It's better that gays `flaunt their sexuality' than cower in the closet

November 12, 2006|By Leonard Pitts Jr.

Today's topic: flaunting homosexuality. Exhibit A: Doogie.

Meaning Neil Patrick Harris, who, in another life, was the title character in Doogie Howser, M.D., the TV show about a boy genius who becomes a doctor. Recently, Mr. Harris was outed on a gossip Web site. His response in a statement to people.com said, in part: "I am happy to dispel any rumors or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest."

That was it. No muss, no fuss. The world continued spinning, the seas did not boil and the clouds did not bleed.

Still, one suspects the news was greeted less than warmly in those bastions of social conservatism where, as one gentleman indicates in the new movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, they hope to make it legal to string homosexuals up by the soft parts. Indeed, one suspects the most - pardon my language - liberal response in those quarters would be something along the lines of, "Fine, he's gay. Why couldn't he keep that to himself? Why do they have to flaunt it? I don't go around announcing that I'm straight."

Put aside that Mr. Harris was forced into his announcement by an individual who called him out online. Put aside, too, the fact that one "flaunts" one's heterosexuality whenever one publicly canoodles with a sweetie of the opposite gender.

Concentrate, instead, on this notion many social conservatives have that homosexuality is best dealt with by being ignored, denied, kept from public view. Why, they ask, in letters to editors and Web sites done up in red, white and blue, must homosexuals "flaunt" their "deviant behavior"? "Flaunt" meaning to acknowledge in any way, no matter how small, their sexual orientation.

Which brings us to Ted Haggard. Until this month, he was senior pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., and president of the National Association of Evangelicals, an influential preacher who had President Bush's ear. Neither the church nor the NAE has been known for its friendliness toward gay people. So there was quite an uproar when Mike Jones, a gay prostitute, dropped the bombshell allegation that he'd had a three-year sexual relationship with the preacher. Mr. Haggard initially denied even knowing Mr. Jones but then recanted, admitting that, on at least one occasion, he sought a massage and bought meth from the hooker.

On Nov. 2, Mr. Haggard stepped down from the NAE presidency. Two days later, his church fired him. He has confessed to "sexual immorality" and will spend the next three to five years in "restoration," which reportedly involves confrontation, counsel and rebuke from "godly men."

This all raises two questions. One: Between this guy; the late gay-bashing former Spokane mayor, James E. West; the Rev. Pat Robertson's biographer, Mel White; and Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper, leaders in the "curing homosexuality" movement until they fell in love with one another, can't we now safely assume any conservative who rants about the homosexual agenda is a lying hypocrite, gayer than a Castro Street bar? And, two: Wouldn't you much rather be Neil Patrick Harris than Ted Haggard just now? In other words, wouldn't you rather be a content gay man living life to the fullest than a closeted gay hypocrite living lies to the fullest? Especially since lies are so frequently found out.

That's the fallacy social conservatives miss. In a culture that allows gay people room to be gay people, there is no need of lies. In a culture that does not - i.e., theirs - lies are rampant. And that's unfortunate, not simply for the person in question but for all the people in his or her life. And here, I'm thinking of his wife. She and Mr. Haggard have five children. They've been married 28 years. That's a long time to sleep next to a lie.

I bet she wishes he had "flaunted" his homosexuality a long time ago.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for The Miami Herald. His column appears Sundays in The Sun. His e-mail is lpitts@miamiherald.com.

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