January 19, 2021

Is Your Boy A Real Man?: Focus On The Family’s Gender Confusion Watch

men.jpgIt is difficult to overestimate the extent to which American evangelicals at the beginning of the twenty-first century are fearfully obsessed with homosexuality . No single social or cultural topic other than abortion has engendered such a concentration of evangelical pronouncements, explanations, entrenchments, offensives, conspiracies, ministries and nonsense.

Somewhere in this arena is the question of what is a “real man,” a question being answered by an entire industry, and worthy of an IM essay of its own. Personally, I’m long past the point of wanting to hear about any more chest-thumping, William Wallace Wannabe evangelical men’s ministries. Being more Walter Mitty than Sly Stallone, I really prefer my chair and my office to repeling, canoeing and killing bison with a spear. When John Eldridge writes books with hair growing out of the pages, I’d rather watch Emril.

As far as being “real evangelical men,” we’ve sent the word out to the gay activists that we aren’t sissies.

Of course, this amount of attention to the issue of homosexuality isn’t entirely irrational. There is no doubt that homosexual activists are busy seeking to create an unprecedented acceptance of homosexuality on main street. I laugh at no one who speaks of a homosexual agenda in a “culture war.” While I differ considerably with much of what passes for the evangelical version of fighting the culture war, I’m not at all naive about what homosexual activists are trying to do in America, and like many persons of faith and conservative values, I believe that important things are at stake; things worth working for and voting to defeat.

I am less supportive, however, of much of the evangelical response to homosexual persons. I believe much of the “gay revolution” is a matter of coming to terms with facts about human sexuality that are truthful aspects of the human condition. I am troubled by a kind of Christianity that sees the homosexual as part of the “culture war” problem. While there are genuinely motivated ministries to homosexuals, it is hard to not be convinced that most evangelicals are less prepared to accept self-confessed homosexuals than almost any other kind of sinner who might appear in their pew on Sunday.

Evangelicals seem particularly reluctant to admit that some persons are not homosexual entirely by their own choice, but are genetically or psychologically predisposed to homosexuality by factors over which they may have little control. With a strong commitment to ministries that promise a changed sexual orientation, evangelicals have good reason to avoid any theory that could tend to make reorientation therapy appear useless or cruel.

It is not my place to evaluate the various explanations and origins of homosexuality in individuals, though I believe that the Biblical worldview clearly leads to the conclusion that sexuality is twisted in every possible way, including genetic and psychological predispositions. An enlightened and compassionate view of homosexuality would certainly embrace the fact that every gay person did not choose to be and does not choose to remain homosexual in orientation. (That can be said while affirming that many persons DO choose such behavior and do make choices that influence their orientation.)

So it isn’t difficult to know exactly what is going on with a Focus On The Family web site entitled, “Is Your Child Becoming Homosexual?” That’s their title, and it’s important.

Before puberty, children aren’t normally heterosexual or homosexual. They’re definitely gender conscious. But young children are not sexual beings yet, unless something sexual in nature has interrupted their developmental phases.

Where is this going? It’s headed towards a remarkable list of signs of “gender confusion,” signs that could signal these boys will become homosexuals.

In what has to be a tour de force of behaviors correlated with homosexuality, Focus On The Family tells its readers what to be on the lookout for with their 5 to 11 year old boys. The primary portent of bad news? Effeminancy, broadly portrayed as preferring feminine to masculine behavior.

“In one study of 60 effeminate boys ages 4 to 11, 98 percent of them engaged in cross-dressing, and 83 percent said they wished they had been born a girl.”

A study of 4 year old effeminate boys? The questions from that sentence could make up an essay of their own. What is effeminate, exactly? Is there a standard, researcher accepted definition of “effeminate?” Are there “effeminate” characteristics that can be objectively set alongside “masculine” characteristics? Is there any hope of objectivity in such a discussion? I’ll have to admit, it all seems a bit…bizarre. Especially when I read that this study was done with 4 through 11 year olds. Yes….that was FOUR year olds. What is an effeminate four year old like, and how do you find them for research? Do you advertise for them? Does someone find them at day cares?

We’re off to a strange start.

Here’s the list:

1. A strong feeling that they are “different” from other boys.

2. A tendency to cry easily, be less athletic, and dislike the roughhousing that other boys enjoy.

3. A persistent preference to play female roles in make-believe play.

4. A strong preference to spend time in the company of girls and participate in their games and other pastimes.

5. A susceptibility to be bullied by other boys, who may tease them unmercifully and call them “queer”, “fag”, and “gay”.

