Sobering Reading on Changing Attitude’s Blog

Now, as most of you know, this site is not the biggest fan of Changing Attitude, especially Colin Coward’s ongoing attempt to insinuate and allude to the gay bishops he claims already exist in the Church of England. However, let’s put that aside for a moment because Keith Sharpe, Chair of Changing Attitude Sussex, has written a devastating piece today on a recent conference in London. I commend it to you for sincere reflection and I copy portions below with appropriate comments.

I have to be honest – I am going to upset some people with this post, perhaps with simply commending a Changing Attitude blog item, but some things just need to be said.

A pitiful conference turnout

Far greater embarrassment lay in store for Anglican Mainstream in the actual conference itself, however. I duly arrived with a gay friend at the Emmanuel Centre in Westminster to find all of the doors locked and chained except one. Our way through this was blocked by two very large and muscled security men who gave us the once over, demanded to see ID, and then made us sign the ‘love, Lisa’ declaration, before allowing to proceed to the registration desk where our ID was rechecked and the ‘love, Lisa’ form taken from us.

We entered the big main hall to discover not hundreds, not dozens but about just 30 people huddled at the front near the stage. As the day went on it became clear that many of these were not really conference participants as such but were people involved in the administration and delivery of the day who were part of the contributing organisations.  If you take them out, and the four gay people including myself who were there for research purposes, the number of actual supporters was pitifully small, probably just in the teens, a very poor turnout for such a hyped up event in the capital.

It strikes me that if you organise a conference and you have less attendees then the organising committee and speaker list, that you have to ask yourself what has gone wrong. Is it simply all the negative publicity that has driven people away or is it rather that people no longer want to come to this kind of event? Given that some of the organisers run their own churches and would have had plenty of opportunity to advertise this event far and wide, the pitiful turnout should demand some consideration.

Gross over exposure of an ordinary and basically good man

Chris Sugden, chairing the conference, opened proceedings in the manner of a dull and uninspiring headteacher, laying down the law yet again about the ‘love, Lisa’ rules. And we were then quickly on to the star turn, Jim Reynolds, author of the book, ‘The Lepers Among Us’.

Now Jim has a simple message.  I had read his book so I knew this.  I wonder if anyone at Anglican Mainstream really had.  Jim’s message is this: the conservative evangelical churches in Texas where he lives treat gays like lepers.  They exclude them.  They send them off to psychiatrists, psychotherapists and parachurch organisations (Exodus, Living Waters etc) to get ‘cured’ and made ‘normal’ before they will accept them. Jim thinks this is wrong.

Jim thinks the churches should keep the lepers ‘among us’.  The churches should do the ‘healing’ and the ‘curing’ themselves. Jim works with men struggling with the sin of same sex attraction.  Yes of course he thinks it is still definitely a sin, but by Texan standards his views count as ultraliberal, and Jim has suffered some ostracism at the hands of his coreligionists.

Jim is actually a really nice well meaning bloke. There were, however, three huge problems with his appearance at this conference.

  1. He was massively over-exposed. He was billed to speak for an hour before coffee and an hour afterwards.  Then after lunch he was to speak again in conversation with Paul Perkin, vicar of St Mark’s, Battersea Rise for another 40 minutes.  Jim simply did not have that much to say and found himself repeating things over and over again.  We heard about his marriage difficulties in the 80s four times at least.  There simply was not three hours worth of structured material to deliver.
  2. The old adage about the US and the UK being two nations divided by a common language proved excruciatingly true in this case.  Time and again Jim failed to understand questions that were asked of him. And in some cases the attempt to communicate with him had to be abandoned. Watching Paul Perkin try to interview him was painful.  Paul must have felt that he was drawing teeth, and for Jim too the experience looked profoundly uncomfortable.
  3. Jim’s whole approach is pastoral and full of homespun axioms about what is right and wrong.  Biblical and theological underpinnings to his beliefs were difficult to elucidate. At one point he seemed to quote the story of Sodom in his condemnation of homosexuality.  But he also referred to passages in Ezekiel and Matthew which make clear that the sin of Sodom was a failure to care for the poor, needy and strangers. As I have argued in The Gay Gospels ( not only does Sodom have nothing at all to do with homosexuality it is also the precursor to Jesus’ commandment to love your neighbour. When I put this to Jim he seemed stumped, and chuntered on about the evils of gay marriage. We drew a similar blank over how anyone now can possibly believe Paul’s apparent claim that homosexuality is caused by idolatry.

