Friday, November 03, 2006

The bigger they come, the harder they

. . . tumble out of the closet.

In the end, the truth comes out. The incompetence and malfeasance of the Bush administration. And now the hypocrisy of one of the leading evangelical pastors and proponents of a a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage: Ted Haggard.

Many details are in dispute, but Haggard, until recently the head of the National Association of Evangelicals, and an evangelical leader with close ties to President Bush, has admitted buying methamphetamine and seeing a male escort/masseur at least once. The escort says it was much more than once: monthly visits for over three years. Haggard says he did not "have sex" with Michael Jones, the escort. (Check out the stories in the New York Times and The Advocate, which also has an interview with Jones. And Andrew Sullivan is blogging about it like crazy.)

Well, we don't know for sure, but Jones's story--that he recently saw Haggard on television and recognized him as his client, and then was so horrified to discover the damage he was doing to gay men and lesbians that he decided to out him--is plausible. And it is not implausible that Haggard could be trying to hold onto his family and his sense of internal consistency by narrowing defining what it is to "have sex." I'm well aware that many teenagers, for instance, don't consider anything but intercourse to be "sex." So you can have had countless orgasms with another person but as long as there was no intercourse, you are still a "virgin."

It's sad. Lots of anti-religious gay-rights folks are delighted. But as a gay formerly married man, who loved being married to a woman, who still loves his ex-wife, who loves his children, who loves being a family guy, I'm well aware of the pain involved for everyone. I tried throwing myself into fundamentalist Christianity, hoping Jesus could make me straight.

I can even imagine Haggard rationalizing his attraction to men as a weakness or temptation that he was unable to conquer and managed to keep in check by monthly relief. Many married, closeted men do something similar, with anonymous sex in bath houses, or with escorts, or with some regular sex buddy.

It's good that something like this brings a much needed jolt of reality into the moralistic evangelical fantasy that a religious belief and prayer and the quasi-therapy of ex-gay ministries can change someone's sexual orientation. If Haggard is indeed bisexual or primarily attracted to men, I hope he can develop a new self-identity which embraces and affirms his sexuality, and that he can use his many skills to help the conservative evangelical world move towards that same sort of acceptance and affirmation of gay men and lesbians, most crucially of young people who are discovering they are attracted to their own sex.

And I'd like to hope this might also jolt folks like Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and Jerry Falwell into realizing the great damage so much of what they have been preaching about homosexuality has done.

But I've given up on hoping about these folks.

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