call his benevolence into question.

The remote cause, according to the Bible, is the sin of Adam. Through Adam's sin this once-utopian world became corrupted and broken, and all the laws of stable, sane existence got thrown into awry, like the delicate inner-mechanisms of an expensive watch getting flooded with sea water. For those who inhabit such a world, redemption, atonement and the coming of the heavenly kingdom are the only permanent answers to our present sorrows. Those of us who believe in the world to come are to live our present lives with a kind of patience, optimism, self-sacrifice and love for others that can only characterize those who are invested in a future hope. Another way to put it is that we follow in the example of Jesus himself, whose atoning death has paved the way for this very hope.

The thing about suffering, though, is that when you are going through it, your soul craves so much more than theological articulations about remote causes. Understanding the ancient sin of Adam is not much comfort to me when I'm in pain. And although, like Job, I understand that "the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away," and I can bow with creaturely acceptance to the mysterious workings of One who is wiser and greater than me, the greatness of God is more crushing than comforting during times of perplexity and loss. This was Job's complaint:

For He bruises me with a tempest,
And multiplies my wounds without cause.
He will not allow me to get my breath,
But saturates me with bitterness.
If is is a matter of power,
Behold, He is the strong one!
And if it is a matter of justice,
Who can summon Him? (9:17-19)

Job says that the problem with God is that, as God, he can be of no comfort to us. Since he is the Almighty, when you have a quarrel with him you have no recourse, because he will always be in the right. For all his wisdom God, being God, simply cannot understand what it is like to suffer as a human creature. He would have to become human to truly understand what it's like.

So that's exactly what he did. I think God knows that we don't really want neat theological answers to questions about suffering when we are going through it. I think he knows that the best answer he could give us is not to thunder words down from heaven, but to come down and walk upon this earth, in Job's shoes as it were. And so after he was abandoned by his closest friends, tortured all night by a band of thugs, sentenced to death like a vile criminal, and forced to spend the last feeble hours of his life hanging on public display, like some kind of captured, half-dead animal strung up as a prize, God found out what human suffering was all about. He even knew the anguish of feeling abandoned by God. "My God . . . why have you forsaken me?" God experienced what it was like to feel abandoned by God.

So many of us who have sought to walk by faith have felt abandoned in our sufferings. Yet now God can say he's been down that road too. I believe it is his answer to our questions about why we suffer, not addressing our intellect but the craving of our souls. Because in his compassion for us, he understands that words are not enough.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Dark closets

I only saw a few snippets of the IM conversations ex-Congressman Mark Foley had with the male teenagers who worked as pages. I haven't read all the material that ABC News has put out there because, frankly, it's too embarrassing. (I never read the Kenneth Starr report on the Monica Lewinsky scandal either, for the same reason.) In any case from what little I already saw, I get the idea.

With regard to pedophile Catholic priests, Andrew Sullivan has been saying for a long time that being deep in the closet can lead people down dark paths that they never meant to travel. I never understood before what connection he saw between being a closeted homosexual in a very conservative environment and the temptation to take sexual advantage of minors. But I think with this Foley case I'm starting to get what Andrew means.

Catholic priests, Republican congressmen, these are people whose conservatism is not only a personal view but a public identity. And if you're also gay there's not a lot of wiggle room for being honest with yourself. You can't afford to confront certain truths about yourself because there is simply too much at stake. Maybe that was part of the reason, subconsciously, for entering into the ministry or a political career in the first place, to lock oneself into a situation of social pressure where those unwanted feelings and impulses could be straight-jacketed.

But these individuals can't keep the lid on the pressure cooker forever. There has to be some outlet, but without the consequence of having to admit anything to themselves about what they're doing. A relationship with a mature adult carries with it too much accountability. An adult might ask them to explain themselves, or probe into their motives, and for someone in extreme self-denial that is something to be avoided at all costs. So in order to remain in the closet, even to themselves, and yet be able to act out on their impulses, they will seek out children, minors or anyone who is too naive and powerless to call them on the carpet for their actions.

Undoubtedly many conservatives will come to the opposite conclusion, that this proves all homosexuals are a danger to society and need to be shoved further into the closet. But from what I've seen, from the many gay people I've met over the years, it's apparent to me that honesty in dealing with one's own homosexuality is the healthiest approach a person can take. Where that leads a person depends upon his or her values, religious beliefs, family situation, whatever. But nothing can be dealt with morally (yep, morally) until a person first comes to grip with the truth about him or herself.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Quote for the day

In Bird by Bird, Christian writer Anne Lamott says that in order to gather inspiration as a novelist, you must learn to become more involved in the world around you.

To be engrossed by something outside ourselves is a powerful antidote for the rational mind, the mind that so frequently has its head up its own ass--seeing things in such a narrow and darkly narcissistic way that it presents a colo-rectal theology, offering hope to no one.

I thought "theology" was an apt word choice on her part, since one can't help but notice how well this advice applies to many theologians as well.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Who's saying, "HIV is a gay disease"?

According to Saturday's L.A. Times, who is currently running billboard ads in Southern California blaring out the message: "HIV is a gay disease"?

Is it . . . Door Number 1: James Dobson; Door Number 2: Jerry Falwell; Door Number 3: Pat Robertson; or Door Number 4: the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center?

Click here for the answer to see if you are the lucky winner.

