Thursday, January 29, 2009

On Haggard, Lohan and the Price of Pretending

pretend, gay, homophobia, homosexual, agenda, conservative, prop 8, marriage, haggard, hate, lohan, gender

You know, for years I pretended to be someone I wasn't. (I was reading Rise and Fall of the Third Reich at age 12; normal is not a word that can be applied to me.) I pretended my way through high school, pretended my way through college, and continue to pretend at work.

Why? Well, for all the reasons anyone pretends: to make life easier (work pretend), because I thought it was wrong to be me (reactions people had to me being me), because I thought I would be happy if I weren't me (see: the media), lessons I internalized at home (want a good look at my father? read something by pearlyboo [happy, dearheart?], the condescension, it burns!).

Admittedly, everything about me isn't flowers and sunshine. Some things I have worked on; some things I have learned to accept; some things I flaunt, because, in the end, I'm the only person I can be.

Learning to be me was a painful process, but it gave me peace and wonderful gifts: my hubby, my friends ([censored] and my pagan sister wouldn't have happened if I were still pretending), and my own self respect. That last one is the gift that keeps on giving- and no one else can give it to you. There is almost limitless wisdom in the adage that no one will love you, and you can't love anyone, until you love yourself.

So, how does this relate to Ted Haggard and Lindsey Lohan? They are two excellent examples of people who hurt themselves, and everyone around them, by pretending to be something they are not- in both these cases, straight.

I admit, I got all judgey about the Lohan. (Mostly because my niece used to idolize Lohan, and that led to very uncomfortable discussions about why her idol drank to excess and did drugs. It led to nice discussion about how being rich and famous only makes you rich and famous, not happy, but still.) When I found out that Lohan is a lesbian, however, it all made sense. Being a gay Disney star must be hard. Really hard. Drown your sorrows hard. Which is sad, because it was much easier to explain Lohan being gay than trying to explain addiction to a 7 year old.

"She likes to kiss girls?"
"She doesn't want to kiss boys?"
"Apparently not."
"Some people are like that."
"Oh. You want to play Sorry?" (7 year olds don't really care more than 2" in front of their own faces.)

Ted Haggard is more complicated. He was a preacher, the leader of a congregation. He has a wife and children. He hurt a lot more people with his lies, some of them complete innocents who will forever be scarred by his deception. But, I feel tremendous sympathy for him, because if he lived in a society where gay was okay, he would not have felt the need to pretend to be straight, to marry, to father children, to use meth, to hire hookers.

How desperate must Haggard have been? What level of self-loathing do you have to reach to do those things? How much must you fear the truth to think that meth and hookers are better than honesty?

The best part is, the Prop 8 crowd regularly recommends this to gays: stop being childish and selfish and stupid, get with the program, marry a member of the opposite sex, have children and drag everyone into a life of pretend. Why does that seem like a good idea to anyone?

Try to imagine the opposite, if you will, and you happen to be straight. (It's okay, pearlyboo, the gay panic subsides after a moment.) Imagine spending your entire life pretending to be gay. Imagine only having sex with members of your own gender. Imagine hiding, even from yourself, your attraction to members of the opposite sex. Imagine being terrified, every moment of the day, that someone will figure out that you are straight.

I have only felt the tiniest portion of that in my life of pretend. After all, I was only afraid that people wouldn't like me, not that I would lose my job or be publicly humiliated or assaulted or murdered. And my experience led me to places of despair.

So, in conclusion, stop shaming yourself for being you, and stop shaming others for being them. Life's better all around that way.

(and let the tolerance bashing begin . . . but think about the children!)


  1. Living a pretend life isn't just devastating for those people who feel they have to do it but it must poison their relationships.

    It's very hard to have any sympathy for anyone associated with Ted Haggard but I can imagine the horror that his wife went through. She'd have had to reevaluate x years of marriage to someone who hadn't even really been there at all. Any desire he'd ever shown for her must have been faked.

  2. I truly do feel sorry for everyone i dated from 16-22. I essentially abused a number of innocent people who didn't deserve it at all. It's not something I'm proud of. What can I say? That wasn't me.

    Yeah, it is hard to feel sorry for Haggard, but I wonder who he would have been without the societal pressures (especially his fundy society) to not be gay.

    I saw an interview with his wife. That poor woman is so far into denial I don't even have an analogy for it. And their children . . . it's just sad.


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