6. A tendency to walk, talk, dress and even “think” effeminately.

7. A repeatedly stated insistence that he is a girl.

This list may be helpful in every way that Dobson and company intend for it to be, but it is hard to look at this list and see how many (not all) of these suggestions pertain to anything other than a stereotypes- often very cruel ones- that have little to do with actual, adult homosexual behavior.

For starters, effeminacy does not equal homosexuality. It does not predict homosexuality, and correlations between many of these perceived effeminate characteristics (crying? uninterested in sports?) and actual homosexual behavior are tenuous at best.

The list says we should be concerned about effeminate walking, speech and thinking. Far more than this needs to be said to be taken seriously, because this leaves us with nothing more than the assumption of a particular culture’s “approved list” of gender specific behaviors, and those who accept the approach of this list may feel excused in joining the crowd that concludes someone is “gay” because they “act gay” according to group assumptions.

Anyone who wants to proceed on the assumption that effeminate persons are all homosexual (or that masculine persons are not homosexual) is in for a major surprise.

In the 1997 film, In and Out, Kevin Kline portrayed a high school drama teacher who turns out to be gay. It’s a rather shocking discovery for him since he thought he was straight and he was about to get married to a lovely, longtime girlfriend. But, of course, he likes Barbra Streisand, Broadway and interior decorating. How could he have missed the obvious? (The kiss between Kline and Tom Sellack has to be some kind of cinematic history.)

I remember sitting in the theater and being offended at the stereotypical lengths Hollywood was stooping to in order to make the audience buy the idea that large numbers of people really were gay, and just didn’t know it because they were trapped in small town America.

I’m feeling somewhat the same way reading this list. Exactly what is Focus On The Family trying to do with these stereotypes? I’m sure homosexuals felt “different” than other boys. So do millions of boys who aren’t homosexuals. Could we get a bit more specific than “different,” since such a term must need a wink to be understood.

Crying easily is gender confusion? I guess that means we need to tell boys not to cry. Be a real man. Suck it up. Real boys don’t cry, and all that. Archie Bunker, your phone is ringing.

Is your boy not as interested in athletics as other boys? Is he not interested in sports? This could be a sign of gender confusion. It could also mean he likes music, or reading, or eating donuts while playing video games. Since when is a love of competition necessary to heterosexuality?

Does your boy dislike rough-housing? You might want to keep an eye on him. (Now I thought that if he really liked rough housing with other boys, we might have a problem.) Dads…be sure your kid likes to dish out the old smackdown on the neighbor kids like the non-gendered confused kids do.

(My son, by the way, dislikes sports and rough-housing. Should I be checking for Ethel Merman records in his room?)

Does your kid like to spend more time with girls than with boys? He’s possibly gender confused. Now, if these girls are modeling lingerie, I can follow the logic. If the girls are playing softball, reading books or starting an astronomy club, am I really supposed to be concerned? What if they’re raising a garden? Is agriculture masculine or feminine?

Like to participate in “Girl’s games,” etc? You might be Teddy Lawrence from “Little Women,” who wound up marrying the hot babe, Amy. Or you might be gay. By this measurement, are dancers gay? Models? Cooking? Style hair?

Like to dress like women in plays and skits? You could be on the way to being gay, or you may have watched a lot of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

I don’t mean to say that a parent ought to ignore a male child that wants to be a female, though my wife wisely asks, “How did you solicit that information?” If parents conclude, reasonably, that their child does, in fact, have gender confusion, they should respond. Common sense dictates that concern, but the Focus On The Family list goes well beyond that to give worried parents all kinds of reasons to be worried when no concern about homosexuality is appropriate.

Of course, the truly puzzling aspect of so much focus on boys who want to be girls, is that this isn’t really correlated with homosexuality as much as transgenderism. Homosexual men want to have sex with men. They may play female roles, or not. Most homosexuals look like men and act like men. Only a small portion of male homosexuals are cross dressers or highly “female” in appearance. And, of course, the number of transgendered persons as compared to male homosexuals is quite small.

I’m particularly sad to see the taunting and bullying of a child as “gay,” listed as evidence the child may be gender confused. The problem of bullies calling their peers “gay” or “fag” has little to do with effeminate behavior. It was being called “fags” that prompted the Columbine boys toward violence. Nerds, geeks, quiet kids, introverts, smart kids, kids who are different in any way, are likely to be taunted as “fags.” The problem of adolescent cruelty has nothing to do with gender confusion. It’s preposterous to suggest otherwise.

