Joe Dallas: “The Condition of Male Homosexuality”

December 19, 2007

(These are going to be pretty random and scatterbrained, mostly just a roughly fleshed out version of the sketchy notes I took and my reactions to them.  If you’re looking for highlights…I’d say those will be my reactions to Melissa Fryrear, Dale Dick Carpenter, and the Mike Haley / Jeff Johnston Q+A.)  

 IF you HAD to have a talk putting forward the standard developmental/reparative theory of male homosexuality, I don’t think you could get a much better talk than the one Dallas gave.

That’s a huge if, of course, but I want to start there.  This post is going to be devoted to the distinctives of Joe Dallas’ presentation on this subject.  I will deal with the developmental theories themselves separately.  It makes sense to me to do it that way, in part because I feel awkward “blaming” Dallas and Fryrear for the theories, and in part I want to address them more systematically than I can in a series of disjointed notes and comments on the speakers I heard.

 Dallas laid a decent groundwork, carefully distinguishing attraction (he used the word “orientation”) from behavior from identity.  I was pleased by this because I assumed that it meant the stage would be set for precise and honest discussions of sexuality throughout the rest of the day.  I assumed wrong, as most of the other talks suffered from the usual murkiness and confusion (exactly what about you has changed?  in exactly which respects are you no longer homosexual?)  but I don’t see that as Dallas’ fault. 

His discussion of biological vs. developmental factors was far more cautious and reasonable than what one generally hears.  He emphasized that for Christians, whether or not homosexuality is inborn shouldn’t really matter to us in deterimining our moral views on the subject.  He didn’t attempt to dismiss or refute biological/genetic theories (he called them “inborn theories”) in any way, and in fact one got the feeling he might be perfectly willing to accept that they might be true.  He did point out that in general the relevant studies haven’t been successfully replicated, and therefore so far there’s no powerful evidence that should compel us to adopt the “inborn theories.”  Which I think (I’m not an expert here) is true. 

Unlike Nicolosi, who I understand is quite big on universal generalizations, Dallas emphasized that the developmental picture is simply what they’ve frequently seen in their ministries and counseling, rather than what Science has Proven.  In this respect he came across as much humbler and saner than the “no exceptions” crowd.  He just said that he had observed the father-son relationship to be “problematic in a majority of cases.”  Of course, it’s still, um, “problematic,” to leap from this observation to an embrace of the developmental theory, but I was pleased by the display of humility nonetheless.

That’s what I appreciated most about his particular version of this talk.  Many exgays and exgay advocates I have heard often sound either indifferent to or incapable of understanding the various criticisms that have been thrown at their position over the years, in a way that generally makes me want to go bang my head against a wall.   It was great to hear from a guy who seemed aware that you just can’t run around saying that science shows that homosexuality isn’t inborn but is instead caused by a poor relationship with the same-sex parent and that anyone who believes otherwise has simply been duped by gay activists.    

The funny thing is he went on from there to simply present the developmental theory, as if none of his cautions and qualifications mattered.  I found this puzzling, and there are more and less cynical interpretations that can be put on it, but all I will say is that I found it really hard to understand.  Once you recognize that the theory probably doesn’t apply to 100% of cases, why would you devote 100% of your remaining time to talking about it?  Does Love Won Out have anything to offer the person or family who can’t find themselves in the developmental picture?  Along somewhat similar lines, I was surprised that a talk entitled “The Condition of Male Homosexuality” was devoted solely to discussing the causes of male homosexuality. 

 His particular description of the developmental factors which supposedly cause homosexuality was quite mild–nothing like the more sensational “Everybody’s been molested!” account put forward by Melissa Fryrear.  There was the usual flawed-relationship-with-Dad stuff, but none of the drama and none of the sordid tales of victimization.  You could imagine a parent wishing they’d done things a little differently after Dallas’s talk, but it would be hard to imagine them overwhelmed with horror, shame, or guilt.  I didn’t notice any absolute statments, nor did I notice him saying anything appalling about male homosexuality or gay men.  Contrast that with this report of Nicolosi’s performance.  If I were a gay man, I might have felt that some aspects of the talk were dumb, but I don’t think I would have felt insulted.

In closing, I’ll just mention two more concerns I had, places where I think Dallas was headed in the right direction but didn’t go quite far enough:

 1.  As I said above, Dallas was careful to belabor the point that the studies which suggest at least a partial biological/genetic origin have certain defects, have not been replicated, etc.  Yet he pretty much completely ignored the question of scientific support (as opposed to anecdotal support) for the developmental view.  It seems odd to me to offer a criticism of an opposing view that applies equally if not more so to your own.  To the best of my knowledge, the developmental-theory fans don’t even have a flawed, unreplicated study supporting their view yet.  (If they do, why aren’t they mentioning it?)  They dwell on the failure of science to fully support strictly biological/genetic theories, as if that in itself were support for their own theories.  Which hardly follows–the developmental theory doesn’t get to win by default!  I personally think (and this is a completely unjustified, unwarranted, unscientific, speculative opinion) that is quite likely that both the strict “inborn” and the developmental views are false. 

2.  Although Dallas acknowledged that the exgay advocates’ support for the developmental theories was based on their work with people who come to them seeking change, rather than a rigorous study, I would have gone further and pointed out some possible reasons why the self-reported childhood histories of people in exgay ministries/counseling may very well not to be representative of same-sex attracted people generally.

For one thing, it’s a self-selected group of people who are choosing to participate in ministries/counseling which are known hold to the developmental theories. I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that those who spend any time in exgay ministry or counseling are more likely to feel (or at least hope!) that developmental theories fit them.  After all, those who don’t feel they fit are likely to consider those approaches and the ministries that offer them a waste of time. For another thing, I would suggest that exgay ministries/counseling have a tendency to encourage a certain perception of one’s childhood experiences and parental relationships. Speaking personally, I know that I was coached to look at myself, my childhood, and my parents in a certain way by the exgay movement. Now, they might just be helping us to see what’s really there. Or they could be leading us to make a big deal out of all the ordinary imperfections of children and parents, and in some cases perhaps even something more unhelpful than that.  Anyway, my point is that there are excellent reasons for being skeptical of drawing conclusions about gays in general from observations of those who seek out and attend exgay ministries/counseling.  I think that being fully honest would require bringing this out clearly.


Jones and Yarhouse Study Results: 38% “Success”

September 13, 2007

 The “big news:” 

Exodus can describe 38 percent of its programs’ participants as successes, changing to either a “meaningful but complicated” heterosexuality (15 percent) or a stable chastity (23 percent).

