Haggard, Take Two: How Many Legs Does A Dog Have, If You Call The Tail A Leg?

 (Uh, if you aren’t familiar with Abe Lincoln’s riddle, the answer is: Four.  Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one.)

Jay says, in response to my Haggard post:

After talking to several ex-gays with opinions differing from my own, I’ve come to realize that their definitions of homosexual and heterosexual don’t seem to line up with Merriam-Webster’s, if you know what I mean. Mike Ensley and I once discussed the hullabaloo surrounding the “gay-identity” issue within ex-gay ministries, and he said something that I found somewhat interesting:

“I’ve developed a deep (and very freeing) conviction that homosexuality is just an experience some people have–it’s not a thing a person can be. Even people who identify as gay aren’t homosexuals.”

[Jay links to his conversation with Ensley here...]

I could be wrong, but I’ve gotten a sense that many within ex-gay ministries hold a belief that, because all humans were meant to be perfectly heterosexual, then that is the way one should define oneself, no matter what one’s actual feelings are. It seems to me reminiscent of “Name It and Claim It” ideology. I personally don’t hold too much ill-will towards such a view, but I do think it is impractical and misleading.

This post is all about emphatically agreeing with Jay.  The idiosyncrasies of exgay language, in my humble opinion, have gotten completely out of control. 

I know that I personally feel that I have no grip on what people are talking about anymore when they claim to be “heterosexual”.  I know enough to not naively draw the wrong conclusions, but not enough to know what the heck is going on.  And I am someone who, while not a mainstream exgay herself, has read most of the classic exgay texts, has spent years in exgay groups, etc.   And it’s not just me being dense–I know others who feel the same way.

To give you an idea of what I’m concerned with, let me share a few examples of Fun With The Word ‘Heterosexual’.  The first two are specific instances with links, the latter two are more general observations:

  •  –John Smid supposedly said to John Paulk, while trying to encourage him in the midst of his struggles, “The label of ex-gay is still connected with your past. … So from now on … you’re not an ex-gay; you’re a man. And not just a man, but a heterosexual. That’s how everyone sees you.” Now, in fairness I must state that I am borrowing this quote from Ralph Blair’s review of Paulk’s book, and he is hardly an unbiased reviewer.  I myself have not read the book, I do not have access to it, and I do not plan to buy it.  If this quote, fraught with ellipses as it is, distorts what Paulk wrote, please let me know either via the comments or email.  But to me it seems representative of other things I’ve heard and read in exgay circles.
  • –This next one is discussed well by Box Turtle Bulletin. Alan Chambers states in God’s Grace and the Homosexual Next Door that he is “completely heterosexual.”  But then in his CNN appearance  discussing Haggard, he’s much more conservative and nuanced in his claims, about how he “will never be as though [he] never was,” that he’s still human and could be homosexually tempted again, that his feelings are “diminished” and “different”, that he chooses to “live beyond [his] feelings.”  All of that is fine, but it’s certainly not what first comes to mind when someone tells me that he’s “completely heterosexual.”  (On a side note, this talk about “living beyond your feelings” sounds creepily detached and denial-ish to me.  I don’t live beyond my feelings.  I just don’t do everything my feelings tell me to.  The difference seems significant to me.)
  • –I’ve heard exgays come up with definitions of heterosexuality that have nothing to do with being interested in the opposite sex.  So, for example, I’ve heard that heterosexuality is about being secure in one’s identity in God.  Or, alternatively, that heterosexuality is about being mature and comfortable with oneself as a man or woman.  Or, heterosexuality is about having healed your childhood root issues–once those are dealt with, you’re healed, you’re heterosexual, even though you may not feel anything for the opposite sex.  Or, heterosexuality is about not being tangled up in a gay identity or “the gay lifestyle,” regardless of who you’re hot for, or how many guys you inexplicably find yourself in random sexual encounters with.
  • –And then there’s that infamous old saw, “There are no homosexuals, only heterosexuals with homosexual problems.”

Of course, accompanying all these bizarre uses of the word “heterosexual,” there are also parallel uses of words like “homosexual” and “gay.”  People profess to not be gay and not be homosexual, or they say that they are no longer gay, or no longer homosexual, but you can’t draw any conclusions from that about their sexual attractions.  (At least, if you’re smart, you won’t draw any conclusions.)

So, basically, I have a big problem with all of this. 

