Why can’t we tolerate post-gays as well as gays?

There has been quite a lot in the news today about an advertisement which Anglican Mainstream and the Core Issues Trust proposed to run on London buses:

NOT GAY! EX-GAY, POST-GAY AND PROUD. GET OVER IT!

Cranmer gives a detailed report, and notes, with a reference to David Cameron’s Easter message, that

these plucky Christians are merely doing what the Prime Minister exhorted them to do: ‘ fight back’.

But Cranmer has not as yet reported the latest development, for news of which I thank Stuart James. He writes that

Transport of London have just Tweeted:

Anglican Mainstream ad just brought to our attention and will not run on London’s bus or transport networks

And:

We don’t believe these ads reflect TfL’s commitment to a tolerant and inclusive London

It seems that Boris Johnson, who is campaigning for re-election as Mayor of London, spoke out against the ad – as did his two main opponents in the election, according to the gay news service Pink News. It is not clear whether it was this intervention that led Transport for London to drop the ad. Johnson is reported as saying:

London is one of the most tolerant cities in the world and intolerant of intolerance. It is clearly offensive to suggest that being gay is an illness that someone recovers from and I am not prepared to have that suggestion driven around London on our buses.

Well, Mr Johnson, your language points out the problem: London is tolerant of anything except what it labels as “intolerance”. The proposed ad says nothing intolerant of gays. It certainly does not “suggest that being gay is an illness that someone recovers from”. But the gay lobby sees its very existence threatened by the suggestion that people might be able to change their sexual orientation. So it tries to silence the voices making this suggestion by making entirely spurious accusations that they are anti-gay and so intolerant, which means that London has to be intolerant of them.

Yes, Mr Johnson, this is an issue of tolerance. It is one of refusing to discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual orientation. You are slandering and discriminating against people who identify themselves as previously gay and now straight. You are breaking the rules in your own authority’s Code of Conduct, which explicitly apply to you as Mayor:

Respect for Others

You should promote equality by not discriminating unlawfully against any person, and by treating people with respect, regardless of their … sexual orientation …

Now I don’t want to be seen as promoting the post-gay cause. I don’t know if the controversial treatment to turn gay people straight actually works. I’m not sure that the strategy of Anglican Mainstream and Core Issues Trust is a good one. But I want to defend the right of people to identify themselves as post-gay and publicise their existence, just as I defend the right of people to identify themselves as gay and publicise their existence.

It seems to be politically correct to attempt to change one’s gender by hormone therapy and “gender reassignment surgery”, and ethical for doctors to offer these treatments for people who want them. Why is it considered so politically incorrect to attempt to change one’s sexual orientation, and unethical for doctors to offer therapy which might cause such a change?

51 thoughts on “Why can’t we tolerate post-gays as well as gays?

  1. A lot of people (self included) would regard that banner as homophobic, IMO it’s a deliberate dig at homosexuals. I’d like to know what opinion a chaste gay person would have about it. As for Boris, well he’s going to say whatever he thinks might garner a few extra votes at the mayoral election, especially with Ken breathing down his neck.

    Personally I think the church is far too hung up with sex and sexuality in a negative sense. There are other more important issues like poverty and hunger that would be worth getting equally vexed about. If we spent as much energy on evangelism we’d be in a far better position to have a real impact that made difference to people, whether they be straight or gay. Queer people this week, women bishops next, what a waste of time and energy.

  2. It’s a strange business. I have many gay friends, a couple of ex-gay friends, and many straight friends; to me it makes no never mind, they’re fellow human beings: what matters is loving and accepting people whatever their sexual orientation or gender identification.

    As far as I’m concerned these ads would be fine, a good riposte to Stonewall’s ads, if they weren’t advertising Anglican so-called ‘Mainstream’ (which is anything but), which does take a strongly anti-gay stance. I know nothing about the ‘Core Issues’ people but if they’re willing to team up with AM, that probably says enough.

    Sad :(

  3. Perhaps what is needed is all the post and ex-gays out there to come out of the closet and tell people that they are no longer gay.

  4. I believe it is a shame that Anglican Mainstream and Core Issues cannot emulate Apostle Paul’s example in as far as the only thing worth boasting of is the cross of Christ. As a Christian, I wish they had consulted more widely as to the language they employed.

    Furthermore, the phrase “get over it” may be supremely “politically incorrect” but it is not a phrase that graciously adorns the tongue of a Christian.

