Friday, February 8, 2013
My reservations about "ex-gay" labels (Why I'm bisexual and not ex-gay)
Recently a close ally in the fight for children's rights told me: "You aren't bisexual, stop saying you are. You are in a faithful marriage to a woman now."
I've gotten this a few times from people, so I would like to explain my position. First, let me explain that I denounce Equality California and the Southern Poverty Law Center for using the courts and California lawmakers to pester, shut down, and humiliate the ex-gay movement. Wayne Besen's Truth Wins Out is an entire network of people obsessed with sowing hate and contempt for people who call themselves ex-gay. The California law banning conversion therapy and the Southern Poverty Law Center's malicious lawsuit against JONAH are reprehensible, and I encourage people of good conscience to push the government to investigate these supposedly pro-gay outfits and prosecute them for violating the free speech and free association of others, as well as imposing duress conditions on the field of psychology -- something that undermines all of society's ability to benefit from counseling and mental health treatments.
Having said that, I do not feel right about the term "ex-gay," because such a term perpetuates the false notion that gayness is a state of all-consuming being, as opposed to merely being an act that people can choose to engage in or not. I never went to therapy to try to stop finding men attractive, so I guess I do not understand what happens in bona fide "ex-gay" therapy. Rather, when I have sought support from clergy or other counselors, I was interested in making good decisions for myself and my family, something that naturally encompassed the end of any sexual infidelity and avoidance of heavily gay environments where I might encounter greater sexual temptation to stray.
Bisexuality is a better description for people who once engaged in homosexuality and now find themselves committed to the opposite sex. To say I am bisexual is to say that I'm still the same person I was, in a sense; the friends I made and wisdom I acquired in my many years in the gay community is not something I wish to renounce or impugn. My novels and much of my nonfiction still draws unapologetically from my experiences in that world. It would be a great loss to cut it out of my life.
It is healthy to admit that one finds beauty in the same sex, because if you admit it, then it is easier to be practical about avoiding tempting situations. If you acknowledge the beauty, moreover, it is easier for you, it seems, to differentiate between looking and touching, between visual appreciation and physical consummation. There's nothing wrong with admitting that the same sex includes breathtakingly gorgeous specimens, many of whom one might want to emulate for their grooming, poise, physical fitness, or God-given charisma. If you walk around thinking you've been "cured," then you might not have control over your situation. You might get blindsided by an attractive object of temptation, and not understanding your sudden "relapse," fall to the lure of pleasure.
Friendship is also extremely important, and in particular same-sex friendships. Patrick Fagan spoke with me at the Love and Fidelity Network conference in New Jersey, and confided that most men whom we knew personally, who went from homosexuality to heterosexual behavior, were able to change their behavior by making close, truly meaningful friendships with other men. Too often, "gay men" are men who have not benefited from having loyal, kind, and virtuous male friends; in seeking out such connections with other men, they end up sexualizing their hunt and undermining exactly the thing they yearn for. I fear that "ex-gays" may be so worried about emotional closeness to the same sex that they risk spurning the very emotional closeness with other men that will help them stop having sex with men and gain control over their lives.
My objections to the LGBT movement are not by and large religious, so this may explain why I do not connect very well to the discourse about ex-gays. I applaud them for choosing their identity and fighting for recognition. They are my allies in the fight against LGBT excesses, such as the tyrannical play for power over children and the insistence on eradicating gender from our definitions of marriage. But I am not ex-gay. I am bisexual, committed to a woman. If all goes well, I will never have sex with a man again, though the thought crosses my mind and I won't drive myself crazy trying to stamp out the thoughts. My wife is happy, I think, because I can focus on how much I love her rather than defining myself by how much I've extinguished things of my past.