Mr. Hetero Part Two — The Danger

Although I wrote that this event was not outwardly “mean-spirited”, I believe it was downright dangerous, particularly for youth.

When I was a young person struggling with same-sex attractions, I often tried to decode behavior around me. How did normal guys operate? How did they greet each other? How did they walk, laugh, dress and how could I copy them?

If I were my queer youth self sitting in the Mr. Hetero audience, here are some of the messages that I would have heard.

The Events

The Best Use of Duct Tape
Highlights: men demonstrated how they used duct tape to remove lint from their clothing, trim down unsightly body hair and clean the gunk out of their belly buttons.
What I learned: Straight men value self grooming albeit in a primitive fashion.

Name the Food Where blindfolded straight men identified different junk foods by tasting them.
Highlight: When Jimmy identified the first item to be Lays Original Potato Chips, Pastor Tom Crouse was not going to let that past. As a literalist, he wanted to hear Lays Classic. The crowd pressured him into relenting.
What I learned Straight men value junk food and have leanings towards being literal when it comes to written texts.

Wedding Proposal Where men demonstrated how they proposed to their wives or how they will propose to prospective wife.
Highlight: After hearing some pretty lame and self-centered proposals (and cute ones too) contestant Pat, stole the show. He hopped off the stage, knelt before his wife seated in the front row and proposed to her anew thanking her for being so patient with him then he expressed his commitment to a partnership where they help each other grow in life, love and faith. A stunning moment of healthy relating. Many women in the audience (oh and me too) dabbed the tears away from our eyes.
What I learned Most straight men don’t know how to talk to women yet somehow stumble along, but some may genuinely care about healthy, loving partnerships. (Hey so do I!)

Highlight: The crowd went wild when Jimmy belted out a 1980’s rock anthem. Lots of other performances, some less than noteworthy, but all done with heart.
What I learned Straight men can be goofy and even play with queer themes, but only as part of an act.

Strength (or tearing up Oprah’s O magazine). Tom Crouse totally backpeddled on this one. He said he didn’t understand what the fuss was about in the press. He claims he chose Oprah’s magazine simply because it was the thickest one. Lame, lame, lame and it sounded like a lie. This event wasn’t about strength, if it were, then why did each man get just one magazine to tear up? It was a symbolic gesture. (yes and they also tore up one Sports Illustrated, but not the coveted swimsuit issue).

This event was NOT about strenth. It was about power and the fear that power is being lost to folks who shouldn’t have it.

The entire audience was white, except for the young Black minister imported from Springfield, MA who endorsed the event with an opening prayer.

I’ve heard white folks talk with derision about Oprah for years. Why? I reckon it is because she is a strong, independent, successful, unmarried rich Black woman who gets women to talk to each other about the issues and their lives (oh, and gets lots of folks to read books). But Tom Crouse cannot say this from the platform or behind the mic (and perhaps he hasn’t even articulated it for himself yet but lives with a vague disdain for Oprah without ever investigating what it is all about).

What I learned some straight white men choose to do something that is offensive, doggedly stick to it,then think they can get away with a thoughtless and disingenuous explanation about it,(and most often they do).

That’s just the FUN stuff. The real danger that was preached to us (and put on the big screen and t-shirts) is that heterosexuality is designed by God, and in effect everything else is deformed, defective and demonic.

Hearing that message explicitly and implicitly, it is no wonder that 22-year-old Jonathan, raised in the church with a preacher father, lived a double life for years, hiding his same-sex attractions. Imported from a Bible school many hundreds of miles away, Jonathan shared his testimony with us of how he repented of homosexuality.

I have no doubt that he has repented, but I feel pretty sure that like the hundreds former “ex-gays” and handful of current “ex-gays” I know, he still struggles with same-sex attractions. But he knows that to survive in his heteronormative Christian family, church and college, he has to live free of homosexuality or at least proclaim that he is free.

Sadly when he slips up one too many times or even begins to questions things, he will most likely find himself on the outside, maybe even homeless. (yes, it happens all the time in good Christian homes and many queer Christian youth end up taking their own lives).

I love speaking with teens and 20-somethings. I appreciate their insights, honesty and creativity. But I felt shock when I spoke with some young people after the Mr. Hetero event. I told them that I am a gay Christian. I instantly got challenges in the form of questions. “What do you mean by Christian? Don’t you know that the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin?”

I attempted to tell them a little of my story, how I spent 17 years seeking God, reading the scriptures, doing everything in my power to change into a heterosexual (since I too had believed it was designed by God), but I had to come to new conclusions and work even more years to integrate my faith into my life. They would have none of it. They wouldn’t even let me tell my story. They literally shut me down.

As a friend reminded me afterwards, they couldn’t hear my story. It was too threatening. They had to stick with the party-line because to take in anything else might undermine their whole world view.

So sad to hear young people parrot back what they have been told without being able to at least listen to the history of someone who grappled with these issues for over 20 years. I value their opinions, but I tried to explain that I have heard what they had to say all before (I used to preach it myself) but they have yet to hear me and stories like mine.

But that is the dangerous part of all. I walked away from Mr. Hetero with the understanding that there is only ONE valid story that Tom Crouse and men like him want to have told. Not Oprah’s story, not a non-Christian’s story, not a queer Christian story, not a lesbian’s story or a bisexual’s story or a transsexual’s story or a gay man’s story.

Tom Crouse will claim that it is the Bible story he wants told, but even with the sermon he inserted in the middle of the event, I didn’t hear the Bible story, I heard the story of territorial rights, the story of hanging onto every bit of power and privilege some folks have enjoyed for centuries, the story of oppressing others so that one group can come out on top.

