The Long, Gay Road to Heterosexuality

You all remember Ted Haggard, right?

He’s the former chairman of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and the former leader of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. He was well known for having a hot-line to God and to various world leaders who worked to turn their respective countries into theocracies during their administrations; leaders like George W. Bush and Tony W. Blair. thHe was featured prominently in a documentary by noted biologist, Richard Dawkins, called The Root of All Evil?. For a long time, Haggard was one of the most prominent figures of religious conservatism in the U.S. (and you all know what a fun group those folks are).

And as you all no doubt know, he’s the former chairman of NAE and the former leader of the New Life Church because a male prostitute named Mike Jones came forward in 2006 alleging that Haggard had paid him for sex and that they sometimes used methamphetamine when they were together (told you they were fun).

The assertions received widespread news coverage and sparked charges of hypocrisy, because Haggard had roundly condemned homosexual sex.

So Haggard and Jones — and by the way, each time I hear these names together in this context, I hang my head in grief that the incident sullied the names of two of Country music’s legendary icons, as well as degraded the wonderful services provided by prostitutes, male or otherwise — but Haggard and Jones would meet regularly for meth parties and some wholesome man love. But in the end, the affair was enough of a disgrace to cost Ted his chair and his ministry.

And of course, shortly thereafter, Haggard disappeared from the public eye. He left Colorado Springs straight away and went to Denver where he endured three weeks of intensive counseling to rid himself of gay. (Oddly, there seemed to be less concern about ridding him of the meth abuse. Don’t know if I would prioritize things that way, but apparently to some Christians, gay sex is much worse than a drug problem.)

At any rate, after the intensive three-week deprogramming course, word came down from on high that Ted Haggard was not gay anymore!!! (cue Hallelujah chorus.)

One of the four ministers who oversaw the degayification camp Haggard attended, the Rev. Tim Ralph of Larkspur, told The Denver Post at the time:

“[Ted] is completely heterosexual . . . That is something he discovered. It was the acting-out situations where things took place. It wasn’t a constant thing.”

So Ted discovered that he was completely heterosexual. It was only the “acting-out situations” where gay sex took place, and since he only acted out a few dozen times, he wasn’t gay.

Umm . . . Okay.

From there, Haggard transitioned into relative obscurity where he spent his days reading, rebuilding his life, and not being gay.

But either celebrity is a bitch goddess that cannot be ignored or God the Father told him to come forward and tell his story, because Ted Haggard has resurfaced in recent weeks. Unable to stay out of the spotlight, he’s been all over the T.V. and the dub dub dubs. Larry King, Oprah, all the big programs and news sites are following Ted’s story again. There is even a documentary on HBO that chronicles his tribulations.

And it now seems there’s more to Haggard’s battle against being gay than we initially knew.

This past Thursday, he said it was “fundamentally true” that he engaged in homosexual activity with a 20-year-old male church volunteer in 2006.

The incident occured when the two men were in bed together. The volunteer, Grant Haas, said on CNN’s “Larry King Live”:

He pretty much asked me if it was OK if he masturbated in front of me or masturbated in the bed next to me. I told him no, it would make me really uncomfortable. But he grabbed a bottle of lotion and started masturbating.

In addition to that, Haggard also admitted to Larry King that he still has thoughts of other men.

But remember, he’s not gay.

And apparently, therapy is helping him figure out how not gay he is. Haggard says that one therapist described him as a “heterosexual with homosexual attachments”. That phrase clearly describes a straight man. The gayness is just an added feature. It’s an accessory that can he can put on or take off at any time, like a belt or a strap-on.

He also says his current therapist describes him as “a heterosexual with complications”. Yeah. Ted Haggard is a a heterosexual with complications like a kangaroo is a giant mouse with a pocket.

At any rate, Haggard says, even though he’s not gay, he has another year of therapy ahead of him. Hey, better safe than sorry, right?

Says Haggard:

I think I’m still deeply wounded and scarred and somewhat confused. I have thoughts [about men] from time to time, but not compelling thoughts.

