Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Reason I Do This

First, let me apologize for the week-long blog silence. This week was the last week of classes (they finished yesterday), and next week is exam finals week, so my stress level is about to reach monumental highs. Before it does that, though, I'd like to make one post that addresses a few things that have gone un-addressed on this blog. After that, I might be gone until after finals week (and that's assuming I survive my Algebra exam ;-).

I recently came across an article by Mike Ensley, posted on the Exodus Youth web site. Before I even begin, let me say that Mike has commented on my blog in the past and I find him to be a wonderful Christian man who has earned my respect. Though this post is a critique of some of the attitudes expressed in his article, it is not intended to trivialize his experiences or the work that he does. Also, since I'm always a fan of listening to both sides of any argument, I highly encourage everyone to read his article in full before proceeding. Otherwise, you'll only be getting my selected quotes of contention.

Mike's article is entitled "How Can Homosexuality Not Be The Answer?" It is, in general, a good read and an interesting insight into Mike's personal experiences concerning his SSA. But there are certain parts of it that, though I don't disagree with them at face value, I nonetheless do not appreciate how they have been extended to the entirety of the gay community. You could say that this post is not a point-by-point critique of the article, but a critique of a lot of attitudes and perceptions that the article portrays about the mindset of those in Exodus. Are these perceptions true? Well, in all my talking to Mike and others tied to Exodus, I've never experienced them. They could be projection on my part. Either way, when I read these kinds of articles, I sense them, and I don't want them to go un-addressed.

Case in point: Mike goes over the break-up between himself and his first boyfriend. Mike admits to having been very emotional at the time, while his ex-boyfriend was not. The ex said, "I've been out longer than you...I've been with lots of guys, and so will you. After you've broken up a few times, it won't hurt anymore." Hey, I don't doubt it happened. There are jerks out there and they come in quite an alarming variety. However, Mike follows up this anecdote with a personal observation: "I found that most--if not all--of the gay-identified men I met lived according to these words." And this, of course, is where I start folding my arms and giving my mother's "oh no you di'nt" glare.

Look, I don't doubt--nor have I ever doubted--that large parts of the gay community aren't all that wholesome. Then again, neither are large parts of the sexual battleground as a whole--gay or straight. Mike's article goes through his personal experience as a gay man--and is analogous to other testimonials by ex-gay men. He started out idealistic and looking for love, found himself entering passionate but short-lived relationships, and after becoming disillusioned by such a lifestyle found himself drifting into anonymous sex. Does this happen to many gay men and women? Certainly. Does it also happen to straight men and women? In our over-sexualized culture--you bet it does. And is it a requirement for one to have had such a love life for them to want to leave homosexuality? Not on your life.

Okay, that's the point I wanted to drive home. One of the biggest problems that I've had with Exodus and other ex-gay ministries is that they label the entire homosexual "lifestyle" as an emotionally unsatisfying, jaded, sex-crazed world. Once again, I'm not doubting that parts of it are, but I think the assertion leaves out the people who are monogamous and happy.

Take me for example. When it comes to relationships--and I think we can all agree that my word on this shouldn't be taken as expert advice--I am very practical. I am and have always been a straight-shooter. If you're going to be in a relationship with me, you'd better be committed, and I will, in turn, be committed to you. It's one of the things I value. If tomorrow I decided to leave celibacy altogether and actually started a relationship, you'd best believe that I'd find a gay man who shared my value of commitment. And I know that such men exist.

There's one particularly cute Marine Biology major I can think of--he doesn't drink, smoke, party, and has never had sex, and currently he's putting off all relationships until he's done with his studies (BTW, he can remove a shark's brain with the eyes still attached--if that ain't attractive, I don't know what is! ;-) Either way, he and I seem to have the same values when it comes to commitment and long-term relationships (luckily for me, that's about all we have in common).

And there are many other gay men and women like that--take all the folks at GCN, for example. I have no doubt that I could live a happy, healthy life with a partner here on this earth. In fact, that seems to be the easiest path for me. Surely this hasn't made me the happiest, and it's definitely not easy. But it has brought me closer to one thing: my God.

