Saturday, January 31, 2009

EX-GAY THERAPY....THEY MAKE YOU STRAIGHT ENOUGH TO SLEEP WITH A WOMAN, LONG ENOUGH TO BREAK HER HEART


Several have asked me what I think since the interviews with Ted Haggard have surfaced. I have often thought I should name this blog, "What I think." That might be more descriptive than even "My heart goes out." But even though I share my thoughts, I still feel a lot of compassion for the Haggard family.

I was only able to watch Oprah, where Ted and Gayle Haggard were the guests, and I've seen several clips on youtube. I wrote notes to help me keep track of all that they said, and I'm very close to the feelings that Gayle expressed. These are some thoughts...

The family of Ted and Gayle Haggard have been in a spotlight for years, and Ted was always gay. He built a mega-church, and he was gay. He preached, and organized, and inspired, and he was gay that whole time. Whether or not he was having gay sex, or whether or not it ever would have been reported, he was gay. God used him tremendously in building that church and as loved as he was with his congregants, he was always gay. He should have been 100% faithful to his wife, and there is where he failed. He did not fail in being attracted to men. He now admits both of those things to be true.

In sharing more of what I think, I have personally met with (and paid the big bucks for) 3 different psychologists. With the fourth and my main therapist (who never charged me anything, God bless you, Jane) I met over a period of several months in order to understand a lot of what I was going through. I've discussed with individuals and with couples what they go through when they are in a mixed-orientation marriage. One book that really helped me was by Amity Piere Buxton, "The Other Side of the Closet." The situations in that book showed how when one member moved OUT of the closet, it put the straight spouse INTO it. I have been in that situation, and I think I've said enough on this blog to share all that in other places.

I have read current material that is supported by the American Psychological Association. But I have never met the Haggards, so I only speak from my own experience.

But some counselors, in the exact opposite of any of the above authorities, as well as all of the professional medical trade associations, are those who call themselves reparative counselors (also known as X-gay therapists), and they say "there is no such thing as a homosexual, only heterosexuals with issues." These counselors, usually from conservative Christian backgrounds are doing what they can to keep together families that are coming to them with problems.

The Haggard family is seeing Ted's same-sex attraction from the view of these hopeful Christian counselors. I understand their thinking, and I know they are relying on to their fundamentalist theology. I have spoken with one other couple who I'm friends with, and this couple, too, is staying together. They say the same things and it sounds a little bit too canned for me. I suppose that is a solution that works for them, but it isn't my situation. I can understand that both couples are feeling that they are doing the right thing.

Back when Kinsey first made his scale, he used it to demonstrate that there are variations in sexual orientation. To deny that there even exists such a thing as homosexuals one would have to come to the conclusion that the Haggards' theology (and many other evangelicals/fundamentalists/literalists and whatever one is called) works. Of course this is convenient for those who are married and one is same-sex-attracted, because it continues their hope that this behavior will not recur. Unfortunately this is rarely the case.

When I was an active member of the Yahoo group, "Wives of gay/bi husbands," it was heartbreaking for me to see so many, many wives who were hurt continually by their gay husbands. These good women (or who knows, they could have been regular women) wanted in every way to believe that their husbands were never, ever again going to act on their sex drives with other men. Unfortunately, it was a rare man who didn't go to the computer or video store for porn, visit a park for anonymous sex, or keep a boyfriend on the side. The actions of these men left their families at risk for disease. They disrespected their wives by lying. They harmed the women they had once loved by use of drugs and alcohol. But more than anything else, in their wake they had hurt everyone, and they many times did all this while telling their wives "I'm not really gay." Yeah, right.

I am not trying to have a self-fulfilling prophecy that the ones who claim to be "not-gay" will eventually act on their feelings. I am not trying to say that their love is not real, nor would I encourage others in this situation to leave one another or abandon their families. But as I've stated before, it is a travesty to tell a young person that the "feelings will change," if they marry someone of the opposite sex. It is wrong to tell them, like Ted Haggard is doing, that "the ideal is to marry." That makes other relationships inferior, and they are not.

A friend sent me this quote from the TV show, Rick and Steve. Although I have never seen that show (nor do I endorse it) a character had this to say about reparative therapy: "Ex-gay therapy...They make you straight enough to sleep with a woman, long enough to break her heart."

For Gayle to love Ted and to forgive his behavior, I'm so proud of her. For Ted to say he is going to not lie and not "act compulsively," good for him. I personally doubt that the troubles are over for the Haggards.

16 comments:

Mark said...

