Monday, February 9, 2009

The Truth about Ted Haggard

You might remember Ted Haggard, a former evangelical preacher who last year was outed as having homosexual sex with a male prostitute. He entered treatment and was discharged saying he was “completely heterosexual”. News about his has resurfaced as his new documentary is currently airing repeatedly on HBO – "The trials of Ted Haggard."

In his interviews, he states that he believes his sexuality is “complicated” and that he wants to stay married to his wife and does not see himself as gay. He admits to having same-sex attractions but believes he is heterosexual.

Nobody knows the truth about Haggard but Haggard himself!

I don’t know Haggard personally, but I can see how his sexuality might be complicated and that he might not be gay at all. I have treated hundreds of men like Haggard who are not gay and engage in same sex behaviors.

People have a hard time with men who have sex with men and are still


Here are just a few reasons people have difficulty with Ted Haggard which I totally understand:

1. Politically

Using the false belief that gays can change stops people from being willing to grant rights and freedoms to gays and lesbians. Lesbians and gays have fought hard to teach that one’s sexual orientation and behaviors cannot be changed.

Politically laws against GLBT use the concept of “you’re making a choice” to block obtaining freedoms like getting legally married, keeping a job and not being a risk of being fired just because you’re gay as well as keeping your house and not being kicked out simply for being gay—all of which can happen still in 2009 in most places around the country.

My problem with all of this media attention around Haggard is the absence of scholarly lesbians and gays and spokesmen who are not given time to talk about these issues. If this were an African-American issue, the media would bring on Black scholars and writers to address the political consequences of what is happening around Haggard's story.

2. The Bible.

Haggard has a history of as a preacher, for condemning gays and urging them to change.

Haggard still feels the Bible is not okay with homosexuality as he said on Larry King live.

But Haggard and others who interpret the Bible about homosexuality are wrong.

Scholar Rabbi Chaim Rapoport wrote a book called, Judaism and Homosexuality: An Authentic Orthodox View. In this book it is written that, “the Torah forbids homosexual activity as such: that much is clear from the testimony of both biblical and post-biblical literature. It does not condemn a homosexual disposition, because the Torah does not speak about what we are, but about what we do”.

Rabbi Rapoport position is clear in his book that the bible only talks of homosexual behavior, not of a gay identity or homosexual disposition. It never addresses those men and women who are oriented solely to a same sex attraction. He argues that while the Bible is against performing homosexual acts it never takes into account that one could be gay and lesbian and therefore expressing their true nature. Given this the Bible, from a contemporary point of view, does not address lesbians and gays.

While Rabbi Rapoport writes that the Torah forbids homosexual activity, he goes onto say that “there does not seem to be, however, any reference in Torah literature to the phenomenon of a ‘homosexual orientation’….”

Given this one cannot use the bible against homosexuality if there was not any room for it to be an identity which, today, we know it is.

For Haggard and men like him, it may not be his identity and so for him, his interpretation of the Bible might be useful. It is not useful for those who are GLBT's.

3. Bisexuality

Why can’t Bisexuality be what is happening for Haggard? Some men like Haggard choose to self-identify as Bisexual because they are sexually attracted to both men and women. Bisexuals will tell you that they are often emotionally more attracted to one gender over another. For others they are equally attracted sexually and romantically to both.

This is a self-identifying term and if he chooses not to lable himself in this way than he has that right. However, as a media figure he has the obligation to ensure that he is not speaking for bisexuals as well as lesbians and gays.

4. Gay Identity

For lesbians and gays, staying closeted was fraught with lying to themselves that they were essentially straight, with simply a “kinky” side or that their sexual interests were just that—sexual—and not about their identity. They now have great remorse over the lost years when they could have lived as openly gay men. The trauma of staying closeted was so painful that it strikes a nerve to learn that it’s possible to go through all that and still be straight.

I understand their strong reactions: The trauma of suppressing their identity is so profound that watching someone like Haggard remind them of their horrors they experienced while being closeted and of all the deprogramming it took them to understand they were truly gay.

We must make room for men and women like Haggard. Whether he is hiding, lying or telling the truth, there needs to be a place for men like him

What there is no place for is his anti-gay rhetoric that lesbians and gays can change, that the bible is against homosexuality and teaching young gays and lesbians that same-sex attractions are bad and wrong. They might be for the Haggard’s of the world, but to those who are truly gay and lesbian they are not!

Haggard's story need not be about attacking him, attacking GLBT's or using this as reasons to hate, discriminate and judge. That is what the Nazi's were all about wasn't it?

This needs to be about understanding and being curious about how complicated sexual behavior and identity can be!

There are many other reasons straight men have sex with men and are not gay which I write about at


Alain Brouze said...

Hello Joey!I found your biblical argumentation a little bit "light".The fundamentalists people who will read this will just be consolidated in the idea that the bible condemn homosexual activities. If you don't include the idea that the Bible testify of an historical progress, you can justify any horrors with those old texts. The Rabbin Jeshua teach us about what is truly the word of God : not a text, but a living listening of God's love project for humanity. I believe that after a long historical struggle, we gays and all the queer people with us have to proclaim that God love us in all dimensions of our sexual and affective expresions. Old parts of the Bible are just an historical testimony of struggle against prejudices. We don't have to accept those old texts, in the name of God living Word for us today!

rmyurick said...