If you’re going to present a Christian position, you need to root it in a Christian theology and you need to be clear on what you are presenting, why and to whom. I’ve now read portions of Jim Reynold’s book, and whilst it makes some very pertinent points as regards the treatment of those with same-sex attraction by some portions of the Evangelical church in the USA (particularly the South), I’m not so sure that it was overly applicable to the situation in the UK.

We need to be smart about how we do presentations and public appearances. Paul Perkins is a great preacher and Bible teacher, but I could have told you in 5 seconds that he is not the right kind of person to run a lengthy interview with someone. If you’re going to do a “chat show” format you need someone who is charismatic and suitable for that environment. It’s just common sense.

When my church ran a hustings during the 2010 General Election in the UK, although lots of people suggested that I should chair the question and answer session, I actually asked one of our congregation members to do it. The chap I asked was a cool and calm business man, but with a capacity to listen carefully to an argument and ask a penetrating question as a follow-up. He did the job so much better then I ever could (and I was much to busy organising the whole event)!

It strikes me (and here is where I’m going to disappoint some people but I really have to say this publicly) that some of the people who are trying to be active in this area of responding to issues of sexuality in our culture have little self-awareness of how they are perceived. The organising committee of this conference were all mainly in their 50s and 60s and there was, to the best of my knowledge, no-one young involved in the programme. The attendees were of a similar demographic and the whole impression is of a tiny cabal standing talking into a mirror.

Downhill all the way….

After the desultory Perkin-Reynolds interview in the afternoon there was a presentation by barrister Paul Diamond who spoke articulately but appeared to get carried away with his own rhetoric, making absurd generalisations about the police being ‘anti-Christian’.

Then we were on to a management consultant and evangelical church member lecturing us on the causes of homosexuality, though his qualifications to do this remain a mystery. Nature dismissed, it was obviously due to nurture and we heard yet again the well worn discredited thesis of the domineering mother and distant father, which if true should have made every boy brought up in England between 1920 and 1970 gay.

Like Queen Victoria, this speaker seemed unaware of the existence of gay ladies for whose proclivities this thesis is presumably not the explanation. Tea came as a blessed relief and stiffened the sinews for what proved to be the greatest challenge to the will to live.

Let’s put the lesbians on one side and simply concentrate on the brutal facts. The best scientific evidence points towards a complicated combination of nature and nurture in the development of sexual orientation and identity, and to argue that it is simply down to one particular psycho-dynamic model for all men who have same-sex attraction is simply naively ignoring the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Yes, some men find this particular insight helpful but others do not.

The “gold standard” so far of research as regards reparative therapy is the Jones and Yarhouse longitudinal study, but even this is a sobering read. Yes, some motivated men reported movement along the Kinsey scale, but many did not. If we want to pastor effectively in this area we have got to be honest about the scientific research and we have got to be honest about the evidence of outcomes. It is simply not acceptable to just read something put out by a particular institution (for example NARTH) without going to the source material referenced and checking that they are being accurately represented. It was my statistical training that led me to conclude well over a decade ago that the commonly trumped “born gay” hypothesis had little substance, but the same statistical training leads me to recognise that those who claim an exclusive psycho-dynamic model for male homosexuality are deluding themselves. We know that there is more than likely some form of biological component for most people’s homosexuality, so why are we still putting up with people standing on a stage telling us otherwise? Give me 30 minutes on a platform and I will take you through all the science from the past 30 years to demonstrate convincingly that it is not just nurture.

And the very ugly indeed

We were then treated to what can only be described as a lip-quivering and blazing-eyed rambling rant from Ms Nolland about the evils of sex education. She seemed set on outdoing all previous speakers in the smearing of the LGBT community.  We had already heard about gays as paedophile child molesters, gays as threats to the family and marriage, gays as spreaders of disease.

But now Ms N was going for gold with her bitter denunciation of LGBT organisations, and especially the Terrence Higgins Trust, for producing perverted and obscene curriculum materials intended to corrupt the innocence of children. Apparently gay activists have conned their way into schools to tell kids that ‘eating faeces’ is great sexual fun (Lisa taught us to call this ‘scat’) and to teach them how to do ‘cock and ball torture’ really well (Lisa said we should refer to this as ‘kink’).