Frankly, when I see stuff like this, I already have a hunch I know what's going on. I am aware that people who have long been involved in AIDS activism are disappointed at the apparent complacency of gay men toward the issue of HIV in recent years, especially since AIDS medication has been so effective in keeping new infection rates at a fairly stable number each year. So when I saw this story in Saturday's paper, I kind of guessed that someone is trying to galvanize the gay community and return to the glory days when everyone cared a lot more about fighting this disease.

That said, isn't it ridiculous to be using the same catch phrase that the religious right has used to stigmatize people who have HIV? I mean, duh. I spent a number of years of my life detoxing from the religious right mindset. It is not just about knowing the right facts about homosexuality. These issues are highly emotional, and you have to navigate your way through so much of your own bigotry and fear. "AIDS is the judgment of God on homosexuals." "Romans 1:27 says homosexuals are 'receiving within themselves the due penalty of their error.'" "God AIDS those who AID themselves." Then I see an ad campaign like this, and I wonder if these activists are even in touch with where other people are at.

What's more, the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center admits that most of the gay men who are currently infected or at risk of being infected are men of color. Yet their ads feature white men, for one thing. And for another the communities that most need to be educated and involved in fighting AIDS because their members are so much at risk, are the highly religious black and Hispanic communities. I can tell you that they are not going to rally in support of their HIV-infected members around the campaign message that "HIV is a gay disease." According to the Times article,

Activist Cynthia Davis, who has labored for years to ease the stigma of HIV in the African American community, said the Gay & Lesbian Center's campaign could erase years of progress in a community that is skittish about homosexuality but at high risk for the disease.

"This is ludicrous. It's ridiculous," Davis said. "It's going backward."

I feel for that poor woman. Fortunately there are still some people out there who are making sense.

"I applaud the desire to have more personal responsibility in the gay community, but this is not the way to achieve it," said Michael Weinstein, head of the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

"AIDS is not a gay disease . . . It is a disease of the immune system."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Queens, drag queens, etc.

Another theory about drag queens has been suggested to me. Since drag queens are essentially comedians, maybe they are just parodying certain extreme personality types you find among gay men. Kind of the way Jeff Foxworthy portrays the redneck. This stereotype is not a real person, but a highly exaggerated portrayal of a particular kind of effeminate gay man you might run into in certain social circles.

Sure, I’d buy that. That would explain why drag shows appeal to some straights too. But to my mind it only raises the question of why those gay men exist. Couldn't it be said that those types of gay men are allowing themselves to become parodies of straight women in a half-serious, half-mocking way? So then we have come full circle to the first theory about drag queens I posted yesterday, that they are in some way poking fun at straight women.

Now about these kinds of gay men, “queens” as one of my friends calls them. (I don’t know for certain if that isn’t a derogatory term, but since my friend is gay I’d rather go with his term than the ones some of my straight friends would use.) I can understand this kind of campiness as a comedic act, so from that angle drag queens make some sense to me. But I have more trouble understanding how someone gets to absorbing that campiness into their personality. I don’t want to believe it is entirely put on. Maybe some gay men really do feel that being effeminate is authentically “them.” And even though I don’t happen to believe that homosexuality is about gender-blending for most people, seeing how little we know scientifically about the origins of homosexuality, I’m open to the possibility that maybe this is the case for a certain percentage of the gay population.

That said, whenever I see so-called “queens” doing their thing—the whole bitchy, vain, smart-alecky, swishy deal—I also see someone who is putting themselves in a situation where they can be either laughed at or dismissed. Because even if being effeminate is really “him,” it seems to me he is putting it out there too aggressively, as if daring someone to knock it. And for another thing he is putting up a wall. I know there’s a real person in there. Am I ever gonna get to meet him? I mean, if Mr. Queen and I were stuck with each other in a cabin during a Colorado snowstorm, so bored there was nothing to do but chuck little wads of newspaper into the fireplace and watch the sparks kick up, and by 1 a.m. we got to talking about the meaning of life, the prospect of death, and the existence of God, I would hope that I’d discover an actual person in there who has some serious things to say. I’d think it would be unfair of me to hope otherwise.

Monday, September 25, 2006

What's the deal with drag queens?

One of the big challenges I’ve tried to tackle is understanding so-called “gay culture,” particularly male gay culture (I’ve made less progress with lesbian culture, but that's for another post). Why are there certain gay male "types"? Why do some gay men act effeminate? Why is there a certain older generation that really digs stuff like operas and divas from the 1950’s? Because of some of the conservative social circles I've run in, I know I'm supposed to dismiss all this as evidence that gays are depraved and perverted and that the whole package is a part of their lifestyle choice, etc. But since it's pretty obvious to me that people don't choose to be homosexual, I figure there must be logical explanations for why certain phenomena crop up in gay culture .

I think I understand most of this stuff, except for one area. What is the deal with drag queens? When it comes to drag queens, that’s one planet that seems to have orbited off the chart of the known universe that I thought I shared with gay men. I’ve tried to ignore the phenomenon, push it aside as a bizarre interest for a bizarre sub-group within a sub-culture. But I’ve come to see that it’s a bit more mainstream than that. Just last week Andrew Sullivan was recommending a New York performance of drag queen Dina Martina to his readership, even though his readers are a largely straight male crowd. In 2004 Nia Vardalos made a movie (that I didn’t see) about a couple of women who posed as males doing the drag queen thing (women posing as men posing as women).