If a child is taunted for gender confused behavior- such as wearing make-up or purposely attempting to be a “flaming” effeminate for attention- adults should still be clear that the cruel reaction is completely inappropriate. Then, they should address the behavior itself.

Certainly, a male child who wants to be a girl and acts like it in ways that are unmistakable should receive help in accepting his gender and feeling comfortable in expressing what it means to be a boy in ways that won’t cause unusual stress or complications in life. But leaving the whole area of “effeminate behavior” into a subjective zone where an over-zealous parent could make painful, even abusive, errors to correct “gender confusion” is serious business.

Focus On The Family is to be commended for its constant efforts to help families with children. There are many good resources linked from this site that encourage the positive involvements of fathers in the lives of their children. Information about the effects of distant and conflicted parents is very helpful. The information in this list, however, leaves me with the impression that the evangelical war on homosexuality is sometimes manifested by looking at our own children with very biased and fearful eyes.

There is a suspicion in our culture that evangelical Christians are uncomfortable with those who are different. That we are stereotypical in our conception of male and female behavior and roles. The idea is that we liked the 1950’s, with all matters pertaining to gender delineated clearly, and we dislike the current era, where all kinds of confusing behavior and characteristics can be found among all kinds of people, leaving us less and less certain about “male” and “female” beyond biology.

I think this perception is right, and I think evangelicals are, quite often, motivated by fear in matters where patience, acceptance, tolerance and diversity are needed. We need not desert our commitment to God’s design of male and female to be able to question whether all our associations of behavior with those genders are correct. The Focus On The Family “checklist” indicates that, where homosexuality is concerned, we still are making errors we ought not make.


  1. I seems to me that such a stereotyped culture would in fact contribute to gender confusion. If boys are forced to be more ‘manly’ than their personalities allow, they will be more prone to questioning their sexuality, and thus see themselves as ‘different’.

    Very good observations.

  2. Jeremiah Lawson says

    I don’t know if I could count how many times I laughed out loud reading this one. I have seen far more first-hand of William Wallace wannabe masculinity campaigns than I ever wanted to see. Very good observations, iMonk.

    If I took that Dobson list seriously I should be working for ACT-UP or The Advocate. So why did I see House of Flying Daggers just because I thought Ziyi Zhang was hot? Must be gay.

  3. In many cases where someone has become homosexual, the environment they have brought up in is sometimes the main contributor.

    This includes a parent (usually the father) who manipulates and controls his/her family like a platoon and who is emotionally distant.

    I know that many Lesbians (inlcuding a friend of my wife) had been sexually abused by a male relative when they were younger.

    In their article, FOTF seem to imply that the child can spontaneously begin to exhibit effeminite behaviour. Perhaps the article should have focused more upon how the parents themselves may need to change their behaviour, rather than focus upon the “sins” of the kids.

  4. Michael – thank you for this excellent essay. The thought of how boys might be crushed beneath the expectations of “Iron John” stereotypical notions of masculinity among evangelicals is pretty depressing. Don’t cry, don’t read, don’t play with girls, and if you’re getting bullied then that’s your fault for acting queer. Good grief.

  5. I’m just thankful that I was brought up by parents who positively encouraged their son to read, discouraged him from beating up other kids, and comforted him when he cried rather than telling him not to be so silly. These are all *good* things to do as parents, and Dobson is completely nuts to suggest otherwise.

  6. My concern about your post – and others like it – is that it will serve to further polarize a Christian community that is largely ignorant of research on the origins of homosexuality. I suspect that most of your readers will only engage in confirmation bias and not research this complex phenomenon.

    I have not read FotF’s article (it tends towards Christian pop psychology mixed with more than a little sensationalism) but if it is, as you present, simply a laundry list of “suspicious” behaviors then it will not help either. What is needed is in-depth study of the multitude of factors and issues that seem – and only “seem” – to contribute to the development of gender confusion/identity disorder.

    Open-mindedness, caution, and grace are needed here. And perspective: however many homosexually oriented people there are (estimates are wildly speculative), there are still a great deal more people engaged in adultery and other sexual sins that are no less offensive to God and contrary to His designed purpose for sex.

  7. bookdragon says

    This is the one of the truly silly things flating around out there in Christendom. I’ve known a few gay guys and many of them I met in martial arts classes (and most would fit the ‘manly man’ stereotype better than the ‘effeminate’ one on these lists – does Dobson have any clue that many of the big muscular guys pumping iron at the gym are gay?)