  5. The only reason that it bothers me is that it starts with “Not Gay!” (with an exclamation point). It comes across, to me, as if they’re yelling it because being gay is somehow ‘bad’…which I don’t think is good. If it was changed to something like “Not gay: ex-gay, post gay, and proud. Get over it!” I’d be fine with it (I’d think that at least the ‘ex-gay’ part was a load of BS, but I’d still be okay with it).

    BTW…does anyone have any idea by what they mean by post gay?

  6. Paul, I can only agree with you, and with Mark Russell, that there are more important issues in the world. But I don’t see the ad as truly homophobic. I understand that people, even Boris, regard it as homophobic, but that is because the gay lobby has claimed the right to proclaim anything it doesn’t like as homophobia. Since when has it been a hate crime to express a point of view which someone else doesn’t like? Whatever has happened to responsible discussion of contentious issues?

    Phil, I see your point. If Anglican Mainstream or Core Issues Trust are homophobic organisations, this ad promoting their websites would be homophobic. Well, Anglican Mainstream is known to campaign against church ministry by practising homosexuals, but it does so with rational arguments, not with hate speech. And this is how the Core Issues home page starts:

    CORE is a non-profit Christian initiative seeking to support men and women with homosexual issues who voluntarily seek change in sexual preference and expression. It respects the rights of individuals who identify as ‘gay’ who do not seek change.

    So no homophobia there, just support for the right to seek change.

    Iconoclast, indeed that would help.

    Beryl, the phrase “Get over it!” was copied from the pro-gay Stonewall ad to which this is a response. If it weren’t for that context I would agree with you that this is not a good phrase for Christians to use.

  7. Rhea, I see your point. I’m not defending the exact wording, only the right to express such an opinion. If TfL had wanted to negotiate on the wording, that would have been reasonable, but instead they seem to have banned the ad in response to irrational hysteria, and electioneering politics.

    As far as I know, “post-gay” means the same as “ex-gay”, but maybe there is some subtle distinction. I don’t know why you call “ex-gay” “a load of BS”. It is undeniable that there are some people who used to be part of the gay community and are now happily heterosexually married. How far this is a real change of orientation (whatever that means) and how far it is a lifestyle choice, I don’t know. But I guess Core Issues Trust have material explaining what they think is happening.

  8. Rhea,
    If you want to follow up on the description “post-gay”, you coulddo no worse than visit the website “An Exercise in the Fundamentals of Orthodoxy” . Peter Ould (whose web site it is) claims to be the person who coined the phrase “post gay” and is more au fait with homosexual statistics than the average Christian .

    My concern is not regarding the fluidity of sexual orientation in the teens and twenties but the homosexual “causes celebres” (or perhaps “non-celebres”) such as Gene Robinson and Roy Clements who have married and had children yet still claim a homosexual identity which must be acknowledged, experienced and celebrated.

  9. Is the banner a responsible discussion of contentious issues? I don’t find it so, it is intended to be provocative and therefore in my mind deliberately homophobic. I see they are now proposing to sue TfL, that should keep the lawyers happy, plenty of money to be made on a wild goose chase. There must be lots of positive ways to counter posturing from the likes of Stonewall without indulging in a peeing contest (pardon me, but that’s what it is).

    Purely my own point of view, but I have to say that the idea of ‘curing’ homosexuality is as deplorable as the practice of eugenics as espoused by the Nazis/SS. I find this sort of ‘Christianity’ very disturbing. If such a campaign were mounted by a Muslim organisation there would be an utter furore.

    If people want to declare themselves ex or post gay, that is fine with me, as long as I were satisfied that it was their faith that convicted them, not the manipulations of an extremist organisation.

  10. Beryl, I would think that people like Gene Robinson and Roy Clements would say, in retrospect, that they were pressured by society into marrying and concealing their true gay identity. How far they were conscious of that at the time may be debatable. Presumably their sexuality was sufficiently ambiguous that they could father children – or else they got someone else to do the deed for them.

    Paul, I don’t think anyone is using the word “curing” or suggesting that gay people are sick. What they are talking about is people who freely choose to declare themselves ex-gay. Well, there may sometimes be pressure for example from Christian leaders, but I would agree that that kind of pressure is deplorable. But so is any pressure put on ex-gays to deny or hide any change.