You know, I have to admit, I had no idea it worked this way. I had no idea that a man could want, seek out, and procure sex with another man on multiple occasions, and still not be gay. I never realizes that discovering what you do not prefer is such a long, harrowing road. If Haggard’s case is any indication, a man must be thorough in confirming his dislike for something.

Well, you live and learn.

But it’s good to see that Haggard is not gay after all this. I can only hope he’ll write a book; the definitive tome that will help others on that long, gay road that leads to heterosexual peace of mind.

Maybe he’ll call his book Discovering You’re Not Gay: A Marathon, Not a Sprint.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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  1. Anyone else remember the Southpark episode with “Pray the gay away”? I always thought Southpark was an ironic comedy masterpiece… not a documentary.

  2. I’ve always wondered about the heterosexuality of most bible thumpers (male and female).

    Gay marriage isn’t a threat to you, if you like men, or if you don’t like men. But I’ll bet it is if you like men and think you’ll go to hell for acting on it.

    If the only thing stopping you from going gay was fear so great that you could suppress the temptation, most of the time, then anything that brought you in view of that world would make your life more difficult.

    Indeed, anytime you saw anyone proud of being part of that world, it would make you question whether or not your life was miss spent, unless you just prayed the thought away immediately.

    These folks seem to feel that gay rights is a direct assault on them. The only reason I can come up with, for that line of thinking, is that these folks are suppressing there own “gay”.

    I mean otherwise all that’s required, from even the most extreme Christians, is a quick “You goin ta hell son, wouldn’t wanna be ya” and that would be about it.

    Just something I think about whenever I watch the unbridled fear of gays on the “The 700 Club”.


  3. …one therapist described him as a “heterosexual with homosexual attachments”.

    Me thinks Haggard is a homosexual with religious attachments.

  4. In seriousness, I’ve had to block the religious programming so Moose can’t turn it on. He likes to flip through the channels… and sometimes he’ll stop and take in a minute or so of whatever (sometimes it’s infomercials, sometimes it’s music, sometimes it’s girls working out in bikinis).

    Every time he’d stop on a Christian channel, there was some preacher up there spewing anger about gays and how they’re all going to hell and they’re destroying our society.

    I haven’t had to block any channels for content yet except for religious TV. FX is still on. HBO, Showtime, Comedy Central are all on. But the do-unto-others guys are too much for my toddler.

    I don’t know whether it’s sad or disgusting.

  5. He isn’t gay. The men he sleeps with are.

    You would think if Christians oppose gay sex then they would encourage gay marriage.

    So he is a fraud. His God didn’t save him in his world of circular arguments. It is all smoke and mirrors. He and his religion are the equivalent of Uri. The dangerous part is the world leaders wanting to set up theocracies. Despots will always seek to prove God is on their side. It is difficult when people realize their leaders are not annointed by some mystic being. It is our job to help them at least see the fraud. Learning there is no God is another step.

  6. Haggard is not gay. He is not homosexual. He is a straight heterosexual man. Haggard likes the penis and he is religous. When religious people like the penis, it is not a homosexual liking.

    Since when does liking the penis mean religious men are gays or homosexuals?

    I think in the future we should all acknowledge the Evangelical’s version of Politically Correct Language:

    WRONG: Haggard is gay (or homeosexual).

    RIGHT: Haggard is not gay (or homosexual), he has a fondness for the penis.

  7. @Rodney: But these folks do believe gay marriage is a threat. The arguments against gay marriage that I’ve encountered lately seem to rest on two main points. 1 – America is the greatest country in the universe because of our “Christian heritage” and if we allow gay marriage then the USA will be destroyed because no nation that ever allowed gay marriage has survived. 2 – Giving gay people the right to marry is discrimination against straights (straight conservative Christians, at least) because straight people should have the right to a marriage that can only be between a man and a woman. This is coupled with the usual stuff about how churches will be forced to “gay marry” against their will.

    Of course, there are so many flaws in those two arguments that I could be here all day just listing them.