Ms Nolland is also an enthusiastic advocate of the spurious slippery slope argument: tolerate homosexuality and we will be engulfed by all manner of perversions and we will drown in vile pornography. She distributed several ‘information’ sheets including a list of the most popular acts advertised and depicted on the internet such as ‘double anal’ in which ‘a woman is penetrated anally by two men at the same time’, ‘multiple men ejaculating onto a woman’s face’, ‘a penis thrust so far down a woman’s throat that she gags’ etc etc.

Ms Nolland seems to be a world class scaremongerer, alarmist and demoniser.  Her presentation was very ugly indeed. Methinks the lady doth protest too much. I suspect that even amongst her own constituency there was embarrassment about a lack of balance which appeared to border on pathological obsession.

Once again, some people will not like this, but we need to say it. Everytime someone stands up and gives a presentation like this it undermines the conservative cause. The general public are simply not interested in this kind of approach. They see it as equating homosexuality with promiscuity and the most offensive sexual practices, and since they all have gay friends who are not involved in either of those things, they just see it as demonisation.

Let me be clear – I once heard Lisa Nolland give a very impressive and insightful talk of sexual plasticity that has stayed with me as an important component in my thinking about modern culture and queer theory, but if this account is accurate then I utterly fail to see what relevance such an approach has to the issue at hand. Indeed, if the purpose of the conference was to talk about how to be welcoming to gay people, what possible benefit or addition to that platform could have been served by this section, or indeed ANY of the material after Jim Reynolds.

And this leads me to ask what this conference was really about. Was it, as advertised, about helping churches reach out to those on the fringes, those in this particular bracket (homosexual) who so often find church a dangerous and rejecting place? Or was it simply about repeating once again an agenda and stance that a group of people are trying to bang out, dressing it up with a nice front page but once you turned to the inside sheets it’s the same old same old.

The killer is, it’s not as if any of us who actually do this engagement that the day was meant to be about were even asked to contribute to this conference. To the best of my knowledge no-one who actually tries to do bridge-building in the UK (as we do on this site by allowing all sides to comment, engage and dialogue within a respectful environment) was invited to speak. Is it because if I and others were invited, the people who actually do the pastoral work in this area, we would have presented a different picture to the one painted on Saturday?

Seriously – the conference organisers are well aware of myself and others working in this area, but we have never been invited to speak at any of the conferences that have been run. Instead of putting on a platform the published and publicly respected pastors, theologians and psychiatric professionals who work in this area in this country, we are instead presented with the same old faces talking to a tiny constituency who won’t actually do anything practical when they walk out the door. There are tens of thousands of Christians in the UK longing to be able to witness effectively in this field (witness the way that Andrew Marin has been invited on consecutive years to Spring Harvest to address this very issue), but if all they are presented with is out-of-date and blinkered dogmatism, they simply won’t be interested.

A shocking failure

This was a terrible conference from everybody’s point of view. The content was truly terrible for gay people but also terrible for Christian traditionalists. Their position was poorly represented. The insensitivity and lack of charity evident in the day did not make for a pretty sight.

For Anglican Mainstream also this was a terrible conference. They did not get the support they expected, and the few people who showed up will not have positive memories.

This has been an uncomfortable blog post to write, and I know it will upset some people, but every word I have typed is chosen with concern and, I believe, prophetic voice. I earnestly hope and pray that by making this public stand I will provoke the conference organisers to reflect and take stock, and rather than retreat further into the “everybody hates us so what do you expect” bunker mentality to honestly and openly address the pertinent issues raised by Keith Sharpe. This kind of debacle must never happen again.

39 Comments on “Sobering Reading on Changing Attitude’s Blog

  1. Well said Peter.  I, too, have wondered why the traditionalists (in North America as well as here) have NOT called on those who have experience and something to say.  Have you given any thought to organising the type of conference they failed to provide?

  2. Not surprising, judging by Mrs Nolland’s comments over the years. Anglican Mainstream’s real attitudes towards gay people can be witnessed in the incessant hate-mongering from their spokesman David Skinner, whose revolting tirades are found all over the blogosphere. I suggest you do a simple google search to see who you would be dealing with. If you folks wont distance yourselves from AM after that – well, fine – it simply proves Richard Dawkins’s point about faith. Terribly sad that senior C of E clerics endorse this rot.