We have an important responsiblity to communicate clearly, honestly, and accurately.  We might find it unfortunate that the world should use and understand words in a certain way.  But we have a responsibility to be aware of how our words will be understood, and to take care that people will not get the wrong idea.  Civilization as we know it depends on words not being able to mean whatever we want them to mean.  If I am “completely heterosexual,” all is permitted.

I understand that people have their reasons for using words the way they do.

For example, I know some people use words a little differently because they think our society places too much importance on sexual attractions, and it surely does.  If we want to be coy about where out sexual attractions are at, or if we don’t think it’s anyone’s business, that’s fine.  It probably isn’t anyone’s business, unless we choose to make it theirs by using our professed orientation change as grounds for some political argument.  But let’s not cloak that coyness or reticence in words that will mislead.

I know we were all created to be heterosexual, in attraction and activity.  I don’t mean to deny that.  But the fact is, this little thing called The Fall happened, and it screwed that all up.  And we need to be honest with ourselves and with others about how it has affected us.  I don’t think there’s any virtue in being in denial with ourselves or misleading others about the impact of the Fall on our lives. 

Some people may feel it’s helpful for the purposes of encouraging “self-talk” in identity matters to call themselves straight or hetero.  Perhaps kind of like how I have occasionally in the past called myself a “rockstar” or a “champ” while psyching myself up to do something I was really anxious about, like taking an exam or giving a talk.  I’m kind of uneasy with people doing that in the realm of sexuality, but I suppose it’s okay.  Still, I don’t bring my bathroom mirror pep-talk routine into my communications with others, and I don’t take it very seriously in any case.  I don’t let other people (or myself) actually believe that I’m a famous musician or a middleweight titleholder! 

Somewhat relatedly, I know some people are into the whole name-it-and-claim-it theology.  I’ll be blunt with you, I absolutely abhor that stuff.   But even I did accept it, I would not extend my “naming and claiming” to situations where it would actively misinform other people.  Maybe (although I seriously doubt it) it would be fine in your private devotional life, or in a small group of believers who know you well and understand what you are doing.  But if someone is asking you whether you are heterosexual, because they are curious about what sorts of change have occurred in your life, it is not the time or the place to start claiming in faith all sorts of changes that have not yet happened for you. 

And finally, I know that some people use words in the way they do as an expression of rebellion against our society’s way of thinking and talking about sexuality, a rebellion to which I am deeply sympathetic.  I find the concept of sexual orientation that is in common currency today really unhelpful, and I hope to explore this further in a series of posts on the subject of gay identity that’s on the way.  The world asks, “Are you gay or straight?” and if the answer is “gay”, then it says that “being true to yourself” and your life fulfillment hinges on embracing your attractions and pursuing sex or relationships with others like you.  Homosexual attractions are taken to be indicative of some deep fact about one’s nature and identity which must be obeyed, rather than being just another temptation or sin struggle.  I understand why people want to rebel against this, why using their language feels like playing along with something we don’t want to play along with.

But the way I see it, none of these reasons can be an excuse for speaking deceptively.  And the fact is, unless we explain things very clearly, if we claim to be heterosexual, people will understand that to primarily mean that we are attracted solely to the opposite sex.  Again, unless we explain things very clearly, if we deny being gay or homosexual, people will understand us to primarily be saying that we are not attracted to the same sex (unless we say that we are bisexual).  This may be frustrating and lamentable, but it is the way it is.  We can do what we can to try to change the discourse, but in the meantime I feel that honesty demands that we not cause others to have false beliefs about our sexualities and attractions, that we be responsible stewards of our words.  And toward that end, I would make three suggestions.

1.  We ought not to be absolutely allergic to speaking in terms that people will understand.

 Even though we may dislike certain words with their common meanings, sometimes they are the best way to convey the truth.  Sometimes, if someone asks you if you are gay or homosexual, the best answer is “Yes, but…” or “Well, sort of, but…”  We have to recognize that in most cases people who ask us these sorts of questions, though their conceptual foundations may be messed up, are primarily interested in our sexual attractions, or sometimes our behavior.  They are generally not primarily interested in our sense of identity, especially if they already know what our beliefs are.  So we need to acknowledge this in the answers we give to them, and answer in a way that communicates the truth.  If our attractions are predominantly homosexual, and we are responding to the questions of someone who may not be able to understand a complex explanation of our views, sometimes the most accurate, honest, and even most God-honoring answer to the question “Are you gay?” or “Are you homosexual?” is “Yes.”