Two articles from Christianity Today:

The Best Research Yet

An Older, Wiser Ex-Gay Movement

( Yikes!  I’m becoming one of those “link-y” people. )

Yes, criticism and concerns will follow.  But not right now.  All I will say now is that “meaningful but complicated heterosexuality” made me laugh out loud.  🙂

Trying to Write About Exgays vs. Exexgays

July 7, 2007

(I’m going to use the word “exexgays” instead of “exgay survivors” in this post and the ones that will hopefully follow it.  “Survivors” is just too weird for me.  I mean, if they’re the survivors, what does that make me?  A mortally wounded victim, with only a few gasps of life left in her?  A corpse?  A zombie?  Or am I a survivor too?  I honestly don’t mean this snarkily–it’s genuinely perplexing to me.  I’m not criticizing them for their terminology.  I understand why they use it given their perspective.  I’m just trying to explain why I don’t feel comfortable using it myself, given my perspective.)

So, watching the fur fly in the Drama of the Dueling Conferences has left me with this burning desire, which I am kind of preemptively regretting, to do some posts on exgays and exexgays and how we (often don’t) get along. 

It’s kind of a scary topic for a bunch of reasons: 

1. For many of us exgays and exexgays, the choice between exgay or exexgay has been one of the most difficult and pivotal decisions of our lives.  We all know this ain’t trivial stuff.  So this question of exgay vs. exexgay is one which we can be very sensitive about, especially around those who chose diffierently than we did.  None of us really like to have that agonizing choice we made questioned again, even if we’re happy now and don’t really think of ourselves as folks who care what other people think. 

The easiest way to piss off an exgay is pretty much identical to the easiest way to piss off an exexgay–start criticizing and questioning and challenging their decision to take the road that they did.  (I say this as someone with life experience pissing both kinds of people off.)  One of the few times in my adult life that I have ever completely lost my temper and said terrible things to someone was in an extremely heated argument with an exexgay whom I considered a friend, and he lost his temper even worse and said worse things to me.  We set each other off with low-blow insults regarding how we came to our current beliefs and life choices. 

2.  I have watched so many people I care about deeply go exexgay in my nine years as an exgay, and it hurts.  A quick count-off of the ones I can remember off of the top of my head uses up all my fingers and gets a good part of the way through my toes.  And those are only the ones I have watched turn exexgay–it doesn’t count any of the many people I have met as exexgays.  I’m going to go into more detail in a later post, but here I will just say that watching people you love and/or look up to turn exexgay can be really hard and painful for the exgays “left behind.”  I’m not sure I would have used the tone Alan Chambers did in his post, or said quite the same things that he did, but…his hurt is not alien to me.  Which makes it kind of hard to write about this stuff.

In fact, a few minutes ago I just got reminded of how powerfully emotional it can be.   Running down my list of exexgays, I wondered about one of them from way back in my past, who I hadn’t really been in touch with since he told me over coffee seven or eight years ago he was done with the exgay thing and had gotten himself a boyfriend.  A bit of google sleuthing dug him and his blog up, and he’s apparently back on the straight and narrow, and a husband and a father to boot!  Now, of course I’m not stupid enough to think that means that it’s all necessarily sunshine and roses, but I’d be lying if I told you that a wave of relief and delight didn’t wash over me at the thought of a prodigal son returning home. 

3.  We are soooooo frighteningly similar.   It’s been pointed out that vocal exexgay critics of the exgay movement are difficult for exgays to handle because they know what we’re all about.  (As opposed to ignorant straights or gays who have never done the ex-thing.)  I’d agree with that, but I would point out that that’s a two way street–exexgays have an unusual amount of insight into exgay life and experience; and exgays also have an unusual amount of insight into at least some aspects of exexgay life and experience.

We have both “been there” in a lot of respects.  All exexgays by definition were once exgays, but many exgays have also tried the exexgay path as well, at least dabbling in it. (Many exgays are really exexexgays, or exexexexexgays, etc.)   Most if not all of the exgays I have known questioned the exgay path and explored their alternatives at some point in their lives.  It’s not like it has never occurred to us that we could be doing something different with our lives!  🙂  We probably don’t know everything about what it’s like to be exexgay, but we know quite a bit. 

I’d suggest that our relationship is sometimes uncomfortable and antagonistic precisely because we understand each other so well, we have so much in common, so much shared experience, and yet in spite of that an enormous chasm of disagreement still divides us.  And we wrestle with that, as we encounter our doppelgängers on the other side.  How can you be so like me and yet so unlike me, so close and yet so far? 

In the same year, for example, the notorious Christine Bakke and I connected with the same two exgay ministry leaders, who inspired/led us (completely independently of each other) to take up exgay journeys.  Today, here I am, and there she is.  What happened? 

There are some neatly packaged easy answers, of course.  You could say that our paths diverged because I loved God and she didn’t.  Or you could say that our paths diverged because she had integrity and courage and I am simply a weak-willed, cowardly, self-loathing, self-deceiving little weasel of a dyke.  No doubt there’s much to be said in favor of that second hypothesis, but ultimately I think they’re both cop-outs.  As exgays and exexgays, we often have a hard time grappling with the reality of each other’s lives.  We want to tidy up each other’s stories so they fit more neatly with our own. 

And sometimes we feel like we know each other so well that we imagine we know everything about each other.  I’ve heard exexgays speak very presumptuously about what this or that famous exgay is really feeling or really thinking, as if they could read their minds.  It’s a little arrogant, but it’s perfectly understandable–they sense so much commonality between their own experience and the exgay experience that it’s hard for them to keep from going all the way and assuming that they know us better than we know ourselves.  And I will personally confess that I often go through the same exact struggle with exexgays.  I feel so much empathy, so much fellow-feeling, so much commonality with them, sometimes it is a real temptation to edit what they say about themselves and their experiences, using my own interpretation instead, because I think I know better.  “Hmmm…I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that movie,” I think to myself.  “He just didn’t get that part, or he just isn’t remembering it correctly.” 

So, all those difficulties duly noted, here’s the plan for future posts on this whole exexgay question:

I’ll start out by giving some background which should help explain why I feel so much empathy with exexgays.  People often get the wrong idea when they see me happily married now.  They think I was just some bisexual girl who casually and conveniently switched to men once she got religion.  But as regular readers (and old friends) will know, that’s not how it went down at all.  To say that the first three years of my exgay journey did not look very promising would be a colossal understatement. 

I then hope to share my view of the exgay path and exgay ministry and the potential harms and suffering involved, speaking primarily from my own experience.  (I do not feel it is my place to tell someone else what did or did not happen to them or hurt them.)  I know I’ve touched on this here and there, but given that so much of this conflict is about people getting hurt, I want to take the time to just look specifically at that question and explain my view.

After that, I want to do a pair of posts on “Their Pain” and “Our Pain”.  You’ll understand better what I’m getting at when you see them, I think.  I have struggled as an exgay with how to respond to the pain that exexgays report (i.e., “Their Pain”), as well as with the pain that their choices can create for us (i.e., “Our Pain”).  In both posts, I want to focus on my responsibility as an exgay woman to treat exexgays well and respond to them in a way that respects them and glorifies God.

