I feel really bad for Ted Haggard. He’s been living a lie for so long now. Not that I expect him to divorce his wife and come out of the closet, nor do I think he should. I don’t know if he really is gay. It seems he has some attractions to men, but that doesn’t necessarily make him gay. I think that part of the reason that people like Haggard fall into this kind of behavior isn’t because they’re gay. Rather, I think their obsession with gays backfires on them and turns into prurient thoughts. People sexualize gays. When Evangelicals talk about gays, they aren’t talking about a loving relationship between two men. No, they’re talking about two men having sex. I think it’s only natural that when you talk about and think about and devote so much energy to two men having sex, that you can’t help but be tempted. I think the repulsion becomes a curiousity.
I can totally relate to Ted. He has one identity with his church and family and another identity within himself that eats him alive. He knows that if people knew he would be rejected. Just like he said in his letter to the church, instead of talking honestly with the people in his life he shoved these feelings down deeper until he finally acted on them. I don’t know if he could have ever said, “Hey, Pastor Ross, I’ve been thinking about having sex with men.” I think it still would’ve been a scandal.
As a lesbian, I also have multiple identities. There’s who I am with Mel, who I am with my family, who am I at work, and who I am to myself. That’s a lot of identities to keep straight. It’s hard to do. This past week when I started exploring some of the things that keep these identities separate, I got a very big surprise when the identities started crashing into each other and coalescing. There’s no Mike Jones in my closet, but I have realized how uncomfortable I am with my lesbianism. It’s not that I’m questioning my sexual orientation and lifestyle choice (Yes, I choose to be a lesbian.), but I’ve internalized messages about being sick. Being a lesbian doesn’t make me sick. And being a lesbian doesn’t give anyone the right to sexualize or exploit me. All you straight girls back off! I’m not your opportunity to play lesbian.
So I can tell Ted that he can’t keep these identities separate. They have to come together. And the ones that don’t get on board have to go. In my case, I have no fear of losing those who are closest to me or mean the most to me by revealing my truest self. I hope the same is true for Pastor Ted.