I have formed a theory about anti-gay activists. Some of them, anyway.
My theory is a refinement of Haggard’s Law, which states that the more you complain about homosexuality, the more likely you are to be secretly homosexual. That not-entirely-serious observation has some basis in fact beyond the numerous examples of preachers and politicians that’ve led us to anticipate the ending of every news story that starts with a listing of some right-wing fellow’s anti-gay credentials.
I’ve always found it implausible, though, that secretly-gay people make up any very large percentage of the anti-gay population.
If you’re a member of a stridently anti-gay fundamentalist religion, then you’re likely to regard gays and atheists and members of other fundamentalist religions that outside observers insultingly claim are really very similar to your own as all being part of the vast Satanic sea upon which your brave little ark of true believers must voyage. Maybe a member of such a religion will get a bee in his or her bonnet about evolution, or Jews, or homosexuals. Not many people would claim that a noisy anti-evolutionist might secretly be reading Richard Dawkins books, or that an anti-Semite secretly celebrates Rosh Hashanah, and I think it’s just as possible to be a really obnoxious gay-hater without, yourself, being gay.
You could, for instance, be very genuinely heterosexual, and therefore find gay sex a fairly repellent idea. Now, if you’re unable to comprehend that anybody else in the world could not find it as repellent as you do, you’ll regard homosexuals as filthy deviants who’ve managed to make a lifestyle out of a ghastly activity. Raping small children is also a ghastly activity, if you’re one kind of horrible sexual deviant then you might very well be ready to give another deviation a go, and bingo, there’s a freshly-minted all-homos-are-child-molesters argument all neatly gift-wrapped and ready to be sermonised about.
The particular thing that led me to a new piece of this puzzle (well, it’s new to me; I’m sure many other people have figured this out) is that weird characteristic of so much anti-gay rhetoric - the insistence that homosexuality is not just a choice, but an easy choice. Gayness is, essentially, just laziness. Instead of having a proper, adult relationship with a woman, the homosexual chooses to have meaningless physical dalliances with other men.
Those of us who reside somewhere near the left side of the Kinsey Scale find this argument preposterous. Most heterosexual men were desperately dateless in their teenage years, when the hormonal urge to have sex is at its strongest, but not very many of us went gay as a result. (Well, not as a lifetime choice, anyway. What happens in the Navy, stays in the Navy.)
There’s a strong societal component here; in the Western world it’s much more socially acceptable for women to experiment with homosexuality than for men to do it, and some other societies, past and present, either accept homosexuality as being entirely unremarkable, or consider it weird if a person hasn’t had some sort of gay relationship.
But if we restrict the scope of inquiry to male homosexuality in the Western world, as anti-gay demagogues usually do to make sure nobody starts asking awkward questions about the Spartans, straight men seldom consider this “choice” to be a real option at all.
So why, I wondered, do so many anti-gay people keep saying it’s easy to just sort of carelessly fall into the “gay lifestyle”?
And then I realised. It’s because those anti-gay people are, yes, gay - but they don’t know it.
They’re good, Bible-believing Christians. They had girlfriends. Now they have a wife, and children. They’re pillars of the community, and may never have had any homosexual encounters at all.
But boy oh boy, do they ever want to have homosexual encounters. The cock, it calls them. It’s been calling them as long as they can remember. But like a border collie that’s never seen a sheep, they don’t know what this urge within them actually is. For them, gayness is like the Dark Side of the Force, or the One Ring.
Now, it all makes sense. These poor men think it’s like this for every man. They think that secret schoolboy assignations and sordid encounters in public bathrooms are as appealing a prospect for the rest of us as they are for them.
But straight guys don’t have to “fight” an urge to have sex with men. Stereotypically, they’ll fight to avoid it!
Being gay, but unaware of it, can fit quite neatly into other religious beliefs. God requires you to not be envious, to not be lazy, to not lie or cheat or steal; the Lord wouldn’t have needed to tell you not to do those things if they weren’t rather appealing. So gay sex must be the same. It’s a sin into which one can, in weakness, fall.
If this is the way you think, then it becomes perfectly sensible to say that gay people, as a category like “Irish people” or “tall people”, don’t really exist at all. Saying you’re born gay is like saying you’re born a burglar.
I’ve no idea what’s actually going on in the head of Ted Haggard…
…or Larry Craig…
Who knows how many of these guys were, and are, well aware of their true sexuality, and just lie about it, in the same way that they’ve lied about many other things for personal gain.
But I think the poor people who’re gay but don’t know it really do help to better explain exactly how this situation’s gotten so dramatically messed up.
Now we just need a catchy name for this sexual permutation of the Dunning-Kruger effect. I invite your suggestions in the comments!