2.  We can turn our conversations toward a vocabulary we find more suitable. 

We’ve done this pretty well with “same-sex attracted,” I think.  (I personally prefer “homosexually-attracted” or “homo-attracted”, partly because they’re easier to understand, and partly because I think a lot of people just need to get a grip when it comes to applying any “homo-” word to themselves, but whatever.)  Some of us don’t feel that words like “gay” or “homosexual” accurately convey what we’re talking about, so we use different terminology.

I think it’s fine to tell our conversational partners that we can’t express our views fully in their preferred vocabulary, and to share our own with them.  And with minimal creativity and effort, we can explain our sexuality and our convictions without using any orientationist buzzwords at all.  We can say things like, “Well, I’m attracted to men, but because of my religious beliefs that sex belongs in the context of marriage between a man and a woman, I’m not looking for a sexual relationship.”

I honestly think this is the best way to handle both how we present ourselves to others and how we think of ourselves.  If you’re really worried about gay identity, then stop thinking and speaking of yourself in gay-related terms altogether!  Saying “I’m not gay!” buys into a gay identity worldview just as much as saying “I’m gay!” does.   You cannot “move beyond” the latter without moving beyond the former as well.  The same goes for “heterosexual” and “homosexual.”

If we don’t like the orientationist vocabulary of “gay,” “homosexual,” “heterosexual,” “sexual orientation,” and the like, we can simply decline to use it, for the most part.  We do not have to abuse it by employing it in a way that misleads others. 
 
3.  If we’re going to use the world’s words differently from how others are using them, we ought to make that clear.

So, my personal feeling is that we ought not apply the adjective “heterosexual” to ourselves unless we are overwhelmingly predominantly attracted to the opposite sex.  And, we ought not to describe ourselves to outsiders as “not gay” or “not homosexual” if our attractions are predominantly directed towards people of the same sex.  (Within exgay circles and with those Christians who understand what their words mean, I suppose people can use whatever lingo or dialect they want.  I’m mostly concerned with how we present ourselves to those who won’t understand our linguistic eccentricities.)

But, if some of us feel that we absolutely must say, “I’m not homosexual,” then we ought to explain why: “…because I believe that nobody is really homosexual,” or whatever the reason is.   If we are predominantly same-sex attracted and we say, “I’m not gay…”  we had better add “but you see, I think that gayness is a matter of identity rather than attraction.”  Specifically, if we are going to talk in non-standard terms, we ought to be explicitly crystal clear about our attractions.  “I consider myself heterosexual…but when I’m real stressed and tired and lonely, I sometimes still get turned on by a good-looking guy.”  Yes, we might sound like idiots, but better to sound like an idiot than to deceive others.  And that fact that saying those things sounds idiotic may indicate something about whether we should be saying them at all!  (See my two preceding suggestions.) 

I know that some people don’t want to be explicit about their attractions, because they’re ashamed of them.  I don’t think they should be ashamed–I think such shame generally stems from an unhealthy embrace of the pathologizing Freudian stuff, which we all know I hate.  Or, it stems from the false belief that this sin, this temptation, is worse than others, that the fact that you experience is says something exceptionally bad about you as a person or a Christian, which we all know I’m not a big fan of either.  But I don’t want to beat up on the ashamed people for being ashamed–I know they’ve got enough problems without me ragging on them.  So all I will say is that if you are too ashamed of your attractions to tell the truth about them, then don’t talk about them at all.  If someone asks you, tell them it’s none of their business.  Just don’t mislead others.  That, in my opinion, is something that is much more appropriate to be ashamed of.

23 Responses to Haggard, Take Two: How Many Legs Does A Dog Have, If You Call The Tail A Leg?

  1. Ron Belgau says:

    Bravissimo!

    I especially agree that “with minimal creativity and effort, we can explain our sexuality and our convictions without using any orientationist buzzwords at all.”

    – Ron

  2. Jim Burroway says:

    I’ve just come back from attending a Love Won Out conference and was struggling with how to write about the very concious use of language that they used there. It was everything you said. But I could never express it nearly as well as you just did. Great job.

    I hope you don’t mind if I quote a little of this. You really hit on a lot of great points.

  3. gazissax says:

    “I don’t live beyond my feelings. I just don’t do everything my feelings tell me to. The difference seems significant to me.”