And finally, I want to talk about where we can go from here.  That’ll be hardest because I’m not sure what to say yet.  Maybe it will come to me as I work through the others.  Those who know me know that I am dedicated to dialogue and promoting peace in the culture war.  But exactly what that should like between exgays and exexgays, people with a lot of baggage and a lot of common history and a lot of intense disagreements, is a really tricky question to answer.  With any luck I’ll have something to say about dialogue and working together, what sorts of unity and relationship I think are posssible and what sorts I think just aren’t. 

Okay, so that all sounds rather ambitious given that I’ve been averaging a post or two a month and haven’t finished replying to everything that needs replies in my inbox yet, and I’m going to be working even harder in my “real life” in the coming days/weeks than I have been.  But hey, I can dream.  And they’re all at least two-thirds written except the last one.

For those who think exexgays are boring, garden-variety apostates, um, there will probably be other posts interspersed on change and identity and stuff.  And to some degree you’ll just have to put up with me and my personal obsession with mutual understanding and respect and being willing to hear and learn from each other. 

WIFGI 4.2: Why Hating the Church Was a Bad Thing

May 30, 2007

(continued from 4.1

(Quick note:  I’m mostly concerned with only one facet of the church in this post–the church as our spiritual family, as the local fellowship of believers who we shouldn’t forsake meeting with, the Hebrews 10:25 sort of thing.  I’m dwelling on the affection/camaraderie/fellowship aspect of the church here because that’s what I had trouble with.  I wasn’t turned off by the sacraments, or by the Word preached, or by the other aspects of corporate worship offered to God–I was turned off by the people, by my brothers and sisters.  Similarly, I’m dwelling on the local (i.e., late 20th and early 21st century American evangelical) aspect of my church experience because that’s what I had trouble with.  I didn’t have issues with the church in all the richness of her global, historical, and cultural diversity–I had issues with the people sitting on my right and on my left .    All that’s just to say, yes I know the church is bigger than the ragtag bunch of evangelicals who happened to be in my immediate vicinity, and yes I know that church is about more than just family and fellowship.  I’m just talking about what’s relevant here.)

I’m not sure when exactly I realized that the situation I describe in the previous post was a problem that was going to have to be dealt with.  I mean, I knew from the beginning that I was supposed to see Christians as my spiritual family and love them as such, and while I still could and should be friends with gay non-Christians, that I was supposed to be somehow different now, not quite as much one of them as I used to be, a little bit alienated even.  But that was just a bullet point in a long list of dogmas that I theoretically accepted but had no idea how to make real in my life.   Gradually, some little annoying problems in my Christian life grew bigger and bigger, until I was pushed to confront them.

1.  Alienation from and hatred of the church left me vulnerable to attacks on my faith.

My alienation from the church and my dislike of straight believers was a vulnerability that Satan (and my sinful heart, for that matter) exploited time and time again.  I heard lots of little whispers in my soul asking what I was doing with those stupid Christians and their Christ anyway.   “Look how shallow they are!  Look how naive and innocent they are, so out of touch with the real world!   That one actually believes the universe is less than ten thousand years old!  Look how lame they are, all the things they don’t do, all the words they can’t use, all the movies they won’t watch!  Some of them don’t even kiss their boyfriends/girlfriends!  Look at what passes for music and art in their sight!  You don’t belong with these people.  This certainly isn’t the God or the religion for you–could these pathetic people have any handle on divine truth?”

Satan never got me to flat-out doubt my faith this way, but he sure got me to waver.  He got me to lose my fire and passion for God. He got me to grow lax in my spiritual disciplines, which gave him countless more opportunities to assault and weaken me.  He got me to skip Sunday services and Bible studies and fellowship gatherings.  If he can’t make you doubt, he will settle for making you ashamed, and I found that being ashamed of my brothers and sisters quickly spilled over into being ashamed of my Father and His Son, the firstborn among many brethren. 

I just couldn’t separate Jesus from His Christians so neatly, loving Him and loathing them.   After all, He is the one who is supposedly working in their lives, so whatever I think about them and their lives reflects in some way on Him. The church is what the Holy Spirit has to show for Himself.  Worst of all, Christ has fixed his love on these fools and delights in them, and is commanding me to do the same!  If my heart is to be conformed to His, then I must love what He loves.  So hating the imperfect church and loving the perfect Jesus, while so very appealing at first glance, was not a tenable long-term policy.  Either the hatred of the one breeds a hatred for the other, or the love of the one breeds a love for the other. 

By love of the church, I don’t mean that I ought to pretend she’s better than she is, to ignore her faults and go on vapidly cheerleading no matter what.  But I mean that I ought to look at her sin maybe a little bit like how God looks at my sin–with compassion rather than disgust, with sorrow rather than schadenfreude, with a desire to see repentance and redemption rather than final judgment.  I serve a God who does not delight in the death of the wicked.  And most importantly (and here the analogy to how God looks at my sin goes right out the window), I must look at her sin as my sin.  There is no major sin in the straight church that doesn’t have a home in my own heart.  (And yes, the reverse is true as well–but the refusal of the straight church to realize that and come to terms with it doesn’t relieve me from my obligation to stand with her in humility.) 

2.  I needed TO love in order to obey God and in order to grow.

The exgay literature told me that I needed the love of Christians, that I needed to be loved by them.  I never found that very motivating.    Let’s face it, the church wasn’t overtly gushing with love for me, so if I urgently needed love right then, the most efficient way to get it wouldn’t have involved her.   I’d be better off getting my love elsewhere, or just sucking it up and doing without.  The church at least initially was far more likely to provide me with relational frustration and disappointment than anything else!

What worried me more was realizing that I needed Christians in order to love THEM.  You can see this even in the quote from my residential program application at the beginning of the last post.  The Bible’s clear message that we ought to love and serve and bless our fellow believers was starting to weigh on me and keep me up at night.   Jesus’ statement about who His brother and sister and mother are.  Paul on doing good especially to those who are of the household of the faith.  1 John’s constant emphasis on the importance of loving our brothers.  The very metaphor of family and household itself stresses the importance of this relationship.     The Bible of course doesn’t suggest that we should love only believers…but it does give them a huge place of priority.    “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Of no other behavior or action does Jesus say this, to my knowledge.  He doesn’t say “People will know you are Mine by how you care for the poor, or by how boldly you proclaim the gospel, or by how chastely you control your sexuality.”  He says that the sign of His disciple is his love for the other disciples.   (I can’t remember who brought this to my attention first, but I suspect they got it from Francis Schaeffer.) What good was it doing me to fret over my struggle for sexual obedience if I was going to blatantly ignore the love of my fellow believer that mattered so much to Christ? 

Not only that, but I also needed the church to help me fulfill the general command to love those outside the church, to love my neighbor (as opposed to my brother) as myself.  I believe God intends for us to minister to the world corporately, not primarily as lone-ranging do-gooders.  Mt. 25:35-36 is completely overwhelming and discouraging if it’s your personal, individual to-do list, as is Mt. 28:19-20.  But to get involved with the church in doing those things, while they’re still a lot of hard work, can be somehow encouraging and even energizing.  You’re a part of the Body of Christ, alive and active, advancing the Kingdom–not a severed pinky toe flopping around trying to make the world a better place.