It was fortuitous that you wrote about this today. I belong to a gay dads support group in Houston (I'm an alumnus having come out in 2002 and attended the group to find support for my process). There's been a flurry of emails triggered by a guy who is going through divorce and acquiesced to do "Christian counseling" with his wife, the outcome of which you can well imagine. I was able to point to your blog entry because I thought you did a really good job of summarizing the world view of such counselors and why the outcome is likely not to be good trying to stick with their advice.

Thanks for speaking truth authentically. I'm sure you take a lot of crap for it.

Emily said...

This whole story is sad, and I have to wonder if it even would be a story at all if the church's attitude toward LGBT people weren't what it is.

It's shameful that Christians proclaiming "truth" push people to such unnecessary realms of dishonesty.

How different would the Haggard's life (and so many others) be now if it were not for those who demonize all things remotely LGBT in the name of Christ?

Tim Morris said...

I would just like to tell any man that considers himself a "hetrosexual with issues" one thing. I have been hetrosexual for 50 years and have hetrosexual friends for almost that long. I hang out with hetrosexuals and one thing I am 100% sure about, hetrosexual men don't have same sex attraction issues, that would make us gay.

Rob said...

I can't imagine the pain someone would go through, finding out their spouse is Gay or Lesbian. One of the reasons I could never date a Woman, was primarily because of that. If I married someone, and than came "out" again, the pain I would cause is unbelievable. I don't think God would want us to put ourselves through that sort of pain.

deb said...

*****
"The family of Ted and Gayle Haggard have been in a spotlight for years, and Ted was always gay. He built a mega-church, and he was gay. He preached, and organized, and inspired, and he was gay that whole time. Whether or not he was having gay sex, or whether or not it ever would have been reported, he was gay. God used him tremendously in building that church and as loved as he was with his congregants, he was always gay. He should have been 100% faithful to his wife, and there is where he failed. He did not fail in being attracted to men. He now admits both of those things to be true."
*****

This really says it all. He was always gay. He started that church and made it a big success (by the standards used by huge churches) while he was gay. People loved him. He did a lot of good things for his organization.

Then, BAM! He was suddenly an outcast, an embarrassment, a has-been. They tried to make him disappear and go away while trying to make sure he would continue to lie about his attraction to men. Why?

I wish he could be honest with himself and his wife, so they could both just move on. If he were honest, he could use his celebrity to help other hurting gay people (rather than to set a bad example of lying to self and others).

Ted Haggard is a celebrity. I hope some day he will use that fame to speak the truth about sexuality, and to influence people to love and accept gay people (whether self or others) instead of rejecting and condemning.

petersontoscano said...

Thank you so much for writing this. From the web stats I get daily on my blog for women doing searching like, "I think my husband is gay..." I know there are lots of women looking for answers, or at least validation.

You are a bright light in this messy convoluted world of religious dogma and sexual misinformation.

Anonymous said...

soooooo....assuming Ted is honest about this, what do you do with the fact that he ALSO enjoyed sex with his wife? Oh, just a lie. Or maybe he only "thought" he enjoyed it. Leaving him to assume that only his gay desires were the "real" ones...
the people who are making Ted the poster boy for "gay is OK" just keep missing pieces of information like that one. Because to ask THOSE questions could bring the house of cards tumbling down.
So, what are you going to do when some guy who in fact HAS made some serious headway in dealing with his desires proposes to a gal, then tells her his past (since one should be open about such things) and then, having read your thoughts on the matter, she tells him thanks, but no thanks there is no way he could have changed. And then he offs himself. Oh, well, THAT little scenario is just a WEE bit too inconvenient to think about. Only the ones that fit YOUR way of thinking, eh?

oldbrit - Liz Stuart said...

Why would you feel compassion for the Haggard family?

Ted Haggard knew he was gay and exploited his wife by marrying her.

No compassion for him.

Gayle Haggard deserves some compassion upon discovering that she was married to a gay man. However, she chose to stay with him and deserves no compassion for what has transpired since.

She would have been completely justified to divorce Ted and move on. She didn't. In fact, she enabled Ted to continue his destructive life instead of divorcing him and giving him the opportunity to come out of the closet and get his life in order; and equally important, to give herself the opportunity to move on to something better for herself.

No compassion for her.

I do feel great compassion and sympathy for their children - if they have any - because they were stuck in the situation and their parents refused to do anything to fix it.

Carol said...

I'm assuming that the most recent post is from my acquaintance, E.A. and I assume that you are again defending your previously-stated views. Your style and your arguments, as well as the scenario you have just described, gives you away, and you do not need to post anonymously.