  11. Peter, I call ‘ex-gay’ a load of BS because I know of *ZERO* scientific evidence to back up the ability of someone to change their orientation. Behaviour? Sure. I have absolutely ZERO problem believing that someone’s behaviour has changed…but I don’t believe that orientation can change.

    And honestly…if it can, I’m be REALLY mad at God. Why? Because I prayed and begged and did everything that I knew to do to no longer be gay, yet I still am. If God would change some people, but not me, grrrr….I’d be more than a little peeved.

    I tend to believe that individuals who end up being in a decent heterosexual marriage who once identified as gay were never 100% gay, but rather probably bisexual. Maybe it was 99% gay and 1% straight…but still.

  12. Hey, know what? People like me feel physically sick when they read this stuff. No, not because I am a glass jawed person desperate to make it a hanging offence to have a rational, logical, calm & peaceful disagreement with Stonewall. It’s because of ppl LIKE THAT that I feel sick. These folk would have ppl like me jobless and thrown out of society for shattering their bubble in which nobody is physically permitted to disagree with them. They would quite happily damage MY mental wellbeing and couldn’t care less. This is sickening activity.

    I agree that the bus ad uses phrasing that is not Christian and not helpful, but you know the ironic thing? It was stolen and lifted from a Stonewall advert! So who is now being exposed as intolerant, hate-filled and nasty and warmongering? Stonewall and ppl who support such militant pro-gay activism.

    I actually feel terrible for ppl like the poster on here who struggled with homosexual issues and has not won their battle. I don’t want to cheapen another human being’s life by saying some glib one liner. All I can say is that I am ex-gay. Sexuality, the more you look at it, is a fluid thing and of course there are degrees of it as there are degrees of many things we once thought scientifically set in stone. Some ppl have a weakness towards addiction in their life, we call it having an addictive personality. Such ppl are 100% supported when they turn around and say they want to quit smoking, gambling, drinking etc. Ppl with OCD are supported when they don’t want to wash their hands to the bone anymore. Ppl who are driven to succeed at work are called wise and lifestyle savvy when they ditch their offices and go on retreats in spas to relax and forget their working obsession.

    We advocate and even push the rights of anyone who wishes to change their gender, both physically and mentally. We treat it like changing anything else. BUT!

    Suddenly, with this one single issue of sexuality, the guns come out and the hate speech comes out. How DARE anyone, whether they claim to have experienced fluidity in their own sexuality or not, even speak the words ‘ex gay’ or ‘I have some disagreements with the pro-gay lobby’s position that homosexuality is biologically unavoidable & I’d like to calmly raise them’. Your very job is threatened, you get ppl saying you ought not to be around kids, it’s like confessing to a murder. I think Darwin once used this term and though I’m not a Darwinist, this is one time I can totally appreciate how he must have felt. It’s like standing up against the world, armed to the teeth before you with the power and desire to cut you off and make it hard for you to even support yourself, to call you a monster amongst men, for going against the tide and the grain.

    I’m a lovely person. I have worked with and had actively homosexual friends of both sexes. I have deliberately said ‘It’s not an issue for me’ when I have been asked ‘Are you sure you can take this job?’ I can say the same about ppl who are active witches, wiccans, Muslims, even anarchists. I have worked passionately in mental health and in hostels protecting the most vulnerable in society. Once an atheist militant activist told me they’d like to go out and use an AK-47 on all ‘pointless religious folk’. Am I an intolerant danger to society?

    You decide. But I am through being pushed around by aggressive lobbies and told I am a monster for simply being a Christian who believes the plain reading of the Bible and yet lives in love but not compromise. Hate is a word that has been hijacked by a group who don’t largely experience real hatred, like where your life is in danger or your ability to support your family. I don’t support hate of anyone, but that doesn’t mean the topic of homosexuality is off limits. It isn’t, and it shouldn’t be and these ppl who want it to be make me feel physically sick. If it wasn’t for the free chance to choose and to change, I wouldn’t be a mother right now and thank God for my wonderful daughter. The thought that someone’s ideology could have prevented me from having her because of their intolerant attitude towards ex-gay issues makes me sick. The end. Sorry to rant but it gets me upset.

  13. …and to answer an earlier point, I agree the church should be much more passionate and vocal about other issues as well, but I refuse to be told ‘silence, this is off limits’ by anyone.