  8. I first saw Haggard, before all the the scandals, in The Root of All Evil and thought to myself “Oh my god! What a scary, deluded, pompous man!”

    Then I saw him in Jesus Camp and, recognizing him from the Dawkins Doc, thought “This guy is the next Jerry Falwell, isn’t he?”

    Then the world found out about teh gay, and I had a good laugh about hypocrisy.

    Then I saw him in Friends of God, filmed before all that happened, where he talks about how Evangelicals have the best sex. “Well, you’d know!” I chuckled to myself.

    And now… Well, I kind of feel sorry for the guy.

    Don’t get me wrong, he’s still the worst kind of hypocrite, who cynically condemned millions of people trying to live a fulfilling life, all the while secretly engaged in the very behaviors he condemned.

    But it’s sad that he was never given, or at least never took, a route in life that allowed him to be who he clearly is. And it’s sad that his counselors now are attempting to reprogram him. I’m not sorry he lost his empire, as it was built on the kind of hate that he now has to endure, but I’m sorry he chose to build up this wall in his psyche, caging a part of his personality and surely leading to huge amount of self-loathing and self-disgust. It is kind of sad.

    Also, isn’t “heterosexual, but with complications” how religiously extreme counselors would see all homosexuality?

  9. Does anyone else find it odd that there appears to be a higher incidence of homosexuality among conservative Christian leaders than, say, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus?

  10. Gang,

    There are so many aspects of this slow-motion train wreck I find both irritating and banal that I’ve avoided talking about it much. But as a man who has sex with men for Love as well as “anatomical curiosity” – or however Haggard is trying to spin it – I’d like to point out a fact that I don’t see represented in the mainstream media much:

    Ted Haggard is a Creep.

    That he’s a hypocrite of the highest order goes without saying. We already knew that.
    That he’s a pathological-huckster is just part of his job. Don’t expect anymore from him – his parishioners don’t.
    That he’s got so much cognitive-dissonance built up inside him that it keeps exploding out on live television is merely quaint.
    That he’s gay Gay GAY is obvious to anyone who is gay or straight or any combination thereof.

    But first and foremost and above all else: he’s a creep.

    Don’t call him pathetic; that just makes him… pathetic.
    Don’t call him obsessive; that just makes his behavior seem like a clinical dysfunction.
    Don’t call him sad; that’s just You projecting your Own humanity upon him.

    He was playing the role of a therapist and he took advantage of a kid who came to him for help. If an actual licensed therapist had sex with a client, he’d lose his license. In California, he’d go to jail.

    It is patently unethical for a therapist to leverage their power-imbalance for personal gain, likewise a surrogate therapist. More than that, its just fucking creepy.

    Ted Haggard isn’t just a creep – he’s a fucking creep… literally.

    Like many creeps, he covets publicity. Instead of giving him what he wants most, I suggest we simply treat him like he’s irrelevent.

    In time, he will be.

    -Sean (with a very-gay-bee in his very-gay-bonnet)

  11. I had no idea it worked this way. I had no idea that a man could want, seek out, and procure sex with another man on multiple occasions, and still not be gay.

    Ever heard of bi?

  12. Oh, I also know a few lesbians who self-identify as gay, but who also have sex with men. So if Haggard self-identifies as straight and wants to stay with his wife and keep is family together, I have no beef with that as long as he is not pretending he has no same-sex attractions and he is not gay bashing from the pulpit. Sexuality is more complex than being 100% straight or 100% gay.

  13. Now I’m wondering if I’m gay. I have no thoughts about men nor do I engage in sexual conduct with other men.

    That sounds like the opposite of old Teddy Bear and he’s straight.

    Maybe it’s easier to tell if you think it’s an issue.

  14. My favorite part of the Larry King interview was when Haggard said that there is a double standard in that…

    When he, as a strait man, has sex with a man, people ask him to identify as gay
    When gay men have sex with women no one asks them to identify as strait!

    I know people who have been through the de-gaying process at the local mega church here in Louisville – I can not help but feel sorry for those who are legitimately fearing hell and trying to change. What a shitty way to live.

