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Political Mental Maps: Matt In VA’s Political Conversion

In a post yesterday, I asked readers to recall the events, personalities, etc., that constructed their political “mental map” when they were young. The reader who comments as “Matt in VA” — I know his real name, and where he lives; he is who he says he is — posted this extraordinary reflection:

Well, I think a more interesting story, in my case, is how the mental maps I developed as a teenager proved to be unreliable or inaccurate once I was an adult. I mean, it seems like that is what you wrote about in your post. I think there are people who form their political identity by 21 and it doesn’t change, but there’s a part of me that’s almost suspicious of such people.

By age 21, my main political idée fixe was:

Conservatives were stupid and hated gay people. Liberals were intelligent and were the ones who read books. (Basically, a very midwit-liberal take on the world.) Mostly this was because once I knew/accepted that I was gay, I was extremely eager to read gay stuff, novels, history, and plenty of junk, whatever I could get ahold of, since I am the type of person who learns by reading instead of, say, the type of person who learns by doing* (heh) — and virtually all of the gay books I could find were quite clear that conservatives and Christians were the bad people. They were *ignorant* and hateful, but emphasis on the ignorance — they were stupid, they were uneducated.

(*The way Alison Bechdel writes about coming to terms with being a lesbian in “Fun Home” is basically exactly the same way I came to terms with being gay–it was done almost 100% via the library.)

Now, in my own life, at school and in sports, the kids who bullied me were not Christians (I am from New England and not too many of my peers were even religious at all) but I didn’t give that apparent contradiction much thought.

I think a great deal of the rest of my very liberal politics as a teenager sprang directly out of that belief that I was gay and therefore conservatives and Christians and Republicans were my enemy. That, and I do come from a very secular liberal/Democratic family anyway.

9/11 happened when I was 18 and attending college in New York City, but I honestly don’t think it made any difference in my politics; the Iraq War was launched about two years later, of course, when I was 20. I was already very, very liberal–again, quite sure that the “homophobia” of conservatives/Republicans was simply the most personal (to me) way in which they displayed their ignorance and malice, ignorance and malice that went all through them to where their hearts ought to have been.

change_me

And yet — a few things worked against that liberalism even as early as age 18, though it wasn’t until probably my late 20s or early 30s that I realized I wasn’t a liberal any more at all, really.

The first thing was that I went off to college at an Ivy League school and discovered how rich and connected a very, very high percentage of my peers and classmates were, much more so than me, the son of a police detective and a nurse (comfortably middle-class, I hasten to add) and how oblivious they were of this fact and what flowed from it. Nor did any of them ever relinquish or give up the advantages their connections gave them (why should they?)

The second thing happened when I was 22, fresh out of college, and worked for a short time in a failing inner-city public middle school. A single day in the classroom there destroyed basically 100% of my previous “takes” on education policy or politics. It was *immediately* clear that you could increase the funding in that school to $500,000 per pupil per year and it likely wouldn’t make a dime’s worth of difference if you weren’t willing and able to change the culture in that neighborhood and inside the families in which those children were being raised — and how was that supposed to happen?

But the very biggest thing that changed me was living as a sexually active gay man in the city and experiencing gay male sexual culture and watching what it did to some of my friends, including one of my very best friends.

When you have been led to believe that you are a Minority, oppressed by the majority, and that the Evil Conservatives are the ones who want to hurt you — they want to pull a Matthew Shepard on you! — and that it is your fellow minority members, your LGBT “community,” that cares about you and supports you, that you are the least safe when among the evil conservative Enemy and most safe among members of your own group… when you have been led to believe this, it is really something to watch one of your best friends get deeper and deeper and further and further down into the worst parts of the communal-sewer gay sex culture, having sex with random guys and anonymous strangers week in and week out, endlessly, it never ever leading anywhere or to anything, him growing more and more cynical and callous about himself and about his sex partners, him getting HIV, him having bad reactions to a number of the HIV drugs, him experiencing serious depression and mental illness (yes, I know people can experience this without it being due to being gay), him getting addicted to crystal meth, him being unable to hold down a job, him disappearing for long periods… when you get to the point when you find yourself wondering periodically if the next time you hear his name it’s because someone is telling you that he’s dead… and when he has told you, in moments of frankness, about some of the things he’s allowed other men to do to him, in this strange nonchalant voice that makes your shiver, and you think about how you remember when he used to talk about wanting to find a man to be with forever and get married to, but all that kind of talk is gone, gone…

And the thing is, you don’t just see this trajectory in your close friend. You see it all over, if you’re a gay man, you don’t even really have to look for it hard. You don’t see it early, when guys are just coming out, when they are full of hope and when they are naive–and I think lots of gay guys start out genuinely wanting to find real, meaningful love — but over time, over the years, this sick sexual culture sucks people in. And it always feels like, even if you’re OK at the moment, it’s waiting for YOU. I mean, maybe not for everybody, but I always feel that — it’s there, waiting for ME, too. It lies in wait, sitting somewhere inside me, happy to make itself felt sometimes. If you are a gay man, you can *always* find sex, no matter what, provided you are willing to degrade yourself to a greater or lesser degree (and probably it will need to be greater as you get older), and there is no real bottom or floor there, believe me.

Liberalism today has as a *core tenet* the idea that if you are a type of minority you are safest, happiest, and most well when among your own group and are at most risk when surrounded by the majority. But nothing could be further than the truth when it comes to gay men. The number of gay men who get killed or seriously injured due to “homophobia” or whatever is probably one-ten-thousandth of the number of gay men who have killed or seriously hurt each other via our insane sexual choices, and the idea that we make these choices because of “homophobia” causing us to have “low self-esteem” or whatever is belied by the fact that gay men make the worst sexual choices in the biggest cities and “gay meccas” where the most gays are and which are the most gay-friendly or gay-tolerant. Gay male sexual culture is so incredibly effective at making gay men internalize an understanding of both themselves and their sexual partners as worthless that it has persisted even through an epidemic that killed tens of thousands of gay men within my lifetime.

I remember a commenter on this blog, back some years ago when gay marriage was still highly contested, wrote a comment that imagined a gay man praying to God to change his sexuality because it couldn’t be reconciled with his faith, and God not changing it; and then the commenter imagined a gay man praying to God to change his *religion,* for the same reason, and God not doing it, either. And I feel like that second gay man, in the sense that I find that I have come to believe something even against my own will. I *cannot* believe, anymore, that gay male sexual culture, collectively speaking, is anything but toxic, or that its toxicity can be justified or rationalized as being due to “homophobia,” no matter how much I might need or want something like that to be true. Maybe gay men who lived at a time when it was much much harder to be openly gay can believe that, but I can’t. My faith in sexual liberalism is broken, and since all of my liberalism was based on that, all of it is gone, too.

I do not believe that there is good evidence that us gay men can police ourselves *or* that we can move forward on the track we are on to an affirming society in which gay men freely make good choices. Gay male sexual culture is a uniquely nightmarish niche, but human sexuality itself is the problem–“liberating” it makes us slaves to it. The fact that one has a desire is no guide at all as to whether that desire should be indulged, and the fact that two (or more) both have a desire is *also* no guide as to whether that desire should be indulged — but thin “consenting adults” ethics has no ability to address this issue. And the temptation is so strong and so motivating that it is simply not realistic to expect people to make the right choices in such a thin culture that provides so little guidance or steering. One starts to wonder if “oppression” is *necessary.* Sexual liberalism, at least what we’ve got, is a lie and a disaster, and Houellebecq seems to me to be the human and artistic incarnation of our sexual culture– including his own face, which has turned goblinlike almost as if he is absorbing all of the sins of our age, Portrait of Dorian Gray-style.