    As a follower of Jesus, I try to spend my day actually listening to the living God whom I know, love and follow by His holy Spirit living within me. He is there only because of the cross. I know that in no way am I worthy, but He has made me worthy. That is the ‘religion’ I have, if any and that is my passion and my life. It drives me to love, to have compassion for those less fortunate than myself (the majority of the human race globally), to give ppl my time, to laugh and to socialise, to show respect and offer dignity to folks of all sorts. Does it make me compromise? No. Jesus didn’t and I don’t. I love and respect and show decent normal behaviour towards my many friends who are living in cohabitation environments, where’s the big scare about sexuality then? I am consistent – I view a homosexual couple the same as I do a cohabiting couple. One is not ‘more sinful’ or out of line. I don’t dwell on it that way and to say otherwise is strawman attacking. I’m not straw, I’m flesh and I feel.

    I don’t give ppl a hard time in life but do I view it as set? No. Do I think ppl can change? Yes they can, in many walks of life. Is it easy? No. Most ppl get with what they fancy, and that is a strong feeling. I’m not denying that fact. But if you read dear deardry columns in most newspapers these days, adulterers are seen as ‘oh it’s all Ok then’ the moment they say something like ‘He was married, and I knew that but by the time I found out it was too late, we were in love and we just had to be together’. Pardon me but really? You can’t turn around and say ‘Hey buddy, I know we are a pair but you know what, I discovered you’re lying to me, you’re married. That’s wrong, you are someone else’s Husband and that person is a feeling, breathing human being too. So we are done, I am not cheating on your wife with you’.

    It sickens me that we’ve got to a stage where the woman in my example is celebrated for ‘being in love’ and it is seen as some out of control urge that trumps everything else, all your other senses and especially rational thought :( As a married person, the idea that someone else could feel entitled to sleep with my Husband simply because they ‘were in love’ with him is vomit-enducing, don’t you think?

  14. Rhea, I never intended to claim anything more than a change of behaviour and a change of public identity, such as leaving the gay community and getting married (heterosexually). I suspect that many, perhaps even all, of these people are bisexual, and after previously choosing to play up their gay side have decided instead to play up their straight side. But they are still in a very meaningful way, concerning behaviour and identity if not actual orientation, ex-gay.

    You say “I don’t believe that orientation can change”. Well, that is your faith position, backed up by your personal anecdotal story. But there is some scientific evidence for partial change of orientation, as is conceded even by the critical reviewer in this Guardian article.

    But there is also as far as I know zero (I won’t say *ZERO*) scientific evidence to back up your claim that orientation cannot change. In fact there is good evidence, from identical twin studies, that sexual orientation is not genetically determined. That implies that it is determined by environmental factors in childhood. With other psychological traits caused in this way, there can be a gradual shift during adulthood and environmental factors may cause this – which leaves open the possibility that some kind of therapy may promote the change. Very likely the same is true of sexual orientation. However there is clearly no magic pill which one can swallow to become straight or gay – although who knows what medical science might come up with in the future.

  15. Kim, thank you for your excellent comments. Sorry the second one was held up for moderation, I don’t know why.

    While I agree that there are other issues of more general importance in the world, I certainly didn’t mean to suggest that discussion of these issues should be off limits. The problem is with Christian people, mostly with no experience of being gay (like me!), who are obsessed with this topic to the exclusion of what really ought to be considered more important.

    I would be really interested to know why you were able to change orientation but Rhea was not. Is it, as she suggests, because you were in fact only 99% gay but she is 100%? Did you use some technique which she didn’t try? Or is it just that people are different? Probably. But, unless Rhea can find some in principle verifiable way of showing that you were always less gay than she is, she really ought to accept you as disproving her belief that orientation cannot change.

  16. Peter, I’m familiar with some of the twin studies that have looked at sexual orientation. I agree that you’re not ‘born that way’ like you’re born with brown eyes…but I do think that there is a genetic link nonetheless. Our life experiences change our brains…so it makes sense to me that two identical twins who had completely different life experiences would turn out different in various ways (even including sexuality). Even identical twins raised in the same home aren’t going to have EXACTLY the same experiences.