God--my faith--is why I do this. I do not in my heart find homosexuality immoral. I don't make gay people out to be promiscuous or insecure, nor do I think that they live lives of misery, just like I don't think that any people outside of Christ live earthly lives of misery simply because of that fact. That's a rather rare attitude amongst evangelicals. We somehow have it in our heads that being in Christ will make our lives better right now, and therefore those who aren't in Him lead earthly lives of misery. I don't think that. Sure, I think that something is missing from everyone who is not a believer, but I don't think that it is necessary to be a believer to be productive or healthy in the here and now (by society's standards, at least).

The reason I have chosen to abstain from homosexual relationships is not because I think it is healthier, or because I think I'll be happier. It is for one, simple, yet all-encompassing reason. I want to follow my God wherever I feel He is leading me, and I want to glorify Him in all I do. Perhaps there are some gay men and women out there whose goal is heterosexuality, and they use religion as a means to an end. Heterosexuality is not my end, though. If it is in God's will for my life, then it will be so. If not, though, I know where He wants me. Yes, I doubt. Yes, I question. Yes, it's hard as all get out sometimes and I don't know if I can go on. But through all things He is with me, and there is this pull that I can't shake and a voice I can't shut out telling me that this is where I belong. Granted, I'm no expert, but I don't see how anyone can leave the gay lifestyle if they don't have that in them yet. Because, to me, there is not any other reason to do this.

20 comments:

Brady said...

Great post, Jay. You've articulated my concerns with many in the ex-gay community, and its also great to read such personal and open posts.

Casey said...

I think you're right. I have a friend who is openly gay and looking for a commited long relationship. He doesn't really fit the sterotype that people have. I also believe that the reason you have for abstaining from gay relationships is right. It is a very hard road, but one that I believe will be rewarding in the end. You've been an encouragement in a time of need. Much prayer.

Jimmy Gatt said...

Dear Jay,

Wonderful post!

I am a gay man who does not get into "gay culture" very much at all. In fact, I should say that I am in no way part of the "gay community". When I first went to a "gay pride" parade, my overwhelming feeling was embarrassment. I saw those drag queens, leather freaks, and gay people whose goal in life seemed to be using their sexuality to make other people uncomfortable and said to myself, "That's not me." Good for me for doing so, for I was able to forge a life as a gay man that didn't involve any of that self-destructive "gay culture" business.

Since then, I've been living a suburban life as a gay man, and my partner and I have adopted a child. We even enrolled our son in the Cub Scouts and he loves it. As you might imagine, there are some ridiculously leftist gay men who think that I'm just despicable. I've been called "Stepford" and a "suburban housewife". Some gays have been completely incredulous that I would be part of the Cub Scouts.

Shame on all of those stupid gays, for here is the crux of the issue: I intend to integrate into society, not escape from it, and I intend to do it as a gay man. You are bravely doing the same thing and also going in a place where I cannot tread because I am not a Christian. You fully intend to integrate into the Church as a gay man. The ultimate expression of this integration is for you to find a man whom you love and who will love you back, and for the two of you to have children and raise a family. I don't intend to pressure you into parenting -- after all, that might not be where you and your future partner intend to me. I'm only expressing to you what I have found is the ultimate proof of my worthiness in my culture as a gay man. And for you to do this as a gay Christian is going to change minds where they most desperately need to be changed: in the Church.

You may not yet realize it, but it is you who is the ultimate ambassador of change for the betterment of the lives of gay men in our culture, especially in the South (where I have lived all my life). Be a gay Christian. You will do it not only in spite of some very wicked Christians who cannot abide by the thought of a gay man being acceptable, but also in spite of some very wicked gay men who cannot abide by the thought of a gay man not being in a separate and denigrated underclass. I salute your bravery and your strength.

Utmost respect,
Jimmy Gatt

Jay said...

Brady: Thanks. Hopefully I articulated it well. After all, I'm usually very supportive of ex-gay ministries in the purest sense. It's just that some of their tactics leave me scratching my head.

Casey: Thank you. You're in my prayers, too, bud.

Jimmy Gatt: Thank you very much, and can I say that was a wonderful reply? Although I do hope you know that my commitment to celibacy might kind of get in the way of me having a partner. ;-) Still, I do intend to integrate into the church, not really as a gay man, but just as myself...and we'll see how people accept me. It doesn't really matter, because God already has. :-)

In Him,
Jay

Norm! said...

Excellent observations, Jay.