    Yes, totally! The notion of living beyond my feelings isn’t nearly as helpful to me, if those feelings currently happen to involve being turned on by someone other than my husband (male or female), as remembering that I don’t do everything my feelings tell me to.

    “Still, I don’t bring my bathroom mirror pep-talk routine into my communications with others”

    I actually do :-), but only with a smile, and if I think the others will be OK with the joke.

    I also like the idea of turning the conversation to a different vocabulary as a better alternative than using words that others are bound to misunderstand.

  4. Oops, that was me. I think “gazissax” might be a WordPress ID that my husband was using to get AKismet working.

  5. [...] this topic again for awhile. I thought I would bring it back after reading a well written post at Disputed Mutability regarding terms and how same-sex attracted people describe their changes or lack [...]

  6. Jay says:

    Yeah, that’s pretty much everything I’ve thought about the subject. You just have one heck of a knack for putting it into words. Honestly, DM, how do you do it? I couldn’t write an essay – much less a blog post – like that if I tried! Thanks for the hat-tip!

  7. pam says:

    WOW. I honestly felt like I was reading C.S. Lewis for a minute there.

    much love,
    pam

  8. Jim:

    I’m glad it was helpful. Sure, feel free to quote whatever you find useful. I’m enjoying / looking forward to your LWO series, as I’ve never been to one myself.

    Lynn:

    LOL re: sharing your self-pep-talks with others. You’re a braver soul than I. :) And I’m glad my feelings about living beyond one’s feelings resonated with somebody else. That whole perspective just seems sort of bleak and maybe even life-negating to me. Besides, if I had wanted to “live beyond my feelings,” I sure wouldn’t have become a Christian!

    Jay and Pam:

    *blush* Thanks for the encouragement, as always.

  9. Anonymous says:

    This marks my 10th year of studying orientation/change/ex-gay ministries — the whole ball of wax.

    Nothing has changed: gay people still have gay sex. Straight people still have straight sex. Every now and then you will find a truly celibate soul.

    Nothing new under the sun.

    Is any of this going to make any difference? Is the church really going to wake up and say, “Hmm…methinks there is something rotten in Denmark?” with all this semantics gymnastics.

    I think that those who want to believe Ted Haggard will and those who don’t want to believe Ted Haggard won’t. Truth, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder.

    If homosexuality or heterosexuality are not the deciding factors of salvation — why does any of this matter?

  10. Hi Anonymous,

    I think it’s very easy to take the “nothing new under the sun,” view, however:

    1. I am content to make little differences, not big ones.

    I don’t doubt that the global picture of all things gay and exgay is likely to remain more or less the way it is for a while. But through comment threads and private emails I have discovered that plenty of individual people have found what I write here helpful in different ways. Some have found encouragement for the journey. Some have found a thought-provoking challenge to their preconceptions and their way of thinking. Some have found the comfort of knowing that there’s a kindred spirit out there, thinking the same things they are. Some have found an articulation of ideas that were bouncing around in their heads but they couldn’t find the words for. That is enough for me.

    2. More importantly, I am only responsible for my actions and words. I am not responsible for how others respond.

    I started this blog with the conviction that I have to stand up and speak what I believe to be the truth on these matters, regardless of who is or isn’t ever going to listen. I find the “semantics gymnastics” to be misleading and wrong, and so I will speak out against it here. Whatever other people will or won’t believe, I want to speak with honesty and integrity, and I want to encourage others to do the same.

    The same goes for all the other issues I discuss here. Yes, I am aware that many people in the exgay camp and parts of the church are firmly entrenched in their ideas and positions, and probably nothing I could say could make a difference. And I am aware that many people in the anti-exgay camp are equally firmly entrenched. I hope, at best, to resonate with some of those in the uncomfortable in-between, those who are questioning what’s going on on both sides. But even if I fail in that, I feel convicted that I ought to speak the truth as I see it, on this blog and elsewhere. Honestly, I spent years waiting for someone with my sort of views to start speaking up and asking questions. Well, as the saying goes, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.” :)

    “If homosexuality or heterosexuality are not the deciding factors of salvation — why does any of this matter?”

    I’m not quite sure what you’re referring to by “any of this,” but I’ll take a stab at answering anyway, and you can correct me insofar as I’m off-base. I’m guessing by your mention of salvation that you mean the whole question of faith and sexuality.

