Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Homophobes, hypocrites, and the possibility of redemption

"If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn't part of ourselves doesn't disturb us." - Hermann Hesse

In 1996, a research team recruited a group of straight men and used a questionnaire to determine how gay-friendly they were. They divided them into two groups: homophobic, and non-homophobic. Then they showed them straight and gay porn videos, while monitoring their sexual response. Remarkably, the firecely straight, homophobic men were sexually stimulated by gay porn, while the gay-friendly men were not. Adams HE, et al, J Abnorm Psychol. 1996 Aug;105(3):440-5

Lots of writers are wondering if that study explains the spectacular crash-n-burn of fulminating anti-gay activists, preachers, and politicians: people like George "Rentboy" Rekers, Ted "Meth-n-Sex" Haggard, Larry "wide stance" Craig, and Roy "gay clubber" Ashburn. These men make careers out of attacking GLBT individuals and families while at the same time seeking gay sex. (In fact, Rekers may have found this particularly lucrative; I'll tell you about that next time). Ashburn at least now admits he's gay, which could put him on a path to recovery (think the former Governor of NJ, Jim McGreevey, who also came out).

Writing in the Daily Beast, Michelle Goldberg says,
Rekers deserves a measure of pity as well as scorn. If he portrayed homosexuality as a life-destroying temptation that only the strictest of measures could contain, that’s because, for him, it was.
I think this is the kernal of truth in the matter. These men all have internalized homophobia. They have denied who they are, and made that denial at the root of their being. How much they must resent the healthy gay men who are open and happy, while they have deeply invested in the worst type of self-loathing closet.

Moreover, it is probably significant that these men were all engaged in the most soulless sexual encounters. That's all they know, so of course, that's what they think describes all gay relationships. The absolute bile and bigotry they spew makes some twisted sense if you realize that to them, pickups and prostitutes and anonymous sex are all there is to it. They don't experience healthy sexuality, faithfulness in relationships, or family life. Homosexuality to them really is only about furtive, hidden, and dirty sex. Of course that's counter to what any of our goals are for healthy lives. Sadly, their own secret desires lead them to attack those who disprove their own experience.

For many of us in our middle years, the dawning awareness of our sexuality came late. And for a variety of professional reasons, many of us lived in the closet for some period of time. It seemed safer in there, though absolutely suffocating. Coming out in mid-life is therefore nothing new, though it can be painful and messy. Yet the serenity that comes from the freedom to live honestly cannot be overstated. No career is worth the lies of the closet.

Let's compare the difference in two preachers. Longtime Jerry Falwell associate Mel White was an active participant in Falwell's anti-gay evangelical movement. But he acknowledged his sexuality, was cast out of Falwell's moement, and now lives as an openly gay man. White founded the progay religious group Soulforce. Redemption, new life, happy ending.

In contrast, Rekers, also a Baptist minister, is still twisting in the breeze as his name is erased from all the gay-phobic right wing groups that he helped found, while bleating unconvincingly that he is not, and never has been, a homosexual. This story is pretty dark right now. Any bets on whether he'll find the light?

1 comment:

Episcopal Bear said...

My gut feeling is that he'll die in closeted misery.

And not because I think he deserves to do so (altho I do), but because his pathology seems more profound than that of Ted Haggard, who has come to some understanding of the complexity of human sexuality.

Reker's brought the power of a strong, well-trained (if delusional) mind to bear in the suppression of his true nature, and his sexual expression is severely twisted e.g. the details of the "Longstroke". Taken together, I think he has too deeply warped his soul to ever recover, especially given his age & health.

Regardless of whatever any afterlife may or may not hold for Rekers, he's already living in a self-created hell.