I will admit that there is probably a greater opportunity to live promiscuously as a gay man (a.k.a. "the slut phase"). However, you're right to recognize that not all gay men fit Ensley's portrayal of the supposed "gay lifestyle". It may be because we are all hit the 30 year mark, but all of my gay friends and I have suddenly found ourselves in steady relationships (1-5 years). And yes, we are all sexually monogamous and none of us are into open relationships.

Sadly, Ensley is telling gay/questioning youth that if they're gay then they will probably be promiscious, probably contract HIV, not find a sexually monogamous relationship, and will not be masculine. It is very disturbing that an ex-gay youth may actually believe Ensley's portrayal and fall into the self-loathing promiscuity if they decide to leave the 'ex-gay lifestyle'.

I have to admit that, at times, I'm probably just as guilty of negatively stereotyping all ex-gays. Like Ensley, my perspective is based on my experience. However, who am I to question one's faith and commitment? I do hope and support everyone to live up to their beliefs.

kurt_t said...

I read Ensley's essay. I had the same problems with it you did.

I've seen this many, many times in ex-gay testimonies, the story about "I did the bar/club/party scene, and it was just a bunch of guys looking for casual sex."

Well, yes, that is a big part of the gay demographic, I guess, especially if you're talking about the younger crowd, but that doesn't mean that your only choices in life are to be part of that demographic or to try to re-engineer your sexual orientation.

As far as the shark brain goes, all I can say is, Wow. I'm so glad I didn't major in biology. Half the time I can't even fry an egg without breaking the yolk.

Robert said...

Jay,

I think you have hit on something that I have observed with many, but not all, in the ex-gay community. Some other negative incidents in the person's former life are often blamed as part and parcel of the homosexual experience. Drug use, compulsive sex, lying, stealing, etc. seem to be tied to acting on homosexual impulses. I do not know Mike's personal story, other than what he describes which he admits shows an unhealthy sexuality. However, if he has made positive changes in his life, those changes have nothing to do with his sexual orientation or whether he acts on his sexual feelings or not. Avoiding unwholsome activity is always a good thing regardless if one is gay or straight.

I might also add from my personal experience that Mike's story does not fit with my experience as a gay man. I had common sense early on in my coming out process to avoid promiscuous men like the plague. I knew that good people are good company.

Jay said...

Norm: Well, Norm, I think you've done a good job of supporting me through your comments here. Hopefully I've helped in broadening your view of "ex-gays".

Kurt: Same here about the egg thing. Great chef I ain't. :-)

Robert: You could be right. Often times it's very hard to prove what casued what. For example, there's the common ex-gay theory that an isolated/unhappy childhood might result in a person growing up to be a homosexual. But then again, the bad childhood could have been due to being gay from the start and feeling "different."

What I've observed is that there are many straight men and women who expect so much out of relationships right from the get-go that they end them as soon as things don't go their way--which seems to be what Mike was doing. However, this might be just a personal experience of his, not something that needs to be attributed to all gay men.

It could also be a sign of how all of society--gay or straight--is coming to view relationships. If your parter stops feeling masculine/feminine/fill-in-the-blank to you, go ahead and dump them. Commitment is a bad word to many people, and that's not just a problem amongst homosexuals.

Peterson Toscano said...

Jay you write: "It is for one, simple, yet all-encompassing reason. I want to follow my God wherever I feel He is leading me, and I want to glorify Him in all I do. "

Yes, and at the end of the day, that is what ultimately matters. Not what Exodus says, not what the Advocate magazine says, not what the pastor says, but what we each hear God say.

And if God tells one person one thing and another something different, will we be willing to live with that? Peter tried this nosing around in John's business (as recorded in John 21) to which Jesus replies, "What is that to you?"

Great post, Jay

jerubaal said...

Hey Jay, good luck on your algebra final! I have three finals this week. Tommorrow: California Multistate Taxation, then I have Managerial Taxation and Auditing Systems (yay).

Just a couple comments, if I may.

"I do not in my heart find homosexuality immoral."

I don't either. I know it's immoral because the Bible says so.

Actually, that's homosexuality, the abstract concept, that I don't find immoral in my gut. But if I were to think about actually doing something homosexual, then the immorality of it would hit me along with all the other emotions. It doesn't with you?

Also, about heterosexual promiscuity. The man or woman who has been very loose with sex is rare indeed. The median number of self-reported lifetime heterosexual partners is 5 for men and 3 for women, meaning that half of men had fewer than five in their lives, and half of women had one or two. And both guys and girls are known to lie about it (guys to trump it up, girls to trump it down), but from personal experience, I don't think the lies are distorting it that much - maybe by 1 or two partners in the respective directions.