None of this is to say that I’ve converted or pulled an Eve Tushnet — I’m married to a man and I love my family — or that I’m anything but a hypocrite, someone suffering from cognitive dissonance, someone unwilling to accept all the consequences of my beliefs, somebody lacking the courage or whatever to be “consistent” — I mean, here I am, politically-speaking, and quite frankly I don’t want to be. I am very much a know-it-all and someone who likes to argue, and I hardly know what to write here, since I don’t feel that I have a limb to stand on, other than to try to claim something like we don’t know the future and there may be a way through and a way of squaring this circle that we just haven’t discerned yet. But what is it? Does it exist? An orthodox Christian, say, would say no. I don’t accept that. But I do accept the Christian notion of sin, which I see all around me and in me and which is more real to me even than my job or my car or my house. What an orthodox Christian must think of *me* (the sinner) seems to me unquestionably more true and real than what the conventional 2018 Western pieties about sexuality and the human animal ask me to believe.

That’s really something.

93 Comments (Open | Close)

93 Comments To "Political Mental Maps: Matt In VA’s Political Conversion"

#1 Comment By DW On November 8, 2018 @ 4:30 pm

“…human sexuality itself is the problem…”

Wow. Even the Catholic Church doesn’t take it that far. In fact, wouldn’t it say that human sexuality is inherently good, because it was created God, and it’s “original sin” that’s the problem?

In regard to the rest, I’ve known Christian gay men who live chaste lives without a hundreth of the self-hatred present here. This isn’t healthy, Matt-from-VA.

[NFR: I didn’t take him as saying that human sexuality is *bad*, only that it is problematic. Which it is. — RD]

#2 Comment By Dan On November 8, 2018 @ 4:35 pm

Matt in VA,

You should read ‘Nihilism” by Eugene (Fr. Seraphim) Rose. It has been said that he struggled with homosexuality, and I think this book would resonate with you personally and politically. Its a brief book that changed my life as a secular Liberal.

#3 Comment By Jim in Ohio On November 8, 2018 @ 4:52 pm

Mccormick47:

It’s not self-hating to speak the truth.

Sorry, but as a gay man (partnered for over seven years), I found myself sympathizing with Matt’s frustration with other gay men.

I lost one friend to AIDS after he acquired it from his boyfriend who cheated on him. Another friend of mine contracted HIV from his partner who knew he had the virus and neglected to mention it.

This isn’t “love”. It’s selfish and wicked behavior, and it’s far too commonplace. Even though HIV is no longer (as likely) a death sentence as it was in 1980, it is still a life-changing disease, and the costs are too high to prioritize one’s “sexual liberation” above everything else.

#4 Comment By Rob On November 8, 2018 @ 5:40 pm

Honestly, I don’t understand this. Indeed, it is harder for a gay man to be an honest caring person. You do have to find your own way. But if you do, it makes you a person of stronger character than one who has not had the struggle. Im not talking celibacy here, or conversion therapy. Don’t indulge in the toxic culture, there is plenty else out there that is positive that doesn’t deny what you fundamentally are. Whats the problem Matt? Be yourself.

#5 Comment By JonF On November 8, 2018 @ 6:24 pm

Re: There are people temperamentally suited for the fringe, and they often have much to offer.

Not every person who is not white-bread normal has to be exiled to the fringe. However the mainstream does need its rules. One of which should be the old “Just don’t do it in the streets and frighten the horses”. I have no doubt Matt and his husband would make perfectly acceptable neighbors. Its the exhibitionists, or any sort, who let it all hang out all over the place that are the problem. Anyone tempted to perpetual drama queenery needs to go hang out with RuPaul.

#6 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On November 8, 2018 @ 6:26 pm

Matt in VA writes: “Gay male sexual culture is a uniquely nightmarish niche, but human sexuality itself is the problem–‘liberating’ it makes us slaves to it.”

and

“I’ve no doubt that part of it all is that I am somebody who is very tempted and who definitely feels within me desires that I know are wrong, all the time. I have certainly known gay men who don’t seem to have much of a problem with keeping their sexuality under control, who seem to be able to make good sexual decisions without too much effort. But that’s not the case for me.”

which brings to my mind Vladimir’s comment: “There’s man all over for you, blaming on his boots the faults of his feet.” (I have posted my own political mental map recollection in the original thread)

Is gay male sexual culture “a uniquely nightmarish niche” or can gay male sexual culture be experienced as a nightmarish niche by a person who has trouble keeping their sexuality under control and feels their desires are wrong? I have friends who say bars and saloons are difficult places to navigate while I have no problem at all being in them—rather than being nightmarish they are places of ennui for me.

Matt does acknowledge that “I have certainly known gay men who don’t seem to have much of a problem with keeping their sexuality under control, who seem to be able to make good sexual decisions without too much effort.” I can add that it is more than “seem”—I have had little difficulty in controlling my sexuality and know men like me. The problem is that Matt’s “nightmarish niche” can be understood as an objective fact when it is rather his subjective experience. Any desire whatsoever can be experienced as nightmarish if a person fears that it may dominate her.

Matt adds: “Nor do I believe that the evidence suggests that I am uncharacteristic of gay men or an outlier in that regard.” What is this evidence? Am I an outlier because I am in control of my sexuality? Matt is in the ballpark when he calls for more oppression, but he still makes the fundamental error of binary thinking: when it comes to a desire it is either satisfy it or repress it. Although these two choices seem opposite, they are both characterized by a vital shared ingredient: each approach perpetuates a person’s contact/relationship with said desire. The thought of unattaching from desire never occurs to binary thinkers: it is always either/or, but never more.

Matt is right when he writes about how liberation makes people slaves to desire, but repression brings about the same enslaved relationship. In both cases, a person wastes time/energy either seeking fulfillment or maintaining repression. Think of all the kindnesses/good works/compassionate acts a person loses the opportunities to do while he slakes his desires (which are ever-arising) or exerts effort to hold desires at bay. So much simpler to watch desire arise; analyze it in terms of one’s ethic (in my case the Noble Eightfold Path); commit whatever action is allowable within the structure of one’s ethic; and then it is on to the next moment.

Such an ethic answers Matt’s pertinent comment: “the fact that two (or more) both have a desire is *also* no guide as to whether that desire should be indulged — but thin ‘consenting adults’ ethics has no ability to address this issue.” Consent helps to a degree—non-consent is clearly off the Eightfold Path—but once a stronger ethic has been applied, if the application of said ethic leaves a person with the job of continuous repression, then she is no better off than if she had indulged since she continues to maintain a relationship to the desire (hence the valorization of suffering in Christianity—a necessary rationalization).

More Matt: “And the temptation is so strong and so motivating that it is simply not realistic to expect people to make the right choices in such a thin culture that provides so little guidance or steering.”

Temptation is only strong when a person weakens himself by entering into an on-going relationship with desire—sexual or otherwise.

Kent writes: “Causing pain or suffering to another for one’s own brief moment of pleasure is sin. Building (it must be built) the fortitude to never cause pain to another at the expense of pleasure, is the core of happiness. There is enormous joy in being the kind of person you know you should be.”

Buddhism lacks a concept of sin in this way, but otherwise what Kent has posted is something I have been taught by all my Buddhist teachers.

Fr Martin Fox writes: “But as far as I can see, if you jettison the Bible (or else ‘reinterpret’ it in an obviously self-serving way), and jettison the Natural Law, then all you have left is consent as the sole criterion of what is moral.”

Untrue. A person can apply Buddhist Natural Law and ethics.