    • By their fruits ye shall know them. I think Skinner used to masquerade on Ruth Gledhill’s blog as someone with a finger in the ex-gay pie. There is a simple explanation for why some men are hysterically homophobic – they fear penetration – but for women it is altogether odder. Perhaps they feel insulted or perhaps fearful for that their husbands or sons are not telling them something or that heterosexuality is but skin deep and easily turned. It is enjoyable to cod-psychologise but only Ms Nolland knows why she appears so obsessed with homosexuality. Indeed the same could be said of Anglican Mainstream itself.

      •  Interesting points Tom. I think much of it is sheer willful ignorance, analogous perhaps to those fathers who like to pretend that their adults daughters are virgins irrespective of how unlikely that is.  The mind boggles at how naive someone has to be to think that things like anal sex or pornography are “gay” concerns, rather than ‘male’ ones. Note the absurdity of Ms Nolland citing *heterosexual* double anal penetration in order to demonise *gay* sexuality!

        • She’s a slippery customer in person. She never quite comes out and says, “gay marriage will lead to people marrying their golden retriever” (her terminology, not mine). Instead she says, well, these people who want to marry their golden retriever look to the success of the gay rights movement and think, well, we’re not doing anyone any harm anyone either so why shouldn’t we be able to marry Bonzo? It’s a nasty attempt to smear people with guilt by association. The gay=paedophile argument is a straight out blood libel.

          If conservative Evangelicals want to conduct the debate on homosexuality on these terms, they need to be aware that in this society they will provoke a nasty backlash against themselves; in other parts of the world, however, these “blood libel” style tactics stoke the worst sorts of murderous homophobia.

  3. Super blog post Peter, you’ve really highlighted the salient and thorny issues here. And have done so without flinching.

    Many of us are still processing these issues and it is not easy to grapple with this hydra headed beast with all of the polemics and mis-information flying around.

    We are desperately in need of calm, reasoned, evidenced based, non alarmist, grounded in sound theology, facts, and I for one appreciate the work you are doing in this regard.

    Certain sectors on the extreme fringes have become self-defeating and are wounding their own case and this serves to put me off and actually begin an antipodal swing.

    Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing…..?

  4. Peter, this was a very bold blog and you will clearly set a lot of people talking. Why does it always have to be us and them?  Your approach gives me hope that it is possible to discuss things together on sexuality and gender, from whichever angle we are coming, without getting our proverbials in a twist.
    As someone who know’s Keith, I want to thank you for responding to his blog in such a genuinely open and receptive manner.
    Elaine Sommers

    But now Ms N was going for gold with her bitter denunciation of LGBT organisations, and especially the Terrence Higgins Trust,

     Lol, that rings a bell! 

     She distributed several ‘information’ sheets including a list of the most popular acts advertised and depicted on the internet such as ‘double anal’ in which ‘a woman is penetrated anally by two men at the same time’,

     Ah, nothing like the ‘logic’ of the homophobe. 2 men and one woman is what kind of sex? *Hetero*sexual. The internet is indeed full of all sorts of disgusting acts (‘space docking’ – don’t google, or “2 Girls 1 Cup” – again, don’t google are a damn site more depraved than any sex act I’ve ever heard of any ‘homosexual’ being involved in).  It is absurd, that, in the Year of Our Lord 2012, the sane are still required to point out that anal sex is not the USP, coming-into-being or quiddity of homosexuality per se. 
     Although I don’t know many straight men who have much interest in “double anal” so I wonder what “evidence” (!) Ms N has for the popularity of particular acts on the internet. 

     A brave and necessary post, Peter. And, if “conservatives” do give you some stick, I hope you point out that “liberals” would be all in favour of conservatives continuing down the road of single-issue-fanatic irrelevancy, and having as much popular appeal as the wilderness years, pre-Cameron Tory Party….

  6. I once heard a young aspiring church leader in training ask one of the leaders of an organisation like Anglican Mainstream the following question: “when you’re dead and I’m still alive and in ministry, what will be the lasting value and impact of what you’re doing and the organisation that you’re part of?”
    Strikes me that such a question needs to be urgently asked of the Anglican Mainstream guys.

