Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Well, apparently it only takes a few weeks to cure homosexuality. Ted Haggard, the disgraced evangelical minister from Colorado Springs who bought crystal meth and had an ongoing affair with a male prostitute, met with four ministers for several weeks of intensive counseling. (Three years worth of counseling in three weeks, Haggard claims.) Now, one of the people overseeing his "treatment" is quoted in the NY Times affirming Haggard's "complete heterosexuality." They explain this by saying that his behavior, which they call "acting out," was limited to sexual activity with just one person. There were no other affairs in his past. Therefore, it is an aberration, not an indication of Haggard's sexual orientation. Haggard himself also sent word to his former congregants that he and his wife will be pursuing graduate degrees in psychology and moving somewhere in the Midwest, like Missouri or Iowa.

All of this raises several kinds of questions for me. What has this "counseling" done to Haggard's psyche? While I do not presume to know Haggard's sexual orientation, I am too familiar with the self-hatred that some brands of Christian belief can instill in gay and sexually questioning men to think that this behavior was his one-time "acting out." Even Haggard admitted, back when he was first busted, that he had long had "feelings" that were contrary to his religious beliefs.

His diagnosis, according to his "Christian counselors," is that he has a sexual addiction. It does seem like that could be a possibility, with the reckless sexual behavior that jeopardized his job and national reputation, although that disagnosis does not negate a gay sexual orientation. Yet, I think the "one-time" nature of the behavior actually works against the diagnosis of sexual addiction, which would require a pattern of behaviors. The DSM-IV says sexual addiction is:

“distress about a pattern of repeated sexual relationships involving a
succession of lovers who are experienced by the individual only as things to be

It involves “compulsive searching for multiple partners, compulsive fixation on an unattainable partner, compulsive masturbation, compulsive love relationships and compulsive sexuality in a relationship.”

So, the disagnosis simply does not work for me.

Now, I am enough of a traditionalist to believe that married people should not have sex with people other than their partners without some kind of agreement. But I do understand and sympathize with the ways that sexual desire and self-hatred combine to make closeted gay people do stupid things. Therefore, I worry about Haggard's well-being, and I hope he gets real counseling from someone who has been trained.

And this leads me to another question--who has been ministering to Haggard's wife--in her grief, her betrayal, and her confusion? And what kind of training does this person have? Personally, I don't think the Haggards should study psychology...I think they should seek out professional counseling by licensed clinical social workers or psychologists.

As an academic, of course, I wonder what the psychology admissions people are gonna do with the Haggards' applications to study advanced psychology? Will the Haggards be applying to mainstream psych departments--you know, the ones that believe that sexual orientation is not "treatable," not immoral, and that it is, in fact, innate? Actually, I read on Slate that the Haggards are going to be taking courses "online" to pursue the degree. Yet another strike against online education.

What is next for the Haggards, once they have their graduate degrees? Retraining the rest of us homos to act heterosexual? Explaining why the gospel of Jesus Christ really spells out the remedy for homosexuality? I do believe that they may have something to offer the world--there are many people in need: living in poverty, struggling to overcome discrimination and oppression, coping with the difficulties of disease and illness. I hope they turn their social efforts in that direction, instead of using their faith to harm other people who are confused and questioning their sexual orientations.

I guess, in the end, I am glad the Haggards' faith is strong, because I fear they will need it.


Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

There is a movie, probably made in the late 90s, called, "But I'm a Cheerleader" -- it is a really funny movie about a camp to "cure" homosexuality... the boys are all in blue rooms with blue clothes etc... the girls are pink etc. If the movie were serious, it would be offensive. It was on HBO a few years ago, I'm sure you can find it when you want a laugh.

Tenured Radical said...

I think the guy who the NY Times quoted as saying homosexual cures don't happen in psychiatry, but they do happen in Christianity is spot on. After all, if you really do believe the second coming is right around the corner and that blowing up the Middle East will hurry it up, it's reasonable to believe that God would cleanse you of homosexuality.

Just saying. Oh yeah -- and these are hte same folks who believe you can be converted to homosexuality too.

I just hope Mrs. Haggard makes him use a condom,


Dean Dad said...

Nicely put. I tried writing a post on this, but it came out so smug and pissy that I thought better of posting it. You've managed to take the high road in the face of someone who thinks you need to be 'cured.'

'Turning the other cheek,' I think they call it. I read that somewhere...