G writes: “So I think there are conservatives who look at a permissive and hedonistic society and think ‘If there was a lot more social stigma against those behaviors, people would think twice and far fewer people would do those behaviors’. . .I think that this works to a degree, but I also think that it also simply drives behaviors underground for a lot of individuals. But I also agree that increased permissiveness and social acceptance of bad behavior doesn’t lead people to stop bad behavior either.”

Those binaries will kill you every time. Stigmatize something and you just make it more attractive; increase social acceptance and you remove the obligation of individuals to exercise with rigor their ethical muscles in all situations. All I can tell you is that when I address my desires through the prisms of right view; right resolve; right speech; right action; right livelihood; right effort; right mindfulness; and right concentration, they look completely different from when they first arose. Once I became a Buddhist, sex was never the same again.

#7 Comment By Thomas Hobbes On November 8, 2018 @ 6:50 pm

The fact that one has a desire is no guide at all as to whether that desire should be indulged.

Indeed.

Sadly, the freedom of consequences from the sexual revolution brought by the left combined with the “greed is good” and “consumerism is patriotic” brought by the right really came together to destroy the obviousness of this observation to a couple generations.

I think the vast majority of teens and young adults will automatically reject this bit of wisdom no matter how thick (or religiously) you lay it on in their childhood. When consequences and maturity start to take hold this wisdom will return much quicker though if the concept isn’t totally foreign to them.

#8 Comment By Geoff Guth On November 8, 2018 @ 8:12 pm

So I was going to post this on the other thread, but decided to do it here as it’s also kind of a response to Matt’s post.

At age, say, 21, I flattered myself that I liked Democratic positions better, but if I am going to be honest, I liked the Democrats because my parents did.

But the big reason I despised conservatives was because I was struggling with coming out of the closet at the height of the AIDS crisis. As a nerdy teenage news follower, I knew about the controversy surrounding AIDS policy in the ’80s, especially the response of American conservatism. I came out relatively late, perhaps 19 or so, but that coming out in my own head, in that environment, crystallized a deep antipathy towards conservatives that took years to overcome.

I knew there was evil in the world, and it looked like Jesse Helms.

What changed?

Service in the US Army in the mid-to-late ’90s exposed me to men from all over the country and from working and lower middle-class backgrounds. Many of them were as reflexively Republican as I had been Democratic. My Army service is why I will not engage in hatred of the “white working class” or whatever the leftist bogeyman is. I have known too many of those guys over the years.

I also reached many of the same conclusions about the gay community that Matt in VA has. Heck, I’ve lived a lot of them. Unlike him, however, I’ve also had a chance to see how this community can work in a positive way. That has been a lasting effect of the AIDS crisis, when we were left to largely fend for ourselves, and we did, together. I wish Matt in VA could see some of the real social good that comes out of the campy little fundraisers that some of these groups do. He sees a lot of criticize, and it is there, but there is a lot I really, truly love too.

But, in the depths of my despair, I was fortunate enough to find real Christians, who took me in to a kind of “Ben-Op” type place for a good long time, where a gained a little humility, a little perspective, and made my peace with God. I am fiercely devoted to protecting the faith of those Christians, even if I do not share it myself. It was a hard way to do it, but it burned away the hatred I’d carried for conservative Christians since those early days.

Another holdover from my drug days: I have a lot of empathy for people in that situation now. I do not excuse their behavior, but I do understand it. I try to hang on to that. I also understand that they, we, are all also responsible for our own decisions, and that we can each support others to try to make good ones. I try to do that now, for myself and for others. For that reason, judgmental politics, on all sides, turns me off. I’m arguing that one more with leftists these days.

I really try to approach each person on an individual basis now. I don’t always succeed. Often, I’m still selfish. Often, bad habits can reassert themselves and then it’s all too easy to fall into old ways of thinking. I really do understand Matt’s bitterness, but I’ve learned that it’s just not a useful response. I, too, have seen people I love kill themselves that way, but the difference for me is some of them have been straight. I can’t pin all the blame on just one group. I sense a lot of anger with Matt over it, probably like what I felt over AIDS early on. I’m not angry any more, just sad.

PS: When I first came out to myself, way back around 1990 or so, my very next thought was there was no way I could ever live to see my 30th birthday. That sense of fatalism, I’m sure, affected me deeply as well. Why fight back against something you know deeply will come to pass? I’m turning 47 today, 17 years of time I never expected. And with my life going in a completely unanticipated direction, with an uncertain future, but with optimism. In a very real sense I feel what Christians call grace operating in my life for that reason. I felt I wanted to end my post on that happier note.

#9 Comment By DW On November 8, 2018 @ 9:23 pm

“[NFR: I didn’t take him as saying that human sexuality is *bad*, only that it is problematic. Which it is. — RD]”

Well, the quote was, “… but human sexuality itself is the problem–‘liberating’ it makes us slaves to it”, right?

When Matt labels it “the probem”, and writes of enslavement, writes about it like it’s a beast that we should fear when unleashed, well, sounds like he thinks human sexuality is bad.

Sounds like something’s lurking under there and needs to be dealt with, needs to be integrated. Not necessarily in a way that gives up solid Catholic teaching, but in a way that’s less rooted in fear.

#10 Comment By John On November 8, 2018 @ 10:37 pm

It seems to me that Matt in VA’s present lifestyle disproves his claim that gays that don’t repress their nature have no self control.

Monogamy is possible – harder obviously in a culture where it isn’t expected, but not impossible. A culture that encourages monogamy, would go a long way in lowering that spread in HIV.,

#11 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On November 8, 2018 @ 11:12 pm

Jim in Ohio writes: “I lost one friend to AIDS after he acquired it from his boyfriend who cheated on him. Another friend of mine contracted HIV from his partner who knew he had the virus and neglected to mention it…This isn’t ‘love’. It’s selfish and wicked behavior, and it’s far too commonplace.”

I agree such behavior is selfish, wicked, and far too commonplace, but it is not constitutive of being gay. Many heterosexuals have engaged in similar behavior.

Rod writes: “I didn’t take him as saying that human sexuality is *bad*, only that it is problematic. Which it is.”

Human sexuality is not problematic. Rather, human sexuality is rendered problematic by people if and when they form unhealthy attachments to it.

#12 Comment By Kurt Gayle On November 8, 2018 @ 11:19 pm

@ Matt in VA: Thanks for what you wrote. It’s very honest. But the gay lifestyle facts are nothing new. We’ve known all of that for a very long time.

What interests me most about what you wrote is that it took you, an obviously extremely sharp guy, so long to figure this stuff out.

I have a couple of questions: (1) Do you think it’s OK for a person who isn’t gay to say the same things you say about the gay lifestyle? Suppose a man who isn’t gay wrote what you wrote (just changing the pronouns)?:

“The very biggest thing that changed [him] was living as a sexually active gay man in the city and experiencing gay male sexual culture and watching what it did to some of [his] friends, including one of [his] very best friends…It is really something [for him] to watch one of [his] best friends get deeper and deeper and further and further down into the worst parts of the communal-sewer gay sex culture, having sex with random guys and anonymous strangers week in and week out, endlessly, it never ever leading anywhere or to anything, him growing more and more cynical and callous about himself and about his sex partners, him getting HIV, him having bad reactions to a number of the HIV drugs…The number of gay men who get killed or seriously injured due to ‘homophobia’ or whatever is probably one-ten-thousandth of the number of gay men who have killed or seriously hurt each other via [their] insane sexual choices, and the idea that [they] make these choices because of ‘homophobia’ causing [them] to have ‘low self-esteem’ or whatever is belied by the fact that gay men make the worst sexual choices in the biggest cities and ‘gay meccas’ where the most gays are and which are the most gay-friendly or gay-tolerant. Gay male sexual culture is so incredibly effective at making gay men internalize an understanding of both themselves and their sexual partners as worthless that it has persisted even through an epidemic that killed tens of thousands of gay men within my lifetime…[He does] not believe that there is good evidence that…gay men can police [themselves] *or* that [they] can move forward on the track [they] are on to an affirming society in which gay men freely make good choices. Gay male sexual culture is a uniquely nightmarish niche, but human sexuality itself is the problem–‘liberating’ it makes us slaves to it. The fact that one has a desire is no guide at all as to whether that desire should be indulged…Sexual liberalism, at least what we’ve got, is a lie and a disaster…”

My question (2) is this: Why shouldn’t parents who love their children do everything they can to screen their children from any and all contact with – or exposure to – the above-described lifestyle and the people who practice that lifestyle?