Then a few years ago I was at a gay and lesbian Christian conference with some friends and listened to a guy who mixed in drag queen humor while giving the most moving Christian testimony of the night. Before he got to the testimony part where I almost cried, I was laughing really hard. Then one of my friends who is about as straight-laced a person as you’ll ever meet leaned over and said, “Yeah, you should see this drag act he does called ‘Momma.’ It’s really good.” I looked at him and thought, “If B— likes drag, then this appeals to a broader gay crowd than I thought. And look at me. I’m laughing too and I don’t even know why.”

So now I will make a better effort to try to rope that planet back into the rational part of my known universe. Here is one explanation about drag queens that I’ve heard of. Only one, because only one brave soul has ever tried to explain it to me.

Imagine yourself as a gay male growing up in this heterosexual-dominated world. There you are standing on the sidelines looking with frustration at all the great-looking men who will never pay any attention to you. Why? Because they are hetero and they are too busy chasing after women. And who are these women anyhow? Strange creatures with their high heels and heavy make-up and big hair and busty dresses and swishy walk. Yet the straight guys are inexplicably going ape over them. Meanwhile you are a man, you don’t have all the “accessories,” and so they will never go ape over you. So while you stew in a mixture of frustration and envy and puzzlement and disgust at the whole situation, along comes the drag queen. The drag queen makes a mockery of all that. He is a mixture of a gay man’s fantasy of “why can’t I be like that?” and his disgust of “why would I want to be like that?” and makes grosteque fun of the whole kettle of soup with his exaggerated femaleness. And now you get to laugh at the drag queen, at yourself, and at the whole ridiculous situation.

I consider that a good, rational explanation. However, it doesn’t explain everything. Like, why its popularity among gay men grows and grows. I mean, after awhile wouldn't people settle down with their partners, buy a house, get some pets, live a quiet life, and eventually get over the antics of those crazy straight women? Why the need to keep up the perpetual mockery? Nor does it explain why some straights apparently are getting into it. What does drag have to offer that they can relate to? I remember laughing at the conference, but I can't pick apart why I thought the humor was so funny. Will renting the Nia Vardalos movie help to explain it?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

How Christians and gays talk past each other, part 2

Christians and gays are so good at talking past each other, it would be impossible for me to talk to both groups in the same room. I’ve written some articles trying to explain homosexual issues to conservative Christians, but I can’t post them on this blog or on my website because gay readers will probably take offense at the way I put things. Likewise, when my former denomination discovered my Musings On site in February 2002, they took offense at the way I chose to address my mainly gay audience.

When I talk to conservative Christians, the first thing in order is to try to convince them that being homosexual doesn’t automatically make someone a morally bankrupt person. That’s why it is important for me to share with them about the gay and lesbian people I’ve met who have tried very hard to change their orientation, who would agree that their homosexuality is a part of their sinful or fallen nature. If I don’t tell fellow Christians about these types of gays and lesbians, they will continue to buy into the idea that most gay people choose to be homosexual for the purpose of indulging in a “homosexual lifestyle.”

But this is exactly where many gays take issue with me. Why do you present us as if we are all ashamed of who we are? We’re proud to be gay. We’re not self-haters! Then I have to explain. Sure, not everyone feels ashamed of their homosexuality in the way a religious person might. And sure, many people who have started out that way often reach a place where they learn to overcome depression and destructive behaviors and become positive contributors to society. I get that. But what I’m trying to do is “Homosexuality 101.” Getting into why gay people put such a premium on self-acceptance and “pride” is graduate level stuff, and the fact is a lot of people will never fully understand all that. You have to start where people are at, and even though it may be scary to realize that it is at such a basic level, that is often the reality of the situation.

The same happens when I address a gay audience. Christians have taken issue with me because they hear me using words like “admirable” and “courageous” when I’m giving encouragement to people who are trying to deal with their homosexuality in a morally responsible way. How can you say such things? Do you approve of sin? Whose side are you on anyhow? Then I have to explain. No, I don’t approve of sin. But as long as people can’t help being homosexually oriented and they are stuck having to deal with this reality about themselves, they can do it in either a responsible or an irresponsible way. Shouldn’t the person who chooses to live celibate, for instance, be commended over the person who chooses to live in wanton promiscuity? As long as we are going to criticize the gay community for their promiscuity, we are obligated to commend those individuals who are siding with us in that criticism and trying to seek out more moral options. Aren’t we?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

How Christians and gays talk past each other

When I first began reading “coming out” stories by gay and lesbian people, the ones that were most helpful to me as a Christian talked honestly about something that is considered practially taboo by most gays, namely the subject of self-hatred. Now, I understand that self-hatred is not a good thing. Obviously. It is never a good thing to be headed on a path toward suicide. Nor should people have to be depressed all the time, or addicted to drugs to numb themselves from inner pain. And now that I’ve gotten to know the stories of many gay and lesbian people who have described to me their personal struggles with self-acceptance over many painstaking years, I can appreciate the triumph they feel in being able to put away their self-hatred. I can understand what an accomplishment that is.

The problem is, when gay and lesbian people talk about things like pride and self-acceptance in such strong terms, it does not at all connect with most Christians in a meaningful way, and in fact may even deepen the ill-feelings and misconceptions many Christians have toward gays. Here’s what I mean. When I was brand new to this whole subject and I heard people talking of “gay pride,” I wondered why on earth someone would feel proud of their sin. You often hear from certain preachers that homosexuals are more “depraved” than the average person, and this business about “gay pride” seemed to confirm that accusation. Not only are they sinning, but they’re proud of it! Now granted, at that time I was working from the assumption that people were responsible for their homosexuality in some way. Maybe they chose it or maybe they let things get out of control by feeding or indulging unnatural sexual urges, was my theory. But even if someone was absolutely, positively not in any way responsible for finding themselves homosexually oriented, I still thought it was weird to hear people talk about gay pride. Because even if you can’t help it, shouldn’t you at least make some effort to combat it? It made me think gays must have no moral sensibility, as many teachers in the church claim.

I was lucky. I stumbled upon the right testimonies that told me many gay people do go through periods of “I don’t want this” in dealing with their homosexuality, especially early on. Whether they were expressing “self-hatred” or just “I would have preferred to have gotten a different lot in life,” I really don’t know. But let me tell you, it really, really helped me to learn that people actually do go through those feelings, not because I want gay people to hate themselves, but because at last it helped me to make sense of their stories, and it made them come off as real people I can relate to. Because that’s how I imagine I’d feel if I had to deal with being homosexual. It undermined the accusation that homosexual people are so morally far gone I couldn’t possibly relate to them.

It was a strange thing, then, for me to learn that when someone who is gay makes such an honest admission, they are practically shouted down by fellow gays for “self-hatred.” The very admission that helped to open up my mind and heart, just enough to encourage me to keep on digging, is considered a heresy in the gay community. Again, I understand why that is. I myself have spent many a sleepless night worrying about whether some gay friend of mine was sitting somewhere alone and depressed with a gun in his hand, and all I could do was pray. So I understand what people are trying to guard against. But such strong vigilance against any admission of self-hatred also hinders the kind of honesty that might make the most difference in connecting with an outsider. All I know is that if it weren’t for certain people willing to be honest with me, I would have never gotten as far as I have in trying to figure this thing out.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Save the Republican party: Vote Democrat

I voted for George W. Bush in 2000 because I thought his vision of "compassionate conservatism" would be about trying to make peace in the midst of this culture war, similar to what I was trying to accomplish with my Musings On website. I also voted for Bush in 2004 because I am in favor of the war against terrorism, the ousting of murderous dictators like Saddam Hussein, freedom for the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, and doing away with the oppression that women and gays suffer in Muslim theocracies. (And frankly, it didn't help that John Kerry came across to me as a big phony.)

Now here I am looking at the 2006 election in a much more disillusioned state of mind. To explain my current sentiments about my party . . . well, just take a look at these articles by Republicans who are hoping the GOP will lose big time this coming election.

(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

My friend Buddy

Whenever the anniversary of 9/11 comes around, I am reminded of a small drama that was taking place in my life on the sidelines at that time. My friend Buddy (about whom I wrote an article on my site, as some of you may already know) was less than two weeks from his death and I didn’t know it. After the terrorist attacks, the days that followed were for me an emotional haze. Then Buddy sent me an email on September 19 reporting that he had been waking up at nights with chest pains and pains shooting up his arms, yet he was dismissing these symptoms as part of his history of gastrointestinal problems. Thinking he was just stressed out like me about 9/11, I wrote back and said, “Sure, keep taking that Mylanta” and then shortly after that he was dead of a heart attack. You’d think that since my dad is a physician I would’ve recognized the clear heart attack warning signs and ordered him to get his rear end into a hospital now. But on September 19 my head wasn’t completely in the game.

What was so amazing about Buddy was the firm grasp he had on his self-worth, which was rooted in his firm conviction that God truly loved him in Christ. This in spite of being gay, growing up in a church so conservative they thought Jerry Falwell was a liberal, being told all homosexuals were going to hell, getting kicked out of his family, trying to do the ex-gay thing and leaving that scene, and being estranged from the rest of the gay community because he still believed his homosexuality was sinful. Whatever the extent of his personal failure, whatever the severity of rejection he suffered from the people around him, he always kept his eyes fixed firmly on the cross of Christ, and that was all the hope and comfort he ever needed to keep his head screwed on straight and his feet firmly planted on the ground. He moved out of state, telling his parents that when they were ready to talk to him in a civilized fashion, they could get in touch with him through a friend’s email address. Although his parents and brother wrote him off as a hell-bound pervert, he still attended a conservative church even after his move, refusing to allow their perverse behavior to throw him into a reactionary, self-destructive mode. His father had raised him to believe that getting a college education was “for liberals” and a waste of time, yet at the late age of 37 he enrolled in college to get his Associates degrees, figuring it was better late than never.

One time I confided in him doubts about my website, lamenting that I was “just a housewife” so what difference could someone like me make? Buddy wrote back and said something like, “Oh sure, maybe you’re just a housewife. Or just a rocket scientist, or just a pharmacist, or just a graphic designer, or just a garbage man. Look at President Bush, he’s ‘just the president.’ Either way you’re only one person trying to make a change for something you feel is important, so what does it matter whether you’re ‘just a housewife’ or ‘just the president’ except that you’re at peace with what God has laid on your heart?” I tell you, that guy was the coolest.

Whenever I read through his old emails like I did this morning and see how he signed off with, “Saved by grace, Buddy,” I regret that he is gone, but I also know he’s in a far better place. As a gay man he believed in the grace of God against all the odds, and he made it safely home.

