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What A World: So Gay

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The sad—more or less—return of Ted Haggard.

Nancy Ford

By Nancy Ford

To say that these are strange days we are living in is a vast understatement. Huge, molten objects are falling from the sky in Austin. Batwoman is a lesbian. And no sooner do I express my desire that Desperate Housewives represent with some woman/woman lovin’, ABC suits announce that Teri Hatcher is about to get beso’d by Swoosie Kurtz.

 Strange days, indeed. But perhaps the strangest occurrence of all: Ted Haggard is back. And I feel sorry for him.

 Sort of.

 You remember that grinning, former leader of the 30,000-member evangelical movement who boyishly zipped through the hallowed hallways of his mega church on a shiny silver motor scooter.

 That’s so gay.

 Reverend Ted enjoyed not only worldly riches but also unfettered access to the Bush 2 White House, making no bones (sorry) about the influence he exerted over matters not only of church but also state. He took glee in revealing: “The president said, ‘Ted Haggard, you need to come to the Crawford ranch and I’ll show you what a ride is like.’”

 That’s so gay.

 There were many more hints about Haggard that had for years set off the gaydar of those of us blessed with that extraordinary gift. There was his warm, full body embrace of young man after young man who flocked to his church in Colorado Springs with glazy-eyed adoration.

 That’s so gay.

 And in an address to a stadium reserved exclusively for men—presumably Promise Keepers—Haggard enthusiastically once noted: “There’s loads of testosterone in the room and everyone seems to love it.”

 So gay.

 Named one of the 20 most influential evangelicals in the United States by Time magazine in 2005, Haggard fell and fell hard in 2006 when he admitted to snorting meth and cavorting with massage therapist/hookerman Mike Jones.

 “I broke the rules. I shouldn’t have done that,” Haggard now says in a new documentary, explaining his propensity for sexual hypocrisy like he was caught on a technicality.

 Dancing around vocabulary. That’s so gay.

 Alexandra Pelosi’s The Trials of Ted Haggard reveals a much different Haggard today than the confident religious leader we met in her Friends of God three years ago. When not unemployed, Haggard now skips from menial job to even more menial job, like distributing advertising flyers or selling life insurance door-to-door. Every few months he moves himself, his family, and their dwindling possessions from loaned homes to bleak apartments to cheap hotels.

 Ted is now a haggard Haggard, if you will.

 In Pelosi’s new film we learn that, after The Fall, Haggard agreed to counseling called “spiritual restoration” in exchange for a year’s severance pay; he was also unceremoniously banished from New Life church and Colorado state by church leaders. Eighteen months later, those same church leaders declared Ted “100 percent heterosexual,” a concept in itself which is so gay.

 But Haggard denies ever having said that, himself. Rather, he agrees when his counselor calls him “a heterosexual with complications.”

 After his sordid story broke, Haggard said in a letter read to his heartbroken congregation that part of his life was “so repulsive and so dark”—a condition he later blamed on the long-term effect of “same-sex sex play” as a teen.

 And then a priest molested him and then he became an alcoholic and then he began practicing his wide stance in the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport.

 Just kidding about that last paragraph. That would be too gay.

 In reality, he told CNN interviewer Larry King, “I have some thoughts in my life and some processes in my life that just don’t fit neatly into the boxes, which I think is true for a lot of people.”

Yes, Ted, that is true for a lot of people. We call those people gay people.

 Trials closes with news that a second man, Grant Haas, has recently publicly accused Haggard of “inappropriate action”—more proof that when you scratch a closeted homo, you usually find more than just one massage therapist under the surface.

 Haggard brushed off this latest revelation, telling King that church leaders knew about his encounter with Haas two years ago, because—get this—he was “already out.”

 Gay.

 Haggard further told King that he didn’t choose his sexuality, but admitted that denying it and trying to smother it only made it worse.

 Gay.

 And finally, though he also told King he is “100 percent satisfied” with his relationship with his wife, Gayle, Haggard also admitted, “I have thoughts from time to time, but not compelling thoughts.”

 That’s not gay. That’s just sad.

 Former GLAAD chief, Joan Garry, blogged last month about Haggard’s return to the public eye with a more skeptical eye: “Please remember: he abused his power in the evangelical church and was dismissed. Sounds about right to me. Please remember: when he sympathetically talks about selling life insurance now, remember he should feel lucky he has a job. And please remember: his antigay rhetoric has been fanning the flames of prejudice and discrimination against gay and lesbian people for years. His sermons give permission—for name-calling and gay jokes at the water cooler. Then it ramps up. Employment discrimination, violence. But it all starts with the words of people in positions of power, often those with pulpits.”

 Okay. I’m back, and appropriately outraged and disgusted.

 Strange days, indeed.

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