  7. I attended a virtually identical event in Belfast
    the previous Friday, organised by Core Issues, with Jim Reynolds as the main
    speaker, having taken part in the short protest outside organised by the NI gay
    community. It was a terrible day, bucketing rain that was only just warm enough
    not to be sleet. There were about 35 people at the protest and about 50 actual
    attendees inside, of whom about 10 were gay rights activists. At the Core
    Issues event held last Summer in Belfast,
    the protesters outnumbered the attendees by some margin. There was absolutely
    no personal hostility between the protesters and the organisers of the
    conference, and the organisers even sent tea and scones out to the protesters,
    which were greatly welcome on such a foul day.


    Despite my own liberal position, I am less critical of Jim
    Reynolds than you or Keith Sharpe, perhaps because the position of the DUP means
    we have a degree of organised political homophobia here that is unimaginable in
    England. I
    asked hard questions at the conference, was permitted to do so at some length,
    and Jim gave answers that were entirely reasonable given his own position.


    I was at that point prepared to come out and say what veteran
    NI gay activist PA MagLochlainn said in the most conservatively Protestant of
    our 3 daily newspapers the next day, that this conference represented a major
    shift in approach by the ex-gay movement and opened up the possibility of a
    mature dialogue.


    I was about to leave (to get to our daily lunchtime Eucharist
    in the city centre), when a freelance journalist who was covering the event
    said she was also leaving but would do interviews with people before she left.
    When she started to interview Dr. Lisa Nolland, I’m afraid I lost my temper. Dr.
    Nolland had nothing to say about homosexuality but instead started talking
    about four other sexual minority groups that she claimed were trying to
    piggyback on the success of the gay rights movement. She wound herself up in
    her own terminology, but basically the four groups were BDSM enthusiasts,
    polygamists and polyamorists, bestialists and paedophiles. When challenged by the
    journalist as to whether considered paedophiles to be different to gay men
    having consensual sex, she refused, saying “I would consider all forms of sex
    outside heterosexual marriage to be not God’s plan.” (Direct quote, I have an
    MP3 of this).


    I should not have lost my temper, if for no other reason
    that dealing with these people requires a cool head, but the gay=paedophile
    argument is incredibly destructive and I can’t believe that people are still
    trotting it out in 2012. In this part of the world it is, of course, a self-defeating
    argument for religious conservatives to advance; in other parts of the world it
    still has resonance and still has the potential to kill.


    The Presbyterian church where the event took place is next
    to a big industrial estate in the heart of working-class, Protestant, East Belfast.
    We protesters with our rainbow flags were given an endless stream of thumbs up
    and beeped horns, mostly from truck drivers, van drivers and taximen. You are
    losing the culture war, even here in socially conservative Northern
    Ireland. I wonder how much further damage
    you are prepared to inflict, and how many souls you are prepared to drive away
    from the Gospel for life, for the sake of a cause that will lose.

  8. It is debatable whether there is any  clear scientific evidence about 
    the development of sexual orientation and identity.
    One wonders, therefore, how you could “conclude well over a decade ago that the commonly trumped “born gay” hypothesis had little substance”  and how you could “take [anyone] through all the science from the past 30 years”You are, however, to be commended for saying that “it is not just nurture” and “those who claim an exclusive psycho-dynamic model for male homosexuality are deluding themselves.”It is concerning that you think “Lisa Nolland give a very impressive and insightful talk of sexual plasticity” that has stayed with you “as an important component in my thinking about modern culture and queer theory”.

    • Quite simple really. The argument that people are “born gay” has no firm scientific support. Neither has the argument that it is entirely nurture based. The best evidence from the past 30 years charts a path between those two (interestingly, one far more robust piece of recent research seems to point more towards the nurture then nature side).
      What we’re looking for in this debate is robust, impartial, repeatable studies that show clear evidence.

      Lisa Nolland has some very interesting things to say about the way a post-modern society forms it’s sexual identity. She can be right on some things and yet mistaken on others (or rather, mistaken in the idea that communicating certain sexual facts about small minorities is a valid argument against homosexuality in general).

      •  Peter,

        be careful in your reading of research to understand environmental. A number of studies attempt to separate unique vs shared environmental influence. Some or all of that may be described as ‘nuture’ but some of it (embryonic environment) most definitely should not be read that way, at least in the commonly accept sense of nurture as in ‘to parent’.

    • Hi Peter,

      dunno what happened to my careful paragraphing. No matter.

      Our discussion goes to the concept of scientific – there is no scientific *biological* evidence or support, but there is significant sociological & psychological support, via testimony.

      The notion a society has a sexual identity ‘in toto’ might be attributing inappropriately an overall, co-ordinated cognition to society – a cognition and decision-making that does not really occur. Regards.