  15. Imrryr

    You forgot the argument that if we “destroy the institution of marriage” and allow gay marriage, then over night we’ll also open it to polygamy (not sure that’s a problem), sibling marriage, and marrying animals.

  16. Could he be bisexual? If he’s bisexual, both gay and straight, couldn’t he just choose to be straight?

  17. @rasmur:

    I don’t think “bi” is both gay and straight but rather neither gay nor straight.

    But sure, he could choose to only be with women, but the point is he doesn’t.

  18. @rasmur:

    Um, er, no.

    A bisexual person choosing to pursue sexual relations with only one sex does not become straight (or gay), any more than a straight man who chooses to become a monk is instantly asexual. Desire is a part of identity.

  19. It’s all quite sad really.

    I got the impression Haggard was trying to say he wasn’t 50/50 Bi but 80/20 Bi with a preference for women over men and that he would satisfy one appitite over the other as circumstances permitted.

    From my own experiences at boarding school, where virtually everyone had homosexual relationships at some point,(where wanking infront of one another was a daily occurance) I’m always suprised by people who insist they are “100% Straight” or “100% Gay”.

    I’ve always thought it odd that “straight” porn features so much hard, throbbing cock, if they men who it’s aimed at aren’t supposed to have the slightest interest in that.

    Having had sex with both men and women in the past, I’m with James Dean “Why would you go through life with one hand tied behind your back?”

    Of course, had Haggard decided to con people out of their money in Wall St he wouldn’t be in this situation right now. In a couple of years I’ve no doubt he’ll be reinvented as a Rainbow Preacher.

  20. Given that sexuality appears to be more of a continuous quantity, and not a discrete value, it seems as though definitions of sexual preference in terms like gay, straight, bi, or what have you, have largely run their course. They fail to adequately describe most anybody’s sexuality. (as a tangent, Louis C. K. has a great bit on how he thinks the only reason he has never performed oral sex on a man is because every penis that he has ever seen has been hideous. He points to a man in the audience and says, this guy might have a beautiful penis. If I see it, I might think this has got to go in my mouth.)

    And if these words fail to describe sexuality, do we need new, more fine-grain words to do so? I would say no. Having these words shows a need to focus scrutiny on something that should be entirely private, and a matter between intimate people. With the exception of sex involving A.) non-consenting people and/or B.) people incapable of reasoning for or against consent, sex is what an individual makes of it and is entirely up to them to decide. It seems as though the people in the world still attached to gay/straight/bi labels are those that rail against sex of which they disapprove, and those on the other side fighting back.

    Haggard is only relevant because he spent so much time in a position of power attacking homosexuality. If Haggard was just a man confused about his desires, it would be just sad. Sad for him, sad for his wife, sad for anybody involved in a relationship with him.

  21. “I’ve always thought it odd that “straight” porn features so much hard, throbbing cock, if they men who it’s aimed at aren’t supposed to have the slightest interest in that.”

    I’ll field that: Because, for that moment, it’s your penis. And that’s awesome. Speaking as someone that could probably be described as “merely adequate,” I can appreciate an awesome spectacle of manhood. Penis envy? Maybe. Penis celebration? Oh hells yes. (I have an appreciation for most all body parts, male and female. Whether finely constructed, chisled, morsels of meat, sleek elegant.curves, or quirky little novelties. Jesus, I think I just creeped myslef out.)

  22. It’s nice to see the bi-love in these comments. So many people focus on the acts that people commit, but sexual identity is about desire.

    I am a bi-sexual woman married to a man, living a hetero lifestyle, I often catch hell from my straight friends who tell me I can not truly call myself bi because I have never been with a woman.

    I then asked if they considered themselves straight BEFORE they had sex with a man, and then they usually understand.

    My radio picks up both AM and FM. It’s just tuned to FM for now.

  23. I just love heckling Ted Haggard. Yes, I know the ambiguities of sexual orientation, and I don’t want anyone to think I’m making light of that. But had he said, “You know, I guess I’m bi”, I wouldn’t have had anything to write about this morning. And I was making myself chuckle with this post, and sometimes my Saturday mornings are all about me.

