Tuesday, February 03, 2009

A Chat with Ted Haggard

Okay, so her worshipfulness Oprah Winfrey recently interviewed ''disgraced'' preacher Ted Haggard about his sex life; an interview you can see here. Oprah, of course, is preparing for her stint as Secretary of Nurturing in the Obama administration, which might explain why this interview doesn't scale her usual heights of awesomeness. Honestly though, I always just assumed that being interviewed by Oprah about your sex life violated the Geneva conventions somehow. It's an interesting interview, at any rate, because Haggard's understanding of his own sexuality is actually much more sophisticated and nuanced than you might expect.

Haggard is a preacher at one of these ''mega-churches'' where they run around on stage and do a sort of Vegas-style routine. These sort of preachers really only interest two groups of people: those who were recently born-again and not ready for a real church, and those who are opposed to the born-again agenda and waiting for the preachers to say something retrograde and embarassing about gays, liberated women, or science. Personally, I find watching these Mega-Preachers to be a bit like watching Don Ho discuss the Book of Revelations.*

Therefore, the big caveat here is that I have no idea if Ted Haggard is one of these gay-bashing preachers that CNN sometimes brings in live via satelite from the Cenozoic Era. I generally don't pay attention to what these people say [actually I never pay attention to what anyone says if they're not being interviewed by Oprah], and so maybe Haggard's take on homosexuality really is as bad as people like Susie Bright say it is.** But, here, he came off as more sophisticated than Oprah. Hard to believe, I know.

Apparently, the back story is that Ted Haggard has been ''disgraced'' by his prediliction for sex with young men. It's difficult and confusing for the man and his wife because he loves her and enjoys having sex with her, but he also likes men. So, whatever shall he do?

I guess the lowest level of understanding of human sexuality would belong to those people who say that being attracted to the same sex is ''evil'' and ''vile'' and so forth. If you can make people hate their genitals, you can control their minds. I have no truck with the things Haggard says about his ''dark and repulsive'' urges. I don't sympathize with the members of his church who want Haggard to be made into a ''complete heterosexual''. And I absolutely have no sympathy for those people who believe that same-sex attraction is deranged or pathological. Including Haggard's therapist, from the sound of it.

But, I think that the next level up in understanding belongs to those people who look at a man like this and assume that he's a closeted gay man. There's something nearly as retrograde about the people who see ''sexual identity'' as these nice, narrow little boxes that we can all be shoved into. Papers, please! Either someone like Ted Haggard is a ''heterosexual'', and that's okay; or he's a ''homosexual'' and he'd better stop fooling himself about this marriage thing. Nothing else exists. Kinsey be damned.

Perhaps, Ted Haggard really is a happily married man who loves his wife but is also attracted to men. Et, alors...? From the things I've read around the Internet, you'd think that people had never heard of such a thing. It's much easier to deal with the boxes; not so much with people who are between boxes, or totally outside of them. Oprah seems to have a particular axe to grind about these guys. One of her more teeth-grinding episodes involved bringing on ''married men on the down-low'' and subjecting them to waterboarding. For whatever reason, she often comes across as one of these bores who thinks that sexuality is easily-defined and unchanging.

So, of course Ted Haggard is confused. He's surrounded by Christians who believe that gay desire is sin, and criticized by ''progressives'' who think he needs to leave his beloved wife and move to the Castro! Nevertheless, he is, by all accounts, in love with his wife, and also enjoys having sex with men. The best he can figure is that he's a ''heterosexual with homosexual attachments'', which isn't great, but still more nuanced than what the larger culture or his Church friends are offering him. It's very sad that he's seeking to ''overcome'' his desires through therapy; but I liked it when his wife said that the labels don't apply to him. Oui, exactement! One has to wonder if bisexuals aren't in a deeper closet than gays- at least, most people accept that gays exist.

In a perfect world, Ted and his wife would be able to talk honestly about the fact that he is in love with his her and still desires sex with men, and that the two things aren't mutually exclusive. They could, maybe, even accept all that, and consider the possibility that there are young bi men out there who would love to fuck a nice married couple. Maybe it wouldn't be such a big, overwhelming, painful deal. Maybe it would be fun. Maybe the two of them would realize that they need cock more than they need therapy.

But, unfortunately for them, they're still stuck on this planet of pain.

*[Although, of course, watching Don Ho discuss the book of Revelations would probably be very cool.]
**[Again, I pay absolutely no attention to preachers, so if I'm cluelessly defending Hitler here, I'm sorry.]

[Lastly, all I could think of while watching Oprah's weird composure was this scene from the Kids in the Hall movie...]

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