If you're interested in reading more about Buddy, you can check out “My Friend Buddy and the Conservative Church” on my website.

Friday, September 08, 2006


Sorry I didn't get around to posting this past week. Taking care of a 4 month-old takes its toll some weeks, especially when the doctors' appointments pile up. I hope to be back on track by Monday. Have a great weekend, everyone!

(Update: Make that Tuesday, since Monday is the 5th anniversary of 9/11.)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

"Father, Son and Holy Rift"

One of the biggest evangelical names here in Southern California is Pastor Chuck Smith. “Papa Chuck” founded the Calvary Chapel movement that reached out to the hippie generation of the 1960’s, combined conservative Bible teaching with contemporary style worship, and over three decades has spawned 700 affiliated Calvary Chapels in America and overseas. Yet the movement has recently suffered a generational rift. For according to an article in yesterday’s L.A. Times, Chuck Smith Jr., who pastors a church just 25 miles away from his father, was forced to sever his ties with Calvary Chapel last year for drifting too far from some of the hard line stances of his Pentecostal father, including his views on homosexuality.

During the 1980’s, as an AIDS pandemic exploded, Smith Jr. embraced members of the gay community from nearby Laguna Beach.

The father on homosexuality: ‘It is the final affront against God.’

The son: ‘I met homosexuals who were trying to live celibate lives or be heterosexual, and I heard all about their struggles, and I never wanted to exacerbate that. My heart went out to them. Listening convinced me that homosexual orientation is not something people chose.’

It’s another example of how each successive generation tends to have a more enlightened understanding of homosexuality than the previous one. Even within the conservative church.

Thursday, August 31, 2006


As you can see, I'm slowly building my permanent links list on the sidebar, probably being overly cautious and overly picky as I do. I hope you'll check them out. In particular, be sure to check out Eugene's writings at Paradoxy. His recent posts are, as always, very good.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

An insecure faith

If the second greatest commandment taught by Jesus is to “love your neighbor,” why do Christians treat homosexuals in a way that seems so much to the contrary? A friend recently commented to me that the Christians he once knew treated him like an “abstract person” when he came out to them and he eventually had to leave his church. I thought this was aptly put. He became a theological problem that needed to be explained away instead of a real person who needed to be heard and understood.

Legalism and moralism in the church has a lot to do with it, but I think we’ve all heard that explanation before. I believe there is another contributing factor that I’ve never before heard mentioned. It is what the clergy refer to as “lacking assurance” or what a layperson might call “doubting his/her salvation.” Many, many Christians struggle to believe in all the things they are told to believe in. They have doubts about whether their faith is genuine or strong or lasting. They have doubts about whether they are true Christians, and about whether they can make it to heaven.

Conservative churches emphasize the importance of orthodoxy. You must align yourself with the teachings of the Bible for your faith to be considered genuine. But these teachings are not things that are easily grasped, believed or understood. That God became a man, born into this world as an infant child. That Jesus bore human sin in his own body on the cross, then rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. That faith in Jesus Christ, not personal righteousness, is what justifies sinners. That there will come a day of reckoning when the works of every human being who ever lived will be revealed and judged.

Rather than try to grapple with such deep and seemingly fantastic teachings, it is easier to reduce one’s faith to zealous moral living, which is where so much legalism in the church comes from. But even then no one can be satisfactorily moral. The end result is that many Christians struggle to believe, struggle to be moral, and most of all struggle to appear like they’ve got things under control when in fact they feel very much at sea. There is a lot at stake here, because loss of faith means eternal damnation, so you can bet there is a great deal of pent up anxiety involved. Churches ought to be helping people with their honest doubts, but the tendency instead is for church leaders to demand instant allegiance to orthodoxy rather than giving people the space to grow into their faith over time.

Now the stage is set for some unsuspecting homosexual to come out of the closet and get hit by a Mack truck. Particularly if he is a part of the church. The Bible teaches that homosexuality is sinful, but here is this person who claims to be a Christian who is saying that he or she cannot change. How can this be? Why would the Bible teach something is a sin if a person is unable to do anything about it? It is bad enough that non-Christians claim this, but we can condemn them as depraved, abominable and perverse to show just how much moral distance there is between ourselves and them. But it is horribly troubling when Christians make this claim, for it would imply that moral living is not within reach for a Christian even at the most basic level. And that simply cannot be because moral living is all any of us have left to show that we’re true Christians, since we’ve already given up trying to believe in all those strange Bible doctrines.

Therefore the conundrum that this homosexual person presents by his or her very existence must be explained, because if it is not, everyone’s already fragile faith might collapse and topple them over into the pit of hell. It is out of this insecurity and this inner panic that the unloving accusations and cold theological arguments spew forth: You must not be trying hard enough to get rid of your homosexuality. You can’t be a true Christian if you’re saying you have a fixed orientation. A Christian can’t accept being homosexual any more than he can accept being a murderer, or a pedophile, or having sex with cows!

When Jesus commands us to love, he assumes his hearers have a foundation of faith that is solid and secure. Because to love means being confident enough to let go of self-interest, personal agendas, and the need to always be right in order to go out to another person, even if that person might pose a threat to you in some of those areas. A Christian cannot love out of an insecure faith because he or she will lack such confidence. Our churches are full of people who suffer from this malady, and the symptoms are evident in the way we have treated gays and lesbians as “abstract people” instead of flesh and blood human beings.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Choice of words

In a previous post I wrote: “More recently, ex-gays have tried to respond to the criticism that their definition of ‘gay’ is quickly being relegated to the Stone Age Edition of the Webster’s Dictionary. So quite often you see testimonies of people who make it very clear they never chose to be homosexual.”

