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Savage Love

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Hey, Faggot:

I'm feeling uneasy about the advice you gave to A Struggling Soul, who feels that God disapproves of his sexual relations. I felt, reading his letter, that he may be seeking a deeper spiritual experience in life. Maybe God is calling him to a more soulful life.

You called him a pea brain, and you told him that angels do not exist. How could you trivialize his experience so crassly? You presented an ugly stereotype of people who believe in angels. I believe in a loving God, and I believe in angels as a manifestation of God's grace. My God has no prejudice against gay sex. The good news is that God's grace is there for all of us. I would urge the man who wrote you to pray, meditate, and listen for the still, small voice of God. --Faithful Breeder

Hey, FB:

You believe in God and angels: so what? I believe in a single-payer health care system, but that doesn't mean it exists.

Hey, speaking of God, did everyone catch the full-page ads in the New York Times, USA Today, and other daily papers featuring the sad story of Anne Paulk, "wife, mother, and former lesbian"? Anne claims to be "living proof that the truth can set you free." Our friends at Focus on the Family, the Christian Coalition, and the American Family Association banded together with a handful of "ex-gay" ministries in order to "tell America the truth about homosexuality." And the truth, according to Anne Paulk et al, is that the transformative love of Jesus Christ can turn lesbians into heterosexual wives and mothers.

In the ad Anne lays out how she came to be a lesbian: she was molested at age four by a teenage boy. The trauma prevented Anne from "feeling pretty." By her teens, she was "looking and dressing hard" and "drawn to other women." Then Anne went to college--always a mistake--where a gay counselor affirmed her feelings for women. Anne lived as a dyke, but there was "a God-shaped hole in [her] heart." A few years later Anne met a Christian woman and former lesbian "who listened patiently to my story and led me to a ministry helping people overcome homosexuality." Anne was able to give herself to God, and God filled Anne's hole--with kids and a husband (John "Candi" Paulk, a former gay drag queen).

What's missing from Anne's story--and from every other ex-gay story I've ever heard--is any hint that when Jesus relieved Anne of her same-sex desires He replaced them with heterosexual ones. I've yet to read about an ex-lesbian who, upon accepting Jesus Christ as her personal savior, was seized by a sudden and overwhelming desire to chew through Matt Damon's underpants. It's always about Jesus and not being gay anymore, and never about burning with lust for the opposite sex. According to David Schmader, a writer who has looked into ex-gay ministries, these folks regard heterosexuality as the absence of homosexuality. "For gay men," says Schmader, "they think that if you don't have a dick in your mouth, you must be straight."

Ex-gay ministries like Exodus International believe gays and lesbians failed to bond properly with their hetero peers as children, resulting in "hard" girls like Anne and "soft" boys like me. Once we put our hands in the hand of the man who stilled the water, the rest of the "treatment" at Exodus International pretty much consists of teaching lesbians how to use makeup and walk in heels and sending gay men to ball games with straight guys. If lesbians only felt pretty, and if we gay boys only went to enough ball games, we would supposedly all be straight.

There are problems with all of this, of course. There are plenty of women out there who use makeup, feel pretty, and are lesbians; there are gay men who've accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior and don't feel a need to stop kissing boys on His account; and there are plenty of fags who go to ball games with straight boys without magically turning straight. (Sitting in the bleachers at Wrigley Field recently--watching the Chicago Cubs slaughter the Pirates--with my two older brothers and my cousin, I experienced no sudden desire to eat pussy. Quite the opposite: all the cute, half-dressed boys in the bleachers reinforced every one of my homoerotic desires.)

No one--save fundamentalist Christian bigots and the weak, fearful, self-hating homos they prey on--believes these therapies do anything but drive these homos back into the closet. Now, as far as I'm concerned, Exodus can recruit as many of these not-queer wannabes as they can get their hands on. Anyone stupid enough to fall for this ex-gay crap is no one I want to run into in a gay bar. (Let's hear it for Darwinist herd thinning!) But I draw the line when Exodus starts buying full-page ads in my morning newspaper and shoving jerks like Anne and Candi Paulk under my nose when I'm on my way to Maureen Dowd.

Another huge problem for the ex-gay movement is the little matter of ex-ex-gays. The founders of Exodus International--two gay men--fell in love with each other and returned to their "homosexual lifestyle." One day soon we'll be welcoming Anne and Candi back too, I have no doubt. In entertaining the premise of this ad, the ex-gay "movement," and ex-gay "therapies," I'm giving them more credence than they deserve: no one but a handful of ex-gays believes this ad campaign is motivated by anything but bigotry. The Washington Post described it as the latest salvo in the religious right's "long-standing crusade against gays"; the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force described it as "kinder, gentler bigotry." These ads are political attacks. If queers don't want to be discriminated against, the ads imply, we should accept Jesus Christ as our personal savior and--poof!--become heterosexuals. Since we can change, they argue, we have no right to demand our rights; or, more ominously, since we can change, we have no right to exist. The same argument could be made about Jews. Don't like being discriminated against for being Jewish? Well, accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior and you won't be Jewish anymore. These ads are hate propaganda.

At the end of the day, the existence of ex-queers proves exactly nothing about current and future queers. There will always be queers out there who don't like being queer, and queers whose religious beliefs bring them into conflict with their desires and make them want to change. But what do they have to do with queers who like being queer, don't have religious hang-ups, and don't want to change?

If being cured of homosexuality requires people to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior, where does that leave gay Buddhists? Or gay atheists? Or gay Unitarians? Or to personalize this: Even if it were possible for me to change my sexual orientation--if accepting Jesus Christ as my personal savior could make me want to chew through Liv Tyler's underpants--what if I don't wanna change? What if I prefer Matt Damon's underpants?

What it comes down to is this: Unlike Anne and Candi Paulk, I don't have a God-shaped hole in my heart. Or my head.

Send questions to Savage Love, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

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