    But I’m curious. Why all the emphasis on male homosexuals? The article had some passing references to girls who were ‘masculinized’ – whatever that means. (As a tomboy who grew up to be an engineer, I guess I should leave my husband and start looking for a woman to shack up with by this standard?) But overall, there is not anywhere the level of concern for girls growing up to be lesbians despite the fact that there seem to be equal %s of homosexuals in both gender groups. Why is that? Is it because making a similar list for girls would require going back to stereotypes of femininity so dated as to be laughable? Or is it because somehow lesbians are just less threatening to the (male) evangelical and therefore of less concern?

    Or perhaps it is tied in some way to the bible? Afterall, God doesn’t seem to have had anything to say about lesbians until Paul (despite the fact that lesbian sexual behavior seems to be universal phenomenon in large harems like those kept by David and Solomon, for instance). Do we perceive male homosexuality as worse because of Leviticus? Or this evidence that the patriarchal concept that sons matter a lot more than daughters is still alive and well?

  8. This essay is right on the money. A trackback is in the mail.

    Ever since going to my first (and only) Promise Keepers meeting back in 1997, I’ve been growing more and more tired of the relentless gender stereotyping coming out of the evangelical movement. (I’m an evangelical Christian, btw.) ALL MEN are supposed to act a certain way; ALL WOMEN are supposed to act a certain way. There seems to be no room for differences. It makes for an incredible amount of alienation, not only from homosexuals but from heterosexuals within the chruch who don’t fit the mass-marketed ideas of what a man or a woman is supposed to be. If you take the FotF article and look at my own childhood — where I loved books and music and math and hated the “in crowd” and sports — you’d have to conclude that it’s a miracle that I’m not gay. Conversely, I guess I had better stop playing actively with my 19-month old daughter or else she’ll grow up to be a lesbian.

    I visited my sister’s church not too long ago which has VERY much bought into this gender typing, and you should have seen the incredulous looks on the faces of the members when I took my daughter to the bathroom to change a poopy diaper while my wife stayed in the church service. I guess that’s “women’s work”.

    Why do we evangelicals crave closure so much? Why do we have to draw a box around men and around women and insist that to be masculine (feminine) you have to satisfy the conditions of the box?

  9. Scott is right on track. Behavioralism is the underlying problem in the FotF list and the mainstream Evangelical response to the issue of homosexuality.
    We may call it “obeying God” or whatever, but we suggest that your identity may be determined by my classifications of your behavior (effeminate, etc.). This is a travesty.
    Stereotypes are clumsy snd preclude really useful discussion. They should be chucked out and FotF should simply remove the list from their website. If they are unwilling to do this, they should be appropriate to the genre for such lists, and include a scoring system to help you interpret the results. Here is an example:
    0 – repeat the test while you child is awake.
    1-3 – moderate susceptibility. Buy your boy Hot Wheels and GI Joe action figures – just not the gay ones.
    4-6 – high susceptibility. No more Tele-tubbies. Switch to John Wayne movies.
    7 – susceptibility?. Sign him up for one of the re-ortientation programs now.

  10. I have a concern about the amount of thought and concern that the “main-stream popular culture” Evangelicals put towards homosexuality. Far too much emphasis has been put on one aspect of human nature and made into a three ring circus for political power. Why is everyone so concerned with changing everyone else’s behaviour? I thought that I was going to agree with Mike above, but then he said “What is needed is in-depth study of the multitude of factors and issues that seem to contribute to the development of gender confusion/identity disorder.” Why do we need to understand? Is there as great a need to do in-depth study as to the factors that contribute to me lying, or me not wanting to listen to my mother’s rantings about the neighbour’s cat, or to my serious enjoyment of men’s bodies as opposed to women’s (for the record, I’m a single chick)? We only feel like we need to understand human behaviour so that we can control it.

    Understanding why we do things is not going to lead us to change our behaviour and it certainly isn’t going to help us to change anyone else. But then, is that even the point? Changing behaviour is not going to bring anyone closer to God. It’s not going to save ONE person. Being homosexual or not is not the defining factor of Salvation. What is it that Uncle Jimmy (and the rest of the pop culture Evangelicals that he represents) is trying to accomplish in posting a list like this? Is his calling in life to make sure everyone is perfect according to his standards? Looks like it.

    My main point is that we can’t control other people, not even our own kids. Show them how to be REAL people in love with God. I feel like I’m watching a bad episode of the OC only it’s a Christian version and Julie Cooper is writing for Focus on the Family. Act right, look good, smile, and for God’s sake, don’t let them see you be real.