    I believe that honoring and pleasing God is the most important thing in life. I believe that Jesus Christ died in order to atone for my sins, because of His great love for me, and out of my gratitude for that salvation, I aspire to live a life that is pleasing to Him. So the question of whether or not homosexual sex and relationships are pleasing to him is a very big deal to me, and to most other Christians, I think. Some of us arrive at one conclusion, others of us arrive at another–but we would all agree, I think, that the question is an important one.

    If we love God, we will care a great deal about how He feels about our lives and our choices. It’s somewhat similar to a human relationship: Should we not care about what our friends or partners or spouses like or dislike, simply because they will love us anyway? On the contrary, because they love us, and because we love them in return, we care about their feelings; because of the relationship, we try to avoid, when possible, things that would alienate, disgust, or annoy them, and we seek to share things with them that they will enjoy. I would say that something like that holds true of God as well–even though we Christians know that our salvation rests on His grace, and not on the things we do, we still seek to live in a way that delights and does not offend Him. We don’t seek to obey him primarily out of fear, but rather out of grateful love. So that’s one reason why the faith-and-sexuality issue is of interest to me and many other Christians.

    I have some further thoughts on this as well, but unfortunately I’m not going to have time to finish this or say more probably for the next few days (we’ve got houseguests on the way!)

  11. Marty says:

    I’d blame the psychoanalysts and pro-gay crowd for the mixup, if anyone.

    The simple fact of the matter is that homosexuality and heterosexuality are not two sides of the same coin. Heterosexuality is a much bigger concept than “who I find attractive”. It cannot even rightly be called an “orientation” — even gays and lesbians suddenly find themselves doing some very heterosexual things, when they plan to have children…

    Humanity is heterosexual, as are all mammals and nearly every species of animal. The simple term “sex” is binary (either one or the other, or, the combination of the two that yeilds fruit), beyond the most insipid definitions. This says nothing about who they might find “sexually attractive”.

    Sexual Orientation is just a very small word. It applies reasonably well to homosexuality, but does a disservice to heterosexuality which is about far more than mere attraction.

  12. franksta says:

    Dang, chica, you have brains to burn. And as usual, I agree with 99.9% of what you say. Granted, ex-gay lingo is horribly self-absorbed and (ergo) quite insane. The problem I have (something I recently discussed with Timothy on XGW) is that I chafe against GLBTQ folks’ insistence that, in order to be completely honest, I must adopt the label “gay” even though folks like Timothy take umbrage over people calling them “gay-identified.” I’m still trying to articulate all the reasons this bothers me, but here’s what I’ve got so far:
    (1) I can’t escape the conviction that, in our culture, “gay” connotes someone who is sexually active with their own gender, or at least would like to be (i.e. if they happen to be celibate it’s just temporary or because they’re ugly). Sure, I can be a “celibate gay,” but the problem is that there are virtually zero examples of what healthy celibacy (gay or straight) looks like. Of course, the track record of married homo-attracted folks isn’t stellar these days, either.
    (2) This leads to my second point, namely, the prevalence of the idea that everyone is monosexual (a word I learned on XGW). I have problems with some of Kinsey’s ideas, but it seems to me many folks assume that everybody is either a Kinsey 0 or a Kinsey 6. Over at XGW, I called this the “gay trumps straight” argument. Some folks (both gay and straight) see anyone with any degree of homo-attraction as completely gay. This is why after Haggard’s fall, many folks were saying he should just have been honest from the beginning and (among other things) NEVER GOTTEN MARRIED. Yes, I agree that Haggard’s problem is one of truth and honesty, but I don’t believe that he is 100% gay (or that he is not attracted to his wife, his homo attractions notwithstanding).
    So, yes, I agree we must be more careful about our words and not call ourselves what we aren’t. But while it only takes a little more time and care honestly to answer the “are you gay?” question, it takes a lot of emotional energy, in large part because we have to try to discern the worldview, filters, vocabulary, etc of whoever is posing the question.

  13. Anonymous says:

    The “nothing new under the sun” idea was uttered by a very wise man ;-) — so I am quite comfortable in borrowing it. I think he knew what he was saying even millenia later.

    I appreciate your point about not being responsible for the global picture but trying to affect your little corner of cyberspace. That makes sense.

    On your point about pleasing God with sexuality — what about the *majority* of gay Christians who LOVE God with all their hearts who have done everything they can to change, to ask God to change them, etc..? How dishonoring can they be when they have laid prostrate (literally and figuratively) before Him, barring their souls and He does nothing or helps reveal nothing? And they remain the same.

