Rough Play

November 5, 2005

I received disturbing news this summer and I am still trying to sort it out. According to Dr. James Dobson, of “tough love” fame, I should be a homosexual. Certainly all that I feel and know about myself tells me that I am not. I really, really like women, and one in particular. But Dr. Dobson is, after all, a doctor of some kind, and on his website he laid out a pretty convincing case that I had missed the boat.

In his article “Is My Child Becoming a Homosexual?” he listed the signs of gender confusion that signal an adolescent’s predisposition to homosexuality. As I read the article and looked back on my childhood, flags waved and sirens howled.

Right at the top, Dobson pointed out that children are in peril if they have a “strong feeling that they are ‘different’ from other boys.” (Apparently, in spite of the title, girls are in no danger of becoming lesbians.) As a boy I indeed felt “different.” I was smaller, quieter, took things to heart, and generally felt persecuted and afraid.

Dobson’s next omen was a bull’s-eye: “A tendency to cry easily, be less athletic, and dislike the roughhousing that other boys enjoy.” I did not enjoy pushing, punching, headlocks, spit showers or the smell of sweat as rough boys in their denims and t-shirts entwined their bodies with mine and pressed me panting into the grass. Clearly, I was supposed to go for that in a big way if I wanted to grow up to be manly.

But no, I went the other way and showed “a strong preference to spend time in the company of girls and participate in their games and other pastimes.” I liked girls from the get-go. They didn’t hit me. They talked about things that interested me. They read books, laughed, smiled, wore puffy sleeves, had soft hair, pretty eyes and smelled good, better than cookies. Then and now, I would take a woman’s company any day. But until Dobson opened my eyes, I didn’t realize why.

There was more. A boy at risk shows “a tendency to walk, talk, dress and even ‘think’ effeminately”? Well, I spoke softly and carried a big Nancy Drew. I liked sewing, art, music, even show tunes. Hey, I should be waving from a float on Gay Pride Day.

I could have laughed this off — manfully of course — had not Dobson’s insights been heartily seconded on the unlikely occasion of my grand-niece Sophie’s baptism. A guest speaker told the assembled families that being a homosexual couldn’t be easier. It’s a “lifestyle” you can choose, like “rich & famous” or “back to nature” or Hummel collector.

There may have been some in the congregation who asked if this topic was appropriate at a baptism, but apparently the Rev. Dr. John W. Yates II of The Falls Church had spotted one or more questionable infants during the pre-baptismal interviews and wanted their parents to know he was on the case.

The bearer of this news was Bob Ragan of Regeneration Ministries, who noted that he himself used to be a homosexual. As a boy, his father never told him he loved him, so he sought approval from other men, saw some gay porn, and boom, he was whistling “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story. “I even thought I was happy,” he said, attributing his confusion to the Enemy, the Evil One. Many in the congregation nodded.

Prior to these enlightening comments, I had always thought homosexuality was a sexual orientation. And homosexuality was as natural to a homosexual as heterosexuality is to a heterosexual. But Dobson and Ragan maintain it’s a choice you can easily be confused or enticed into making. I wondered which part of this “lifestyle” was most tempting to Ragan; was it the estrangement from old friends and family, the unkind words, the mockery and open ridicule?

Ragan did not say, but added that, with help, one can return to heterosexuality. He told us that he “left the homosexual lifestyle” 18 years ago, and smilingly added that, some day, he might even get married. Mindful of being prepared for such an eventuality, I checked the Riceland Foods website, where I read, “White rice products have nearly indefinite shelf lives.” Perfect.

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