    Sorry for picking on you Mike. I meant nothing personal by it, in fact I appreciated the questions that your comments raised in my mind.

    I can’t believe I admitted to watching the OC.

  11. Just for the record – Graham “Arthur Keeeng” Chapman from Monty Python *was* gay.

    The link to behaviorism noted by some of the commentators here is worth looking at further, as it manifests itself in more than just the dealings with homosexuality. This is rife in conservative Christian circles in America regarding all things sexual. Just pick up any book for Christian singles at random (or if you really want the prime example of unadulterated behaviorism, try *The Family – God’s Weapon for Victory*), and you’l probably see the behavioral stereotype of “the man pursues, the woman waits” advocated, and the more radical ones going so far as to advocate near-total fatherly control over who sees (and marries) his daughter. And of course, it’s all “biblical”! (Well, the parental control over who marries whom may be, but that flies in the face of the “man pursuing” bit, as the groom often had as little say as the bride in those matters.)

    IMonk is certainly charitable towards FOTF in general despite this gaff, but somebody really needs to hold their feet to the fire. I mean, come on, Dobson claims to have the expertise to speak on these matters because he has a PhD in psychology! If he can’t see the ridiculousness of something like this, or if he doesn’t more closely monitor what his staff puts out under his banner, perhaps he ought not to have as much clout as is given him.

  12. Michelle:

    No problem: no harm, no foul. You wrote:

    “Is there as great a need to do in-depth study as to the factors that contribute to me lying, or me not wanting to listen to my mother’s rantings about the neighbour’s cat, or to my serious enjoyment of men’s bodies as opposed to women’s (for the record, I’m a single chick)?”

    Yes, there is a need if those things cause you significant emotional distress, even to the point of suicide. The reason to study anything is not to be able to point a more precise finger at a group in general, but rather to help some who are suffering. There are a number – an unknown number – of men and women who have strong same-sex, erotic feelings that are troubled by them and want to overcome them. This population has been abandoned by the DSM committee and its adherents by its pronouncement that “it’s not a problem.” I’ve helped (a relative term, in most cases) more than a few homosexuals who were deeply pained and might take issue with the conclusion of the psych gods. (BTW, most of those I treated were Christians, but some were not.)

    For the record, I’ve also worked with homosexuals on issues unrelated to their sexual preference. I never discussed the subject because they never brought it up. I did bring up the matter of salvation, however, when I was asked about it.

    So, again, the purpose of research is not to give people the “right” to go out on the streets and assault people who have no desire to change. It’s just to more effectively help the ones that do want a different lifestyle: it’s not “gay” for all homosexuals.

  13. Doug:

    Actually, I’m not sure the Bible does prescribe such control over a daughter’s choice for marriage. I ran into this last week with a family and explained to them that it was a cultural practice and not normative for all people at all times.

    Great care and caution must be employed when trying to ascertain what was practice and what is principle, but this one seems (at least to me) to be a cultural matter.

    Of course, that’s just my position – but it is one for which my two daughters are immensely grateful!

  14. Mike, I don’t disagree with you at all.

    Were arranged marriages the way things were usually done in ancient Mesopotamia/Palestine? Almost certainly. And that is recorded in (mosy of) the marriages and matches described in the Bible.

    Nut does the Bible *proscribe* this method? Well, I would say not. But that is the whole problem with the “hermeneutics” used by the behavioralists. They take the historical records and try to make a univerally normative pattern from them.

    Prooftexts: God gave Eve to Adam (Genesis 2)
    (Never mind the totally unprecedented and irreproducable circumstances involved.)

    Abraham sent his servant to fetch his son a wife (Genesis 24) (Genesis (again, there were religious, economic, and redemptive-historical circumstances involved.)

    You’d have to be blind or a theological liberal not to see the pattern – God created woman to be *passive*, don’t you see? It’s “in the Bible”!!!

    Now, would you see that “in the Bible” if you weren’t already predisposed to it, I ask you? And why to the advocates of that behavioral model consistently ignore the story of Ruth? (Hint: *she* does the “asking” there…)

    That’s what happens when you miss the larger point of Scripture (recoding the history of redemption culminating in Christ) and try to turn it into “God’s Instruction Manual for Life”.

