UNDERSTANDING HOMOSEXUALITY meets STRAIGHT INTO GAY AMERICA, a conversation between pastor/author David Glesne and pastor/author Lars Clausen.
My wife Mona and I spent last week at a time-share exchange in central Minnesota enjoying the cool air and varied colors of the autumn season. We are approaching that time of year when we gravitate to the fireplaces in our homes and begin to settle in for the winter months. Now I’m trying to make that transition back into ministry duties and responsibilities.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned that I read your book a few weeks back and did so with great interest. Thanks for all the sacrifice and time and effort that went into the journey and the writing. It is a good read!
You share a continuing concern about the term “the gay lifestyle”. The point is made that it is a term used not by gay and lesbian people regarding themselves but rather by “anti-gay”, right wing, fundamentalist people, etc. which inspires fear that homosexual men are despicable persons, etc. Unhappily, there indeed may be those who use the term for such regrettable purposes. There is also the acknowledgement by looking at websites that the term is used in a variety of ways within the GLBT community. So we have a term used by both the GLBT community and the non-GLBT community often in different ways. Does that mean that the term is never used by gays and lesbians themselves with regard to the behaviors under discussion? Maybe our readers can help us answer that question. I’m not sure how we get passed this except by making sure in conversation that we define what we mean by the use of the term and always be conscious of the context in which it is used. I trust that is what we are doing in this conversation.
Might it not in many ways be the same with the common term “anti-gay?” I would suppose that many gay and lesbian persons and others might read my book, for example, and conclude that I am “anti-gay”, that is, that I am against gay people. That would be patently untrue. Yet from within one “camp” the term would be used to label all who bring into judgment homosexual behavior and from within the other “camp” would be those who feel they are being labeled unfairly. They would say that addressing homosexual behavior is not for the purpose of degrading or demeaning the people involved – any more than addressing promiscuous heterosexual behavior is for the purpose of degrading the people involved. It is not, and it is not meant to be, a judgment on homosexual persons (what we do is different from who we are) but a fair and helpful and graceful assessment of their behavior.
With regard to the gay lifestyle you say you can’t find the distinctions coming through about subculture or lifestyle, either in the book or in my explanations. I hear you saying this again and without repeating my previous post will only say that I hear your feedback and acknowledge that the distinctions could have been spelled out more explicitly in the book to avoid possible confusion. While running the risk of being redundant, however, I would reiterate that “these encounters” referred to in the book are connected in the immediate context to a lifestyle characterized by promiscuity – “many of these encounters will be with total strangers in bath houses…public restrooms and back rooms of gay bars.” (pp. 43-44) These are venues that I – and I believe many – associate with behavior of that group of gays participating in what might be called a subculture characterized by “the gay lifestyle” behaviors that are condemned by many gays.
The concern also is expressed that my research is mostly if not all, taken from within the anti-gay camp and that it therefore may be partial at best, inaccurate at worst.
In leading into the section on gay behaviors, I state that “the testimony about homosexual behavior coming from both sides of the debate paints a fairly clear picture”. Following through on our terminology of “camps”, if it is perceived that Dr. Monteith’s research (or Cameron’s behind it) comes from one camp then let us look at the testimony of the other camp by directing our attention to The Gay Report by Jay & Young (Summit Books, New York, 1979). This 850 page report is the first major survey on homosexuality and one of the largest studies ever conducted with 5,000 gay persons of all ages and from all walks of life (and Christian denominations) surveyed on various aspects of their lifestyle and subculture. The study was conducted by English Professor Karla Jay, Ph.D, and journalist Allen Young, who holds two masters degrees. Both are gay activists. (see http://www.narth.com/docs/reporton.html) The work is still cited today in academic work.
When one compares the figures presented by Monteith and Jay & Young, they are remarkably similar: Oral sex – Monteith 100%, Jay & Young 99%; Anal intercourse – Monteith 93%, Jay & Young 91%; Rimming – Monteith 92%, Jay & Young 83%; Fisting – Monteith 47%, Jay & Young 22%; Golden showers – Monteith 29%, Jay & Young 23%; Scat – Monteith 17%, Jay & Young 4%.
Are these surveys on the various aspects of the gay lifestyle and subculture from these “different camps” reliable? With regard to the kinds of behaviors listed, it would be extremely difficult, it seems to me, to disregard these behaviors which the gay community admits about itself and its practices. These surveys give one a glimpse into sexual behavior in a subculture which the gay community has not desired be readily disseminated into wider society. I think we have avoided an honest public discussion of homosexual behavior and in so doing have betrayed the public and especially homosexual persons themselves. Homosexual behavior is the center of the issue. I therefore would suggest we take up this discussion as we move ahead in our conversation.
With regard to the percentages who engage in these behaviors put forth by Monteith and Jay & Young, how would critics know that the information is not accurate unless they have done their own studies? And if so, where are they? This is not an argument saying that because we don’t have studies countering Monteith and Jay & Young’s figures that therefore their statistics are accurate. This is by way of simply asking the fair-minded question, how would they know? Any study can be improved upon. Both the studies by Cameron and Jay & Young have had their critics. Are the criticisms warranted? Maybe - but they are hard to sustain. So we are always open to better studies by those who criticize. Until then we deal with the evidence we have.
I am hopeful – and confident - that the goal of our exchange is not for either of us to win an argument for one camp or the other. That is not an interest of mine. We are talking about something far more important, for we are talking about the lives of real people. I trust that as truth seekers we are desirous of finding out what is true concerning homosexual behavior with regard both to its morality and behavioral consequences. In doing so, for the sake of those involved, we hopefully can move beyond being stalled over percentages and allow the evidence to lead us - not to judgment of homosexual persons - but to a fair, helpful, and graceful assessment of their behavior.
Thanks for the ongoing exchange.