I'm not sure if I trust Ted Haggard (and his wife), or if this media blitz is just posturing to come back from his "exile" and get his house in Colorado back. I guess we will see if it takes. He admits that he still has issues--that he has same-sex attraction, so that is a good thing (that he is being honest), but other things that he said in the HBO special I find difficult to believe. Such as not having any issues from the age of 14 until he was 48.

There have also been others to come out of the woodwork and it looks like Ted and others in the church were involved in grooming young men for same-sex activity or relationships. He hasn't been exactly forthcoming on this.

Anonymous said...

I wish the media could make the important connection between Haggard's sexual abuse as a child and his current SSA. Many male CSA survivors supress their feelings about the abuse until later in their lives. Joe is right; the media should invite scholars (like Joe Kort!) To speak on these connections. To leave the public ignorant does ALL a great disservice.

Tom in New Orleans said...

I can understand how he believes his sexuality is "complicated" for many people struggling with their sexuality it may well be. As a gay man who was married and has children the idea of coming out is fraught with unknowns, ie impact on kids, how others will treat them, how your ex or family members may poison their minds, etc. Top that off with his Biblical indoctrination and it indeed would be complicated. As for the Biblical references which seemingly condemn homosexuality they are hypocritical excuses, when you look at all the other things it comdemns. Evangelicals and the religous right will always use this argument because they fear something they do not undestand. The venomous, spiteful, judgmental way the gay community is demonized is totally at odds with anything Jesus taught which was to love your brother as yourself. Further look at whose company Jesus was constantly in. His strongest display of anger was throwing the money changers out of the Temple because a relationship with his Father could not be bought. Go in any of the more conservative churches and their is the constant begging for money, paying for prayers etc.

Joe Kort said...

These are great comments and always add to my thinking.

Thank Alain for clarifying that about the religious fundamentalists. Because I have such a few amount of words to write in a blog I am often struggling with what to put in and what to leave out. The book by the Orthodox Rabbi I refer to really is good and talks about what you are addressing here.

rmyurick you might be right that it is all a media ploy. I sure hope not.

I am not about to suggest what Haggard is or isn't. He surely looks like a gay man struggling with his identity. This is what the early stages look like.

And yet I have seen so many men and heard other therapists from their practices talk about men who have sex with other men who are not gay.

Whether Haggard is gay, bisexual or straight with same sex desires, it should be his decision to make--and his alone.

What I don't like is his anti-gay rhetoric and belief that *all* homosexuals are sinners. If he feels it is sinful for him than that might work for him but to make blanket statements about anyone makes me shudder.

Annonymous I TOTALLY agree I wish the media would make this distinction that is what I am trying to do. Perhaps Stephen Bravemen's DVD on sexually abused males will be helpful on this when it comes out as some of the men struggle with same sex sexual behavior as a result of their sexual abuse!

I think this discussion is etremely important even if we all do not agree with each other!

John said...

Hey Joe: Honestly, having followed Ted Haggard's hypocritical and DAMAGING lifestyle, I think he absolutely is GA and hates himself for it. No need to overanalyze or overthink it. He is in denial of such magnitude that it might kill him to come out of. His wife is also in denial. This is not a STR8 man who has sex with men...he is not a SEAN CODY model. This is a dangerously misguided man who has caused such immense hurt and damage to people, that I hope you rethink your assertion that he might not really be gay. No need to drink the KoolAid. He is ga...not just gay, but REALLY gay. Mix that up with drugs, religion and PREACHING hatred and you have a real THREAT.

Anonymous said...

TED HAGGARD is not a bad man...he is just MISGUIDED. He hates his homosexuality and hates himself. He is also a DANGEROUS man. Preachers like Ted have been the cause of thousands of suicides. YES. THOUSANDS. I do not care what any Rabbi, preacher or pastor says...the Bible does not discuss homosexuality except in very vague terms that are up to interpretation. TED HAGGARD IS A MENACE TO HIMSELF AND SOCIETY. The DEBATE is simply a distraction from this truth. In my opinion, he is in GRAVE danger of self-harm.

THIS IS NOT A "BI-CURIOUS" MAN ...this is a 100% homosexual man who will grow MORE gay as he ages. I only PRAY that he does not take others down with him when he falls, and he WILL.

Anonymous said...

Well, with all this commentary about why straight men have sex with other men, why don't we look at this from the other side of the closet, so to speak. Is there any information about why gay men would have sex with women, besides the belief that by having a traditional wife and kids will make a man go straight? "Straight" men do gay porn, for pay . . . so, do gay men do straight porn? Do gay men have any kind of sexual interest in women?

And in regards to the comments from the orthodox rabbi about the Bible is against homosexual behavior, is that "behavior" specifically aimed at, what I assume, heterosexual men, since the Bible does not address the gay orientation?

Margaret said...

I guess this whole idea that there are "straight" men who have sex with men feels suspicious to me because, being a bi community organizer, I remember so vividly the "lesbians who sleep with men" phenomenon of the early nineties. Admittedly, many of them didn't just want sex from men: some wanted marriage without disrupting their "lesbian" status.

The bi community tries really hard to honor the idea that we should respect others' self-identification. In both these cases, though, it's hard to separate the fear of loss of privilege -- heterosexual for SMSM's and as accepted members of the lesbian community for, er, LSM's -- from that concept of self-identity. It means trusting people who claim those identities when they say the choose them over bisexual because their affinity with the community that carries the privileged status is so complete that their sexual behavior is irrelevant -- and it means living with the biphobia that these identities may implicitly reinforce.