Going Gay: Why Should Preachers Have All the Fun?

I’m bored to tears with being straight. starshine%20mug.jpgIt seems all the really cool people these days are gay: T.R. Knight from Grey’s Anatomy. Sarah Paulson from Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Neil Patrick Harris from How I Met Your Mother. From NBA player John Amaechi to ’N Sync heartthrob Lance Bass, it’s in to be out. Being gay even made Mary Cheney and Candace Gingrich seem hip, if just for a few minutes.

The cultural cachet threatens to make anyone without a rainbow sticker feel dreadfully dull. But there’s hope for us hum-drum heteros.

Just look at Rev. Ted Haggard, big-time Bush supporter and founder of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. In November, the evangelical preacher confessed to having paid a male hooker for sex during a period of three years — which was awkward, since he’d been publicly condemning homosexuality for years. Miraculously, Pastor Ted recently announced that after just three weeks of intensive spiritual counseling, he has “discovered” he is “completely heterosexual.” Phew!

His swift return to righteousness didn’t stop the married preacher from stepping down as his church’s leader and announcing plans to flee, er, move to a new town. But perhaps that had less to do with his sexuality than with the methamphetamine he was fond of using during his frequent gay sex. No matter. The important thing is the good reverend has settled on a sexuality that both he and the GOP can feel comfy with.

For years, Christian groups have been beseeching gays to fight their sinful urges and embrace the straight life. Focus on the Family, a religious nonprofit based in Haggard’s hometown, helps men “overcome” homosexuality and “leave their gay identity behind” through prayer, counseling, and — as best I can glean — male-bonding exercises. Another group, Exodus International, promises liberation for those “looking for a way out” of same-sex attraction. (This group also opposes laws that punish people who commit hate crimes against gays — which, I’m pretty sure, is not what Jesus would do.) “You can lead a life of fulfillment and holiness as God intended,” claims Exodus’s Web site, “a life far better than what you have experienced so far.” Damn if they don’t make it sound nice … and so simple!

So I decided to give it a try. If it’s so easy to flip-flop one’s fleshly fancies, why couldn’t Exodus help me reverse my sexual identity? Why couldn’t I use the same principles to go from garden-variety man-bait to rip-roaring lady-lover?

I didn’t expect it to be easy. Apart from a penchant for clunky shoes and occasional impure thoughts about Mariska Hargitay and Fergie (but not, like, at the same time or anything), I score fairly low on the lesbian scale. But, hey, if those benevolent evangelicals could break a hypocrite like Haggard, surely they could help me.

I contacted all 11 of the group’s California ministries and told them I was a straight mother of two hoping to “reorient” with the Lord’s guidance, lipstick aversion therapy, marathon viewings of The L Word, or whatever it took.

“Can you advise me on how I might finally achieve what may very well be my destiny as a gay woman?” I asked.

“Our ministry only helps people move toward a heterosexual identity,” replied the director of one ministry. “We have not heard of any organizations that help people go the other way.”

“This is not a change that I would recommend,” explained another.

I’m not a person of faith, but I hold out hope that these groups will eventually see the value in, well, “going the other way.” Heterosexuality is so 20th-century and I’m guessing Haggard would be the first to admit that life without variety is its own sort of hell.

I look forward to the day when gay pop culture icons can team up with homophobic Bible thumpers for a fresh new take on conversion programs. We could call it Queer Eye for the Scared to Try.

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