One of the staff in the residential program would always say to me “A step of obedience, a step of healing.”  She meant that the two were the same thing, that it was a mistake to split them as we often do.  We think (or at least I thought):  “I need to get healed and grow in the faith so I can then go obey and serve and glorify God.”  But really, it’s through obeying that I grow.  And this was no less true in this matter of loving the church and serving with her than in anything else. 

Working with the church (and I include para-church ministies here), either by ministering to those within or serving those without, did two awesome things for me.  First, it forced me to stand in identification with the church.  Doing service or “outreach” in partnership with the church to those outside, when people saw me they saw me as the church.  At first, on the inside I felt like I didn’t belong, that I was nothing like the other Christians I was working alongside, that I would stick out like a sore thumb, an obvious impostor, but in my experience the unbelievers never noticed the difference!  However I felt about myself, they identified me as one of the Christians, as one of the church people.  Not only that, but when I got involved in ministry to other believers, they also saw me as the church blessing them.  And how others saw me powerfully influenced how I saw myself.  Furthermore, serving with the church crippled my ability to indulge myself in my old ultra-alienated stance.  She was my church now, not just a group I peripherally hung out with or a building I sat in.  With work came a sense of responsibility, and with a sense of responsibility came identification. 

Second, it forced me into a daily realization of my emptiness and need for Christ.  Nothing pressed me to seek more holiness and more of God than the sense of inadequacy that washed over me when I tried to serve others as a part of the Body of Christ.  The realization that these people, whether they were neighbor or sibling, needed me to show Christ to them, to channel the love of God to them in some way, smacked me upside the head with the awareness of how feebly I reflected Christ, how little of the love God had showered upon me got passed on to anyone else.  (Uh, this is all still an ongoing thing for me, FYI.)  If you want to be spurred to grow in the faith, just try serving others with what little faith you have!  And the natural, God-ordained place to do this is in/with the church. 

3.  I needed allies who shared my faith and convictions.

For me The Fellowship of the Ring breathed new life into the word “fellowship.”  It’s not about coffee hour and chit-chat after the service.  It’s about comrades on a dangerous and difficult shared quest.  If I wanted to take the quest seriously, I had to take my comrades and my need for them seriously as well.  

I have always had close non-Christian friends.  Truly awesome people, in whom God’s common grace shines brilliantly.   Friends of whom I most definitely have not been worthy.  I get pissed off when lifelong Christians who have always been cozily ensconced in the church declare that unbelievers are basically crappy people not worth getting to know. (Until you’ve saved them, of course!)  This is just ridiculous.  I don’t want to deny the power of the Holy Spirit and the work of God’s special grace in the lives of believers, but at the same time I refuse to deny the love and the goodness in the unbelievers I have known.  If you like having me around, sure you can thank Jesus, but you’d also better thank my heathen friends for saving my sorry ass on more occasions than I care to count. 

And unbelieving friends are a special blessing on this path because they can give you a sort of “reality” check.   So, for example, when I started dating Mr. DM, I was really anxious.  It sure felt like love to me…perhaps with a slightly different tint or flavor than love as I’d known it before…but powerful nonetheless.  But how could I know?  Maybe my mind had finally cracked, maybe I had fallen to desperate self-deception and denial.  It seemed unlikely, as the months and years immediately preceding had been ones of increasing peace and contentment in celibacy, but the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, so who knew?  My Christian friends were so excited for me and were sure it was the real thing, but they were hardly unbiased.

Then I got together with an old friend (like, since-my-pre-conversion-days old friend) who knew me incredibly well, but who had been out of town for a while and didn’t know the whole Mr. DM thing, which had happened so fast.  Over lunch, as she inquired what was new with me, I said, “Well, I kind of met somebody.”  “Girl or boy?”  “Uh, boy.”  As I stammered out a brief description of him and what he was like, she scrutinized my face, my mouth, my eyes.  And all of a sudden she squealed and interrupted me, “Oh my God, look at you!!! You’re IN LOVE!!!!!” 

The point is, her random exclamation did more to reassure me than anything a fellow Christian could say.  In general, when I’m doing crazy things related to my faith, I like having one of the heathen to process it with.  A second opinion, an outside perspective, etc.  Even if they think I’ve completely lost my mind.  (Which I suspect they mostly do, although they’re very nice about it.)  So yeah, hip-hip-hooray for the unwashed!

But…when unbelievers were pretty much the only friends I had, it was too easy to escape from the pressure of my convictions.  I could take off my “Christian hat” around them, and they wouldn’t care.  In fact, I was eager to set my faith aside, so I could feel closer to them, just like we used to be–I hated having that sliver of difference between us.  I only needed to put on my “Christian hat” for church and the exgay group and possibly for campus fellowship meetings when I bothered to go.  Those scant hours of superficially playing the Christian could not compete with all the rest of my time spent engaging energetically and authentically with unbelievers.  The company I kept influenced me.  They weren’t trying to, but it was sort of inevitable.  I wasn’t growing much in the faith, I wasn’t becoming much of a Christian.  It was sort of like trying to diet by eating salads for lunch and junk food the rest of the day.

As someone who felt convicted that homosex is sin, and trying to live that out in obedience to God, I needed friendship, community, and fellowship that made me stronger in living the life I felt called to, not weaker.   I don’t merely mean the specific and intentional things Christians could do to help me:  pray for me, offer spiritual counsel, talk about the Scriptures, etc.  All they really had to do was to just be with me to have an effect, just as my non-Christian friends just had to be in order to influence me the other way.  Being the sort of relational chameleon that I am, just hanging out with Christians helped enormously to strengthen my faith.   It encouraged me to wear my “Christian hat” more of the time.  And specifically regarding this struggle, it was great to have people who were on “my side.”  I didn’t need them to be experts on homosexuality or anything.  But it was a relief just to be able to look at the faces around me on certain occasions and know that each one thought I was doing the right thing.  Maybe that means I’m too much of a people-pleaser, but I don’t think so.  It’s just that when you’re constantly under a barrage of opinion that tells you you are making the biggest mistake of your life, it’s reassuring to know that some people think that what you are doing is sensible and right.  It took the edge off the isolated lunatic feeling that haunted me.  Sometimes we might have to go it alone in life, take on the world as a minority of one, but why put ourselves in that position when there are allies to be had?

And I needed to be in touch with believers who were having their own struggles, both similar to and different from my own.  I needed to be reminded that I wasn’t the only one fighting a spiritual battle, the only one trying to swim upstream against a ferociously swift current.  Sometimes it helped me to think of us as taking on sin as a team.  I was more encouraged to make holy choices in my own life if I knew that my brother D was fighting hard in his struggle against pornography and my sister K was confronting her spiritual apathy and laziness and my brother T was making war on his own greedy lust for Stuff.  Satan would have to fight us on many fronts!  More importantly, I needed the constant reminder that other believers struggle to avoid sinking into a morass of self-pity, the kind that says:  My own struggle is special, unlike anything recorded heretofore in the annals of Christian experience.  Resistance is impossible.  A cruel God has put me in this situation in order to laugh at me and finally doom me. Might as well give up now and go back to sinning, so I can at least have some fun on my way to hell.    What I realized from fellowship is that other people with other struggles could often see my situation more realistically and more hopefully than I could see it myself.  Similarly when I observed them overreacting and overdramatizing their own difficulties and struggles, it helped me realize that my own dark take on my struggle was distorted by despair, not an accurate perception.