Following your train of thought, I would hope that this person, the one which you say has "in fact HAS made some serious headway in dealing with his desires" would look deeply inside himself and realize that God loves him just the way he is. I would hope that he will be able to free himself (or herself) from the tight bondage of your derision.

Because there have already been so many who have done what you describe as to"[off.. oneself]" it is because they have been derided by their and our own churches as sick and sinful, disgusting, fallen, pitiful, without possibility of salvation, and going to hell. Because of those who cannot yet speak for themselves due this terrible pronouncement of doom, I will continue to do so. This is NOT the TRUTH, and I will continue to speak for the GLBTs both inside and outside the Christian churches.

You do not realize the fear one has when they are trying so hard to behave straight to benefit those around them. They do not to hurt others, but it causes constant stress, and it leads to physical ailments. I would hope that anyone who is struggling will be freed to be themselves, with the acceptance and love that should come first from their families. It's a goal we can hope for, and one that I reach for on behalf of everyone.

I would imagine very few who would "off themselves" if they were suddenly freed from an opposite sex relationship, if they were able to be accepted for who they are. In the case that they are really made straight (which I doubt) then they shouldn't have a problem with anything I have to say.

Carol said...

Old Brit - Liz,

I have compassion for any religious person who is trying to reconcile all this. There is all the effort it takes to come to terms with one's sexuality that is derided by one's own religion. Then there is the fact that I know how I feel about my ex, and it is love.

It comes across that the Haggards love one another, and there is a great deal to process when you wish to preserve your family. You have a lot of fear about the future, and since Ted Haggard knew he would have NO support system if he came out, there is intense uncertainty about that. No matter what you do there is pain, and for that, I have compassion.

(I have a post to follow. Maybe you can see my point.)

thomas tucker said...

I think you are drawing conclusions from a self-selected group and that will skew your analysis. I think you may not be seeing or hearing the success stories because you only hear about the failures. Sexuality is a spectrum- that is the science. Tim Morriss's manly chest-beating to the contrary, the studies show that there is indeed a spectrum of desire and thought.

Carol said...

Thomas Tucker - when you refer to success stories, I assume you mean those who are not having gay sex. This does NOT mean they are straight. Even Exodus and reparative therapy groups, once you look closely at what they claim to do, will not claim to make anyone straight. Whereas they used to say, "Change is possible," they now use the slogan, "Freedom is possible." Although they can help, as they should, to free people from destructive behaviors, they have yet to change a truly gay person to a truly straight one.
Granted that there can be a spectrum of those who are somewhere in the middle of homo- and hetero-sexuality, but even so, this is generally not changed by religious beliefs. RELIGION does not change SEXUAL orientation.

Tim Morris said...

Thomas, I am familiar with the Kinsey Scale and your point is not completely lost. In Ted’s case my point is straight men don't find themselves having anonymous sex with male prostitutes.
As far as anonymous’ comment about Ted having sex with his wife and enjoying it, I find it is a bit patronizing. I believe he loves his wife and in his desire to please her and to overcome his latent homosexual tendencies certainly opened the door to sexual enjoyment. I think he couldn't deal with the guilt he felt for thinking about men while engaged sexually with his wife.

Anonymous said...

I think some of these comments may be over simplified. I think what "Anonymous" brought up was a true-to-life point about someone who experienced change, and it was dismissed. There are homosexually oriented men who are NOT happy with the gay identity, who fall in love with a woman and want to make a life with her and feel terribly conflicted. I know one personally, who has agonized over feelings for a woman. And no one has the right to tell them they should just embrace a gay lifestyle, that that is the only outcome that is true or possible for them. It is very much a continuum due to likely many causal factors, and no scientist has proven it is innate. And studies on those who SEEK their own change report it is possible, not from an overly religious process but an in depth process within the person. Their heterosexual impulses do come through, and the homosexual impulses diminish. That is their right and no one has the right to say it isn't possible for them.

Carol said...

I wrote a reply here: http://myheartgoesout-carol.blogspot.com/2009/06/i-guess-i-will-stay-with-my-wife.html

Shelley said...

I love this comment from anonymous: "their heterosexual impulses do come through, and the homosexual impulses diminish". As a gay woman who once tried to live a heterosexual life, I can attest that what anonymous says is true... That is, until you meet someone of the same sex that you fall in love with - then all bets are off, and your homosexual impulses take front and center. When you're gay your attraction to someone of the opposite sex will NEVER be as strong as as it is for someone of the same sex. You may love your heterosexual wife or husband, but it's basically just a matter of time till you break their heart.