    So…either God does not make as big of an issue of our sexuality as we do or those seeking to please Him have failed in some regard.

    There really is no other answer.

    This is why we end up with Ted Haggard-like situations and the spin comes out as denial. For his supporters, it is comforting. For those who have traveled the path longer, dismaying. Damage control becomes the order of the day.

  14. Joe says:

    DM said “Some have found an articulation of ideas that were bouncing around in their heads but they couldn’t find the words for. That is enough for me.”

    And that’s enough for me. I have been mixing with “ex-gays” for about a year now and, yes, many fit the “nothing new under the sun” category. I’m the imposter in my exgay group with no church or evangelical history. It’s easy for me to believe they would all be waving rainbow flags now if they had been born into non-evangelical families but I also find it difficult to believe they are simply sexually repressed. To do so would trivialize the Christian faith. Some exgays will end up marrying the men/women they truly desire but the faith will remain.

  15. Anonymous says:

    But…words and ideas do not a life make?

    At some point action and choice must come into play — elsewise how can that be considered a life? It seems to be sleepwalking at best.

  16. Marty:

    Welcome and thanks for your thoughts.

    I think I agree with you conceptually, although I’m not sure who’s responsible for what linguistically. My understanding (though I could very well be mistaken on this, and would appreciate correction with references if so) is that the word “heterosexual” was coined at the same time “homosexual” was, as a contrast to it. So my understanding was that they were created as “two sides of the same coin”, so to speak.

    Anyhow, regardless of the history of the word and who is to blame for that history, the fact is that now one of the word’s primary meanings is: “Characterized by a sexual interest in members of the opposite sex,” as the OED puts it. However we got here, this is what the word is understood to mean now, by many people, and when we are speaking to those people, I think we need to take into consideration how they will interpret what we say.

    Don’t get me wrong, I agree that our society is rather deeply confused about this stuff, and that heterosexuality and homosexuality ultimately can’t be conceptually symmetrical. But given that people are confused in that way, I just want to be careful in not misleading them about my personal experiences.

    Frank:

    I agree with you about “gay,” in many circles and contexts at least. Certainly in Christian circles (well, evangelical Protestant ones at least), “gay” implies intent to be sexually active with members of the same sex.

    I know some people will disagree with me, claiming that “gay” just means that one is attracted to the same sex, but I personally think that it carries a lot of connotations that are hostile to traditional Christian convicitons on this subject. It suggests, at least in some contexts, a particular package of culture and values. So I’m not saying that predominantly same-sex attracted people with Christian convicitons forbidding homosex should go around calling themselves “gay” in general. I do feel, though, that in some contexts, if such people have to choose between “gay” or “straight”, that “gay” would be less misleading than “straight”.

    My identity posts will dwell on this more, but I totally agree with you about the unhelpfulness of the “celibate gay” mindset. It sure did not work for me.

    I agree with you about Haggard as well. I don’t say that he shouldn’t have gotten married, or that he’s not attracted to his wife. It’s not at all clear to me what the balance of his sexual attractions is, and regardless of the balance of his attractions, I don’t think his apparent homosexual attractions invalidate his marriage or make it a “lie” or a “fraud” in any way. But I’ve been through all that before.

    It does seem to me that a lot of people are tossing aside the more complex and nuanced ways of talking about sexuality (like the Kinsey or Klein scales) in favor of this black-and-white simple “gay or straight” stuff. Granted, there are studies that question the existence of male bisexuality, but these are mostly based on the fact that allegedly bisexual men generally get aroused by erotic images of one sex or the other, not both. But for me that just raises yet another question: is *that* (i.e., how we respond to erotic movies) the only real measure of sexual attraction and desire? To many women, even a woman like myself who is rather visually-oriented when it comes to sexuality, this sounds pretty crazy! Many exgay men and also many self-avowedly bisexual men claim that things are more complicated than that, at least for them, and I’m inclined to believe them.