4.  What mattered most to me?

I didn’t just come to worry about my gay identity and the inability to connect with Christian community that it caused for these practical reasons.  It also bothered me in principle.  What did it say about me and what mattered to me, that I found shared sexuality such a more powerful common ground and source of connection with other people than shared faith? 

I used to pay lip service to the doctrine that other Christians were my brothers and sisters.  But I didn’t feel it, and I sure didn’t live it.  On the other hand, while I accepted theoretically that gay people were no longer my tribe, my family, it still felt like they were, and I still lived like they were.  .  Homosexuality was far more important to me than Christianity in determining who counted as “kin,” who I enjoyed socializing with, what I liked chatting about.  I began to worry that this was an accurate barometer of where my heart was at, of what mattered to me.  (Isn’t that true in general?  What kind of Patriots fan would I be if all I wanted to do was hang out with Colts fans and rhapsodize about Peyton Manning’s brains and arm???)

There was a flash of recognition and excitement when I met a gay person, but nothing comparable when I met a Christian. I was generally unimpressed by those who shared my faith, especially if they weren’t gay or exgay.  It didn’t strike me as very interesting or significant that we believed the same things or worshipped the same God.   I remember complaining once that I couldn’t be expected to hang out with Christians when all I had in common with them was Jesus, as if He were somehow trivial, unfit to serve as a basis for conversation, connection, family. 

I’m not trying to repackage the exgay claim that people need to “grow into healthy relationships” with the hetero-attracted.  I’m just saying, if someone’s sexuality is always more important when it comes to determining how close you feel to them than their faith, I think it may say something about what matters to you; namely, that your sexuality matters more to you than your faith.  I understand that many people have mitigating and complicating factors—some have been abused and rejected by straight Christians, which would obviously make Christian fellowship harder for them, even if Jesus is way more important to them than their queerness.  But I know for myself it was a worthwhile question to ask.  I know for myself that as Christ and living a Christian life became more important to me, that my appreciation of the fellowship of believers (regardless of their sexuality) increased commensurately. 

If you had asked me seven years ago (i.e., a couple years after my conversion) whether I would rather be stranded on a desert island with 20 random gay non-Christians, or with 20 random straight Christians, I would have chosen the gays in a heartbeat, without any qualms.  If you asked me the question today, and if I were choosing purely based on comfort, I would ultimately choose the Christians, though probably not in a heartbeat.  It’s not that the gays are less appealing to me–heaven knows they aren’t!  But it’s just that the thought of living without Christians nowadays seems awful to me.  No one to pray with?  No one to study Scripture with, or to ask “Hey, what do you think this means?”  No one to sing hymns with?   No one to talk about God with, or the same God anyway?  No one to share my spiritual struggles with?  I’m not saying this should be a universal law or litmus test, but in my own life I think it was importantly revealing. 

I think early on my attitude was, “Hey, who cares how much I grow or how great a Christian life I end up living?  I’m saved by grace, aren’t I?  And sanctification is a lifelong process anyway, so what’s the rush?  I’ll live my Christian life as half-heartedly and half-assedly as I please!” But the problem I found is that the Christian life, lived half-heartedly, just plain sucks.  It’s the worst of both worlds–you end up losing the pleasures of the flesh (oh you can try to taste them again, and yeah there’s some fun there, but they just aren’t the same anymore), and you don’t get the joys of the Spirit that only come with a relatively pure and earnest devotion to Christ either.  I slowly learned the hard way that the world with its enticements had been ruined for me by my conversion, so if I was going to ever truly delight in life again, I was going to have to try the Christian way more seriously.  My life as I knew it had been lost, more or less; my only hope was that perhaps by losing it completely, Christ’s promise that I would find it again might be borne out.   Once I realized this, and consequently started to care more about my walk with God, I found myself naturally looking for spiritual brothers and sisters to grow with and learn from. 

WIFGI 4.1: How I Came to Hate the Church

May 30, 2007

Previous Installments:  (Part 1, Part 2Part 3).   

 Another character quality I would like to change is my fearfulness of and lack of love towards my brothers and sisters in Christ in general.  I don’t mean that I’m generally especially unkind or cruel or uncaring towards other Christians, or that I don’t cherish my few Christian friends.  But I have a tendency to be “pathologically shy”  (as one of my friends put it) around straight Christians…This fear keeps me from getting connected to the body of Christ, which I think is essential to my healing and growth, not to mention being essential to my obeying God’s commands to show love and kindness to my fellow believers. My hope would be that in a safe and loving community environment where I wouldn’t be terrified of judgment all the time, I could begin to overcome this.

 –from DM’s application to the residential program
(April 2001)


Reason #2:  My gay identity got in the way of my loving the church, and my identification with my brothers and sisters in Christ. 

(Okay, the length of this discussion got too unwieldy even for me, so I’m splitting it in half.  This post is about how my gay identity, my particular understanding of and attitude toward my sexuality, kept me from loving and identifying with the church.  The next post (WIFGI 4.2) will be about how I came to realize that this was a mistake.)

 Pre-emptive clarification:   I’m NOT saying we should abandon solidarity and empathy with gay people.

I believe that God has mercifully left us a blessing of common grace, in that we naturally feel a bond of empathy and connection with those who have life experiences and characteristics similar to our own.  It’s almost as though our fallen selfishness is tricked and cheated into loving and caring about others when we recognize something of ourselves and our experience in their lives.  I think it is a mistake to ignore or devalue the bond of common experience that we feel with other people who have homosexual attractions, and the fact that this will make us feel closer to them, and help us to more easily develop a comfortable rapport with them.  Am I so wonderful at loving others that I should forgo this instinctive, natural help?

So I find heinous the suggestion that homo-attracted people seeking to live chastely should cut off all feelings of empathy and solidarity with unrepentant gays.  Sometimes it sounds like conservatives would consider it ideal if we felt nothing towards gay people, if we just kind of looked past them with a glassy stare of non-recognition.  Or, worse, ideal if we primly cringed with disgust whenever we encountered someone or something gay, just like “normal” Christians would.  The thoroughly repentant homosexual, on this account, would react toward gay people and gay culture exactly like a straight person from the heartland who has never encountered either before in his life and is completely freaked out by both.

I have tried to be adamant here on this blog about the importance of not denying reality—the reality of our past, present, and likely future.  Based on the experiences that we have had, are having now, and are likely to have more of in the future, as human beings we are going to feel intuitive empathies towards some people more than others.  I don’t see the point in trying to destroy those, and moreover I believe it would be downright evil to do so.  If I have been blessed with insights into certain aspects of what it’s like to be human in this crazy fallen world, I shouldn’t try to blind myself to them in order to “normalize” myself.