Again, thanks for what you wrote and thanks for your honesty.

#13 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 8, 2018 @ 11:22 pm

My Army service is why I will not engage in hatred of the “white working class” or whatever the leftist bogeyman is.

There is nothing more sardonically humorous that this succinct not of the “white working class” being a “leftist bogeyman.” If you can’t relate to the working class, don’t pretend to be “leftist.” That’s a liberal thing — and explains why, in the absence of a viable socialist movement, a good chunk of the working class votes conservative. They may be bourgeois stooges who keep wages down, but at least they’re not liberals.

#14 Comment By Annie On November 9, 2018 @ 8:22 am

What phenomenal comments. Rick’s comment struck my heart. Grieved to hear you were removed from the Catholic churches where you were meeting, Rick. While I hold fast to Catholic teaching, there’s such a difficult needle to thread and people keep rejecting it to either side. I had a painful moment at a very traditionalist Mass a few weeks ago which put the kibosh on any notions that I’d become a TLM goer. The choice mustn’t be between celebrity priests fawned over by the culture, or maniacs.

Also, Race MoChridhe’s long excerpt from Trent was absolutely fascinating. The ancient Golden Order, the decades of punk destruction… it could have its own whole separate post. Thanks for sharing.

#15 Comment By JonF On November 9, 2018 @ 9:39 am

Kurt Gayle, IMO, what parents should be doing with their kids is preparing them to become adults and giving them the tools to deal with reality. Simply hiding reality from them (outside of age-appropriate and therefore temporary soft pedaling of hard or complicated things) will not make them better adults. Should you have a gay kid trying to hide homosexuality from him is apt to lead to disastrous results. A better course is to bring him up able to make wise choices on his own. Someday after all he will be making his own choices, wise or not.

#16 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On November 9, 2018 @ 10:33 am

Kurt Gayle writes: “Why shouldn’t parents who love their children do everything they can to screen their children from any and all contact with – or exposure to – the above-described lifestyle and the people who practice that lifestyle?”

Of course they should. Parents should also keep their children away from heterosexuals since they engage in the self-same sexual behaviors.

#17 Comment By Matthew On November 9, 2018 @ 10:45 am

I am also a gay man in a same sex marriage and I guess my experience has been totally different from Matt in VA. So, here is mine. No one in my family had gone to college. I did but not an ivy league or even elite institution, just a state school. Almost everyone there was just like me. Some came from educated families but many did not. I never sensed a class difference between me and my classmates. Many of my professors were conservative. I never sensed a PC culture on campus or a social justice warrior impulse. Of course those people existed as did the far right but the vast majority were just not political at all. And most of my professors were there to teach and impart knowledge to help you get a job in the real world, not espouse politics.

Now that I have graduated and in my work life I have not encountered a lot of PC culture or social justice warriorism either. I work with a lot of moderates and some Trump voters. They accept me as a gay man and its no big deal.

My experience in the gay community has also been different. Now admittedly, when I came out I did not go to the bars and I have always lived in smaller cities where the gay community is different. But I always sought out gay – slash organizational groups like gay religious groups, gay hikers, gay skiers, gays who like gourmet cooking etc. There are usually such sub-groups even in a moderate sized city. And most of the gay men I met were just like me — looking to settle down and marry or were already married. Granted some would hit on me after hardly knowing me and I certainly knew some who were quick to jump into bed but by and large that was not my experience. I never knew anyone doing drugs other than alcohol. Matt paints such a bleak picture of gay life that I’m glad I never saw any of that. And so I settled down myself like so many other gays I knew.

So, I am still quite moderate politically. I have voted for both dems and reps. I am grateful for the university education I had and I am grateful for the gay community as I’ve experienced it.

(as an aside, my entire life, child hood to adult, has been spent in Utah and Idaho. Maybe that makes a difference. Matt’s description does not remind me of the gay community in Salt Lake City or Boise. The public universities in those states didnt feel like his experience.

#18 Comment By Sally On November 9, 2018 @ 10:46 am

Matt, thank you for sharing this extraordinary story. There is no doubt in my mind that God has given you great gifts of intelligence and spiritual discernment, which you are using for others’ benefit (ours!) and will discover more about in time.

I don’t have long to write, so let me just add:

> I do accept the Christian notion of sin, which I see all around me and in me and which is more real to me even than my job or my car or my house.

I’m a generally cheerful person, not much prone to “guilt,” but I wish I and others had this acute perception of reality. It really is a gift, though it doubtless can feel like a burden.

As in the ending of a novel I just finished (“My Year of Rest and Relaxation” by Otessa Moshfegh, recommend), you are awake.

It’s not that common.

#19 Comment By kgasmart On November 9, 2018 @ 10:50 am

Monogamy is possible – harder obviously in a culture where it isn’t expected, but not impossible. A culture that encourages monogamy, would go a long way in lowering that spread in HIV

Agreed. Monogamy is difficult – which tends to be one of the arguments of the “poly” crowd, that it’s so difficult as to be unrealistic, that it’s not our natural state, etc. etc.

Matt and the commenters here are right in saying that our culture now considers the liberation our sexual appetites to be “freedom.” But liberation from any appetite – be it sex, overeating/food, drugs/alcohol, what have you – leads to suffering. Did the early church know that? Is it coincidence that religion teaches us the necessity of reining in our appetites, but those appetites must be chained in order for an ordered society to thrive, particularly in earlier times?

#20 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On November 9, 2018 @ 11:47 am

kgasmart writes: “Is it coincidence that religion teaches us the necessity of reining in our appetites, but those appetites must be chained in order for an ordered society to thrive, particularly in earlier times?”

The diagnosis is right–the cure is wrong. When something is chained–an appetite or anything else–it immediately seeks to be free. This struggle for freedom necessitates more chains which in turn inspire more struggle ad infinitum. This is why people keep sinning and keep needing forgiveness. They never get over their bad behaviors since they are never encouraged/taught to let go of them, but rather to restrain them (such an approach helps to keep clerics in business).

If I remember my Catholic theology, Christ commanded a woman to go and sin no more. Unattaching from a desire is the best guarantor of not indulging it, while chaining desire is a less effective approach since it inspires a strong counter response. A desire released does not clamor for recapture.

#21 Comment By Matt in VA On November 9, 2018 @ 12:13 pm

Kurt Gayle says:
But the gay lifestyle facts are nothing new. We’ve known all of that for a very long time.
What interests me most about what you wrote is that it took you… so long to figure this stuff out.

