I appreciate the attention Colleen Flaherty gave to the nuances of my recent firing from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The Southwestern case presents questions about academic freedom, race, the humanities and hidden misconduct in the Christian education world.
But Flaherty repeatedly smears me as “antigay.” In so doing she perpetuates the silencing of same-sex abuse survivors. My work comes from a combination of personal experience, investigative reporting and academic research.
Here’s how all this started. I was raised in a gay home and sexually abused at the age of 13 by two older boys. For 15 years after that, I was immersed in the gay community and maintained a queer identity as recently as five years ago.
As I expressed pseudonymously in this piece (which arguably got me fired), I endured a great deal of trauma -- not at the hands of homophobes, but rather in the heart of gay-affirming, mainstream gay culture. Peers pressured me that I must be gay because of my mannerisms. During it all, I hated homosexual intimacy.
Homosexual intimacy was painful and revolted me, which led me to use amyl nitrates and alcohol to get through sex. Often male partners had to physically force me to finish our intimacy once we’d started it. I had sex to use the drugs and used drugs to get through the sex. People around me in gay culture did not call this abusive. I had no idea until my 40s that I was a sex abuse survivor.
During my 20s, most of my friends were gay. They also had health problems tied to homosexual intercourse. I gradually realized that all men, regardless of how they labeled themselves, had the same basic anatomy. They encountered the same complications when they rejected sex with women and tried to devote themselves to sex with men.
I eventually fell in love with a woman and married. I was never gay. I also concluded that most pro-gay shibboleths -- people are “born gay,” “you know from an early age,” “there are no more problems with gay sex than with any sex,” “if you try to change you will kill yourself” -- were wrong. These shibboleths convinced boys that they had been liberated and mentored by adult gays when in fact they had been groomed and emotionally if not physically abused.
These slogans were destructive in my personal case, but they were also false and destructive for everybody. Global cultural history supported my view. As I looked at the science, studies supporting the gay community’s claims were generally based on self-reporting classifications of sexual orientation with few (if any) physically verifiable standards for defining terms. The duress applied by gay watchdog groups, eager to discredit any researchers who found contrary evidence, influenced all the science.
Whether it is racism or macho bullying, I feel compelled to speak up for people being mistreated. This involves interpersonal charity rather than an imperative to agree with LGBTQ ideology. But I interviewed many people for works like my book Jephthah’s Children and article “Chaste Is the New Queer.” Many people deemed “homophobic” had had personal experiences with same-sex abuse. The commonplace assumption that homophobia caused abuse seemed the reverse of what many people testified to.
My ministry in the church setting has focused on helping those caught in the same painful position I was in. I was nuanced and careful, but gay activists viewed any discussion of abuse in the gay community as antigay. Then this combined with the church’s unwillingness to deal with same-sex abuse and we saw the catastrophe in the Catholic Church, something that could recur in the Baptist world. That was why I proposed a resolution on whistle-blowers and sex abuse in 2019, which officials at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary found troublesome.
The record of statements that Flaherty has cited to characterize me as antigay date back to a pre-Me Too discourse when anybody who said “gay” and “abuse” in the same sentence came under massive attack from an LGBTQ community desperate to cover up its abuses the same way the Catholic Church had done. There are still artifacts left from a time when gay activist groups devoted their time to scanning people’s social media, clipping salacious quotes and then demonizing them.
Calling my efforts antigay is tantamount to telling abuse victims that they were not abused. It’s like telling them that they were really gay all along, and we know this because their abusers get to define them. It‘s wrong. As our nation grapples with MeToo and abuse, this is no flippant matter. The conspicuous absence of same-sex abuse victims in the discourse deserves better and more respectful treatment.