Personality tests. You know the ones. Those like the “Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.” Some people I know fall neatly into one category or the other.
Me, not so much.
In all those kinds of tests I took, I was usually all over the map. They’ve never really been able to classify me.
These tests seem to be designed to “pigeon-hole” people, and try to put them in neat little boxes.
I’ve found that boxes, labels and “catch-phrases” oversimplify the vast complexity of our humanity. They also, to be sure, oversimplify the vast complexity of our sexuality.
Labels may be fine for canned goods, but not always for people.
I’m writing here what is the most open, public, and personal statement about my sexuality; not to just talk about myself, but more to add my voice to a current discussion that all too often is a divisive “issue.”
I pretty much always knew that I was gay. Later in life, due to my religious views at the time, I considered myself ex-gay.
Now, I’m an “Ex” ex-gay.
I’m not really bisexual. I certainly do not consider myself “straight.” Again, labels can be very problematic.
Here’s what I do know: I am a man who has chosen to live in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship with the woman I love, and to whom I am genuinely sexually attracted.
That doesn’t mean I’m not still attracted to men.
Neither, contrary to accusations I’ve received, do I believe I’m being hypocritical or “denying my true self.” Many straight men are still attracted to women other than their spouse. To be faithful to the one you love, while recognizing that others are attractive, is NOT hypocritical. It is, in my opinion, just part of existing as sexual beings.
Timothy Kincaid, over at Box Turtle Bulletin, introduced me to the term “Spousosexual;” a term I believe was coined by Dr. Warren Throckmorton.
Spousosexual: when a person is primarily attracted to persons of the same sex but has found that affection and love for their opposite-sex spouse engenders sexual attraction to that one person of the opposite sex.
Again, I don’t like labels, but I guess that one would come the closest to describing me.
In “Thou Shalt Not Love: What Evangelicals Really Say to Gays,” Patrick M Chapman suggests that sexuality exists on a continuum. This can help explain why not everyone can so easily be crammed into pre-determined categories. Mr. Chapman’s book, by the way, is the single most complete and thorough treatment of the subject I’ve ever seen. He writes from the viewpoint of a gay Christian anthropologist.
[Update: I've since found another simply wonderful book called "A Time To Embrace." Together, these two books are pretty much a complete library on the subject.]
So, anyway, I went through so-called “reparative therapy.” I used to be part of an “ex-gay” support group. I no longer promote “ex-gay” ministries. I did receive some positive input throughout my therapy, but it wasn’t because of the “ex-gay” aspects. It was the simple, general psychology and self-worth portions which helped. The promises of a changed orientation are simply not true. Actually, they are downright harmful.
I cannot continue to encourage anyone to pursue any kind of “reparative therapy.”
I must say that of all the people I have personally known who say they “came out” of homosexuality, none of them ever quit being attracted to those of the same sex.
I can say that in all my years of involvement with those groups, I’ve never seen it happen. I have seen many who have said it happened, end up proving it didn’t. Many people in the movement now admit that the only change is in behavior, and not in orientation. And as one man from the documentary “Through My Eyes” has said, “Well, that’s just not good enough.”
Another label I used to wear was “right-wing, Republican, evangelical Christian.” The journey “out” of that socio-political mindset that masquerades as following God, is a journey many have taken, and more and more people who follow Christ are beginning to take. That journey became “big news” through the statements of author Anne Rice. (God bless you, Anne).
As part of that journey, (including much investigation, Bible study, research, prayer, and just plain living) many of my beliefs have changed. I am now convinced that when the Bible is properly approached, interpreted, and understood – not as a constitution, but as a divinely inspired community library – there is nothing condemning same-sex relationships. Like many, it is because of my commitment to Christ (not in spite of it) that I have become gay-affirming, and take a stand for marriage equality.
I won’t go into all the Biblical and extra-Biblical discussions, interpretation, analysis, and arguments here. Many have already done that, and have done a much better job than I could ever do. (Check out the additional resources at the end of the article.)
One thing I’ve found is that attitudes often change when things are moved from “issues” to “people.” Everything is simple when it’s all “in theory.” I can’t tell you how many Christian friends of mine have taken stands on various issues, only to do a 180 when the situation “hit home.” When it’s no longer about abstracts, and it’s about the people you know and love; when it’s about YOUR life, things look a lot different. No, that doesn’t change “truth,” but it can certainly make us realize we may not have had the grasp on truth that we thought we had.
OK. I know I’m an exception, and not the rule. I’m not one-of-a-kind, but I may quite likely be “one-of-a-few” [UPDATE: Since discovering groups like "Ex ex-gay" on facebook, there are more in my position than I had thought]. Even with marriage: My wife and I were divorced and remarried. That almost never works. Again, we are the exception. BUT, that is a large part of my point. All these labels, boxes, and definitions are just a little too “neat” for real life. I know we can never totally avoid them, but we need to be very aware of their limitations.
I started off by saying I was writing to add my voice to the current discussion. I didn’t say I have any written-in-stone answers. As a person of faith, I believe God does have all the answers. But I don’t believe God is going to just “lay it all out” for us. I believe that discovery, that journey, is much of the purpose of life. I don’t know all, or even very many of, the answers. I am increasingly wary of those who claim they do. I do know a couple things Jesus made very clear: “Love God. Love people.”
I think that’s a pretty good place to start.
More “personal” posts:
Here I Am
The Vega, The Ghost, And The Rambling Old Man
More About My Journey
Comments On A Comment
Baby Smashing: 101
SPECIAL NOTE: In connection with the new book “TORN” by Justin Lee,
check out his “SYNCROBLOG FOR SANITY“
Click this link: http://gcnjustin.tumblr.com/sanity
I will say, even if you do believe the Bible is anti-gay (which I do not), that is no reason to oppose marriage equality.
In the USA, you don’t have to be a Christian to get married.
You don’t have to go to a church to get married.
You don’t have to believe in God to get married.
In this country, marriage is an act of the state. It is a legal contract. In the United States, marriage is not a religious right. It is a social institution. Just from a legal perspective, there is no reason to deny gay couples that legal avenue. Plus, since the divorce rate among evangelicals is as high or higher than the rest of the country, any talk from them about the sanctity of marriage is empty rhetoric, and laughably hypocritical.
Prior to publication, this post was sent to a select few for feedback and input. This included those who self-identify as gay, ex-gay, and straight. I give sincere thanks to all who responded. Agree or disagree, those who chose to respond did so with respect.
Of course the biggest thanks goes out to my wife, who has walked this journey with me for over three decades. What a true woman of God. She also gave input into this article, as well as the MUCH needed proof-reading. And she helped me choose from about 10 possible titles.
I don’t really like the argument from either side about whether or not homosexuals CAN change. To me, that misses the point. The bigger question is WHY change. Is it necessary or beneficial? Is is what God wants?
I think not.
At least no kind of “self-created” change. If, as in my case, one actually falls in love with someone of the opposite sex, and develops sexual attraction to that one person of the opposite sex, then that change (or maybe “expansion” is a better word) is “organic” and far different than some kind of forced or unwanted change. So IMHO, I think change should neither be sought nor completely denied. We love who we love.