      • The problem with testimony is that it is not very statistically rigorous. For every successful ex-gay testimony I can find I can also find an ex-ex-gay testimony as to how therapy did no good at all. The way to actually discern the truth is to do a proper longitudinal study that dispassionately follows a good sample of those undertaking such therapy and reports on the consequences.

        Such a study has been done.

        There is no scientific evidence to support the notion that people are simply “born gay”, but there is a good body of evidence to support the notion that biological factors may play a part in the development of sexual orientation and identity.

        • Hi, again. I mean’t “there is significant sociological & psychological support, via [widespread, universal] testimony” that homosexuality was not a choice – that it is a definite orientation, to the extent it is innate, inherent, yet something most homosexuals did not realize until they became more sexually aware, usually at puberty.
          That is why attempts at conversion therapy are fraught.

          There may be degrees of homosexuality; as there are degrees of sexuality, biologically (intersexes) and psychologically.

          The degree of homosexual innateness may vary to a certain degree between males and females.

          • But those are two different questions aren’t they? The first is whether having same-sex attraction is a choice – I don’t think there are very many people who would argue that position. But the second question, the mutability of sexuality, is independent of that first question.

            For example, let’s posit a scenario where homosexuality is largely driven by responses in the man to the family environment. In this scenario is it a choice? Of course not, because the developmental factors occur in early childhood and are driven by the parents, over which the child has very little control! Now, fast-forward to adulthood, and we have a man who experiences same-sex attraction through no fault of his own, but then discovers a reparative therapy which, upon completion, deals with a large part of the underlying emotional and relational issues which drove his homosexuality, and in the process that homosexuality diminishes.

            So we have a non-choice homosexuality which is then dealt with by therapy.

            Now, understand me very clearly – I am NOT arguing that that is actually how it works 9 times out of 10. Far from it. But I AM arguing that it is not incompatible to understand homosexuality as very much NOT a choice AND for it to be able to be amended.

            The fact that something is not chosen does not mean it is not mutable.

            • The relationship between body and mind, how we reconcile free agency and the determinism implicit in scientific causation are old issues in philosophy and perhaps sharper nowadays because Dawkins and New Atheism are peddling scientism as the only form of rational explanation. We don’t really know (or rather, there is no clear consensus) on how to reconcile free agency with determinism in any area, so the problems in same sex attraction are only the tip of a very large iceberg of responsibility for moral/immoral action.

  9. Peter, I think that’s sensible, however we might and do disagree about other things. But to suppose there is one “homosexuality” is probably a mistake in the first place. 

    • Anymore than there is one heterosexuality? I know it is fashionable among gay people to deny that bisexuality exists but I am persuaded that it does – perhaps more so among women than men, but I think there are people who are Kinsey 3s and 4s.

              •  Thanks Lazarus. That very helpfully confirms what I seem to have gleaned – that not everyone who is NOT bisexual
                can conceive that anyone might be drawn to both sexes. Perhaps this is
                because it is difficult enough to picture how anyone could be attracted
                to the sex that one does not fancy oneself, though we have to realise that that IS the case.
                Isn’t this somewhat analogous to the idea of fundamentalists like Ms
                Lisa Nolland and her buddies at Anglican Mainstrteam that no one is
                REALLY gay (or if you like, the atheists who cannot understand how
                anyone can truly believe what they themselves do not experience the need
                for? What they can’t imagine for themselves cannot be the real
                situation for anyone else.

                • Hi Tom (and Lazarus),

                  I think you’re right on this, but let me add one more thought to push the idea. Could we not equally say that if this is true, then the inability of those who are Kinsey 6 to perceive what Kinsey 0 would look like is one possible stumbling block to the success of SOCE? What I mean is, if you can’t conceptualise what you are trying to become, is it then harder to become that person?
                  That was certainly my experience, that a major blockage for me on re-structuring my sexual identity was because I couldn’t conceptualise myself as “straight”. Once I ignored that blockage things then started to happen – until I did then nothing really changed.
                  Just trying to push our boundaries. I love the fact this has become a safe-ish space to discuss these ideas amongst people of different experiences and viewpoints.