    Also, finally, I realize that I underestimated the energy and effort that it takes to rephrase the conversation in a different vocabulary. Ron also took me to task for this, and although I initially resisted, I think that you and he are right. While the words themselves aren’t all that tricky, we do need to understand where other people are at, and that is often far from easy.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Anonymous:

    Eh, I don’t have a problem with the “nothing new under the sun” verse per se, and I think there’s wisdom in it, properly understood in the context of the rest of the book and the rest of Scripture. I was more concerned with a particular mindset, with a particular application of the verse that tends toward apathy and indifference. I thought you were quoting it in order to say “Why bother?”, and so I tried to explain why I bother. :)

    As far as the pleasing God thing goes, I think we just plain disagree. I understand that the struggle can be very difficult. (But I would add that we can make it much more difficult than it has to be!) I understand that God sometimes does not answer prayers in the way that we would like, even desperate prayers that involve tears and prostration. (Been there, done that.) And I understand that a lot of people who want attraction change don’t experience it. But in spite of the difficulty, I believe that all Christians by God’s grace have the power to choose daily to deny themselves and pick up their crosses and follow Jesus. God hasn’t promised anyone attraction change, to the best of my knowledge, and I don’t believe that He owes it to anyone. I don’t think that “God would never want my life to be so difficult, so He must not mind if I get a boyfriend/girlfriend,” while understandable from the perspective of human psychology, is sound Biblical thinking. The same goes for “It’s unfair that I should have to struggle with this when other people don’t have to, God doesn’t have the right to ask this of me!” I can understand why some people might feel that way, and sympathize with them and feel their pain, but ultimately I think they are mistaken.

    In any case, this line of conversation is kinda drifting way off the topic of the thread. You raise some very interesting questions–both the “why does it matter if it’s not a salvation issue?” question and the “Where is God in the struggle?” question–and I’ll try to post about them as I get the chance, although I’ve got something of a backlog. But I hope I’ve adequately explained why I bother with this stuff and why I think these issues matter, even if you disagree with my reasoning.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I’ve read through this response above, and I thank you for taking the time to respond to what I said.

    Perhaps I do not understand the overriding *purpose* of your blog — past the point of hearing yourself think (and I don’t mean that sarcastically, so please don’t take it that way, O.K.)

    You have essentially arrived: nice hubby you love, great sex you say, baby on the way hopefully. Sure you could slip and fall (and potentially lose it all) — but let’s say not.

    What is it exactly that you want to say about this issue that will make a difference in the man or woman (Christian) who has never changed (and let’s say they are in their 40’s, 50”s and beyond) that would be of any real comfort and help:

    That God doesn’t owe you anything? That walking by faith can be tough? Sure enough. That…maybe you just haven’t pressed on — there is something wrong or hidden in your life that needs to be dredged out?

    Your blog is kinda in a strange place — you are not ex-ex-gay yet not *pro* ex-gay. I guess that the best way to ask is this: Do you hope to get a message across to someone or some group or, again, is this thinking aloud because it can be done thanks to the Internet and much of your struggle is over (at least as I understand your change experience).

    I am asking because maybe I don’t understand the purpose or principles and shouldn’t be commenting on what is going on here in your blog in general. That is all I mean by the above.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Having slept on my comments and post — there is something that strikes me between the eyes on the above about the struggle being difficult, making it more difficult than it is, God’s grace for the power to “say no” (which is essentially what it is) —

    If all of this is so:

    Why were you not celibate?

    It seems to me: and please correct me if I am wrong — you initially went to ex-gay ministries *because* you were having a difficult time staying celibate. O.K., no big sacrifice there. (*not* said sarcastically).

    But then, God revealed to you what you needed to change — thinking patterns (?), etc… and you were changed.

    It seems that we are talking apples and oranges here with possibly 2 comparisons. I am open to insights on this that maybe I am not getting. But as for now, that is how I am seeing the picture.

    Again, maybe this dovetails into the reason for being of your blog. Admittedly, I am not a blogger, so I do not know blogger “society” that well. So please forgive me there.

  19. Not-so-new reader says:

    Hi DM- Thanks for those two terrific posts on Haggard. You’re so accomodating…

    I too struggle with the *meaning* of heterosexualality/homosexuality, and this case is a fascinating example of the taxonomy of language in this field. I find myself concurrently disbelieving in the existence of true bisexuality of the male human, or at least that it is much less common than currently perceived (although its physical manifestation is obvious, how much of thius is a factor of the anything-that-moves prefernce of the male sexual centers?), while have longstanding, cyclic experience of profoundly bisexual prefence myself, which I suspect is distinctly more common than discussed. Add to this granular mess a layer of profound religious convinction along with an ironclad social necessity to be straight (as an evangelical pastor) in a subject like Haggard gives us the most fascinating opportunity to probe the differenet aspects of interaction between biological, spiritual, and social sexual preference and behavior. A great case, great posts.