A few very loose individuals trump up the mean though. The median describes the average person, and the mean describes, well, I don't know what it describes. But self-reported means for men are 31.9 and women 8.6. About 5% of men will admit to having lied about the answer they just gave in the study, though, so that may be upping the mean quite a bit.

Go here for the study.

jerubaal said...

Also Jay,

Your comments about the possibility, rejected by you of course, of becoming a happily monogamous gay guy strike me as - don't take this the wrong way, but you're 18 - they strike me as naive. The median number of sexual partners among homosexuals is fifty, and only 2.7% claim to have had only one sexual partner. (M. Pollak, “Male Homosexuality, Western Sexuality: Practice and Precept in Past and Present Times”). So while I accept the honesty of your opinion, given your age and probable lack of experience I have to say the statistics don't describe your idealized notion of it as actually existing. Strictly speaking, the odds of a 2.7% individual finding a 2.7% individual at all are .0729%, or one chance in 1400.

I find it very likely that almost all gay guys start with a romanticized notion of it all and end up jaded, and I bet the ones in the romantic-naive phase all think that they're different, and I bet that none of them, romantic or jaded , have any understanding why these things are so.

Guys just aren't meant to be together, dude. I bet almost all gay guys start out with an idealized romantic view of it, so how would you find the one that has that view and will stick to it? You can't. It's not a worldview issue. And remember, objective morality, having already been abandoned, isn't going to keep a homosexual partner faithful through thick and thin. They're basing everything on a romanticized idea of love, which is merely an emotion, or emotional complex, turbocharged by hormones. So what happens when that turbocharged emotion is triggered by a different object than the one presently committed to? The guy goes to the new object, because the only principle he lives on pushes him there.

The fact is, without objective morality giving us a duty to stick with our wives when they suck and we suck and we're bored with them and they're bored with us and we can't stand each other, there would be massive heterosexual promiscuity and with it unending loneliness.

I think, for guys, being with a woman helps with that sense of duty too, because you know that she's fragile (and we're strong) and she's sensitive, and beautiful, and it's wrong to hurt her, and you couldn't hurt her more than by leaving her or running around on her. I think sexual complimentality is conducive to monogamy and dedication.

I would love to hear a woman's perspective on whether it's harder to leave a man because of his unique attributes as a man compared to the woman, especially in how the guy and the lady relate to each other.

Robert said...

Jerubaal,

I question your numbers. Studies of heterosexual partners is much higher from what you quoted. But, be that as it may, "promiscuity" among straight and gay people is individual and depends upon where that person is in life.

I personally know men who have had HUNDREDS of sexual partners. However, such men in my expertience usually have opted for casual sex at a certain period of their lives rather than their entire existence. This is trully sexual PREFERENCE over ORIENTATION. I engaged in brief bouts of casual sex myself -- largely because I felt at the time that my starchy upbringing had forever affected my ability to be sexual with another human being and I wanted to "get over my hangups." I did it, I got over it, and I moved on to monogamous relationships.

That said, there is nothing wrong with someone choosing to be celibate and forgoing all of these issues. I have known wonderful people who have been celibate all of their lives and they do not feel that they have missed out on anything.

Robert said...

I should also add that it is becoming far more rare for men and women to couple and trully be "virgins" (i.e. no experience with oral, anal or vaginal sex). This is true for straight and gay people. I initially had the view that when I was to couple with a man that I would be a virgin and so would he. I quickly found out that there are not a whole lot of virgins out there. However, there are a lot of great guys, and fulfilling relationships are possible whether or not you are being "touched for the very first time."

Jay said...

Jerubaal: Where do you find the time to write so much!? You write close to two-page essays here and on Townhall (and probably on several other blogs), and you're also a college student? Whew! :)

Since my nose is about to hit the center of my math textbook, I'm just going to reply to one of your points:

"Actually, that's homosexuality, the abstract concept, that I don't find immoral in my gut. But if I were to think about actually doing something homosexual, then the immorality of it would hit me along with all the other emotions. It doesn't with you?"

