Friday, January 19, 2007

Too Many Degrees

There is a saying that everyone on the planet is linked by no more than six degrees of separation.

For example, suppose I wanted to link to writer/director/actor Christopher Guest - I know that my friend James (1 degree) knows Daniel Zingale (2 degrees) who works for Arnold Schwarzenegger (3 degrees) who worked on True Lies with Jamie Lee Curtis (4 degrees) who is married to Guest (and done in 5 degrees of separation). If I asked around, I could probably get that linkage down by a few degrees.

Amongst gay people, the joke is that there is only 2 or 3 degrees of separation. And if you live in a cosmopolitan area that is also a vacation destination, that seems even more true. Some links are obvious - everyone has met at least one of the Fab Five from Queer Eye - and some are just rumors - we all know someone who knows someone who slept with Tom Cruise. But - for the most part - gay folk do know each other.

Which raises a question:

Why is it that there are so many "former homosexuals" whom nobody knows?

Now, one of the traits of a "former homosexual" tends to be that he has some sordid history that he's overcome. He was a hustler or a drug dealer or a plain old garden variety tramp. Stephen Bennett, for example, was a houseboy in Provincetown and had over 100 lovers.

But nobody gay has heard of him.

Now I'm not saying that Bennett is not same-sex attracted. Nor am I saying that he never acted on his urges. I really don't know.

But I am saying that it's rather odd for someone to live in a gay resort town that is the tourist destination for tens of thousands of gay men each year and have nobody remember that you exist. And considering his self-promotion, it seems strange that not one of those 100 men he slept with - or any of their friends - have said, "hey, look. It's that slutty Steve guy. I always wondered what happened to him."

Cate Clinton, a lesbian commedian, has made similar observations:

For years I asked audiences if anyone there had dated Ann Paulk, the ex-gay poster child. No one ever had. I figured if we didn’t know her, she wasn’t a lesbian.

Perhaps these ex-gays feel that they need to spice up their testimony with connections that never existed or a presence in the gay community that they never held. Or perhaps the whole story is a fabrication to give substance to a profitable ministry.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I received some feedback recently from an ex-gay individual that complained (fairly, I believe) that sometimes those of us who criticize ex-gay ministries lump all ex-gays together in our criticism. He said that this makes him feel as though we just want to shut down all ex-gay ministries, regardless of whether they engage in the practices that we criticize.

As this is the beginning of a new year, I think it might be a good time to remind our readers that I do not oppose the existence of ex-gay ministries. Nor do I seek to diminish those who seek to live in accordance with their religious values or even to seek to change the direction of their attractions.

Personally, I am not convinced that orientation can measurable change in the vast majority of gay persons. Yet each of us is ultimately responsible for the direction in which we take our lives and it would be arrogant of me to insist that all persons with same-sex attractions happily embrace their orientation.

So for those ex-gay ministries that seek to operate in an atmosphere of honesty and accountability and do not engage in the practice of objectification, demonization, fear mongering, and cultural and religious arrogance and who see their mission as religious and shun politics, to you I say “thank you”. And I hope that more ex-gay ministries will see your example and emulate you.