Sunday, November 12, 2006

The anti-gay perception of homosexuality

Leaving aside the actual morality of "outing" in general, and Ted Haggard's "outing" in particular, the responses from some of the anti-gay Right highlighted for me a distinction between the anti-gay perspective of homosexuality and homosexual people's perspective of homosexuality. It's a distinction which I think many supporters of GLBT rights miss.

I think most people know the story so far, but in any case here's a video summary of the Ted Haggard situation courtesy of Jon Stewart of the Daily Show. The online reaction of arch-conservative David Frum to it all was...interesting, to say the least:
Consider the hypothetical case of two men. Both are inclined toward homosexuality. Both from time to time hire the services of male prostitutes. Both have occasionally succumbed to drug abuse.

One of them marries, raises a family, preaches Christian principles, and tries generally to encourage people to lead stable lives.

The other publicly reveals his homosexuality, vilifies traditional moral principles, and urges the legalization of drugs and prostitution.

Which man is leading the more moral life? It seems to me that the answer is the first one.

Naturally many people around the blogosphere took great exception to the idea that it is better to go behind your wife and children's backs, publicly condemning the very behaviour in which you're engaging to millions, than it is to live as an openly gay man. But Frum's perspective is partially understandable - in his understanding of homosexuality at least.

Note the phrasing he uses: not "homosexual", but "inclined towards homosexuality". Further down in the same article Frum says this:
If a religious leader has a personal inclination toward homosexuality - and nonetheless can look past his own inclination to defend the institution of marriage and to affirm its benefits for the raising of children - why should he likewise not be honored for his intellectual firmness and moral integrity?

Again, not "homosexual", but "a personal inclination toward homosexuality". And it's better to marry and try to embrace even a semblance of a "heterosexual lifestyle" than it is to "give in" to homosexuality.

See, in the anti-gay perspective, everyone is innately heterosexual. Homosexuality isn't an alternative sexuality that exists in a person instead of heterosexuality, but a fetish that stems from a distortion of the true (heterosexual) desires that God instils in everyone. Dr Joseph Nicolosi of NARTH summed up the perspective like this: "there are no homosexuals, only heterosexuals with a homosexual problem". For a man "inclined to homosexuality" to marry a woman isn't, as the pro-gay perspective would have it, an imprisonment of both man and woman in a loveless sham, but a valid and worthwhile attempt for the man to overcome his temptations and express his innate, Godly desire for a woman who, by God's law, he must marry.

That's David Frum's perspective of Ted Haggard as I understand it. His attempt to justify the emotional pain that this could be causing Mrs Haggard, though, is curiously missing. Then again, she is a woman after all, and misogyny and anti-gay sentiment often seem to be fellow travellers in my experience.

No comments: