Jackie Clune on Leaving Lesbianism

Fascinating article in today’s Daily Mail that I have only just caught up with. Some controversial stuff in there.

As I pieced over the failings, I took a second look at my history. Was I picking the wrong women or was I simply not cut out to be a lesbian?

This may sound totally coldhearted, but I made a calculated decision to try men again. I can honestly say that, although I was 34, this had nothing to do with my biological clock. I had always rather casually thought that, if I wanted children, I would use a sperm donor. So my decision was not in any way connected to a desire for a baby.

And, while I had male friends, I had not even had the faintest flicker of interest in any man for years. But I suspect the simple truth is that I no longer felt I needed to be defined by my sexuality. I had outgrown lesbianism.

For more than a decade my sexuality had been a vital part of who I was. When we’re young, we all need to belong to a tribe and to have a banner to march under. This may sound absurd, but calling myself a lesbian was almost like calling myself a punk or a goth.

I don’t want to undermine my relationships – they meant a great deal to me at the time and I look back on them with great affection – and I am well aware that many people will find it shocking, if not downright offensive, when I say that I chose a different path.

I repeat, I know many people are totally convinced that they are born gay and have absolutely no choice over their sexual orientation.

All I can say is that I believe not every gay person is gay for life. In particular, I believe that many women are capable of feeling attracted to other women – to be with someone who believes it’s perfectly normal to talk about how you feel and wants to know every single thought that passes through your head.

That feeling of total empathy and togetherness is a very specific bond between two women. Whether women act on these feelings or not depends, of course, on many complicated social and psychological factors.

And how about this for some post-gay introspection?

I could never in a million years have imagined, in the full throes of my lesbian life, that I would one day live such a conventional straight lifestyle.

In fact, I would have thrown up my hands in horror at the very idea. And perhaps it was no surprise that most of my lesbian friends were outraged that I had taken up with men.

It seemed a betrayal of all they and I had stood for. Diva magazine, the biggest lesbian publication in the UK, voted me Most Disappointing Lesbian Of The Year. And the criticism still continues.

There was (briefly) a Facebook group saying People Like Jackie Clune Should Be Taken Outside And Shot. Although the criticism is hurtful, I understand where it’s coming from – I’ve confused everybody.

In the gay world some people hate the way many of us believe sexuality can be fluid. The idea of bisexuality is anathema to them. They see it as a mark of indecision or even self-delusion.

Actually I have never thought of myself as bisexual. And I certainly don’t now that I am married. That would be tantamount to admitting that I am thinking of being unfaithful with a woman, which has never been the case.

But then this is an issue that provokes so much misunderstanding and downright anger. For many in the gay community, changing one’s sexuality is seen as a heinous act of betrayal. Straight people, for their part, always want to know why I switched sexuality (often with the offensive implication that I was somehow behaving strangely when I was a lesbian but I’m ‘all right’ now).

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  • Alathia

    "Straight people, for their part, always want to know why I switched sexuality (often with the offensive implication that I was somehow behaving strangely when I was a lesbian but I’m ‘all right’ now)."

    A sound woman – sexuality is fluid, not fixed. Tom Robinson was the darling of the gay world in the 1970s and went on to father a child and settle down with a woman.

    It is often forgotten Oscar Wilde was married with children…

    One of the early consellors and founder members of True Freedom Trust was a 'healed' gay – who married, father two children and then decided he was gay again and vanished into the distance…

    Yet, this woman appears to have the correct balance: '[people often had] the offensive implication that I was somehow behaving strangely when I was a lesbian but I’m ‘all right’ now…

    Obviously no such implication in posting this here… Like many people she was 'all right' gay and is 'all right' straight. It is only the small minded, overly concerned with the morality of others who get up tight about such things…

  • winston

    Good for her, and shame on those who attack her!

    Of course, it goes the other way. I could easily have been married, have children by now. However, I am in a ten year old partnership with a man. I fell in love with two different people. I suspect bisexuality is the default position for many people, but we choose to identify ourselves as heterosexual or homosexual for a lot of very complex reasons.

    Pax.

  • Philip Cole

    Winston and Alathia

    Good to see you both recognising the reality that sexual orientation is fluid. This is unfortunately something that many gay activists have great difficulty in accepting, and spend lots of energy and newsprint railing against. And they do this for very good reasons, because recognition of this reality leads to a number of fairly obvious conclusions:

    1. If sexual orientation is fluid then it is clearly not an identity and hence the oft-repeated equivalence to gender and race does not hold.

    2. If sexual orientation is fluid then it is clearly changeable. While we have made tremendous progress in many parts of the world in promoting the liberty of people to form consensual, adult same-sex relationships, we now need to promote the liberty of people (mostly Christians) who experience same-sex attraction (SSA) to choose to change their orientation, with the best available therapy and spiritual support and without harassment by gay activists telling them they are 'sell-outs'.

    3. If sexual orientation is fluid then, at the minimum, a significant component of orientation is behavioural. And orthodox Christians believe that God tells us through scripture that homosexual beaviour is wrong. As Christians we accept that God tells us how to behave on many other areas of our lives. Why should God telling us that homosexual behaviour is wrong be remotely contentious?

    So Jackie Clune's testimony drives a coach and horses through the argument that gay is an identity. And, since this is a large part of the revisionist argument that 'committed, loving and faithful' (CLF) gay relationships should be celebrated by the church, then that argument also falls way. So why is 'the gay issue' (TGI) such a big deal in the church?

    • http://www.twitter.com/cerebusboy cerebusboy

      >>>1. If sexual orientation is fluid then it is clearly not an identity and hence the oft-repeated equivalence to gender and race does not hold.