    I would say that my views on whether or not we can change our sexual orientation are most influenced by the APA: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/sexual-orientation.aspx

    What bothers me at times with conversations like these is that people often talk about the ‘gay community’ or the ‘gay lifestyle’…but they never quite define what they mean. I think that in most instances, they’re talking about a very promiscuous lifestyle…often times filled with drug use. For the record, I’ve only ever slept with one woman (my wife)…heck, I’ve only ever KISSED one woman…and I’ve old tried an illegal drug once (I smoked pot once when I was in high school). My ‘gay lifestyle’ includes watching an episode or two of ‘The Simpsons’ before bed…getting up at 8-something…feeding the cats, taking a shower, getting ready for the day….going to class…volunteering at the local elementary school….going to church on Sundays…etc. This is very similar to many of my straight friends.

    Now, if someone is sleeping with numerous people…using and abusing drugs…getting drunk or a regular basis….then that’s not a healthy lifestyle (regardless of the person’s sexual orientation). In cases like that, I believe that the BEHAVIOUR has to change, but not the orientation. The only ‘harm’ that I’ve ever experienced from simply ‘being gay’ came from the names and poor treatment some people gave me. But I’m sure that there are many black people who have had similar experiences…hopefully no one would ever suggest they needed to ‘change’ and become white.

  17. I guess with the end of that last comment, the point I was trying to get across is that comparing someone who is gay to someone who has an addiction is ridiculous. An addiction is harmful. The behaviour needs to change for that person to have a healthy life. Me being gay is not harmful to me. Me being gay just means that I’m attracted to women instead of men. The only real behaviour that its impacted is the person that I chose to marry (I picked a woman and not a man).

    From what I can gather, the idea of sexual orientation as we understand it today was a completely unknown and foreign concept to those who wrote the Bible. On top of that, there are only 6 or 7 passages in the entire Bible that even mention anything remotely related to what I would possible coin ‘homogenital sex acts’. But when I look at them in their context, I still can’t figure out how any of them apply to me, my life, my behaviour, or my relationship with my wife. So I go about my business doing my best to love God and love people…and follow Christ as I do those two things.

    :)

  18. Rhea, first a reminder that I have no problem with your own lifestyle choice. I consider that you have the right to choose this, and ex-gays have the right to choose their lifestyle. And I certainly agree that it is better to be the committed partner of one other than to sleep around, whether straight or gay.

    Well, a black person can in some sense choose to become white. Michael Jackson dyed his skin pale and had plastic surgery to make himself look white. No one calls this immoral (though they might call it stupid!) or claims that the procedure implies that being black is a disease. But of course it doesn’t change one’s genes. Similarly with gender reassignment surgery. I guess no one would have called Jackson “ex-black”, but one might call a transsexual person “ex-male” or “ex-female”. But the difference here is that race and gender are completely genetically determined.

    Thanks for the link to the APA article. But I find it odd because of the way it mixes emotional, romantic, and sexual attractions. If I have “shared goals and values, mutual support, and ongoing commitment” with another man, who might be someone I work or worship with or just a good friend, does that make me bisexual? But the telling point is “There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons …”, in other words, no one knows what causes sexual orientation. I also note “Mental health professional organizations call on their members to respect a person’s (client’s) right to self-determination” – in other words, if they want to change, to respect that wish and not to pressure them into what they don’t want. Also, “some young people are presumed to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual because they don’t abide by traditional gender roles”, and so prematurely “come out” as gay etc when they aren’t really. Are such people to be allowed to express their real orientation, or are they forced to pretend to be gay for life?

  19. Interesting brief report in this w/e’s Church Times, Gay-therapy view defended with follow-up comment by Giles Fraser.

    Personally I struggle with the term “lifestyle choice” when used in this context: as my friend Emma Jayne says, “Being gay is not a lifestyle option.” – Notes from a Gay Christian Woman.

    Can orientation change? I believe it can: I don’t believe our sexual orientation is necessarily hardwired into us at birth, though I guess for some it is. Me, according to a completely unscientific “How gay are you?” test on facebook, I’m 60% gay … all I can say is that when that result popped out of the fb test, all sorts of things suddenly fell into place for me: behaviours, attitudes, friendships, childhood experiences, adult relationships all began to make sense … a sort of epiphany moment as I recognised the fluidity of that part of who I am.

    But the more important question, I guess, is should orientation change? An analogy: should a left-handed person be forced into right-handedness? I think pretty well all educationalists today would agree on a decisive no to that question: we need to recognise that some people are in fact ambidextrous, and some veer more to the left, others to the right. We don’t choose left/right handedness, and as we go on through life, we find some things easier with one hand than with the other. Why can we not accept such a possibility with our sexuality … and, in the words of the advertisers on both sides, “get over it”?