Well, I would say, it might be good to take a step back and look at this as a big-picture “liberal way of looking at the world” vs. “conservative way of looking at the world.” People believe lots of different things. I don’t know what your position is on, say, single-mother cash-welfare payments or supervised needle injection sites, but let’s say you have conservative positions on those. Why is it that so many liberals, some of them I’m sure very, very intelligent people, cannot see what a conservative might say any old grandmother with a pinch of salt-of-the-earth wisdom would be able to see about the perverse incentives/social messaging created by these kinds of policies? (And if you are liberal, I’m sure you can think of some issues where it’s the same thing — how can these people, some of whom are very intelligent, not see X? Though liberals seem more inclined to get around this by just saying that all conservatives are stupid.)

I’m sure I’m no different from anybody else when it comes to why I had the political positions I did, and then those changed. And then add this in: very, very few gay men, I believe, start out thinking that *they* will be the ones who get sucked into this kind of sexual culture and that it will turn out for them the way it often does. Also– just as you cannot trust people to make the right decisions if they are totally “free” in a thin culture that fails to bind people and direct them towards the Good, in the same way is it a bit silly, I think, to expect most gay people to simply accept lifelong celibacy and Courage meetings, even if you are firmly convinced that that is what they should be doing. It’s MY life, not yours, and I only get one, and I have a strong motivation here, one that isn’t solely sexual in nature but that does involve the heart and the trajectory of my life and represents real stakes in terms of my potential loneliness, family, and place in society, even if you think it’s the voice of a demon whispering in my ear. At some point you’ve got to be willing to *oppress* people, when you’re dealing with those who have an incredibly strong motivation like I do. Like I’ve written before, are you willing to tell your wayward daughter “Never darken my door again?” Who has the *will* to impose the vision of society they want? It may be that you are ready and willing to do this, that you do have the will. But I don’t think too many others do. Why should they? We live in a “free” society, so we tell ourselves, where the only argument Christians really have is “please do this and I promise it’ll make you happier (or at least give you some kind of “peace”) … ultimately and eventually.” Which is silly — I don’t think it’s true or honest that Christianity does this or promises this for everybody, or maybe even most people, Christianity is the cross, and thus I do not think you can even go so far as truthfully say that good of-this-earth things will come at all for taking it up. Anyway– Who is willing to physically contest, with their physical bodies, the public square? Look at ACT-UP. Are those who believe that, say, the closet should be *the* place for gay people willing and able to do something similar in terms of actually contesting ground? Maybe in some other life, some other culture, some other historical moment, you and I would be fighting against one another, I mean with arms/weapons. (I am a pretty physically timid guy, so that probably wouldn’t work out well for me!) I don’t write this in an attempt to stir things up or to sound bloodthirsty, only to to say that I do think life is conflict, that nature is red in tooth and claw, and it is perhaps the domesticated and bourgeois nature of Western society that explains why we are where we are, and we’ll all have to decide whether we think it’s worth it or not. I feel very motivated to seek alternative directions or to push the culture we have *now* off the current track and onto another one, but I definitely would agree with those who say that I’m risking an awful lot in that what comes might be much, much worse. Sure.

I have a couple of questions: (1) Do you think it’s OK for a person who isn’t gay to say the same things you say about the gay lifestyle? Suppose a man who isn’t gay wrote what you wrote (just changing the pronouns)?:

Sure, yes.

My question (2) is this: Why shouldn’t parents who love their children do everything they can to screen their children from any and all contact with – or exposure to – the above-described lifestyle and the people who practice that lifestyle?

Well, this sounds like a Benedict Option question, even if you don’t think it is. And I will just repeat, begging Mr. Dreher’s pardon for my querulousness and disagreeableness, my criticisms of that way of approaching things. Only about 5%, maybe 1%, have the resources and privilege to secede or remove themselves from society; most of us have to live in the public square, even if only just to work/support our families, and the poorer, less connected, less privileged we are, the more we depend on the public square and the less ability we have to remove ourselves from it. There are lots of aspects of our current culture that are degenerate — don’t get me started on modern/popular music — but it would be very difficult to completely shield one’s children from it; I mean, it assaults our ears in so many stores and public places and restaurants, etc.

“Screening your children from all exposure and contact with” gay people–what does that look like? Does it mean controlling what’s in *your* home? Sure, go ahead, and I hope parents DO think a lot more about this (what their kids are exposed to in their own homes) than they do. So many parents I know have TVs in their kids’ bedrooms and give them phones with internet access at younger and younger ages. I don’t think that’s good.

I mean, sure, do everything you can to shield/protect/screen your kids from sexual immorality. I can’t help but wonder if what you’re getting at, that, is a bigger project — actually trying to push this stuff out of the public square and reclaim (at least some of) the public square. Again, all of life is conflict. My impression is that you are asking me whether such an approach (push gays back out of the public square) is licit. Well, I don’t *want* that, but I don’t know, and I’m not sure I’m even interested in that question; the real question is who is actually going to *do* it, and how.

I have a child, and we don’t have much money and can’t afford to home-school, so she will be going to public school. Let’s say you have kids (I don’t know if you do or not) and your kid was in my kid’s class, and so your kid found out about people like me. What would you do? Who’s going to hold that contested ground, that piece of the public square? If you’re asking me “is it licit to try to push you out?”– well, I guess we would see who is more “committed,” right? If it sounds like I’m saying “God is dead, all is power, all is permitted,” I would say that I don’t believe God is dead but I *do* believe that Nietzsche was right about the Christianity of the West in modernity and that even Christians *are* responsible for doing, or not doing, what they do or don’t do on this earth, and that telling themselves they’re bravely waiting for martyrdom while actually just letting the culture go to hell in a handbasket while they step aside from it does not seem to me to be “true” Christianity.

Ultimately, if I’m reading you right, and I may not be, on some level we might just be sworn enemies irresolvably in conflict with one another. Or maybe there is some middle ground or some better way, in which we can both find ways to live with one another. But probably not. But lots of things are possible.

I don’t want, by the way, to lead any earnest Christian evangelical to hope that with a few more nudges I can be pushed all the way. I am 100% committed to my family and that’s not going to change. Nor do I believe in my heart of hearts that there is something *inherently* sinful in being gay or marrying somebody of the same sex. That may mean that, from the perspective of an orthodox Christian, on some basic, fundamental level, I refuse to die to myself. So be it. God bless.

#22 Comment By Maclin Horton On November 9, 2018 @ 1:08 pm

This is indeed a fascinating post, as are the others in this series–thank you for doing it, Rod. Many of the comments are equally good. I haven’t read them all but I’ve jumped ahead to second vigorously that first one which says that human sexuality itself is the problem. It is indeed. And it can’t be *solved*, only managed in various ways that will always be seriously unsatisfactory in one way or another. I wrote a blog post a few years ago with the title “Sex Is Just A Problem And That’s All There Is To It.”

Also, re the socially restraining effect of female sexuality: once I passed on to my wife some rather startling story about the…um…extravagance of some gay male behavior. She shook her head and said something like “That’s what you would expect of a bunch of men with no women to hold them back.”

#23 Comment By JeffK On November 9, 2018 @ 2:16 pm

@JonF says:
November 9, 2018 at 9:39 am

“Kurt Gayle, IMO, what parents should be doing with their kids is preparing them to become adults and giving them the tools to deal with reality. Simply hiding reality from them (outside of age-appropriate and therefore temporary soft pedaling of hard or complicated things) will not make them better adults. ”

Agree. Back in 1975 my girl friend in college had a room mate that was the daughter of a very strict pastor. One of the first things the daughter did when she got to college was go to health service and get a prescription for the pill. I don’t know if she was promiscuous or not, but she was certainly prepared. And I give her credit for her preparedness.

You cannot shelter children from adult realities for long. You can try. But they will become adults. The best you can do is provide them with as much accurate information as possible to make good decisions.

