It was announced with some fanfare today that Ted Haggard (the fundie preacher man last seen in a Colorado hotel room, higher than Jesus and taking it in the back door from his gay hooker/dealer) has, after three weeks of intense therapy, been officially cured of gayness. Responses from the left have been (unsurprisingly) skeptical
, but I think that many critics of this process are guilty of a misunderstanding of how homosexuality is perceived among religious circles. Essentially, I think that most people on the left who are mocking and/or lamenting the degayification* process are projecting their own understanding of gayness onto the hard-line Christians, contributing to the disconnect between the two sides.
For most of us, a gay man is defined by his desires
to have sex with other men. It is, with this understanding, entirely possible even for a virgin to be gay. Likewise, a man who forces himself to have sex with a woman (Dan Savage claims to have done so successfully, apparently by thinking about giant cocks the whole time) is still, to us, gay. Because it is what we believe, there is a strong temptation to assume that this is what everyone
believes. It is not. To a radical Christian, I suspect that both our hypothetical virgin and our closet-case actually qualify as straight. By their logic, someone like Ted Haggard isn't gay at all -- he doesn't want to be gay, he says he's not gay, therefore he's not gay. The discrepancy between the viewpoint of the left and right is not a case of logic versus illogic, it is a matter of the definition of terms. To the JF crowd, only the man who unashamedly
has sex with other men is gay. Introduce shame into the equation, and -- Presto! -- you have a straight man once again.
Ordinarily this might not be so very problematic, except that in this case many leftie commentators are essentially accusing the degayifiers* of outright lying. This is unfair; the 'therapists' in question are (I think) speaking perfectly honestly when they say that Ted Haggard isn't gay anymore. It's what they believe, and they're proud of it. The word 'gay' just means something different to them than it does to ordinary people. I in no way wish to apologize for the ridiculousness of their sham 'treatment' of the man, but in order to address what they are doing, it's worth actually understanding what they mean.* I'm certain that degayify is a word, and no doubt its absence from the dictionary is a mere oversight. It'll be in the next edition of Webster's for sure.