So, when I loved gays more than my Christian brothers and sisters (yeah I know there’s overlap, but I’m talking about groups here!), my problem was not that I loved gays too much, but that I didn’t love Christians enough.   Picture me jumping up and down and waving my arms over this point:  This post is not about loving gays less or cutting oneself off from them, this is about me removing barriers in my heart that kept me from loving hetero Christians, from embracing my Christian family and my identity within the covenant people of God, within the church.

Background–my feelings about the church, and how they got there

I hardly knew anything about evangelicals when I became one. 

I had grown up occasionally seeing them on TV and reading about them in the news, usually with a bug up their rear ends about “homosexuals and lesbians.” They had their own funny way of saying it which I can’t really imitate, where they packed the words with maximum disgust, sounding meaner than the worst antigay slur, and yet at the same time they savored the words, like they were rolling them around in their mouths and finding them delicious. I thus had rather strong impressions of them as this frighteningly vast but largely invisible population of stupid fanatics, perversely and creepily fascinated by gay sex, who had declared themselves My Enemy.  I had literally no idea what they believed about Jesus Christ, except that it seemed that being “born-again,” whatever that meant, was very important.  (But not, apparently, as important as not being gay!)

I never met any evangelicals personally until college.  And even then, as you can probably imagine, I didn’t really move in the same circles as they did.  With the exception of a small number of ssa (affirmingly gay, celibately gay, and exgay) believers I met on campus and online–the people who actually led me to Christ–most of what I knew about evangelicals came from horror stories told by gays.  So my conversion meant joining a group that scared the !@#% out of me.  Despite the sameness of our faith, I was always conscious that I wasn’t one of them, that I was Other, a stranger in a strange land.  I felt doubly alienated, piling exile upon exile, not like a long-lost child who had found her way home. 

Was some of this straight evangelicals’ fault, their failure to sufficiently welcome me, include me, reassure me, and respect me?  Perhaps.  I will say that the reception I got walking into gay campus activities for the first time as a freshman was far warmer than the one I got walking into Christian campus activities for the first time (or the second, third, fourth, or fifth times) as a junior.  There’s no getting around that. 

But in hindsight I’ve come to see that a sizable chunk of this alienation was self-inflicted.  My gay identity hardened and thickened from social exposure to straight evangelicals.  I became extra-mindful of my differentness in their presence.  Hanging out with them provided me with endless opportunities to feel misunderstood, to get offended, to bristle with indignation on account of my gayness, and I rarely passed up any of those.  If they misstepped in their interactions with me and offended me, they were to blame for being such dumb bigots; if I misstepped in my interactions with them and offended them, they were to blame for being so incomprehensibly weird and oversensitive.  Heads I won, tails they lost.

I got into a feedback loop of refusing to give straight Christians a chance.  It went something like this.

  1. I’d start out with a suspicion/dislike of heteros.
  2. As a result of (1), at predominantly hetero Christian activities, I’d be closed off and aloof, maybe even disdainful.  But with queer people, I’d be warm and friendly, feeling at ease.  (Well, relatively speaking at least.  I’m socially awkward whoever I’m with!)
  3. As a result of (2), I’d get to know the gay people much better than the straights.  I’d know about their troubles and burdens and joys and complexities of life.  In contrast, I wouldn’t know much about the heteros, because of the distance I’d helped to put between myself and them.
  4. As a result of (3), I’d conclude that gay people had rich inner lives, and were authentic and friendly, while hetero Christians were simple, shallow, fake, and probably homophobic, reinforcing (1), which would start the loop again. 

Many ssa Christians have painful stories of rejection by the straight church.  I have no such story, because I never gave them a chance to reject me, but I didn’t hesitate to assume that they would if they could.  I was constantly judging the Christian community like this, comparing them to the superior instances of gay community I had known.  Of course, all that did was make me miserable about being condemned by my conversion to spend the rest of this life and all of eternity (!!!) with these people

I couldn’t let go of seeing them as The Enemy–wasn’t that my birthright as a dyke?  I couldn’t let go of being an outsider looking in (and down!) on them–wasn’t that another birthright, another privilege of my kind?  I groaned at the thought of having to trade my sexy queer alienation for lame-o Christian alienation–not being of the world, being hated by the world, having my citizenship in heaven.   Going from dyke to Christian (and the tackiest kind of Christian to boot!) was taking a huge step down in the eyes of those whose opinions mattered to me. 

You might think that connecting with the homo-attracted believers who had led me to faith in Jesus would have gradually warmed me up to the broader church, so I could make the transition to general Christian fellowship.  But you’d be wrong.   In fact, the same-sex attracted Christians, in my experience, were almost always communally seething about the foibles and failures of the straight church, which actually made me more rather than less scornful and distrustful.  Not having any fondness for straights or Christians in general to begin with, I joined right in their seething with them.

To hear us talk, you would’ve thought we were all the older brother, the “good son” in the parable, the less-enlightened heteros all prodigal sons.  Look at how those straight Christians screw it all up.  Look at what hypocrites they are.  Look at the rampant rates of divorce and adultery among them.  Look at how greedy and materialistic and selfish they are.   Look how they fail to love as Christ loved.  Look at their ignorance and bigotry.

This is, of course, eminently understandable.  Many homo-attracted folks have been hurt and overzealously scrutinized and judged by straight Christians, and the latter surely do fall short in the above and many other ways.  This makes the delicious revenge of judging them as harshly and condescendingly as they have judged us incredibly tempting.  But by obsessing about the sins and the unworthiness of straight Christians–particularly those I didn’t know at all except as stereotyped bogeymen– I was making the same pharisaical mistake they do when they obsess about other people’s homosexual sin.  I was succumbing to the same weakness that devoured them, that of finding another man’s sin problem more urgent and more fascinating than my own. Perhaps turnabout is fair play, but at least in my more level-headed moments, I’d rather have the gospel than turnabout. 

This attitude of judging the straight Christians and dwelling on their shortcomings (while ignoring the extent to which I shared their shortcomings) was of course antagonistic to real fellowship, to my ever feeling part of the larger church.  I was, after all, attempting to focus on how they were different from me, how they were worse than I was.  This made identification with them as my brothers and sisters pretty much impossible.

There’s a saying I heard, adored, and often repeated to myself during this time: “The church is like Noah’s ark:  if it wasn’t for the storm outside, there’s no way we could stand the stink inside.”  I dwelt on the stink, on everything I didn’t like about my “normal” fellow evangelical Christians and their culture and their quirks, all the while patting myself on the back for being so humbly and graciously willing to share a church, a faith, and a Lord with them.  It never occurred to me there was a problem with this attitude–in fact I genuinely thought it rather devout–until I wondered one day what it would be like if the shoe were on the other foot.  What if we imagine an extremely conservative hetero, homophobically uncomfortable with the repentant exgays in her church?  How would I feel if she repeated that saying to herself, thinking of me?  “Well, I’d get away from this nasty dyke if I could (this many years after her supposed “conversion” and she still can’t be bothered to wear makeup or proper shoes or carry a purse?!) but unfortunately, I really need the grace I can find only in Christ Jesus, so I guess I’ll just have to suffer her presence in the pew.  Lord, give me strength.”

