Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Completely heterosexual?

Rev. Ted Haggard's counselors yesterday announced that he was "completely heterosexual" and that his years of liaisons with Mike Jones were...what? An out of control compulsion for sex with male escorts?

Now you may remember that Rev. Haggard never responded to my invitation to talk, so I really don't know what his sexual orientation is...but I think it's pretty clear he is NOT "completely heterosexual." Or at least, he wasn't "completely heterosexual."

As a minister and as a sexologist, I believe that people can change their behavior. I don't believe that we can change our sexual orientation, although I do think that for some people, sexual orientation is more fluid than the binary categories of heterosexual/homosexual. For example, I've know several people who fell in love with someone of a different biological sex than they ever would have expected.

But, some of this avoids an important question. If Rev. Haggard lived in a world that accepted and affirmed homosexuality, would he have wanted to put his wife at risk by visiting a male escort for sexual behaviors? Would he have been forced to step down from his job? Would he be leaving his home state as the news reports?

When will we affirm that sexual difference is a blessed part of our endowment?

7 comments:

DeniseUMLaw said...

When I first reported on Rev. Haggard's predicament
http://musingsonlifelawandgender.typepad.com/life_law_gender/2006/11/and_yet_another.html

I said I felt sorry for him. I still do. He is in a very difficult situation. Yes, he put himself there, but it's true that society is at fault too. We MUST change this.

Sparki said...

S'posing Rev. Haggard did take you up on your offer to help. Would you have told him it was okay to keep cheating on his wife with men because bisexuality is just an orientation?

Elizabeth said...

Increasingly, I find the whole heterosexual/homosexual division to be unhelpful. Rather than thinking about what we "are", I find it helpful to think about what we do and how we feel. Certainly, people can identify as "completely" heterosexual or homosexual or bisexual or whatever, but I would like to see these categories and orientations "troubled" and sexuality framed as much more fluid not just for a few people, but in general. I think when we are given only certain categories, it takes a lot to say we don't fit into either/any of them. But I think if people are encouraged to think outside the box/categories, we would find that many people understand/experience their sexuality/sex/gender in ways that are much more fluid that is typically allowed for. As for Mr. Haggard, I just feel sorry for him, but also for all the people that he has hurt through his anti-gay statements, and conservative Christian ministry, as well as through his dishonesty. A sad case all around.

Jo said...

Sparki -

bisexual != promiscuous, any more than hetero- or homosexual = promiscuous.

I, of course, can't speak for Rev. Haffner, but I doubt "cheating is okay" would be on the menu of anyone trying to help Rev. Haggard.

Steve Caldwell said...

On 7 February 2007, Sparki wrote:
-snip-
"S'posing Rev. Haggard did take you up on your offer to help. Would you have told him it was okay to keep cheating on his wife with men because bisexuality is just an orientation?

I don't think anyone was suggesting that Rev. Haggard should have a male-male sexual relationship while married to a woman who is assuming monogamy.

I think the point of the blog post was we don't live in a world that welcomes and affirms people who are non-heterosexual.

If Rev. Haggard's surrounding culture didn't come with so many "mandatory heterosexual" assumptions, perhaps he would have had the opportunity to find the special person (male or female) that was the true love of his life.

Sparki said...

Ummmm...so are you folks assuming that Rev. Haggard doesn't have any heterosexual attraction at all? The fact that he's married, obviously loves his wife, and has had a number of children with her indicates to me that there must be some sort of heterosexual attraction there.

Rev. Haffner seems eager to help Rev. Haggard embrace his homosexual desires. But he can't do that without violating the vows he made to his wife.

And I never suggested that bisexuality was equivalent to promiscuity, Jo. However, if a married bisexual person has one male partner and one female partner, that bisexual person is cheating the one partner he/she is married to, because you can only be married to one person. And my question stands -- is that okay? Do people who believe that bisexuality is okay also believe it's okay for bisexual persons to have a sexual partner of each gender? And doesn't that mean infidelity would also have to be okay for bisexual persons?

Jo said...

However, if a married bisexual person has one male partner and one female partner, that bisexual person is cheating the one partner he/she is married to, because you can only be married to one person.

Unless, of course, the person to whom said dual-partnered bisexual is married is aware of and has consented to the secondary relationship. That's polyamory in a nutshell, though there are complications and permutations I don't care to get in to at this point.

A similar relationship is possible between a woman who has two male partners, one of whom she's married to. Consent and knowledge are the keys, though; "cheating" isn't okay even in an open or polyamorous relationship. I don't think that anyone is arguing that it is.

Do people who believe that bisexuality is okay also believe it's okay for bisexual persons to have a sexual partner of each gender? And doesn't that mean infidelity would also have to be okay for bisexual persons?

If any/all partners of said bisexual person are consenting to allowing said person to have other partners, then it's okay. But - and this is the crux of my "bisexual!= promiscuous or infidelous*" argument - if it isn't okay with that person's husband/wife, then it's not okay period.

But it is possible to be bisexual and strictly in a long-term hetero- or homosexual relationship. It's even possible to identify as being bisexual and not have any relationships at all.

Again, consent by all parties** plays a huge part in what's okay and what isn't. IMO, since Rev. Haggard did not have his wife's permission (I'm assuming he was visiting the male prostitute behind her back), then no, I would not have told him it was okay to continue his behavior. It's up to him, though, to decide whether his relationship with his wife is more important than his relationship with men; I'm in no place to judge that.

Bisexuality is an orientation, but it does not require one to constantly have partners of each sex.

And I don't see anyone arguing that Rev. Haggard has no heterosexual attraction at all.