  15. That should be “But”, not “Nut”. My bad.

  16. This thing is just so ennervating. To think that this particular sin, or sinful lifestyle, is any worse than any other is ridiculous. Any sin–from sinful thoughts to killing your mother–is more than enough to distance us from God. If one guy only sinned once by thinking covetous thoughts, and another sinned every day as a homosexual, which one would need the grace of Christ to be saved? The answer is of course both of them.

    Also, the ridiculousness of the test has been thoroughly examined, and the only conclusion is that we need a new test. I humbly offer the following questions:

    1) Does your son “pop” his collar?

    2) Is your son a fan of the New York Yankees, Oklahoma Sooners or Washington Redskins?

    3) If you are Anglo, has your son ever professed his ability to “flow”? Has he ever “flowed” in public?

    4) Does your son prefer the taste of Zima, Smirnoff Ice, Wine Coolers, Mike’s “Hard” Lemonade or any other “b***h beers” to the taste of real beer?

    5) Does your son actually like Coldplay, and doesn’t think that they are overplayed, overrated, radio-friendly U2 wannabes?

    6) Is your son a fan of ANY reality television series? How about “The OC” or any of the “teen” shows on The WB?

    7) Has your son ever professed an interest in getting it on w/ a dude?

    If you answered “yes” to Questions 1-6, chances are your son has really terrible taste and judgment. 7 means he’s gay.

    Class dismissed!

  17. Jeremiah Lawson says

    Try applying some of the criteria on the list to people in Scripture and you have to consider that maybe Joseph was gay. After all, he cried a lot for a guy in his 30s. 😉 But that’s getting into Spong territory.

    The man pursues and the woman waits philosophy is something I’ve been hearing more and more and I understand, I think, that there’s definitely something to it but it still seems Ruth took an awful lot of initiative to get noticed by Boaz. When the book of Ruth is presented first as a model for how to marry instead of as a description of God’s mercy toward a Moabite and a description of David’s ancestry I admit to getting a little antsy. Part of it, of course, is that I’m almost 32 and single. Once you get to this age questions arise as to what you’re doing wrong to still be single.

  18. Andrew –

    Define “real” beer.

    Hint – if it’s yellow and made in America, it does NOT qualify. ;-}

  19. Jeremiah Lawson says

    Heh, the beer thing, eh? Always hated beer. Another strike against me.

  20. IMonk-
    When reading your post, I couldn’t help but think of my own childhood. At school, I opted to play house with the girls rather than kickball with the jocks (some of which were girls). I wore pink, and loved it! I climbed trees with the express purpose of finding a good spot to read. I did not wrestle. I cried very easily. In short, I was “different” and I knew it. According to Dobson, I was gender confused, and with out the intervention of some testosterone, I would end up shacking up with some dude and discoing out to show tunes over a six pack of wine coolers.
    FOTF is wrong. Dead wrong, and it pisses me off that so many families are going to force their sons into some macho role because of such a stupid article.
    I like art. There is nothing gay about it, nothing “femmie” about it. I like music, cooking, literature, coffee houses, and hanging out with girls (not just for a vast dating pool either. I generally enjoy the company of women to the company of most men). I am not gay. I don’t like sports, conquering nature, and getting all sweaty. I am not gay. I am the man that God has crafted and shaped me to be. FOTF is wrong. I hope they learn to see that, and that the damage to a generation of children forced into these “straight values” can be healed by the Grace of God.

    Sorry about the rant, but this issue is a big deal to me. Blessings, and keep up the great work.

  21. Jeremiah, sorry to be daft, but were you referring to the OT Joseph or the NT Joseph?

    As far as iMonk’s piece, I say right on. I am an “ex-gay” (a label I despise, but it’s the best there is right now). But I am not an advocate of the Exodus/FotF/Love Won Out subculture. It’s just another way of ghetto-izing (in the real sense of that word) a group of people within the Body of Christ. Anyway, the biggest breakthrough in my change came about when I realized that my same-gender sexual attractions were really just a symptom of the real problem, which was a broken sense of masculine identity. BUT, that broken masculinity had next-to-nothing to do with the kind of stereotyped behavior that Dr. Dobson is suggesting. For me, it had to do simply with a broken relationship with my father. By God’s grace I have been healed from that brokenness (and secondarily, resolved my SGSA issues) in large part through a lot of re-fathering from men in my church. But that has been hard to find given the homophobic evangelical culture.

  22. I fear I’m getting off topic, but here goes anyway:


    Do you think that the people you have dealt with who have wanted to change their sexual desires have wanted so desperately to do so due to the immense pressure from the culture around them? If they are constantly being told they are sub-human and going to hell (despite being forgiven children), it seems to be a natural progression that they would feel such despair.