While I don’t think that sort of attitude is good for any Christian, it had an especially devastating effect on me as a new convert.  See, most of these homo-attracted Christians I was hanging out with, especially the loudly griping ones, had been raised in the church.  So they spoke about it as angrily as they did in part because their frustration was built on a foundation of love of the church, or if not love of it, at least identification with it.  It was a conflicted relational squabble—something like a lovers’ quarrel, or perhaps a teenager’s frustration with his parents’ evident stupidity, unfairness, and uncoolness.  A lot of anger and ugly emotion, but ultimately built on a sense of identification and relationship, a family fight.  But for me, babe in the faith that I was, I had no context in which to put their anger and frustration in which I joined so enthusiastically.  There was no foundation of love, no background of identification, no sense of family.  My attitude toward the church wasn’t conflicted.  It was one of frightfully pure disgust and hate, and nursing my gay grudge against the straight church only fueled that hate.  Sure, I would make occasional exceptions to the rule, deeming decent those few hetero believers who bent over backwards to love me and bless me despite my frosty and prickly initial response to them.  But nothing they could do changed my attitude toward “the church” one bit.

(Incidentally, this is precisely how bigotry and prejudice work.  Every time you meet up with a counter-example to a generalization about a particular group, you ignore it or explain it away as an exception that doesn’t really count, rather than rethinking your generalizations.  For years it never occurred to me that maybe I was slightly wrong about straight Christians, despite encountering some flamingly obvious examples of awesome ones, and despite almost never having been personally mistreated by any.) 

So that was how I felt about my new Christian family, thanks to my gay identity.  I’m not saying that other kinds of identities can’t have a similar effect, or that gay identity would do the same thing to everyone.  But this being my story, that’s how it went.

Note:  I am very much aware that much of the straight church (individually and corporately) HAS treated ssa/gay people awfully.  I don’t want any of what I say above to be taken as a diminishment of that.  So, please…I’m not trying to minimize or divert attention from the very real and terrible wrongs that lie behind gay anger, frustration, and bitterness with the church.  That’s not what this is about.  All I’m saying is that given my particular experience, the emotional atmosphere of gay/ssa Christian circles in this regard was toxic as all get-out for me.  And that this is a problem.  However screwed up the (predominantly straight) church is, if Jesus is our Lord, then she is our family, and somehow we’ve got to work it out. 

(go onto part 4.2)

Why I Forsook Gay Identity, Part 3: Openness

April 12, 2007

(Okay, enough groundwork.  The rest of this series will be spent discussing five reasons why I gave up my gay identity, one reason per post.  The posts are arranged so that they should get increasingly interesting as the series progresses, so if you think this one is stupid, you can just check out right now and come back later.)

Reason #1:  My gay identity made me less open to the will of God.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an identity that acknowledges where we are at, that says, “This is who I am, this is how I feel, this is what my life looks like right now.”  That’s why I balk at the exgay tendency to deem any sort of gay identity a “false identity.”  There is nothing false, in my opinion, about coming to terms with the fact that you are attracted solely to people of the same sex, as well the ramifications that has had on your past and is likely to have on your future.  Our sexuality does influence us powerfully, and it is a significant chunk of who we are, and denying that seems to be the sort of thing that always comes back to bite us.

So, as I see things, a valid Christian gay identity might say “You know, the fact that I like chicks is part of the reality of my life today.”  It would be an identity that’s like a tent we pitch in a place that looks good to spend the night.  For me, however, gay identity was more like a lovely mansion that I had done up real nice on the inside, that I would never dream of leaving.   I was settled, I was comfy.  I didn’t merely see same-sex attraction as my present reality, I saw it as my destiny.

Let me try to explain a little. I have this general tendency to fall in love with the idea of myself as a certain sort of person, even to the point where I do things in order to conform to that idea, out of fidelity to it.  

Sometimes this is good.  Being deeply invested in my sense of myself as a loyal and honest person helps me do the right thing when my rather limited stores of virtue wouldn’t do the trick on their own.  I often find myself rejecting a sinful course of action not only because it’s wrong, but also because I have this conviction that DM just isn’t the sort of person who does things like that.  Sometimes it’s just silly.  I started listening to Bach not so much because I liked him, but because I thought of myself as a person who would listen to Bach.  (Now I love his music in its own right.)  The same goes for buying my first leather jacket–I didn’t really want a leather jacket, but my DM-ideal wore one, so I had to get it.  And sometimes it’s downright pernicious.  I like to see myself as a physically tough person who never gets hurt.  So I am notorious for brushing off and ignoring various injuries, so that little things become very serious, all because of my stupid devotion to an idea of myself as somebody who doesn’t feel pain. 

When it looks like I might have to give up or change things in a way that threatens my cherished idea of myself, I get really ticked off.  For example, I love my pessimism.  I love that while other exgays see their experience of attraction change as a comforting token of God’s favor, I look at mine suspiciously, waiting for the other shoe to drop, thinking there’s gotta be a catch.  I love how intensely brooding I can get.  I love how I so often find myself pleasantly surprised with life, simply because it would be astoundingly difficult for the world to underperform relative to my gutter-level expectations.  So when I recently read in a book about pregnancy (I’m not, yet, by the way) that optimism in pregnant women correlates with healthier babies, and that moms-to-be should therefore “try to see that glass of milk as half-full,” I was furious.  I’m supposed to become one of those sunshiny people?  I wasn’t upset because I thought change would be impossible–I have no clue whether or not I could actually be an optimist if I tried–but I was upset because optimism just seems so beneath me, so unworthy of the ideal vision of DM that I have. 

My relationship to my gay identity was like that, only exponentially more intense.  That’s because it was something I had fought hard for, something I had labored to build, something I had achieved.  It had been a huge struggle to make sense of who I was and what I was doing here. When my queerness began to dawn on me (and everybody else!) at age eleven, I was confronted with tons of questions:  What did it mean that I liked girls in roughly the same way that the girls seemed to like boys, and what was I supposed to do with that?  What made my mom freak out about the way I instinctively dressed, walked, and acted, and what compelled her to keep trying (futilely) to make me over?  Why were the other kids asking me in between punches where my dildo was, and what the heck was a dildo anyway?

Over the years, I gradually worked towards an idea of what my feelings meant, of who I was supposed to be.  Learning at first from snippets of gay-related stuff in the mainstream news and on TV,  and later from gay books, gay music, and other queer kids, I somehow cobbled together an understanding of what it meant to be gay, and correspondingly invented myself as a dyke.  And I really, really liked the finished product.  I saw my queer existence as an impressive hard-won accomplishment, which in a lot of ways it was, and looked forward to spending the rest of my life enjoying it.  Even after Jesus crashed that party a few years later, I fought like crazy to hang on to whatever I could. 