  20. On the subject of those Bible passages Rhea mentioned, I just love this quote from Lynn Lavner:

    “The Bible contains 6 admonishments to homosexuals and 362 admonishments to heterosexuals. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love heterosexuals. It’s just that they need more supervision.”

    :D

  21. Phil, thanks for the comments, and for the Church Times link.

    Giles Fraser needs to learn that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. If a professor of psychiatry claims to have evidence for something of which the Royal College of Psychiatrists states there is no evidence, then the proper procedure is not for the professor to be demonised, but for the RCP to examine the professor’s evidence, and if it is suggestive but inconclusive to commission further studies. Meanwhile, did John Smid never meet Martin Hallett, or was he simply lying when he said he never met an ex-gay?

    I don’t suppose it is possible to change one’s handedness. But does that mean we should ban left-handed people from even trying to use right-handed tools and instruments?

  22. I guess for me it comes down to this: is there anything wrong with being gay? If the answer is yes, then I really do hope and pray that change is possible, and that God will somehow miraculously change me. If the answer is no, then I think that whether or not change is possible is irrelevant.

    I have dark hair and blue eyes. Could I wake up tomorrow with brown eyes and blonde hair? Sure…I see no reason why God couldn’t do that…I just don’t think that it’s very likely, as there’s nothing wrong with my current situation. I mean, I think that it’s possible that God could turn me into a rabbit (He is God after all)…but seeing as how they’re nothing wrong with me being a human, I don’t think that it’s very likely.

  23. Phil, I just re-read Emma Jayne’s notes. I am certainly not saying that sexual orientation is a lifestyle choice. It is a deep psychological trait, and if it can be changed it is not by a simple choice.

    What is a lifestyle choice is what, given that orientation, one chooses to do with it. Whether gay or straight, one can choose to be celibate, choose to find a single committed partner, choose to flaunt one’s sexuality in bars, choose to sleep around – and even choose to go against one’s natural orientation when finding a partner.

    That last is a choice which many gay people used to make, and some still do. I don’t know if any naturally straight people choose to find a same sex partner, but I guess there are those who have found themselves in same sex relationships without really being gay deep down. Now going against one’s sexuality is not a lifestyle choice that we should be pressuring people into. But if they freely choose to do this, then who are we to stop them?

    The problem with Emma Jayne’s logic seems to be that she has been taken in by the world’s arguments, as promoted especially by the gay community, that one’s lifestyle is dictated by one’s sexual orientation, and that one is predetermined to do whatever one’s sex organs drive one to do. This is not true. The command centre of the body is the brain, not the genitalia.

    Meanwhile, a passing thought: What do Muslims have in common with the gay community? They are happy to encourage you to join them. But they claim that it is impossible to leave them, and persecute those who try.

  24. Perhaps the command centre should be the brain, but wouldn’t that make us all rather like Mr Spock, detached from our emotions and all the other aspects of us that make us fully rounded human beings?

    I disagree with your assessment of Emma’s logic, if logic it is: I read it as an argument from the heart, and all the more powerful for that. It’s not the world’s arguments that have taken her in but the church’s arrogance that has shut her out. As she says,

    “You say it’s OK to be gay as long as I don’t do gay: that I must remain celibate. You say that sex is for marriage, but you deny me that privilege. You put fences around me — for my protection, you say. But that’s not true, is it? The fences are for your protection, to keep you safe from me, from the threat that I and my friends supposedly present to your nice, clean-cut clearly defined community.”

    It’s the church that has shut the door in her face, that continues to shut the door in the face of those like her. Yes, she could wrestle with her orientation, her gender identification, her desire for physical intimacy with a partner whom she loves (and she has done so, more than any reading this can know). But why should she do so? Because a handful of biblical passages have been taken and elevated and given an entirely disproportionate weight by the powers that be in the church to declare her and her desires anathema:

    You can’t have sex because you’re not married, says the church, and you can’t get married because you’re gay.

    Catch 22.

    Worse still, now that the possibility of civil marriage for gays has been raised by the government, the church has stuck its oar in and said no, not even that. This is Christianity at its worst, seeking not merely to protect its own interests — which the government has already guaranteed to protect — but to impose its views upon those outside, alienating them still further.

    Lord, have mercy.

