February 16, 2007
Volume 35
Issue 07
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Haggard's ´Heterosexuality´
Haggard's ´Heterosexuality´
by Paul Varnell - SGN Contributing Writer

After three weeks of intense but unspecified counseling, the Rev. Ted Haggard, former head of the National Evangelical Association, who acknowledged repeatedly paying a well-built man to have sex with him, was pronounced by his counselors "completely heterosexual."

The Denver Post quoted the Rev. Tim Ralph, one of the counselors, as saying that Haggard's complete heterosexuality was "something he discovered about himself." Further he was never really homosexual at all: "It was the acting-out situations where things took place. It wasn't a constant thing."

"Jesus is putting me back together again," Haggard was quoted as saying.

About the same time one Charlene Cothran, the publisher of a magazine for black Gays and Lesbians, announced that she is no longer a Lesbian, that she has accepted religion, has been "redeemed," and that the new mission of her magazine will be trying to persuade black Gays and Lesbians to leave "the Gay life" and embrace spirituality instead. Apparently she sees these as mutually exclusive options.

What these two sad little instances have in common is the notion that making some sort of ideological (e.g., religious) commitment, perhaps even just thinking "I am not homosexual," will make homosexual feelings vanish. That is magical thinking. An ideological commitment to a religion or philosophy does nothing to make feelings and desires disappear. It may even increase them by focusing the person on an effort to suppress them.

For example, if for some bizarre reason I joined a cult that believed that eating pizza or chocolate was morally wrong, that might make me try to avoid eating pizza or chocolate but it would not alter my desire for them. I might even try to convince myself that I did not really like pizza or chocolate, but I would just be lying to myself.

This accounts for the near total failure of ex-Gay programs, for the well-publicized lapses of prominent "ex-Gays," and the growing number of "ex-ex-Gays."

The second argument used by "change therapists" is: If you aren't doing it, you aren't being it." But there is a certain amount of sophistry here. If someone told us that they were heterosexual because they did not engage in homosexuality but had a raging desire to do so, we would look at them strangely.

Contrariwise, I certainly know Gay men who are not currently engaging in homosexual sex but who freely acknowledge that they are homosexual.

In his valuable book "The Homosexual Matrix," psychologist C. A. Tripp recounts the Kinsey Institute's unsuccessful effort to find any genuine examples of people whose sexual response had changed because of therapy. "On close examination all examples quickly failed to qualify," Tripp wrote. "At most, it was a matter of sheer suppression--'I used to be a Lesbian, but now I turn away when temptation knocks.'"

Others, Tripp said, "involved a man fantasying males during heterosexual intercourse and the like." One man told Kinsey that he "had been a very active homosexual but that thanks to therapy, 'I have now cut out all of that and don't even think about men--except when I masturbate.'"

Haggard's counselors had yet another ploy: Haggard was never really homosexual at all. He was just "acting out." According to the Rev. Ralph, "It was the acting-out situations where things took place. It wasn't a constant thing."

So if it isn't constant, you aren't homosexual. And if you engage in homosexuality, it isn't necessarily because you desire sex with a man. It is just "acting out." "Acting out" what? Desire for sex with a man, you might think. But apparently not. And it wasn't even homosexuality, it seems. It was "things that took place," not an expression of desire. At that point, language has totally lost its contact with reality.

Yet if Haggard was calling a man to have sex with him on a monthly basis for more than three years, he must have had a pretty strong desire to experience all the kinds of psychological rewards--emotional, intellectual, and aesthetic--he experienced from sexual contact with a man. As Voltaire once said of anyone engaging in homosexual sex, "Once, a philosopher. Twice, a sodomite." Or at least a Bisexual.

And from Rev. Ralph's words, "He is completely heterosexual. That is something he discovered," it appears that the therapy or counseling was focused on getting Haggard to change his self-concept from something else--homosexual? Bisexual?--to "something he discovered about himself"--i.e., that he is heterosexual.

And of course, underlying most of this is the mistaken view that homosexual feelings and behavior are necessarily contrary to religion. They may be contrary to the doctrines of some religious sects but not to religious feelings and beliefs per se.

Some of Paul Varnell's previous columns are posted at the Independent Gay Forum ( His e-mail address is Pvarnell(at)

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