I mentioned in the previous post in the series how I would have rejected a hypothetical miracle pill to make me totally straight.  This remained the case even years after I became a Christian and renounced homosexual sex and relationships.  (I would still reject such a pill today, though probably somewhat more politely than I would have then, but that’s a post for another day.)  Not only did I not desire attraction change, and the sorts of lifestyle that might go along with that, I found the prospect repugnant.  Sure, I wasn’t real thrilled with a probable future of lifelong celibacy, but there were certain depths to which I couldn’t imagine myself sinking. 

It wasn’t so much about hetero marriage’s evil patriarchal nature or anything like that.  It’s more that I just felt that heterosexual attraction, heterosexual relating, and marriage, should have absolutely nothing to do with me.  I mean, I was gay, after all.  Maybe I couldn’t be with girls, but I was still somehow special, somehow above intimate dealings with men and the messy business of breeding.  Heterosexuality, like optimism, was unworthy of me, and there was no place for it in my vision of who DM ought to be.  If an extraordinarily naive Christian acquaintance innocently asked if I had a boyfriend, I would go gripe to my Christian friends afterwards about the heterocentricity and marriage-idolatry of American evangelicalism.  How dare that silly girl think I might be involved with a MAN! 

But several of these friends eventually challenged me on this, suggesting that it was sinful to have such a dismissive attitude toward something that God had created and called “very good.”  It was fine for me to point out that I wasn’t attracted to any man, and that I would likely never be, and that in such a case singleness would make a lot of sense.  But I was going further than that.  I was personally scorning heterosexuality as being beneath me, as being entirely out of character for me, and in the absence of a clear divine call to celibacy, such an attitude was sinful.  If I loved God and trusted Him as God, they argued, then I ought to see heterosexuality and marriage–His creative intent for humanity–as beautiful, excellent things, and not just for those I looked down upon as “normal” women.  I didn’t necessarily have to marry, but I had to at least be able to raise the question for myself, to see myself as the sort of person who could marry a man, if the circumstances were right.

My friends’ arguments seemed plausible enough, so I decided that I needed to try to open up my heart to the possibility of heterosexual relating and marriage.  Not that I needed to seek those things or pursue them, and certainly not that I should enter into them without some significant changes occurring first. But just that I needed to be ready and willing, if direction and opportunity arose–in the same way that we ought to be open to any call from God.  That I should prayerfully consider the possibility that God might take me down such a path in my future.  That I should consciously and explicitly submit my own comfort in my exclusively homo-attracted state to His will for my life.  I didn’t need to be straight to be a Christian, but I needed to be willing to be straight, or married, or whatever, in the unlikely event that God should so will it.

I had already sought to make my heart open to go wherever God called me to go, in a literal, geographical sense.  (Many of my friends at the time were feeling the pull of overseas missions.) I had striven to make myself willing to do whatever God might call me to do in terms of work/career.  I had tried to ready myself to renounce whatever privileges God might ask me to give up for His sake, whether money, or prestige, or whatever.  But my attitude toward all things hetero stood in stark contrast to those postures of submission.  When I tried to contemplate the possibility that God might someday make me start to like a boy and call me to go the hetero marriage route, I watched my heart crouch defensively, its hackles raised and its teeth bared.  And to see that was to know that my gay identity had to get put down. 

As part of a broader commitment to letting the Bible interpret me, I had to see myself as a woman created by God, and therefore a candidate for marriage to a man, if God placed a suitable one in my life and so led me.  I could no longer see myself as a special kind of creature automatically guaranteed exemption from the heteronorms God had instituted in His creation, even though that was central to the conception of myself that I had fought so hard for and treasured for so long.

I would go even a little further and say that I came to the conclusion that I ought to desire heterosexuality and marriage.  Not that I necessarily had to spend time and money and effort pursuing them, especially when the available methods were of dubious efficacy, but simply that I had to see them as things I would welcome and delight in if they came my way.  I had always mocked the young straight women who dreamt of their future husbands, their Prince Charmings.  While there were no doubt elements of unrealistic escapist fantasy and idolatry in their reveries, I had to recognize that in their seeing marriage as a beautiful, eminently desirable thing, the sort of thing one could easily stumble into fantasizing about, their hearts and minds were more closely conformed to the heart and mind of God than mine were.  Similarly, I had always despised the older, thirty-something single women who were panicky about their prospects, priding myself on how superior I was to them in my attitude of self-denial and willingness to accept singleness.  While I was probably right that some of them had some serious contentment issues, I failed to realize that they were light-years ahead of me in their appreciation of the goodness of God’s design, their conviction that they were meant to have spouses and families, their sense that their singleness had something to do with the world being out of joint in some way.  Truly virtuous self-denial does not arise from a despising of God’s creation and blessings, from deeming worthless what He has called good.  Rather, it comes from acknowledging and rejoicing in the goodness of what God has made, yet being willing to lose all lesser goods for the sake of gaining Christ.  My gay-pride style of resignation to celibate singleness was no more pleasing to God than the most pathetic marriage idolatry of a straight woman; in fact, her inordinate love of a particular good was probably better than my having no love for it at all.

My gay identity thus proved to be a double impediment. It made me cling to my same-sex-attractedness, unwilling to consider the possibility of changes in my life that God might call me to, and thus made me less open to following wherever He might lead.  (This may not seem like such a big deal, but for me as a believer, one who professed to love Christ with all her heart, mind, soul and strength, it was incredibly distressing to realize that there was something I simply would not do for Him, something I would flatly refuse to give up if He dared to ask it of me.)  And it made me less open in another respect as well–it made me less able to receive what God had to say about who I was and who I ought to be.  It made me less able to embrace what I could see Scripture teaching about men, women, sexuality, and marriage.  Regarding those subjects, while my gay identity held sway in my heart, I could not truthfully say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

ack! (2 Points of Clarification)

April 12, 2007

1.   I should specify that this whole identity-forsaking saga thing, while not easily pinned to a particular instant in time, took place roughly two years before I fell in love with Mr. DM.  Otherwise, readers might think, “Well duh!  Of course your gay identity took a hit, because you fell for a guy!”  But it didn’t work that way at all.  While I wrestled with these issues, I was not aware of any significant bisexual potential.  I fully expected to live and die single, celibate, and totally same-sex attracted.  Renouncing gay identity with that sort of life outlook seems to me a very different matter than suddenly falling in love in a way you hadn’t quite planned for. 

2.  Peterson Toscano writes:

So interesting that now we have met, now I hear your humor in your posts.

Uh, for those who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting me, and therefore may not be hearing the (evidently inadequately conveyed) humor in my posts…it may help enhance your DM experience if you realize that I don’t take myself all that seriously.  Granted, I’m no comedian, and this blog isn’t meant to be slapstick hilarious anyway.  But you should know that when I write this stuff, most of the time I have a wryly amused smile on my face.