  25. Rhea, you have dark hair and blue eyes. Tomorrow you could have brown eyes and blonde hair, not just because God could do it, but also because you could dye your hair and wear contact lenses. Many people choose to make changes like that. Does that mean that there is something wrong with having dark hair and blue eyes? Is the sale of blonde hair dye some kind of discrimination against brunettes or claim that they need to be “cured”? Of course not! Similarly, therapy to allow people who want to do so to change their sexual orientation is not discrimination or a claim that anyone needs to be “cured”.

    Whether any such therapy actually works is logically a separate question.

  26. Phil, I’m all for arguments from the heart. It’s arguments from the genitals that I have a problem with. I’m sad that Emma feels shut out by the church, but ever since the Garden of Eden God has said that certain choices are wrong. But that is actually a separate issue from the one we are discussing on this thread. And gay marriage is yet another separate issue. Let’s stick to the post-gay issue here.

  27. Peter, you’re right that I could dye my hair blonde and wear brown contacts. But I guess that I would argue that ‘deep down’ I’m still dark-haired and blue eyed. I tend to think of people who call themselves ‘ex-gay’ in the same light.

    I will admit that a lot of confusion about whether or not people can be ‘ex-gay’ is I think caught up in the definition of gay. If being gay is primarily about behaviour, as in, having sex with someone of the same sex…then yes, you can totally be ex-gay. Just stop having sex with people of the same sex. But if being gay is deeper than that…I don’t know how you change it.

  28. Peter, also, It’s my understanding that reparative therapy is harmful (according to the APA and similar organisations). On the other hand, I don’t know of any organisation that says that using blonde hair dye is harmful. Also, my guess is that people who dye their hair and wear coloured contact lenses generally do it just for fun…for a change of pace…etc. The only people that I personally know who have tried to change their sexual orientation have done so b/c they thought that who they were (gay) was wrong/bad. On top of that, I only hear of people trying to change from gay to straight, and not vice versa. On the other hand, you can very easily find hair dye from jet black to practically white with everything in between.

  29. Well, maybe, Rhea. But if you were naturally blonde in the first place and just dyed you hair dark, then let it go back to blonde… My point here is, perhaps not everyone who “comes out” as gay is really gay deep down. If they then go back to straight behaviour, are they ex-gay? I guess more common are the bisexual people who change their primary orientation. But then I’m not convinced that anyone is 100% one or the other.

    Is there actually any evidence that reparative therapy is harmful? As far as I can tell there has been no large scale systematic study of its effects, good or bad. There may be anecdotal stories of people claiming to be harmed by it, but more likely that is because they are disappointed by the therapy and so say bad things about it.

  30. Peter, I definitely think that it’s possible for someone to come out who really isn’t gay, and then no longer identify as gay…I guess I just wouldn’t call that person ex-gay. To me, in order to actually be ex-gay, you would have had to be actually gay in the first place. I don’t think that someone is gay simply because he identifies that way (though generally, I do take people at their word).

    There is some evidence out there that suggests that at least women’s sexuality is somewhat fluid. So in that case, I could see where a woman might identify as a lesbian at one point in her life…but then later meet a man and marry him, and perhaps then label herself as straight. In a case like that, I could understand her maybe labelling herself as post-gay, but I think that the most accurate label for her would probably be bisexual.

  31. Thanks, Rhea. I can agree here. Actually I think you have answered the question I just asked you on Facebook, at least for women: there are bisexuals who call themselves lesbian and then later straight, and not only because they have been pressured to go back in the closet. But does it also happen for men, or if not, why not?

  32. It seems (this is all based off of just gay men that I know) that gay men are way more ‘set’ in their sexual orientation. And not just gay men, but straight men as well. What I mean is, most men that I know are either gay or straight–off the top of my head, I can’t think of a single bisexual man that I know. The gay men that I know talk as if they’re 110% gay. I consider myself a lesbian, but I’ll even admit that with over 6 billion people on the planet, it’s *possible* that there’s one man out there that I could be attracted to. Maybe it’s that men are just naturally more ‘certain’ of things than women? Or maybe women are just naturally more open to various possibilities? I don’t really know. Maybe there ARE a lot of bisexual men out there, but they feel some sort of stigma or fear at coming out as bisexual (versus labelling themselves as gay or straight).

  33. Rhea, that is interesting and may be true, but has there been any formal research on this? Of course the problem with any such research is that it has to be based on what people say about themselves, because apart from that there is no way to determine or measure sexual orientation. So what is really being measured is nothing objective, just subjective attitudes – and perhaps people’s choice of sexual partners, which is not always an accurate reflection of their underlying sexuality.