One reader has commented that this sounds confusing. When ex-gays are willing to concede that they didn’t choose to be homosexual, it sounds like they are acknowledging that they have a fixed homosexual orientation, but then why do they also claim that they can change their sexual orientation (or make perpetual progress toward that goal)? When they say homosexuality is “not a choice,” are they equivocating on the word "choice"?

I’d say so. Maybe I should add "not a choice" to my ex-gay glossary of terms. When people who give ex-gay testimonies say they “didn’t choose to be homosexual,” what they really mean is that at a young age they involuntarily acquired a behavioral disorder that they believe to be reversible through reparative therapy. The phrase “not a choice” no longer means, “I believe my homosexuality to be a part of my fundamental, constitutional make-up as a person” like it used to in the old days. Now ex-gays want to redefine that phrase to mean, “I went astray from my true heterosexual nature through various screwed-up influences during my impressionable years, but I believe it is fixable if I expose myself to the right, healthy influences now.” That’s why in a debate with Christians if you were to say, “But it isn’t a choice,” you will sometimes get the retort, “Maybe it wasn’t a choice then, but you can still make the right choice now.”

For this reason I find myself using the term “choice” less and less. With all the equivocation going on, it becomes increasingly difficult to find the right vocabulary to explain to people what I mean by “homosexual sexual orientation.” I sometimes use the word “constitutional,” even though that word sometimes conjures up a comparison with alcoholism. I’ve been known to accept that comparison when talking with a group of people who are at a particularly basic level of understanding. I mean, if I am struggling just to convince people that homosexuality is not the same as having sex with goats, and someone suddenly grabs onto the idea that maybe it’s as involuntary as having a lifetime problem with alcoholism, I’ll take it. But I don’t think the analogy is completely accurate. More and more I find myself saying that someone who is homosexual has about as much a chance of becoming heterosexual as someone who is heterosexual has of becoming homosexual. It’s a mouthful, but I don’t know how else to get my point across without using terms that could be misunderstood.

Friday, August 25, 2006

AIDS in black America

I just saw an alarming news story by Terry Moran of ABC News called “Out of Control: AIDS in Black America” last night. According to this report, even though African Americans make up only 13% of the U.S. population, they make up 50% of all new cases of HIV infections. Black women are 23 times more likely to be infected than white women, mainly through heterosexual sexual contact. Yet most discussion about the current AIDS problem ignores these facts. Whenever I’ve heard AIDS being discussed, I hear either that the number of new infections has stabilized at 40,000 a year, suggesting that we have the epidemic much more under control these days, or that the really big problem is in Africa. Africa certainly is a major disaster. But the fact that the epidemic taking place right here at home among black Americans isn’t more widely discussed is just amazing to me. I thought I was current on the AIDS issue, and yet I was totally clueless about the seriousness of this particular problem until last night.

How it began

Basically this is how things got started. AIDS first entered the black community largely through needle sharing among drug addicts. In the 1990’s Dr. Anthony Fauci of NIH saw the handwriting on the wall for the spread of AIDS among African Americans. He said he could see from the very beginning that all the factors that contribute to the spread of infection in a community were present in the black community. He was one of the main guys who pushed the Clinton Administration to implement a needle exchange program, which would allow addicts to exchange dirty needles for clean ones free of charge. The program had been statistically proven to be successful in other countries and was being implemented in Baltimore, MD, but it needed federal funding to spread to other parts of the country. President Clinton was very seriously considering it, but the Monica Lewinsky scandal distracted his energies from it and it fell by the wayside. You could see how crestfallen Dr. Fauci was when he recalled this turn of events during his interview. Then the Republicans came into power. They have consistently opposed the needle exchange program because they think providing clean needles to drug addicts will only encourage their addiction.

How it spreads

Meanwhile, because the U.S. government had declared a “war on drugs,” HIV infected addicts were being thrown into prison where 40% (if I recall correctly) of male inmates have sexual contact with other male inmates, thus spreading the disease. Prisons are a breeding ground for the HIV virus, and infection is five times greater there than outside prison walls. This is the worst aspect of the problem for the African American community because there are currently more college-age black American males in prison than in college. (Another statistic says that "almost one in three black men in their twenties is in prison, jail, on parole, or under some other form of correctional supervision," which gives you an idea of how many people are in or have gone through the prison system.) They come in HIV negative and leave HIV positive. To make things worse, these prisons refuse to distribute condoms to protect people from disease transmission. Why? Because that would be an admission that sex takes place in prison. Gosh, wouldn’t want to let that big secret out of the bag now, would we? Furthermore, there is no mandatory testing for HIV infection before prisoners are released back into society, so many men leave without knowing they are HIV positive.

How women are infected

Once HIV infected black men are released from prison, ignorant of their condition, they of course infect black women. Some factors contribute to the promiscuity that allows the infection to spread to black women at alarming rates. First of all, there are about 85 black men to every 100 black women, because the mortality rate among male black youth is so much higher. This disproportion means multiple women are fighting for one man, which gives more opportunities for black men to have (and infect) multiple partners. Secondly, the hip-hop culture which has become so big in the black community glamorizes sex and promiscuity. Thirdly, the vast majority of gay black men are closeted (or what they call “down low” or “DL”) due to the intense shame and stigma in the black community regarding homosexuality. They live as straights publicly but they have male sex partners in secret, which means they won’t disclose to their wives or girlfriends that they might potentially be infected with HIV.

