Ted Haggard, Bisexual?

There are few questions in the LGBT community as controversial as “who is a bisexual.” Gays and lesbians are often as suspicious of bisexuality as heterosexuals and bisexuals insist it is more common than people assume, but maybe not as common as some people would suggest.

Which leads us, oddly, to Ted Haggard who has come out as a bisexual . . . sort of.  In an interview with Kevin Roose for Gentleman’s Quarterly, Haggard says that he would be bisexual if he was 21, but then suggests that he continues to suppress his sexual attraction to men.

For the first time since we’ve met, Ted isn’t looking directly at me. “Here’s where I really am on this issue,” he half whispers. “I think that probably, if I were 21 in this society, I would identify myself as a bisexual.” After a weekend of Ted trying to convince me of his unambiguous devotion to his wife and kids, I’m at first too surprised to say anything.

“So why not now?” I ask finally.

“Because, Kevin, I’m 54, with children, with a belief system, and I can have enforced boundaries in my life. Just like you’re a heterosexual but you don’t have sex with every woman that you’re attracted to, so I can be who I am and exclusively have sex with my wife and be perfectly satisfied.”

“But what does it have to do with being 54?”

“Life!” he says. “We live an ordinary life.”

It’s the most intimate exchange we’ve had, and the confession strikes me first as sad, then as nakedly honest, the kind of thing I kept wishing he would say to Oprah or Larry King or any of the other people who have demanded explanations of his muddled sexuality. In a way, hearing Ted talk about his self-imposed boundaries makes it easier to understand how he can seem so fulfilled with his new, cleaned-up life. These days what Ted craves is not total sexual satisfaction but exactly the things he used to have—a church, a loving wife, camping trips with his boys—and getting those things back will require amputating part of who he is and what he might, at some point, have wanted.

Haggard acknowledges that he masturbated to gay and straight porn, but remains ambiguous about his alleged sexual relationship with a male prostitute. So is he bisexual? Well, that’s the million dollar question. It’s hard to know what to believe about Haggard. Is he like a man on the DL who describes himself as bisexual as a cover or lack of self-awareness? What is his definition of a bisexual?

As the Haggard story continues to be discussed, journalists should consider taking a look at the BWA media guide put out by the Bi Writers Association.  It has a good discussion of what bisexuality is and some interesting case studies (Larry Craig and Tila Tequila) on how the media deals with the issue of sexual identity.

In the end, Haggard is an enigma and something of a chameleon.  I’m not sure whether I would describe him as bisexual or gay or straight if I was forced to pin it down in an article.   What we know is what he says: he has sexual attractions to men and women, has sought sexual gratification from both gay and straight porn, and that he is suppressing certain urges because he loves his wife and wants a certain life.  Does that make him bisexual?

3 Responses

  1. So many men go through life questioning themselves, wondering if this amazing attraction to other men is just coincidence or the real thing. So many act on the attraction, get caught and immediately deny to everyone else that 1) it happened at all; 2) that even if it happened, there was no meaning in it; 3) “there’s no way I’m gay…I’m a red-blooded man!”

    Unfortunately, our society still makes it extremely difficult for us to own up to our true sexual nature…and even when we do, there is still an element (a large element) of the society that wants us to shut up and go away. No wonder it’s hard for Ted.

  2. Once again our insistence on binary thought reveals its limitations. As a culture, we’re afraid of sexuality in general. I’m convinced Kinsey was right in describing a continuum of sexual attraction. There is heterophobia beside homophobia and the disrespect shown to persons via bullying into taking on a label only makes the process more painful to that individual.

  3. Monogamous bisexuals always have to set things aside a bit for the sake of the relationship. I understood that to be monogamous with my husband, I may not sleep with other men or women ever again, and decided I wanted monogamy anyway (my choice, I hate the drama that comes with poly). However, I do NOT suppress my attractions. I can’t. I tried all through high school to do that and it left me a damaged and confused person, incapable of having healthy relationships when I did try to have them. With it comes shame, constant guilt and makes you despise yourself and your spouse. It actually makes you want to cheat, break any and all rules to have this thing you’ve built up and glorified in your mine. I still watch porn, and I’m not just looking at the guys and my husband is fine with that. I still check out girls, and we often find ourselves checking out the same girls. I have a rich fantasy life and a fulfilling sex life. I have close relationships with women.

    I don’t think Ted is doing what I’m doing. I’m still bisexual, as in, if Scott and I broke up or something, I might date a man or a woman, or perhaps I’d find a poly arrangement, and while we are together, I don’t stop or try to stop being attracted to both men and women. Sure I’m monogamous, I don’t go out sleeping with anyone, but sexuality, unlike having a set of relationship rules (which anyone, gay, straight or bi has to do for a good relationship, and often may not enjoy so much), is not a choice. Sexuality is like a caged tiger. If the door isn’t open, it will try and chew through the bars. I let the tiger out into a pen to let it run around. Ted here is zapping his with a tazer.

    You can’t can’t CAN’T turn off sexuality, whether you’re gay, straight or bisexual.You can have such a low sex drive it’s not even there but you will still be attracted to people. You can restrict yourself to never seeing people you’re attracted to, and that’s no way to live. Ted needs to come to terms with who he is, because if he’s bi and trying to suppress his attraction to men, it could negatively affect his marriage, and that, I believe, is much more important than his religion or social status or anything. If he loves her, he needs to take care of himself for her sake.

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