    I want there to be help for those who hurt, but if the constant attention and derision is what is causing the hurt then I don’t see how further attention and study can help. If we took the pressure off, would it mean that those with same-sex desires would feel more comfortable to work through what it is that they want, with less pain? Or am I being a naive hetero-sexual with no issues in my sexual preference?

  23. Jeremiah Lawson says

    OT Joseph–forgot to mention that.

  24. Between Pat Robertson’s calls for murder and Dobson’s institutional homophobia, we’re sure winning a lot of souls for Christ these days, eh?


    grace and peace.

  25. Love Beer!! Must be thick enough to stand on. So I guess I’m safe…whew, I was worried I was a gay guy.

  26. Michelle:

    I’m not suggesting that my relatively small sampling of non-gay (ego-dystonic) homosexuals is normative, but to answer your question:

    None of them was predominantly motivated by environmental forces to change their orientation: in each instance it was a deep conviction that their homoerotic desires were not consistent with their basic identity. (There are some pretty large homosexual communities available to them where they would not feel such ostracism, but that did not appeal to them.) Those that were Christians and believed the Bible taught heterosexuality to be God’s original intent certainly had that pressure, too, but it only exacerbated their pain; the origin of the pain was internal conflict.

    As I said, however, my sampling should not be considered as necessarily representative of what is true for all. It could be, but I don’t have the data to support that contention.

  27. Mike and Michelle,

    My experience is somewhat different from Mike’s. I am a pastor, not a therapist, but as I mentioned above, I am an “ex” and have also led a recovery group for Christian men with homosexual attractions. All the men I served were married with children, so I would classify that as a huge environmental factor, though not necessarily a societal one. Whatever their motives for marrying in the first place (and I’d say they were certainly mixed), they all had keeping their marriages and families intact as one of the top (if not the top) reasons for wanting to change behaviors and orientation (both of which I believe are possible).

    I recently got into a flame war on a blog associated with my denomination, against a couple of folks who were insistent on quoting ad nauseam what the “average homosexual” did. They were using primarily statistics from the CDC. Well, sure, a sample based on self-identified homosexuals with STDs is going to contain a high percentage of some unsafe behaviors. And yet to those simpletons, that defined “what homosexuals do.” I told them that in my experience the “average homosexual” is a married Christian man probably teaching their Sunday School class.

    Deep peace of Christ,


  28. From …. Here’s the list:

    1. A strong feeling that they are “different” from other boys. HAPPENED AT CHURCH

    2. A tendency to cry easily, be less athletic, and dislike the roughhousing that other boys enjoy. HAPPENED AT CHURCH AND IN SUNDAY SCHOOL

    3. A persistent preference to play female roles in make-believe play. UMMMMM … ALWAYS THE CHURCH CLASS CLOWN … ATTENTION PLEASE!

    4. A strong preference to spend time in the company of girls and participate in their games and other pastimes. HAPPENED AT CHURCH .. REFER TO #2

    5. A susceptibility to be bullied by other boys, who may tease them unmercifully and call them “queer,” “fag” and “gay.” HAPPENED AT CHURCH AND IN SUNDAY SCHOOL AND AT FALLS CREEK

    6. A tendency to walk, talk, dress and even “think” effeminately. REFER TO RESPONSE ON #3

    7. A repeatedly stated desire to be — or insistence that he is — a girl. I DIDN’T THINK SO BUT THAT DIDN’T STOP THE YOUTH WORKERS FROM SAYIN’ IT …





  29. Emeril? Emeril???

    Real men watch Alton Brown’s “Good Eats.”

  30. I don’t like to agree with Dobson on anything, but there actually is some evidence that boys who exhibit “gender nonconformity” bear a strong chance of being gay or bisexual. There’s a more balanced discussion of it here:


    Not surprisingly though, there’s a lot less evidence that monitoring your kids and forcing them to conform is going to help anything.

  31. Excellent post, IM.

    I remember when I first saw Dobson’s list. It still makes me laugh. Even though I have been married 14 years and have three sons, I thought that I had better examine my own sexuality!?

    I too dislike the whole Eldridge “real man” thing. So bogus. I served 4 years as an Army Cavalry officer. But I have had my fill of blowin things up and shootin big guns and “campin out.” Now, I prefer to spend my free time in the la-z-boy reading books or watching my favorite sci-fi shows. (Oh, and I do watch a lot of the Food Channel with my wife.)