Why are black leaders silent?

Why haven’t black leaders addressed this issue? Black leadership comes mainly from black churches, which have always been the center of political activism and spiritual strength for the African American community. But the church is partly where the stigma and shame over homosexuality and AIDS comes from. Only a handful of black pastors have been willing to address the problem of AIDS from the pulpit.

What about the Rev. Jesse Jackson? He would take on a growing crisis in his own community, wouldn’t he? But Terry Moran’s interview with Jackson showed that he was only interested in making excuses and blaming it on the President and Congress. Moran kept pressing Rev. Jackson on why he himself has kept silent about this, and how could this happen to his community under his watch? But Jackson kept skirting the issue. It was the worst, most disturbing interview I’ve seen since I saw our local news station question Cardinal Roger Mahoney on why he knowingly reassigned pedophile priests to other parishes instead of barring them from the priesthood. You came away from the interview thinking there must be something really, really wrong with this guy.

Simple ways to curb infection rates

I concluded from Moran's story that there appear to be some simple and inexpensive policies that could be put into place that would really help the situation. One is a federally funded needle exchange program. Another is the distribution of condoms in prisons. A third is mandatory testing for HIV before prisoners are released back into society. The gay community has made a big contribution toward AIDS activism the past two decades. I wonder, is anything being done in these areas on behalf of the African American community? If anyone could tell me, I’d be interested to know.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The "definition of marriage"

“Our society doesn’t deprive homosexuals of the right to marry. They are perfectly free to marry someone of the opposite sex, aren’t they?” Ever hear people use this argument before? Funny how these same folks will add that a major reason why they oppose civil same-sex marriage is that it would “change the definition” of traditional marriage. But if you are gay and married to an opposite-sex partner, your marriage is about as radical a departure from the definition of traditional marriage as any. Because you are calling what you have a “marriage” even though it fails to accomplish the most fundamental purpose of why the institution of marriage exists in the first place, which is to curb promiscuity by providing a legitimate, socially respectable outlet for the human sex drive. “It is better to marry than to burn with passion” the apostle Paul once wrote long ago.

Same-sex civil marriages would accomplish this fundamental purpose, whereas gays with opposite-sex partners will more often than not continue to burn with the passion of a repressed and frustrated sex drive, so that the very problem that marriage is supposed to alleviate is in fact exacerbated. So which marriage is the more radical departure from the traditional “definition of marriage”? I’d say that while both are departures, same-sex civil marriages are closer to our society's traditional definition because sexual satisfaction, emotional bonding and romantic love are truly within reach, whereas the other arrangement can’t help but result in an unhappiness and dissatisfaction that strikes at the very heart of what is supposed to bind a married couple together in a lifelong relationship.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Deed and truth

In November 2000 I posted an essay called “A Conservative Christian Case for Civil Same-Sex Marriage” on my Musings On site, in which I argue for the legalization of civil same-sex marriage in society, even though I oppose same-sex marriage in the church. In the article I try to demonstrate how someone with religious convictions and a degree of sympathy with social conservatism could take this position for reasons that are still consistent with his or her values.

Gay and lesbian readers have responded favorably to the article for obvious reasons. But fellow Christians have often been more intent on knowing what my motivations were for writing it. Some people think I have a secret agenda to introduce gay marriage into the church. Others think I just like to stir up controversy. A few have even hinted that maybe I have personal issues, like maybe I’m a closet lesbian. As one might expect, most of these speculations have come from people who have never met me.

For the record, my main motivation for writing the article was to defend the Christian faith. Before I wrote the piece, I was disturbed by the general sentiment among gay and lesbian people that believing in the Bible, embracing faith in Jesus Christ, and being involved in the Christian church somehow transforms you into an unloving, unthinking, narrow-minded jerk. I wanted to know why gay people felt that way, and as I tried to listen to their reasons on various Internet discussion boards, I began to take a closer look at myself. I wasn’t ready to claim that I was completely innocent of the charges. However, I did know for certain that no follower of Jesus Christ should ever come off as hostile and uncompassionate, and the fact that many of us apparently were gave me pause.

My first instinct was to try and reassure gay people that I really and truly did love them with the love of Christ. That ought to dispel their ill-feelings toward Christianity. But then I saw that most Christians were already using these words to no avail, mainly because the catch phrase “hate the sin but love the sinner” was coming off as double-talk. Thanks to that unfortunate cliché, all talk of Christian love was being rendered completely meaningless in the ears of gay and lesbian hearers. I realized how completely empty and unconvincing words can be, as the apostle John tried to tell us long ago: “Little children, let us not love with word or tongue, but in deed and truth.”