#24 Comment By Kurt Gayle On November 9, 2018 @ 2:59 pm

I want to thank you, Matt in VA, for taking so much time in writing such a lengthy, thoughtful response to some questions I raised. It’s very kind of you.

One thing that I do want to clarify. I asked this question: “Why shouldn’t parents who love their children do everything they can to screen their children from any and all contact with – or exposure to – the above-described lifestyle and the people who practice that lifestyle?”

My question prompted you to ask: “’Screening your children from all exposure and contact with’ gay people–what does that look like?”

My kids and grandkids have had first-rate, very responsible gay and lesbian public school teachers,” so, no, I wasn’t referring to contact with “gay people,” but to “any and all contact with – or exposure to – the above-described lifestyle and the people who practice that lifestyle” (that is, the lifestyle that you yourself described, Matt in VA).

You raise so many good, important questions. Some I just need to think about more. Others I think you’re probably right that we might not ever agree.

#25 Comment By Rick Steven D. On November 9, 2018 @ 3:41 pm

Annie,

Thank you for your very warm remarks. One thing AA teaches you is keeping YOUR side of the street clean, and letting go of the rest. So while the group itself had some difficult feelings about it at first, we also had a whole 12 step life-plan for dealing handling it, with, above all resentment and self-pity being off limits. So not as sad a story as you might think. We have been at our new church for four years. A great experience. I SWEAR a satellite over the earth, if it could pick up on spiritual energy, would spot a supernova over Long Island every Saturday around 11AM. Thanks again…

#26 Comment By JonF On November 9, 2018 @ 3:54 pm

Matt in VA,
Re, your comment to Kurt Gayle. Rod has said umpteen times that the Benedict Option is not about heading for the hills and living in a compound behind a wall of Bibles and icons. To he sure, he extols too many rural examples so it sometimes sounds that way. And yes, he did give us also the Tipi Loschi (sp?) in Italy who are urban. But I don’t see that people have to be rolling in the dough to follow Rod’s ideal. As I see it at least it’s more about rededication to one’s spiritual traditions on a daily basis, including practices in the home, and about finding like minded people- which is likely to be easier in populous areas where there are more people. WE don’t have to drop out of society like latter day hippies high on Jesus instead of acid. As St. Paul counseled the Christians of his day, Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.

#27 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On November 9, 2018 @ 5:37 pm

Kurt Gayle asks: “My kids and grandkids have had first-rate, very responsible gay and lesbian public school teachers, so, no, I wasn’t referring to contact with ‘gay people,’ but to ‘any and all contact with – or exposure to – the above-described lifestyle and the people who practice that lifestyle’ (that is, the lifestyle that you yourself described, Matt in VA).”

How do you know that those responsible gay and lesbian teachers did not go to sex parties on the weekends? For that matter, how do you know that their responsible heterosexual colleagues did not go to bondage events every other month? A person’s sex life has no bearing on her ability to teach arithmetic, and no teacher should ever share details with her students about her sex/personal life whether it be vanilla, kinky, or anything in between.

My parents had no idea what sort of cultures/worlds I would encounter/explore. What they did (following the advice of JonF without knowing him) was provide me with an extraordinarily strong and adaptable ethical framework which has allowed me to engage people/cultures across a wide spectrum without (in the vast majority of cases–I am not perfect) giving rise to harm to others or to myself.

#28 Comment By Kurt Gayle On November 9, 2018 @ 8:23 pm

Brian in Brooklyn (Nov 9, 5:37 pm) quotes me: “’My kids and grandkids have had first-rate, very responsible gay and lesbian public school teachers, so, no, I wasn’t referring to contact with ‘gay people,’ but to ‘any and all contact with – or exposure to – the above-described lifestyle and the people who practice that lifestyle’ (that is, the lifestyle that you yourself described, Matt in VA)’.

Then Brian in Brooklyn asks: “How do you know that those responsible gay and lesbian teachers did not go to sex parties on the weekends? For that matter, how do you know that their responsible heterosexual colleagues did not go to bondage events every other month? A person’s sex life has no bearing on her ability to teach arithmetic, and no teacher should ever share details with her students about her sex/personal life whether it be vanilla, kinky, or anything in between.”

“The above-described lifestyle and the people who practice that lifestyle’ (that is, the lifestyle that you yourself described, Matt in VA)” that I quoted from Matt in VA was the following:

“The very biggest thing that changed [him] was living as a sexually active gay man in the city and experiencing gay male sexual culture and watching what it did to some of [his] friends, including one of [his] very best friends…It is really something [for him] to watch one of [his] best friends get deeper and deeper and further and further down into the worst parts of the communal-sewer gay sex culture, having sex with random guys and anonymous strangers week in and week out, endlessly, it never ever leading anywhere or to anything, him growing more and more cynical and callous about himself and about his sex partners, him getting HIV, him having bad reactions to a number of the HIV drugs…The number of gay men who get killed or seriously injured due to ‘homophobia’ or whatever is probably one-ten-thousandth of the number of gay men who have killed or seriously hurt each other via [their] insane sexual choices, and the idea that [they] make these choices because of ‘homophobia’ causing [them] to have ‘low self-esteem’ or whatever is belied by the fact that gay men make the worst sexual choices in the biggest cities and ‘gay meccas’ where the most gays are and which are the most gay-friendly or gay-tolerant. Gay male sexual culture is so incredibly effective at making gay men internalize an understanding of both themselves and their sexual partners as worthless that it has persisted even through an epidemic that killed tens of thousands of gay men within my lifetime…[He does] not believe that there is good evidence that…gay men can police [themselves] *or* that [they] can move forward on the track [they] are on to an affirming society in which gay men freely make good choices. Gay male sexual culture is a uniquely nightmarish niche, but human sexuality itself is the problem–‘liberating’ it makes us slaves to it. The fact that one has a desire is no guide at all as to whether that desire should be indulged…Sexual liberalism, at least what we’ve got, is a lie and a disaster…”

#29 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On November 10, 2018 @ 2:40 am

@Kurt: I know what Matt posted, but what leads you to believe that his portrait is accurate? What knowledge base do you bring to the subject that verifies his narrative? I also posted a narrative about gay life–what makes you believe that Matt’s is more factually correct than mine? Though Matt does not provide specific detail about gay sexual culture, I doubt I missed any place/party/group that he experienced (and if I did I must have had a darn good reason). Does my narrative go against your biases and/or not suit your purpose?

You quote Matt writing about “the communal-sewer gay sex culture, having sex with random guys and anonymous strangers week in and week out, endlessly,” but in research published in the Journal of Homosexuality in 2013 researchers studied the frequency of male/male sexual encounters and then compared it with the results of two large studies on heterosexual behavior, and it turned out that “Sex frequency among MSM respondents was similar to that reported by heterosexuals.” So I guess we are all in the same communal sewer (of course, there are the usual caveats that almost all sex research depends on self-reporting and that men tend to exaggerate when reporting. There is also the continuing problem of sample size in large studies of sexual behavior where the number of gay respondents can be small–not that I want anyone to think I am a sample size queen).

You then quote Matt saying: “The number of gay men who get killed or seriously injured due to ‘homophobia’ or whatever is probably one-ten-thousandth of the number of gay men who have killed or seriously hurt each other via their insane sexual choices.” As Siarlys likes to post: assumes facts not in evidence. What is the number of men who have “killed or seriously hurt each other via insane sexual choices”? (Admittedly, Matt gives himself an out by adding “probably” to his declaration of fact.) Also, what is an insane sexual choice? I can think of a couple, but have not known many men who made them–they along with me, in fact, work to make sure men do not make them.