  34. I am not certain that it is the case that churches ‘fear’ homosexuals so much as fearing sanitising something that up to quite recently, was universally regarded as sin.

    If you are asking the church to accept homosexuality as being quite normal for some people and acceptable for christians (so long as it is monogamous and faithful), then you have to appeal to wider themes of love and tolerance and give them precedence over what is specifically said about homosexuality in the Bible. You may even need to go so far as to introduce a new doctrine of marriage.

    Rather than just using specific texts, the male/female motif of sexual expression as being normative is overwhelming throughout the Bible and when homosexual expression is mentioned then it is invariably negative. The other approach to take is that the biblical prohibitions regarding homosexuality are culturally determined and we can largely dismiss them today. One problem here is that the more liberalising , concessionary and less restrictive tendencies say towards slavery and women, that is found in the New Testament as compared to the Old, is not reciprocated in the case of homosexuality which continues to be viewed in the NT with strong disapproval.

    Do we now consider ourselves to be sufficiently enlightened in the 21st century that we can confidently disregard such strictures? If so, then how can we be sure we can do this?

    I am not scared or fearful of homosexuals, but I do fear strongly that the church may sanctify something that God regards as sin. If this is the case, then it must surely have implications for the church as a whole and as with the seven churches in Revelation, we may find our ‘lampstands’ being removed.
    And that is a fearful prospect indeed.

  35. Thank you, Iconoclast, for that excellent summary of the underlying issues. In fact may I turn that comment into a post here, of course attributing it to you as “Iconoclast” (or your real name if you prefer)?

  36. Since Iconoclast has mentioned the parallel situation with regard to slaves & women, some challenging reading from my days as bookshop manager at LST:

    Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis
    William J Webb
    IVP USA, 2001
    9780830815616
    £14.36 from Amazon UK

    Confession: although I sold more copies than I can count, I’ve yet to read it myself…

  37. I agree that being gay and straight at the same time is not as simple as changing one’s hair color. There are deeper internal issues that we can’t explain in simple ways, even though I personally don’t approve of homosex. The framework I’ve found easier to deal with is sexual identity in Christ rather sexual orientation. A book I recommend is “homosexuality and the christian” (Bethany house, 2010).

  38. Pingback: How to Ask Churches to Accept Homosexuality as Normal - Gentle Wisdom

  39. I’ve never heard anything positive of Yarmouth outside of the generic conservative evangelical Christian circles…I take any studies from him with a grain of salt.

  40. It’s also interesting b/c the link mentions Exodus, and the head of Exodus (Alan Chambers) has said, publicly (on more than one occasion, I believe) that probably 99% of the people that are ex-gay aren’t actually ex-gay in terms of orientation, but rather behaviour. If I’m not mistaken, he mentioned this publicly as recently as the Gay Christian Network conference in Florida this past January.

  41. Thanks, Rhea. I can’t really comment, but is Former President of the American Psychological Association Nicholas A. Cummings, Ph.D., Sc.D. inside “the generic conservative evangelical Christian circles”? Any study needs to be examined critically, of course, but could some who reject this one be coming to it with certain presuppositions? But Chambers may be right that 99% of ex-gays are really so only in behaviour – these are the people Ould calls “post-gay”.

  42. I will admit that I was describing my previous experience with anything related to Yarmouth. I’m definitely not familiar with Cummings, so perhaps he is in one of those generic conservative evangelical Christian circles…or he could be as liberal as they come and worship Mother Earth ;) Either way though…while he might have been the president of the APA at some point, he’s clearly moved away from that organisation now: http://www.narth.com/docs/cummings.html

  43. Thanks for that interesting link about Cummings. We don’t know his personal faith. We do know that he has been married for over 60 years, so is probably not gay. But that information should be irrelevant. He worked for many years for a large and not explicitly Christian health care organisation. And he is not saying what conservative evangelicals might try to claim, that being gay is a disease which can be cured. He is carefully saying that some of his patients wanted to change their sexual orientation, and of those some were apparently successful. But I fully agree with the following:

    Relegating all same sex-attraction as an unchangeable … distorts reality. And past attempts to make sexual reorientation therapy “unethical” violates patient choice …

  44. Pingback: This week’s news and links – gay bus ads and more | God and Politics in the UK

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