  20. mary says:

    Regardless of what definition or resource is being used to define heterosexual and homosexual, let’s us remember that language is not static in it’s formation and meaning. So, it is my perpsective that when we define ourselves we come with a complete definition even if that means changing the old guard on words. Never before in history have we had such dialogue on our lives and we owe to further generations as well as to honor God with our truth of being, a dynamic definition of ourselves. So when I speak of being heterosexual it may not fit into the gay concept of heterosexual, or the OED, or Websters or the New American Dictionary and it may be that in so defining myself, I open new paths to new definitions of sexuality and understanding of sexuality as time marches on.

  21. Anonymous:

    Yeah… I don’t really know what to say. You seem to be looking for a clear message, or “overriding purpose” behind this blog. I don’t think I have one; I’m just thinking aloud here. Also, I don’t know who my target audience is, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t ssa strugglers in their 40’s and 50’s. I honestly wouldn’t presume to say much of anything to such people–what the heck do I know?

    As far as the details of my journey and what I did when and why…that gets super-complicated and would take us very far afield very quickly. But I think you might misunderstanding something: I sought out exgay ministries for encouragement and support on my celibate journey. You seem to have gotten the impression that celibacy didn’t work for me, so I went to exgays to try to become straight, and eventually it worked. Instead, what happened was that I was having a hard time with celibacy, so I sought support from exgays, and eventually the change thing kinda happened for reasons I don’t really understand at all.

    I’ll be revamping my “About” page so that it says more about where I’m coming from. That may be helpful to you. In the meantime, feel free to email me if you want to discuss this further. But that’s enough of this seriously off-topic discussion for this thread, okay? Thanks.

    Not-so-new Reader:

    Yeah, bisexuality is a whole conundrum on its own, isn’t it? Hmmmmm. That’s another topic to add to the pile.

    I started out with a sort of “No Bisexuals Allowed” policy when I was younger, because an aunt had told me “Stay away from them, they’ll just leave you for a man someday.” But it quickly became apparent that if I were going to be zero-tolerance on bisexuals, I was going to be pretty much just dating myself. I always found female sexual flexibility so perplexing. And then it finally got me too.

    I don’t know what I think about male bisexuality. I see what the studies say, how skeptical they are about it. Yet at the same time, I hear guys professing bisexual orientation, and I have a real soft spot for taking people at their word when it comes to their own experience. So…not sure what to do with that.

    Mary:

    Thanks for your thoughts. I’m totally open to changing the discourse, to using words differently. It’s not about allegiance to the old guard for me; rather, it’s simply about speaking in a way that people can understand. I think that means that any changes we make ought to be gradual and carefully explained. In other (i.e. not exgay related) contexts, when people are going to use words differently from the standard usage, they take the time to make that clear, so that everyone is on the same page. I guess I’m saying I wish we would do that. Similarly, it doesn’t bother me as much “within the exgay community”, when we’re speaking to each other. But if we’re speaking to people who don’t understand the local dialect, then I think there’s an obligation to communicate clearly with them. That’s all I’m trying to say. I agree with you totally that we don’t want to be confined by the current concepts of sexuality and “sexual orientation” which are popular today. But I’d like to pursue that healthier, more godly self-definition without unnecessarily confusing others.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for answering my question about your celibacy, DM, or lack thereof. I honestly did not think that you intended to. It took courage and humility to do so. I probably did misunderstand what happened — kind of like the title of that old movie, “Something funny happened on the way to” — whatever or wherever it was.

    Also, it takes fortitude and humility once again to say that you really don’t understand what happened to you — ie. how you became straight or attracted enough to your husband to marry.

    As far as not staying on focus is concerned — how much can *any* of us say about Ted Haggard? If we don’t know why we don’t change or do change — I wonder what any of us hope to accomplish in the greater Christian world with ruminating about all of this. But it is interesting at the very least.

    But, so be it that blogs are divided into topics. As I mentioned I am not a blogger. So maybe that in and of itself puts me far (or farther) afield of understanding the nuances of this genre.

    At any rate, I have enjoyed the commentary of the readers and yours of course. At the very least it is good to know that there are “others” — whatever “others” means. ;-) But that is another topic, too.

  23. [...] *The title is making fun of a notorious pamphlet by Paul Cameron, and should not be read as implying that the author seriously considers herself a heterosexual. [...]

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