Gay columnist Dan Savage has examined a recent event involving the receipt of ricin-laced letters by several gay bars. He theorizes that an embittered gay man must be the perpetrator.
The letters strike me as having been written by a very bitter man—by someone who came out, expected that gay life would a glorious cycle of song, and was shocked to discover that gay life—just like straight life—comes with no guarantees. In the years after coming out he learned that some people, gay and straight, can be a**holes; that gay men were not, despite the hype, his “brothers.” I wouldn’t be surprised if this person had a meth problem and a string of failed relationships. He’s someone who has probably, through the choices he’s made, succeeded in making a complete hash of his life. But he doesn’t want to take responsibility for his choices so he blames gay people in general, and gay life, and the bars, and pins his personal failures on the “community.” (He’s a blood brother to those guys who come out, spend ten methed-out years on their backs in bathhouses, and then decide that gay life is depressing and squalid and sinful before they “come out” as ex-gays.) [emphasis added]
That last emphasized part caused worlds to collide, as it prompted professional ex-gay second-in-command Randy Thomas of Exodus International to comment on Savage’s blog as well as his own.
As someone who is contentedly stable as an “ex-gay” … I find your caricaturization of the potential terrorist as possibly a “blood-brother to … ex-gay” implies a deep ignorance of who we, as a whole, really are.
For the most part, we are intelligent, balanced, stable, tolerant of what we may not personally accept and loving. We looked at what identifying as gay and all of the predetermined relational options of what that means and said, “no thanks.” Some of us have experienced orientation shift and others haven’t … and we are all living out our faith and life as we see fit. I and everyone I know, have no desire to force others into our line of thinking.
I hope you realize that even though we have strong moral, public policy and spiritual disagreements … we don’t have to be a depressed psychotic terrorist simply because we don’t agree with you or have your blessing.
I don’t care if the man/woman is a religious zealot. I don’t care if they do turn out to be ex-gay. I don’t care if they are a gay activist trying to fake a “hate” crime. Whoever did it is a psychotic who deserves a lot of jail time for making terrorist threats.
And no matter who they are I pray they will find a peaceful resolution to their inner conflicts … while in jail. I have made it a matter of prayer that while our gay friends and their friends are drinking in the face of danger … I am praying for their safety and genuinely care that they have the freedom to assemble in peace and safety.
Mr. Savage, please don’t stigmatize “ex-gay’s” in such a way. And before someone says that I shouldn’t stigmatize gays either … you are right and I try not too. But again, strong disagreements doesn’t equal to profiling a psychotic person with a negative generalized view of what an “ex-gay” believes or experiences.
Sidenote: I quote “ex-gay” because I hate that label.
Randy completely misses Savage’s point. He isn’t saying that ex-gays are more likely to be terrorists or have specific negative characteristics. He’s saying that when people enter into something with unrealistic expectations, they ultimately set themselves up to fail. Randy seems to have forgotten that his own ex-gay testimony, as well as many of the ex-gay testimonies from the men on Exodus’ website, are rife with the characteristics present in Savage’s profile. Randy might be “contentedly stable as an ‘ex-gay’” now, but his gay days describe exactly the kind of gay man that would grow discontent and unfulfilled by “the gay lifestyle.” A self-described “slut,” Randy insinuates that he was patronizing gay bars at 14 years old. He lived a life of drugs and promiscuity that left him empty. Then he decided to trade one extreme for another and go from being a promiscuous “liberal” “sexual deviant” to a socially and politically conservative Christian Biblical literalist.
If anybody “caricaturizes” the ex-gay life, it’s ex-gay organizations like Exodus, who publish the same tired stories over and over again. It isn’t possible for us to be “ignorant of who [ex-gays] really are” because Exodus gives us the personal testimonials of ex-gays themselves. And the same descriptions of gay life appear in every article:
In 1976 I began dating a man that I knew. Having found my “Mr. Right,” I was ready to settle down into a lifelong relationship. But that “lifelong” relationship lasted only six years…Since I couldn’t have what I thought I wanted, I compromised my life. Now I was willing to become involved with men who did not want a committed relationship. I was willing to go out to the strip clubs and, in an alcoholic blur, drown my sorrows and lost dreams.
By the time I was 29, I was sick of the drugs, alcohol and prostitution. I [had] been sleeping with two or three people every night for almost ten years.
When I finally left the church in disgust, I left home and plunged headlong into the gay lifestyle. The sight of men dancing with each other and publicly kissing made me feel so good. I felt like I was finally in a place where I belonged. I was new on the gay scene; soon everyone was asking who I was and who I was dating. I went to house parties, orgies, got hooked on “poppers” and started drinking. I was like a kid in a candy store with no parents around!
[A]t nineteen, I found out that a neighbor of mine was gay. I had never had an opportunity before this but had told myself that I would follow through if ever propositioned. He soon showed me all that the gay life had to offer. I soon was in one relationship after another. While at times I was in relationships that seemed to be enjoyable and satisfying, they never seemed to last, while others left me feeling as if I were a prostitute.
I met a much older man and we planned a date for the following week. He lavished attention on me, and I loved it. But after a few times together, he seemed to lose interest in me; the next week, I saw him with another guy who looked even younger than me. I found it difficult to enter into a long-term relationship with other men. One time I asked a group of gay friends, “Don’t you think it’s a little strange that all we talk about and think about is sex? Is that what the average heterosexual is like?” No one responded, but I knew that what we were experiencing wasn’t right.
I went wild and plunged into the gay night life. I moved to Amsterdam, especially because I knew that the Gay Games were going to be held there. I developed a large circle of friends and was thoroughly immersed in the night life. After living like this for about six months, something began to feel like it was eating away at me inside.
I became disillusioned with gay life, realizing that I was never going to find “the one” and live happily ever after. Surprisingly, this truth was told to me numerous times by many long-time life partners I knew. I knew them because they met me in bars, at parties, or on the internet and took me home to sleep with them. I lived this way basically from age 16 to 21, miserable but truly believing there was nothing else out there for me.
[At gay bars] I felt acceptance for what had been my greatest source of shame. I savored not having to hide the fact that I was gay. I also became addicted to anonymous sexual encounters, which lacked the relationship that I was really craving—but, for 10 minutes or so at a time a portion of my need was satisfied.
I made up for lost time and jumped head first into the gay lifestyle. I was out and proud. I went to the Metropolitan Community Church and was determined to be a different kind of gay man – moral, upright and nonpromiscuous. I failed miserably and completely from day one.
Dan Savage is exactly right when he says that the difficulties that naturally accompany being homosexual are exactly the same as those that naturally accompany being heterosexual. They are the same difficulties that naturally accompany being human and attracted to other human beings. There are no guarantees, and life is what you make it.
As evidenced by the quickly progressing deaths of gay bars around the country, there is more proof than ever that the path of coming out doesn’t terminate at a nightclub party. My queer friends are meeting others like them at school, at their jobs, through mutual friends, and at religious events – just like their straight counterparts. Going to a bar or “clubbing” for us seems to be something to do as an aside if and when you are in the mood, rather than a means to satisfy a need. But yet again, not everyone likes bars. For some, they aren’t even entertaining enough to patronize as a novelty once a year.
While it can be healthy to put faith into a higher power, one must still take responsibility for their own decisions and never forget that G-d helps those who help themselves. Blaming the whole of one’s problems on their sexual orientation is the easy way out of facing their true issues.