    And to top it off, I drive a Ford Escort, rather than a big pickup, here in Texas.

    Maybe I am homosexual after all?

  32. JohnB,

    “Holy &^%^%&^!! Texas! Only Steers and Queers come from Texas, Private Cowboy. And you don’t look much like a steer to me so that kinda narrows it down!”

    -Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, Full Metal Jacket

  33. Scott Hoagland says

    One of the things I don’t understand: If we find that, according to his list, we have an ‘effeminate’ boy, what does he want us to do to him? Beat him repeatedly until he becomes a ‘manly man’? Perform an exorcism? Put him in immediate ‘Christian therapy’ until he changes?
    And more: What happens if he doesn’t change? Disown him?

  34. Scott, we’ve seen what _can_ happen in that case:


    A toddler murdered by his father who thought the child was “gay”…

  35. >Put him in immediate ‘Christian therapy’ until
    >he changes?

    A bud who’s a country pastor in Pennsylvania told me a horror story once about Christian parents who, when they discovered their kid was playing D&D, put him in a Teen Challenge-style “Christian Therapy”.

  36. Here are a couple of items that Focus on the Family missed on their list:

    –A preference to listen to female singers and musical groups instead of male musicians.

    –A preference for romantic literature (i. e. Jane Austen) instead of Tom Clancy or John Grisham.

    Oh, I forgot. Since we are Christians, we should be reading “Left Behind”, not Tom Clancy, John Grisham, or Jane Austen!

  37. A number of people have accused me of being gay, including my mother.

    I don’t like hurting people. That makes me gay? I’ve held a black belt for 16 years now. I know any number of ways to kill people, and I will if I have to. I don’t go out of my way to get into trouble, and I will go out of my way to stay out of it. That seems only sensible when I have the skills I have.

    I don’t like football. That makes me gay? I like Ultimate. Much better game. Less contact, fewer injuries, faster moving.

    I don’t like beer (or ale). That makes me gay? I prefer single-malt scotch, straight up.

    I argue against warfare. That makes me gay? War is easy. Peacemaking is hard.

    My eyes fill with tears (of joy for them, and of sorrow for what I was once) when someone receives Christ. That makes me gay?

    Where did we get these STUPID ideas?

  38. Shannon Richey says

    I completely agree. Frankly, I find it really sad that evangelicals (some of them, anyway) seem to be so hung up on gender roles.

    I have, as long as I have been a Christian, felt that I was not a ‘proper’ Christian woman because I did not want to be a housewife and wanted a job outside the home. I felt like I was set up to fail because my mom worked outside the home and I was raised with a strong work ethic in that manner. At least, to hear evangelicals I have been around tell it, I was. I also felt as though God just doesn’t seem to like us women very much because of the way some evangelical men like to ‘keep us in our place’ by not ‘letting us’ do things that they do because we are to ‘submit’ to them. Basically, we were only worth our ability to be mothers and our ability to please our husbands, and had no other purpose. I later found out that not all Christians feel this way and that God loves me just as much as any male-type person.

    I feel God loves gays too. And, contrary to popular belief, I do not think that all of them choose to be the way they are. I do not see why anyone *would* choose that, given all the prejudice gays have to deal with. But that is just my opinion.

  39. Shannon Richey says

    Oh, and according to that list, my husband is gay. He does not play sports (prefers computers and videogames instead), has no issue with crying at all, and did not roughhouse much with other boys (he only has a sister and,while he has male friends, they are a bit old to be wrestling). So technically, according to Dobson, my husband is gay but I certainly know differently.

  40. I agree that such a list is completely stereo-typing. But at the same time, from being involved in the performing arts, I can’t help but notice how at least a few of these stereo-types are based a little on reality.
    That being said, I think the problem lies in the same place. It’s not the actions themselves that seem to cause ‘homosecuality’ or lack of masculinity, but the very fact that fathers are simply not affirming such boys in their masculinity. Why is it a ‘danger’ for boys who like art and not football? Because rather than saying to that son “You are a real man” the FotF attitude has fathers saying “why don’t you be a real man and play some footy?” which really just exasperates the problem.

    The very act of indentifying ‘activities’ (other than homsexual acts) that are ‘gay’ is part of the problem. Instead, lets just start affirming the masculinity of our sons in whatever pastimes they choose to undertake.

  41. Apparently, based on the FOTF article, I’m gay. Who knew? My wife is certainly going to be surprised.

  42. It apears FOTF has taken this article off their website.

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