                  • Someone’s claim that he can’t conceive of someone who likes both same sex/other sex strikes me as just as odd as someone claiming that he can’t imagine anyone with (almost exclusive) same sex attraction: people like all sorts of strange things and mixed/same sex attraction might seem rather ordinary in comparison. So I suspect part of the problem here is we’re talking about something else going on beneath the surface meaning of the claim. Perhaps that deep meaning is really, ‘I can’t imagine my being like that’ (which is fair enough) or ‘I’ve an ideological commitment to refuse to accept anything other than gay./straight identities’ (just as a race campaigner might, in certain situations, refuse to accept anything other than black/white as a political strategy). If the former (which seems to have been your position in the past) is it any more strange than the common feeling we’ve all had that, ‘I can’t imagine myself doing that’? Eg: crossing a high ledge with a fear of heights -in which case the suggestion might well be, ‘Just don’t think about it -just put one step in front of the other.’ Analogously, you couldn’t imagine being straight, but you put one foot in front of the other -and here you are postgay! (Which I assume you just didn’t even think of as a category at the time.)

                    Agree on this safe space thing! There really is nothing else like it on the web -and both sides do need it.

  10. Peter, I wonder how your statistical training can lead to this statement?
    “It was my statistical training that led me to conclude well over a
    decade ago that the commonly trumped “born gay” hypothesis had little
    substance, but the same statistical training leads me to recognise that
    those who claim an exclusive psycho-dynamic model for male homosexuality
    are deluding themselves.”

    I will assume you are referring to twin studies, gene studies, neurological studies, fMRI etc. None of these have found anything like a root cause. There is plenty of statistical correlation. Contrariwise, since there is no consensual root cause, it is not possible to say that some people, at least, are not ‘born gay’.

    The consensus is that genetic, hormonal (esp. embryonic) and unique environmental factors (which include within the womb) are at play. These apply in the general. In the specific, there is no reason why genes alone or genes in combination with embryonic endocrinology are the only path towards being gay. It is simply not possible to say NO ONE is ‘born gay’. Only that, statistically speaking, homosexuality is, on the whole, across the population, is only partly influenced by unknown biological entity.

    • I’d be confident saying that there is no *significant* (used in the statistical sense) evidence that homosexualty is purely nature based.
      Is that a better way of expressing it?

      FWIW, I think your summary is pretty good.

  11. A few months ago I was having a curry in
    Fitzrovia, with a conservative Evangelical priest friend of mine in – it was a
    general catch up as my friend has moved away from London and so we only see
    each other when our schedules overlap.  I
    happened to mention how appalled I was at the wickedness of the
    Anglicanmainstream blog: its disproportionate (and often salacious and
    sneering) ‘reporting’ of gay issues.  My
    friend was a bit of a fan of Revd Sugden (we both knew his sister and her
    ministry).  However he had not heard of
    Anglicanmainstream (not being an IT and internet fan) – a few clicks of a mouse
    and his views changed. 


    As you note ‘The general public are
    simply not interested in this [negative] kind of approach. They see it as
    equating homosexuality with promiscuity and the most offensive sexual
    practices, and since they all have gay friends who are not involved in either
    of those things, they just see it as demonization’.  Perhaps it is time to realise that for not
    just ‘the general public’ but for a fair number of conservative Christians, a
    disproportionate interest in matters of sexuality – complete with innuendo and
    smearing  – just doesn’t relate to everyday
    life and/or most people’s knowledge of homosexuals.


    The constant, almost gleeful, effort to labour
    a pathology of homosexuals and homosexuality is, perhaps being seen for what it
    is…  And people have got wise to it and
    are getting bored of it.  We can but
    hope.  As Revd John Richardson said a few
    weeks ago in reply to a comment on his blog: 
    ‘My experience within conservative evangelical circles is that there are
    many areas of life – for example to do with business, ambition, class, culture,
    etc – where we do not give nearly enough attention to the implications of the
    gospel. We are good on a narrow range of things, but we have yet to achieve
    anything like the breadth of application of our forebears.’ (see:
    )  I think these are sobering and
    pertinent words in light of the above – despite being one half of a same-sex
    couple (and a very happy one – after 20 odd years of conservative Christian
    inspired celibacy) I happily acknowledge that conservative Christians have something
    to say about sexuality.  But it has to be
    proportionate – and even handed.  I do
    hope the tide is now turning and that ‘the gay issue’ like many ‘big issues’ of
    church life over the years, will slip out of fashion and be replaced by
    something more pertinent, challenging and effecting the many, rather than the


    Peter Denshaw


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