Quite the opposite, actually, if I'm understanding your question correctly. The fact that I want to enter a gay relationship means that I really don't find it immoral in my gut/heart. It is, after all, what my heart desires (and we established that hearts don't usually desire what's best for us, right?) But I know that it is not in God's plan for me and therefore it's something that I wouldn't do. If I did "slip up" and have sex, you can bet I'd feel guilty about it. But if I see two guys kissing, my first reaction is "oh, that's sweet." I may think it's wrong, but I've yet to come to a point where I feel it's wrong, if that makes any sense.

Amanda said...

I may think it's wrong, but I've yet to come to a point where I feel it's wrong, if that makes any sense.

That makes perfect sense, Jay. And it's a perfect example of the dual nature of men. Paul describes it when he says, "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it."

But you're mature enough to not act on those feelings, so you're right there where you're supposed to be. :)

Ron Belgau said...

Although I agree with both Jay and Jerubaal that homosexual relationships are wrong, I do want to nit-pick one of jerubaal's points:

jerubaal said...
Strictly speaking, the odds of a 2.7% individual finding a 2.7% individual at all are .0729%, or one chance in 1400.

Sigh... Lies, damn lies, statistics...

The problem with statistics is that you have to ask the right question to get the right answer. Jerubaal is not asking the right question here.

Assuming that it is correct that 2.7% of the gay population is monogamous (although note that the study said "had one sexual partner," which isn't the same thing), then if you put all of the gay people in the world in a jar, and randomly drew out two of them, you would have a 1 in 1400 chance that both are monogamous.

But, at least among the gay couples I've known, they didn't meet because they were stuffed in a jar with all the other gay people in the world and then randomly pulled out in pairs.

The first important point to notice is that if someone seriously intends to be monogamous, and has the psychological abilities necessary to do so, then they are already in the 2.7%. The only problem for them is to find another gay person with the same convictions.

In this problem, assume that they meet gay people entirely at random. This means that for each gay person they meet, there is a 2.7% chance that that person will be willing to commit to monogamy. With these odds, and assuming random distribution of gay people, it is likely that, by the time you have met 37 gay people in your life, you will have met one who is willing to commit to monogamy.

However, is it reasonable to assume that people who are inclined to monogamy are randomly distributed in the population? No, it is not. There are other factors which correlate with monogamy, such as religious conviction, stability in other areas of one's life, etc. Even more closely correlated with monogamy are institutions (few and far between at this time but still out there) which encourage monogamy among gay men. If someone who is committed to monogamy attends a gay Christian conference which puts emphasis on committed and monogamous relationships, the odds of meeting others with the same conviction rises even higher.

None of this is to defend gay relationships. I think they are wrong on Biblical grounds, and think there are other grounds where one could make an argument against them, as well.

But this particular statistical argument is not one of those arguments. It is only an illustration of why you have to think very carefully about what you are calculating before you make statistical calculations.

If I had more time, I would tighten this up. There are several problems with the use of statistics here that I haven't dealt with. But even though I haven't critiqued as fully as I might have done, the basic point stands: 1 in 1400 is nowhere near the correct odds for finding a monogamous relationship.

In Christ,

- Ron

Brady said...

Very good point, Ron.

I disagree with you guys about gay relationships being morally wrong, but I'm glad you took the time to make the point, because it needed to be made.

Many of Jerubaal's studies are also fairly frequently refuted in other ways. www.boxturtlebulletin.com handles some that he cites and the lessons you can learn from those cited will extrapolate fairly easily to the methodological flaws in the others Jerubaal gives.

And, as a side note, I'd like to say that I am happily married to someone of the same sex. Both of us have had only one sexual partner (each other), and neither of us had to date around to find each other. This obviously doesn't disprove any of Jerubaal's points, but it will hopefully put some of it into perspective (i.e. monogamous gay relationships are not as hard to find as he implies).

J said...

Nice post, and nice blog - thank you for your candid thoughts! :o) I agree whole-heartedly with Peterson's comment. Your final paragraph is somewhat similar to the place where I'm at with regards to this situation (albeit a bit different, though). Keep trusting God to give you guidance over your life, and He'll provide. God bless!

~Justin

Jay said...

Thanks Justin! I just checked out your profile--pretty cool. :) Do you have a blog? I'd gladly link to you.

Cathrine said...

I just wanted to say how encouraged I was by this post. I'm a college student, too, and hearing about how committed you are to God, no matter what, is really refreshing. It sounds like He's at the center of your life and that's right where He should be. Thank you for living out your faith : )