You quote Matt further that “gay culture is so incredibly effective at making gay men internalize an understanding of both themselves and their sexual partners as worthless.” If gay culture is so incredibly effective, why did it fail with me; my husband; our friends, family, and colleagues; other posters in this thread; and presumably Matt and his husband? How could queer creativity and accomplishment continue to increase year by year if gay men are so thoroughly brainwashed into understanding themselves as worthless? How do you explain the explosion of queer theater and film that has occurred over the past few years and is continuing this season? How could gay men have time to create all this fabulous art if they were spending all their time in the communal sewer?

You quote Matt as saying that he does “not believe that there is good evidence that…gay men can police themselves *or* that they can move forward on the track they are on to an affirming society in which gay men freely make good choices.” What good evidence would suffice? I just mentioned the renaissance in gay art. HIV infections are declining for some gay male cohorts–signs of gay men policing themselves no? (Infections are rising in the Hispanic/Latino community, but we are unsure if it is an increase in infections, or that testing and connections to care are on the rise among Hispanic/Latino men leading to an increase in infections being recorded.) And to reverse the question: what evidence is there that gay men cannot police themselves. We have Matt’s story about his friend, but is that exceptional or representative? Are the heterosexual swingers JonF posted about exceptional or representative of their community?

Matt concludes his fear narrative by saying that “gay male sexual culture is a uniquely nightmarish niche,” but he admits that “part of it all is that I am somebody who is very tempted and who definitely feels within me desires that I know are wrong, all the time.” As I noted before, would not someone who is very tempted and believes that his desires are wrong (and I am assuming Matt is referring to sexual desires) regard sexual culture as nightmarish (much as an alcoholic would regard a room full of open liquor bottles as nightmarish)?

Aside: there were some comments stating that Matt was self-hating. I do not believe that his posts support such a charge. Matt is honest about the conflicts he feels, but those conflicts do not make him self-hating.

But I do think that he overreaches with “nor do I believe that the evidence suggests that I am uncharacteristic of gay men or an outlier in that regard.” But characteristic in what way? Feeling that his desires are wrong? Always on a knife edge of doing sexual wrong and becoming part of the communal sewer? If that were so, wouldn’t there be a communal sewer in every place there were gay men? Are the “first-rate, very responsible gay and lesbian public school teachers” who taught your children and grandchildren similar to Matt? Like him, are they constantly tempted by desires that they know are wrong?

#30 Comment By Kurt Gayle On November 10, 2018 @ 2:32 pm

Brian in Brooklyn writes (Nov 10, 2:40 am): “@Kurt: I know what Matt posted, but what leads you to believe that his portrait is accurate? What knowledge base do you bring to the subject that verifies his narrative? I also posted a narrative about gay life–what makes you believe that Matt’s is more factually correct than mine?”

In addition to the fact that Matt’s portrait matches my own reading on this subject, there is the fact that I have read Matt’s posts for quite a long time and I have become convinced that Matt has a commitment to honesty and accuracy. Not that you don’t have that same commitment, Brian in Brooklyn, but I’m not nearly as familiar with your posts as I am with Matt’s. So, you’re right about that: That’s a bias on my part.

#31 Comment By Henry On November 11, 2018 @ 9:42 am

I would like, someday, for a conservative Christian commentator to discuss the deranged sexuality of what now passes as mainstream heterosexual society with half of the morbid interest they seem to have for society’s homosexual minority.

The sexual positions and acts that ordinary men and women engage in is absolutely no less grotesque than what homosexual men do. It makes mockery of the body and the divine, reproductive purpose of sex. These days, there is every bit as much anal and oral sex, for instance, among heterosexuals as there is among homosexuals. The same is obviously true of masturbation among heterosexual men, which is incredibly mainstream.

Do we judge the sins of mainstream sexual activity less simply because we are more self-conscious of our own sins in this regard? Unless we preach a culture of chastity and abstinence, including clearer standards of what sort of sexual acts are fundamentally immoral in ALL contexts, gay or straight, I am not convinced we are doing much to address the larger problem.

#32 Comment By Geoff Guth On November 11, 2018 @ 1:12 pm

[1] wrote:

I have a couple of questions: (1) Do you think it’s OK for a person who isn’t gay to say the same things you say about the gay lifestyle? Suppose a man who isn’t gay wrote what you wrote (just changing the pronouns)?

I’m going to disagree with [2] here a little bit.

It’s always a bit dodgy for outsiders to criticize practices within a particular group. How many Trump Republicans pay attention to what Democrats have to say about the President? Or even never-Trump conservatives? Especially if you are a conservative Christian, your criticism would be seen as self-serving and would accomplish nothing.

That’s not to say it can’t be done. There are a very, very few conservative Christians out there (none of them are prominent in any way) whom I trust completely to speak with me about issues like these. There is a lot of mistrust that you would have to overcome first. And the way to do that is to do the work of truly befriending individual gay men and showing them, patiently, that you truly love them and have their best interests at heart. And even then, at best, you’ll have the ear of just those individuals. You would have to also accept that to many, you’ll always be a “hater.” It would be a very difficult path to follow.

It’s easier to reach out to young gay men in your own family or community, say, while they are in high school, while you still have some influence. But it’s not enough to just point to the gay community out there and say, “This is bad; stay away!” It’s a little more helpful if you can actually have someone speak with the authority of direct experience, like myself or Matt. But what you really need to do there is offer a viable alternative. What happens when all your straight friends get married, have kids and start getting absorbed by the demands of family life?

All of this assumes that your question is coming from a place of love and concern for individual people whose lives are in jeopardy. If your aim is rather to spout off on Facebook about how same-sex marriage is a farce because the gays are all promiscuous drug users and Matt in VA says so, then, while you are free to do so, you will accomplish what every Facebook political post accomplishes, which is precisely zero.

But you’re free to say it.

#33 Comment By JonF On November 11, 2018 @ 4:38 pm

Matt in VA and Brian in Brooklyn seem to be part of very different sub-sub-cultures within the gay subculture.

#34 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 11, 2018 @ 10:20 pm

How do you know that those responsible gay and lesbian teachers did not go to sex parties on the weekends? For that matter, how do you know that their responsible heterosexual colleagues did not go to bondage events every other month?

Brian, my impression was that Kurt Gayle was complimenting the way the teachers acted professionally in the classroom. He was not speculating on what their sexual practices at home, or at private parties during their free time, might look like. Kurt has said this himself, but I hardly see how the question arises in the first place. Its the fact that they didn’t bring that into the classroom, or talk about it, but simply did their job as teachers, which made a favorable impression. Of course we don’t know what they or any other teacher was doing on the week-end.

#35 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On November 11, 2018 @ 10:39 pm

@Kurt Gayle: Thanks for your response. I am not sure what reading you have done and how balanced it has been regarding queer experience, but I can recommend Jim Downs “Stand By Me” which can help to fill in gaps in LGBT history; it is just one of many good titles.

But the question still remains: you wish to limit your family’s exposure to “any and all contact with – or exposure to – the above-described lifestyle and the people who practice that lifestyle.” (I presume that you wish to avoid contact with your fellow heterosexualists who practice this lifestyle as well.)

To limit exposure to the lifestyle is easy–keep them away from where it occurs and hope they continue to stay away when they are on their own.

But how do you propose to identify people who practice that lifestyle? Do we mandate participants to be tattooed or have symbols sewn to their clothes? My own modest proposal would be for you and like-minded citizens to adopt some symbol to be worn which is then widely advertised as indicating a wish not to be contacted by or have anything to do with people who practice this lifestyle. In this way, you do not force anyone to reveal details of their private life which are not anyone’s business, and announce your own preferences in an efficient, but non-ostentatious fashion.

