Turning Tricks 

The miraculous "gnituo" of Pastor Ted

I must get this column done lickety-split because later on, I'm going to audition for a part in A Streetcar Named Desire and if I'm late, I'll just kill myself. I haven't even decided yet whether I'm going to try out for the "Stanley" role, or the "Blanche," so as you can imagine, I'm about to go totally Liza Minelli.

But I wanted you to know that I've just come from the most delicious experience. It lasted three weeks, but sweetie, it was worth every minute! I must thank that naughty boy Ted Haggard for giving me the inspiration. You see, I was just too curious about how he could switch sexual orientation after three weeks of work with some Christian counselors, so I decided to give it a fling, myself. Now, it wouldn't demonstrate much for a heterosexual man to convert to heterosexuality, would it? So I found four eminent gay therapists--absolutely the cream of their profession, let me tell you--who were thrilled to give me some concentrated therapy as per my heterosexual tendencies. We rented a room at the Econo Lodge and locked the door.

It was intense, I tell you! I learned things about myself even I didn't know. But it's over, and I am pleased to announce I am now completely homosexual. The heterosexual lifestyle in which I have been wallowing is a thing of the past. The bowling, drenching myself in Brut, not caring what shoes I left the house wearing, decorating my home from the Big Lots catalogue, dining on Sloppy Joes while watching COPS reruns, licking the plate, using WD-40 for a skin conditioner, combing my hair with my fingers ... I have broken free of all that. I am gay ... hear me roar!

So let Pastor Teddy and me be a pillar of strength to all those who are troubled by something in their very nature. Just three weeks! You don't have to continue a life of biology-directed servitude, chained down by some persistent characteristic you were born with. All you need are the right counselors--preferably people whose grasp on reality demands that they refuse to accept you for who you are--and watch yourself blossom into whoever you wish you were, but aren't. You go, girl!

OK. Joke's over. Just kidding. I haven't turned gay, and I apologize to any gay men who might have taken my acting job as an offensive caricature. If it makes you feel better, I tried to be even more offensive to straight guys, what with the references to bowling and licking the plate. Sadly, none of the straight guys I know are sensitive enough to be offended.

I also lied about the Econo Lodge and the three weeks and the gay therapists. I've been at home for the past three weeks, and if there's anything about myself I haven't discovered yet, it's probably not worth the effort to discover. Besides, to my knowledge, there are no gay therapists whose career mission is to turn heterosexual men and women into homosexual men and women.

On the other hand, there certainly are Christian therapists whose mission it is to turn homosexual men and women into heterosexual men and women. They call themselves therapists, at any rate. Beneath the hair gel-soaked facade of the Christian Right, it's a little hard to sort out exactly how meaningful some of those credentials are, isn't it? These days, anyone with a mail box and a few dollars to spend can call themselves "Doctor."

But they certainly have fancy names for what they do. "Reparative Therapy" is one, as though homosexuality can be fixed like a malfunctioning Maytag or mended like a sock. And there's "Conversion Therapy," implying that with the right sales pitch, gays can be talked out of being gay, like switching them over from State Farm to Geico.

The foundation of all this--"Transformational Ministries," they call it--is the conservative Christians' insistence that homosexuality is a choice, not a condition--that gays don't have to be gays--that they pick their orientation like other people pick suburban living over life in the big city. The more liberal of the conservative Christians might concede that some gays become gays because of glitches in the way they were raised, but that's as far as they go. Never would they accept the growing body of evidence that indicates homosexuality is innate--that some people are born gay, just as other people are born blond or left-handed. Oh no, that would be too close to saying God made 'em that way.

But what would be the harm in acknowledging that God made 'em that way--that homosexuality is inherent? Why can't conservative Christians just admit that, after centuries of persecution and decades of this pseudo-psycho-mumbo-jumbo, they haven't put a dent in the homosexual population? (In fact, what little unbiased research there is on conversion therapies indicates a failure rate in the high 90th percentile, and even the most biased claims concede they can never entirely eliminate homosexual desire from even those gays most desperate to change.)

So why don't they just give it up and quit trying to fiddle with the nature of gays? And why did they make such a public spectacle of turning Ted Haggard around? Repairing him. Conversionating him. Whatever.

Ah, but they had to show they could "fix" such a man as Haggard, don't you see? Or pretend to fix him. That's what these "Transformational Ministries" have been lacking--a poster boy. A Jared, to show you really can shed those homosexual pounds. If they could demonstrate to the world that their de-gayifying process worked on this one fallen Sodomite, then it could work on any Sodomite. And I have little doubt Haggard went along with the show willingly. After all, what's a man like him going to do for a living if he can't continue to preach against sins of the flesh?

Point is, the conservative Christian leadership has invested too heavily in the "sin" of homosexuality to throw up their hands and concede you can't fight Mother Nature. The issue seems to have become a central focus of those conservative churches that rely on fear and loathing as a central tenet of their faith, and to admit they can't change sexual orientation would demand an entire re-evaluation of their attitudes toward gays--which is out of the question. This crusade is as much a matter of money as morality, of power as piety.

Now excuse me, but I have some lines to memorize. "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers. I have always depended on the kindness of strangers. I have always ..."

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