      Firstly, Gore Vidal once made the point that , in a society free of homophobia, there would be no need for labels like 'gay' and 'straight'. You'll note that those on the LGBT team (moi included!) prefer 'marriage equality' NOT 'gay marriage'. And surely the fluidity of sexual attraction just means that SOME people can move from hetero-to-homo (or vice versa) rather than everyone is similarly fluid? The 'everyone is bisexual' position that some (including, sadly, Vidal)believe in hardly accords with the reality of most straight me on my acquaintance; aren't there many gay guys who – accurately- would attest to a their sexuality being solid and permanent. 'Conceding' that sexuality is fluid for some in no way necessarily leads to 'ergo 'gay' is a universally false identity', let alone implicitly validating ex-gay therapy. Afterall, is the contemporary LGBT label not closer to gender queering than any kind of essentialism? That some may not make a big deal about this is because there's already too many 'conservatives' making poisonously ludicrous slippery slope arguments one 'homosexuality will lead to bestiality and paedophilia acceptance!'lines. And I don't know one gay man, anywhere, who has or would defend NAMBLA (for example).

      >>>, with the best available therapy and spiritual support and without harassment by gay activists telling them they are ‘sell-outs’

      People can self-describe as whatever they want. I really don't see how accepting (as I of course do) Peter's account of his post-gay identity in way suggests that such a trajectory is common, let alone universal, or that it implies that it disproves the more common 'always knew I was gay' one. Accepting Peter's testimony suggests the importance of listening to others, in which light it can not be ignored that there are far more ex-ex-gays than ex-gays. As for harassment, I wouldn't call LGBT objecting to people embracing 'ex-gay' therapy as something necessarily immoral let alone something that should be criminalised. An evangelical Christian announcing to his housegroup that he's realised he's gay and is going to go out on the scene might get some proof-texted responses, but I wouldn't suggest criminalising that *either*. People who wish homosexuality to be reincluded as a disorder, and those who espouse the benefits of ex-gay therapy are similarly welcome to publish their findings.

      >>Why should God telling us that homosexual behaviour is wrong be remotely contentious?

      Because, although as a society we've largely evolved beyond 'Judaism rejects Christ=antisemitism is ok barbarism',that isn't true of the gay community. Plainly saying (as I think Gagnon does, but I'd need to dig out an exact reference) that gay people should lose their jobs very much should be contentious even if it's 'justified' on religious grounds. Shrill alarmism is much better than the dangerously blase equivalent. And there's a distinct absence of 'live and let live' in the conservative team, whereas there's nobody suggesting that adulterers or people living in Sin should be criminalised.

      Jackie Clune's testimony proves that she had a fluid sexuality. Which is nice for her I'm sure, but says precisely nothing about the stability of sexuality IN OTHERS. Are we to propose that ex-gay testimonies are somehow more valid than 'born-gay' ones? On what grounds? The fact that it would be *easier* if homosexuality was largely experienced as another vice to be overcome in no way negates the importance of altering theories to fit facts rather than the other way around, and who could argue that there are far,far,far more 'born gay' than 'ex-gay' people? That this contradicts particular interpretations of Scripture, similarly, is one reason to be open to the possibility of reassessing these.

  • M

    Jackie Clune wrote in the Guardian in 2003 about her switch.

    She didn't miss the opportunity to slag off the Christian ex-gay movement, and said she would still support the gay movement when 'the revolution came'.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2003/jun/14/comed

    In other words this is old news, recycled because of the story about Chris Huhne. She admits that her story was not one about coming out as a teenager, about secret teenage homosexuality.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Couldn't find anything in that article which slagged off the Christian ex-gay movement. Loved the opening sentences though (emphasis added).

      In February 1988, I decided to become a lesbian. For the next 12 years I had relationships with women exclusively. Then, in October 2000, I decided to "go back in" and went straight.

      • Blair

        Hello Peter and M,

        thanks for the reminder of the 'Guardian' article – remember being pointed towards it when it was first published and it seems just as good now. Peter, I guess M is thinking of this sentence: "I dread unwittingly supporting the "All you need is the Right Man" lobby, or the far-right Christian reorientation camps so popular in America's deep south"…? Guess that's only an implied slagging off though…

        Might comment more on the thread dedicated to Philip's comment, but seems to me one key question here is, 'what does this mean'? For the moment the only other thing I'd say is to raise the question how quoting Jackie Clune's piece helps your argument Peter? After all as you quote, she says she decided – which could be taken to suggest that any kind of 'reparative' therapy is redundant, since Jackie's orientation changed without her needing any… Also, she is clear that she does not regard same-sex sex or attractions as inferior…

        in friendship, Blair

  • http://www.twitter.com/cerebusboy cerebusboy

    >>>It is often forgotten Oscar Wilde was married with children…

    Really? I've found that it's actually far more cited as an example of the persecution in the days before gay liberation, when men had to marry irrespective of their affection for particular women or women per se. The lesson to be learned from Oscar's marriage is (in part) the emotional damage that can be done when homosexual men are , by society's convention, feign love and marry women.

  • Sue

    I agree with a lot of the above posters, and think it disgusting that Jackie Clune gets criticised for "changing". For quite a few of us it is the person you are with that counts, not their gender. However, I think it is important to point out that for many people (gay and straight) sexual orientation is NOT fluid. The Jackie Clune experience should NEVER, EVER be used to bludgeon gay people into conforming, nor to suggest that everyone has the potential to cope in a heterosexual relationship, and that seems to be the intention of the post above.

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