You can’t just use words, you have to speak with your actions. Got it. Taking action, I started to read more about the social issues gay and lesbian people were concerned about, and I became convinced through reading Andrew Sullivan’s Virtually Normal that I ought to support the legalization of gay marriage in society. I wasn’t easily convinced. It took writing to Andrew two long emails hashing out my thoughts before I came to the conclusion I did. Then after that exhausting ordeal was over, I realized something else. This was one of those “deed and truth” moments. If I cared about gay and lesbian people, the thing to do was not merely to talk about love, but to act upon it, right? So being the Bible-believing Christian that I was, I wrote and posted the article. Because if you care about someone you ought to throw in your lot with them, especially for a cause that would greatly improve their lives in society. But closer to my heart, I wrote it because I wanted people to really know and truly feel the love of Jesus Christ through me, like the apostle John said.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A glossary of ex-gay terminology

Spending the last few days perusing the NARTH and Exodus International websites has sure made me dizzy with their bizarre use of the English language. I learned that as long as you keep in mind that their definition of certain terms and phrases don’t necessarily line up with the way the rest of the human population uses them, you have a better chance of understanding what they’re trying to say. Here’s a short glossary I’ve come up with so far:


“Gay” by their definition is usually someone who lives a lifestyle of having same-sex sexual partners, quite often through anonymous sexual encounters and one-night stands, risking disease and living in guilt and fear. This definition is really a capitulation to a certain population of straight people who still think the claim that “homosexuality isn’t a choice” is just a lie being promoted by the liberal media to justify sin. Therefore, “ex-gay” doesn’t refer to someone who is constitutionally homosexual who has now become constitutionally heterosexual in their sexual orientation. Rather “ex-gay” means you have chosen to reject a rebellious, promiscuous lifestyle and are now seeking to live according to clean, wholesome family values.

More recently, ex-gays have tried to respond to the criticism that their definition of “gay” is quickly being relegated to the Stone Age Edition of the Webster’s Dictionary. So quite often you see testimonies of people who try to make it clear they never chose to be homosexual, or sometimes from people who haven’t had actual homosexual sexual encounters, but have only gone as far as indulging in gay porn, mingling in gay society, or exploring the idea of accepting their homosexuality as a part of themselves. But even then they embrace the term “ex-gay” because they have chosen to reject going down a path that might eventually lead to the “gay lifestyle” (i.e., having sex). Hence, ex-gays have accommodated the idea that being “gay” doesn’t necessarily mean that you have taken the plunge into all kinds of gay sex, but they still want to justify holding on to the “ex” part by saying that they are still making a choice to reject their homosexuality. Keeping the words “ex” and “choice” in place seems to be the most essential part of the whole deal, probably because those are the elements that many straights find most reassuring.

“Homosexuals can change”

Here’s the best way I can explain it. It’s kind of like when President Bush (and yes, I did vote for him in 2004 in case you’re wondering) goes around saying, “We do not torture.” The context in which he makes this statement is whether the abuses at Abu Graib were an anomaly or whether this is our government’s policy toward suspected Islamic terrorists--which is why his assertion initially sounded so reassuring. But once evidence began to surface that the U.S. government does sanction the use of torture, you realize that not only is there a big “dot-dot-dot” after the President’s statement (“We do not torture . . . if you define ‘torture’ in the narrowest possible terms”), but he uses the context in which he makes this assertion to make it sound like he means one thing, when he really means another.

So here. When NARTH or Exodus International makes the assertion that “homosexuals can change” it is done in a certain context. NARTH’s motto is “Helping clients bring their desires and behaviors into harmony with their values.” The word “values” implies “family values” of course. People's desire for marriage, kids . . . heterosexuality. Exodus International’s motto is “Freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ.” If Jesus has the power to free you from homosexuality as he freed blind men from their blindness and lepers from their leprosy, what does that mean except that he can make you well again, “normal” again? That he can make you heterosexual?

If you’re like most people who surf onto these websites, whether gay or straight, you won’t bother to look more deeply and read more critically because you are so desperately searching for a quick-fix answer either for yourself or for a loved one. You will not investigate carefully whether the testimonies that appear on the site claim that people have actually become heterosexuals. As with Bush’s torture statement, the claim that “homosexuals can change” cuts off at the verb, stopping short of further explanation in a "dot-dot-dot" so that the statement can be both truthful in isolation yet misleading in its context. “Homosexuals can change . . . their behavior, their choices, and the labels they use to define themselves.” But they never said homosexuals can change into heterosexuals.


Saying you are now “married” is basically a short-hand way of saying “heterosexuality has been achieved,” without having to actually say that heterosexuality has been achieved because it probably hasn’t. All that has been achieved is a heterosexual lifestyle. And why not? If being ex-gay simply means leaving behind the gay lifestyle, for all practical purposes you are straight if you’ve embraced the straight lifestyle. Marriage is the ultimate badge of straightness, and as long as you are getting with the program of the wedding bells, the three beautiful kids, and the four-bedroom house in the suburbs, nobody cares about ongoing issues of sexual orientation, if such an issue can even be acknowledged.


This term was a new one for me, used by Joseph Nicolosi in the Gordon Opp interview. Apparently it is a term Nicolosi encourages ex-gays to use to refer to heterosexuals who have never struggled with homosexual inclinations. See, you don’t want to refer to them as “straights,” because ex-gays are supposed to be straight too, or at least perpetually on their way to straightdom, and so to call those guys “straights” would make it sound like you’re not straight, and you wouldn’t want to imply that you’re not straight, even though you couldn’t truthfully call yourself straight, but you could call yourself ex-gay which is close to implying that you are straight without having to actually say that you are. So you call them “ever-straights” because that’s a way of saying you’re kinda straight too (you’re on the way). It’s just that relative to their “ever-straightness” you’re just someone who “hasn’t-always-been-straight.” I hope that clears that up.