    Apologies to my bi and gay friends who may not have gotten it.

    A funny aside: Most of the email notifications about comments for this thread were filtered into my Spam folder. I guess my email program doesn’t like the word “Gay” any more than Ted Haggard does.

  24. Lets be honest here Ted is just trying to put a good spin on this. Whatever he calls himself we all know you can’t just turn off those desires. He will be back telling everyone how homosexuality is a horrible thing and that he should know because he was one. He goes back on the talk circuit as a hero to the Christian community for proving that there is a cure. And then it’s back to making money for Ted.

  25. I wanted to leave this comment earlier, but could not log in. Solved now. Much of this point has been covered in the meantime.
    Gore Vidal insists, quite rightly, that calling someone ‘homosexual’ is an error in terminology. ‘Homosexual behaviour’ is, in a sense, a verb, not a noun. That is, we agree that we are only responsible to each other for our behaviour, not our thoughts.
    Oh damn. I’ve been at a party and I’m not sober but I think the point is important. If for no other reason than that if the idea became common, homophobia might just disappear…

  26. Great comments by one and all. I would like to revisit this guy in ten years and see what happens to him.

  27. What a waste of time to go to a “de-gaying” program. Yeah like in 3 weeks it will “solve all.” Haggard needs to admit he likes dick and let it go!! It’s all so stupid. Churches and their dumb ideas.

  28. @phlebas:

    I bet the gay people around the world are going “oh, no way is he one of us. Please.”


    The sad truth is that the world is full of assholes who happen to be gay. Homosexuality does not inoculate one against being an asshole.

    I for one don’t feel compelled to cut Haggard any slack for being one of “my people.”

    Assholes are assholes, regardless of what the particular asshole is doing with his asshole.

    The fact that we know EXACTLY what this particular asshole has been doing with his asshole might make him Gay, but it doesn’t make him any less of an asshole.

    I think if we judged people simply on the basis of how they treat other people, assholes such as Haggard would have a lot less room to practice their assholery. Their ecological niche would evaporate. They’d become extinct.

    Happy Darwin Day. :-)


  29. @seanpatgallagher: You are right that Haggard is a creep.

    greenishblu is also right that it is tragic when someone like Haggard has never been in a community that creates something other than a poisonous environment for individuals that differ from the expected norm.

    Blaming one’s actions on one’s environment eventually leads to no one being responsible for anything. Which is to say, one can pity the tragedy of an unnecessarily screwed up life and still hold him responsible for his hypocrisy and unethical behavior.

  30. @skepotter: Exactly my view. If Haggard spins any harder, he’ll start shedding body parts from centrifugal force.

    That being said, he’ll probably get away with it. I’ve seen it happen before to both famous and unknown sinners. They are “forgiven” by their doG and start their careers over again even louder.

    Remember our old ‘friend’ Jimmy Swaggart and his “mistresses”? Remember Jimmy Bakker and all his misspent church money and screwing around around? (If I were married to Tammy Fae, I probably would have cheated on her, too. Ugh. She and Michael Jackson would have made a good pair.)
    Let’s not even consider the Rev. Pat Robertson and his blood diamonds and shady business/accounting practices.

  31. He also says his current therapist describes him as “a heterosexual with complications”. Yeah. Ted Haggard is a a heterosexual with complications like a kangaroo is a giant mouse with a pocket.

    Best.Line.Ever. :)

  32. Here’s some advice:

    When you feel homosexuality creeping in on you, don’t hide your eyes, accessorize!

  33. @Blake Stacey:


    I identify as bi-sexual – however my experiences with women have left me virtually terrified of anything with a vagina I might find attractive…. so I only pursue men.

    Doesn’t make me straight – just makes me a bitter coward. *grins*

  34. Does Haggard himself deny that he’s gay or bi, or is it just the jaggoffs that have been “treating” him that deny that? I read an interview with him a few weeks ago, and I was surprised and impressed by how little he seemed in denial about the whole thing.

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