#36 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On November 11, 2018 @ 11:10 pm

Henry writes: “I would like, someday, for a conservative Christian commentator to discuss the deranged sexuality of what now passes as mainstream heterosexual society with half of the morbid interest they seem to have for society’s homosexual minority.”

Hear, hear. I think the Christian community loses a certain amount of credibility when they focus on queer sexual culture and ignore heterosexual sexual culture. At one time it did make sense strategically to do so: animosity against queers was widespread enough that there was nothing to be gained by splitting what was a united opposition. But now this strategy looks hypocritical–more about singling out queers than creating a sexual culture in line with Biblical standards.

#37 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On November 12, 2018 @ 1:50 am

JonF writes: “Matt in VA and Brian in Brooklyn seem to be part of very different sub-sub-cultures within the gay subculture.”

Were only the gay subculture that big LOL. I believe that Matt and I knew and experienced the same world. The difference lies in our approach. Matt says he believes his sexual desires are wrong. If a person feels that way, when they experience a sexual culture, it will seem a sewer–a sewer being the place to which/where wrong things are consigned.

I do not think my desires are wrong and never have. Once I realized I was gay, that was it for me. I did not date girls and did not stay in the closet for long. I have never had to degrade myself to have sex nor felt the desire to do so.

The sexual culture I experienced was wild/loving/passionate/crazy/dangerous and I could use another two dozen adjectives without coming close to exhausting the milieu. Did people engage in risky behavior? Yes. I tried (and continue to try) to change people’s behaviors in this area (in both my professional and personal life).

We are also different in that Matt seems to follow Camille Paglia in thinking that people have innate Chthonic desires that are always threatening to overwhelm them and cause chaos. In “Sexual Personae” Paglia writes that “Everything great in western civilization comes from struggle against our origins.” Paglia channels Freud in seeing everything as conflict, which Matt has said is how he sees the world as well. So for him, following Paglia, the sick sexual culture “lies in wait, sitting somewhere inside me, happy to make itself felt sometimes,” and he is in perpetual conflict with it in order to keep it in check.

Following the teachings of the Buddha, I disagree. Desires arise and fade, but they are not lying in wait inside a person–in the shadows, hoping for a moment of weakness in order to emerge and cause trouble. The sexual culture we both experienced is for Matt the manifestation of gay men’s failure to struggle successfully with their innate sexual desires. Hence, Matt can entertain the idea that oppression is necessary lest Chthonic forces gain the upper hand.

For me, gay sexual culture emerges from the relationships between sexual desire, personal history, and social and cultural forces, including the homophobia and cultural oppression which Matt dismisses. Rather than a struggle, it is a question of changing the relationship between the constituent elements. When I post about the emptiness of existence, this is the phenomenon to which I am referring. Because I do not have a Chthonic relationship to my desires, they do behave/manifest in a Chthonic fashion. However, if a person understands his desires in a Chthonic fashion, then that is how he will experience them. Desires themselves are empty and only acquire definition when (and according to how) a person comes into relationship with them. (I touched on this concept briefly in my recent posts about Tendai and the concept of interpenetration). This is why I disagreed earlier when Rod wrote that human sexuality is problematic. It is not–human sexuality is empty. It only becomes problematic when a person enters into a problematic relationship with it.

Matt and I could stand next to each other or across the room from each other at the Mineshaft, J’s, the Anvil or the Vault and witness the same culture, but relate to it differently. If understanding this scene as Chthonic madness allows Matt to avoid harming himself and others–great. Let me know how to support him so he can keep it up.

But that is not my way, and I have found in both my professional and private life that guiding others to a Chthonic understanding rarely does any good. My way also fails on occasion, but harm reduction can take many forms.

Now since it is late where I am, and I am all out of seriousness, let’s have Elaine Stritch sing us out:

#38 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On November 12, 2018 @ 9:36 am

Siarlys writes: “He was not speculating on what their sexual practices at home, or at private parties during their free time, might look like.”

But Kurt also asks how to avoid “any and all contact with – or exposure to – the above-described lifestyle and the people who practice that lifestyle.”

In my mock-Swiftian answer above, I proposed for the first part of the question that he not go where the lifestyle occurs–he will avoid the practices and the people. But then Kurt asks about avoiding these people as a separate category–as if avoiding the lifestyle alone is not enough, and he wants to avoid such people wherever they may be–at least that is how I read his comment. Kurt–please correct me if I am wrong.

#39 Comment By Kurt Gayle On November 12, 2018 @ 3:09 pm

@ Brian in Brooklyn. This CDC press release may touch on part of the lifestyle that Matt in Va is referring to:

“New CDC analysis shows steep and sustained increases in STDs in recent years”, CDC press release, Tuesday, August 28, 2018:

“The CDC [Centers for Disease Control] analysis of STD cases reported for 2013 and preliminary data for 2017 shows steep, sustained increases:

• “Primary and secondary syphilis diagnoses increased 76 percent (from 17,375 to 30,644 cases). Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) made up almost 70 percent of primary and secondary syphilis cases where the gender of the sex partner is known in 2017. Primary and secondary syphilis are the most infectious stages of the disease.”

[3]

#40 Comment By Kurt Gayle On November 12, 2018 @ 5:23 pm

Brian in Brooklyn posts: “But Kurt also asks how to avoid ‘any and all contact with – or exposure to – the above-described lifestyle and the people who practice that lifestyle.’ In my mock-Swiftian answer above, I proposed for the first part of the question that he not go where the lifestyle occurs–he will avoid the practices and the people. But then Kurt asks about avoiding these people as a separate category–as if avoiding the lifestyle alone is not enough, and he wants to avoid such people wherever they may be–at least that is how I read his comment. Kurt–please correct me if I am wrong.”

@ Brian in Brooklyn: You may be trying to put too fine a point on this. I’m going to stick with my original question of Matt in VA and leave it at that: “Why shouldn’t parents who love their children do everything they can to screen their children from any and all contact with – or exposure to – the above-described lifestyle and the people who practice that lifestyle?”

Thanks for your posts.

#41 Comment By James On November 13, 2018 @ 9:42 pm

I think the tragedy of being sexually attracted to men is there’s no ying to your yang. Gay couples are at disadvantage to begin with as they are for the most part childless. Then add promiscuity which will eventually destroy any relationship.

Heterosexual men reach salvation only after they’ve become husbands, and then fathers. You’re allowed to age with dignity.

Gay men are on the inside when they’re young, and then drift to the outside when they’re old. They offer whatever benefits they can to younger men in exchange for feigned attention. It sounds about as fulfilling as boomer divorcees going to Bangkok looking for love.

#42 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On November 14, 2018 @ 9:40 am

James writes: “I think the tragedy of being sexually attracted to men is there’s no ying to your yang.”

Huh? My husband’s and my yin and yang are just fine.

More James: “They offer whatever benefits they can to younger men in exchange for feigned attention.”

Funny, my husband is younger than me and his attention has not been feigned for 16 years now. Has your experience been different?

#43 Comment By James On November 16, 2018 @ 1:10 pm

Brian, my comments were a generalization, not directed at you personally.

Men and women have evolved to complement each other, and they only fully achieve their purpose through parenting. This isn’t to say that you don’t have a fulfilling relationship with your partner.

My second point was that, for gay men, getting old and exiting the sexual market place is much harsher than it is for heterosexuals. At least 50% of gay literature is a lament on becoming unattractive. It has to do with the absence of parenthood.