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Hey, Faggot: I'm feeling uneasy about the advice you gave to "A Struggling Soul," who feels that God disapproves of his sexual relations [July 8]. I felt, reading his letter, that he may be seeking a deeper spiritual experience in life. Maybe God is calling him to a more soulful life.

You called him a pea brain and you told him that angels do not exist. How could you trivialize his experience so crassly? You presented an ugly stereotype of people who believe in angels. I believe in a loving God and I believe in angels as a manifestation of God's grace. My God has no prejudice against gay sex. The good news is that God's grace is there for all of us. I would urge the man who wrote you to pray, meditate, and listen for the still, small voice of God.

Faithful Breeder

Hey, FB: You believe in God and angels, so what? I believe in a single-payer health care system, but that doesn't mean it exists.

Speaking of God, did everyone catch the full-page ads in the New York Times, USA Today, and other daily papers featuring the sad story of Anne Paulk, "wife, mother, and former lesbian"? Anne claims to be "living proof that the truth can set you free." Our friends at Focus on the Family, the Christian Coalition, and the American Family Association banded together with a handful of "ex-gay" ministries in order to "tell America the truth about homosexuality." And the truth, according to Anne Paulk, et al., is that the transformative love of Jesus Christ can turn lesbians into ... wives and mothers.

In the ad, Anne lays out how she came to be a lesbian: She was molested at age 4 by a teen-age boy. The trauma prevented Anne from "feeling pretty." By her teens, she was "looking and dressing hard," and "drawn to other women." Then Anne went to college -- always a mistake -- where a gay counselor affirmed her feelings for women. Anne lived as a dyke, but there was "a God-shaped hole in [her] heart." A few years later, Anne met a Christian woman and former lesbian "who listened patiently to my story and led me to a ministry helping people overcome homosexuality." Anne was able to give herself to God, and God filled Anne's hole -- with kids and a husband (John "Candi" Paulk, an ex-gay drag queen).

What's missing from Anne's story -- and from every other ex-gay story I've ever heard -- is any hint that when Jesus relieved Anne of her same-sex desires he replaced them with heterosexual desires. It's always about Jesus and not being gay anymore, and never about burning with lust for the opposite sex. According to David Schmader, a writer who has looked into ex-gay ministries, these folks regard heterosexuality as the absence of homosexuality. "For gay men," says Schmader, "they think that if you don't have a dick in your mouth, you must be straight."

Ex-gay ministries like Exodus International believe gays and lesbians failed to bond properly as children with their hetero peers, resulting in "hard" girls, like Anne, and "soft" boys, like me. Once we put our hands in the hand of the man who stilled the water, the rest of the "treatment" at Exodus pretty much consists of teaching lesbians how to use makeup and walk in heels, and sending gay men to ballgames with straight guys. If lesbians only felt pretty, and if we gay boys went to enough ballgames, we would supposedly all be straight.

There are problems with all of this, of course. There are plenty of women out there who use makeup, feel pretty, and are lesbians; there are gay men who've accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior and don't feel a need to stop kissing boys on his account; and there are plenty of fags who go to ballgames with straight boys without magically turning straight. (Sitting in the bleachers at Wrigley Field last week with my two older brothers and my cousin, I experienced no sudden desire to eat pussy. Quite the opposite: All the cute, half-dressed boys in the bleachers reinforced every one of my homoerotic desires.)

No one save Fundamentalist Christian Bigots and the weak, fearful, self-hating homos they prey on believes these therapies do anything but drive these homos back into the closet. Now, as far as I'm concerned, Exodus can recruit as many of these queer not-wannabes as they can get their hands on. Anyone stupid enough to fall for this ex-gay crap is no one I want to run into in a gay bar. But I draw the line when Exodus starts buying up full-page ads in my morning newspaper and shoving jerks like Anne and Candi Paulk under my nose.

Another huge problem for the ex-gay movement is the little matter of ex-ex-gays. The two founders of Exodus International -- two gay men -- fell in love with each other and returned to their "homosexual lifestyle." One day soon we'll be welcoming Anne and Candi back too, I have no doubt.

In entertaining the premise of this ad, the ex-gay "movement," and ex-gay "therapies," I'm giving them more credence than they deserve. The Washington Post described this campaign as the latest salvo in the Religious Right's "long-standing crusade against gays"; the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force describes it as "kinder, gentler bigotry." These ads are political attacks. If queers don't want to be discriminated against, the ads implicitly argue, we should accept Jesus Christ as our personal savior and -- poof! -- become heterosexuals. Since we can change, they argue, we have no right to demand our rights; or more ominously, we have no right to exist. The same argument could be made against Jews. Don't like being discriminated against for being Jewish? Accept Jesus Christ as your lord and savior and you won't be Jewish anymore. These ads are hate propaganda.

At the end of the day, the existence of ex-queers proves nothing about current and future queers. There will always be queers who don't like being queer, and queers whose religious beliefs bring them into conflict with their desires and want to change. But what do they have to do with queers who like being queer, don't have religious hang-ups, and don't want to change?

If being cured of homosexuality requires people to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior, where does that leave gay Buddhists? Or gay atheists? Or gay Unitarians? Or to personalize this: Even if it were possible for me to change my sexual orientation, what if I don't wanna change?

What it comes down to is this: Unlike Anne and Candi Paulk, I don't have a God-shaped hole in my heart. Or my head.

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