That is a violent story and a dangerous story and one that has been told far too many times already.

This post has 18 Comments

  1. Bob Painter on February 21, 2006 at 4:11 pm

    Powerful blog, Petey…Thanks!

    It’s no wonder that so many gay Christians denounce their own faith at some point in the process of coming out. Not only is homosexuality not accepted by straight Christians, but what tender gay man would want to be anything like the straight oppressors who constantly deride him and finally ostracize him?

    Jesus was a man of strength. His integrity is unparalleled. But he was also meek and affirming to those who were the outcasts of the religious right…

  2. Contemplative Activist on February 21, 2006 at 10:17 pm

    A really thoughtful reflection there Peterson. I suspect what you observed at the Mr. Hetero contest was reflective of the general culture & atmosphere in many places.

    Keep telling your story – sooner or later, some people become ready to hear.

    I take it Chad didn’t enter then…;)

  3. Ann on February 21, 2006 at 11:50 pm

    I have to wonder if we’ve been so anesthesitized by our “talk to the hand” and “whatever” culture that we no longer can feel when words and acts are mean-spirited. Is our own family “humor” so frequently tinged with barbs, put-downs, sarcasm, and ridicule that unless we’re actually bashed by a brick-bat, we’re compelled to label good old-fashioned meanness for something else when directed at us? Maybe we just don’t have much of the high ground to stand on ourselves?

    Was this event conducted in spirit of generosity, encouragement, broad-mindedness, and respect toward glbt folks, Catholics and others with whom the organizers disagree? From your account and another I read, I don’t hear any of the above.

    How often do good folks “just having some fun” cover-up ridicule, condesension, projection, and minimization of those they fear? Today I’ve noticed some teens think adding “just kidding” allows them to get away with making the meanest of comments about others. Maybe “Mr. Hetero” is just another sign of our mean times… This much I’m sure of…where there is a spirt of fear, there is an absence of love. And where there is an absence of love, I suspect a spirit of meanness most readily thrives.

  4. Anonymous on February 22, 2006 at 3:14 am

    I know this story well. I have played it for almost 28 years and have been miserable. Thats what a minister does in a homophobic church. It takes so much energy to be hetero when your not. When will the church get it…that its ok to be different. Lee

  5. Mr Hetero on February 22, 2006 at 4:20 am

    Well, churches are not “homophobic” in any sense whatsoever. Its AGAINST our beliefs! The bible strictly states that homosexuality is a sin, and a sinful lifestyle, just as a person that is a theif, adulterer, or murderer. Its too bad that you guys put so much emphasis on Pastor Tom being “fearful” or “afraid” when you cannot realize that this contest was to have fun, and not to gay-bash! Of course we had a testimony of a young man that was changed through Jesus from his sinful lifestyle, and Pastor Tom explained the sin of homosexuality to the crowd. The problem is not that Tom or anyone there was afraid, it is that we are the first ones to stand up for our faith and say what is true! Look at our anatomy, people; men aren’t meant to re-produce with other men!

  6. Steve Boese on February 22, 2006 at 6:54 am

    I’m stymied when I try to get my arms around faith in which people are called to limit their examination of faith. Litmus tests are antithetical to weighing difficult mysteries of faith, it seems to me.

    I can’t escape the image of my partner Dale as I picture the Mr. Hetero event. I think he got the message that it was ok to be a playful, creative, often non-traditional male. He loved his big pickup and camping trailer, and he was adored at church for his tender heart as well as his raucous touch at the piano while leading hymns.

    His treatment-resistant depression certainly contributed to his suicide at 47, but so did discovering that being gay meant living outside the church and music ministry that he had loved for 25 years.

    The purportedly masculine trait that Dale didn’t quite get his arms around was the toughness necessary to say “I don’t care if the Tom Crouses of the world don’t like the fact that I exist.” He was a tender soul, and the world is a better place for his tenderness.

    But Dale also got the message that continuing his coming-out journey would mean disappointing former church friends and loved ones and being told that his decades of struggle had produced the wrong result — that his was no longer a valid story.

  7. Anonymous on February 22, 2006 at 8:13 am

    Mr. Hetero, sex is about more than reproducing. Also, let me mention that the anatomy is a lot more interesting and has varied purposes that your mind cannot conceive. If God’s creation is great, it can be used in many ways.

  8. Bob Painter on February 22, 2006 at 3:15 pm

    On January 29, I went to church as I usually do for Sunday night worship. I have played the piano for 29 years and also sing in the Sunday night praise team.

    Due to an emergency with one of our church members, our pastor was called away moments before the service. Our co-pastor, my music director and friend, was thrown into the position of providing the night’s sermon without any preparation.

    He told me when I walked up to sing with him that he would be speaking that night and asked if I would play the piano underneath his comments. I was happy to do so.

    A few minutes into the message, Charles began commenting about the degradation of our world–especially the United States. He pinned much of the blame on our acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle.

    (Charles knows about my being gay.)

    I had heard it all before. I was hurt, but I was accustomed to these kind of comments coming from the pulpit.

    Continuing his point, Charles made reference to the popularity of “Brokeback Mountain”–a movie I’ve seen three times and love. He said he longed for a return to the days of John Wayne because if John were around he would kill all of these gay cowboys. The congregation laughed.

    My hurt intensified a thousand times. My blood pressure rose so high I thought I might have a heart attack as I sat there playing lovely chords underneath this vicious comment.

    I called Charles the next morning and resigned my position. He asked why, and I told him I felt abused by him. He wanted examples, and I shared with him the hurt I felt about his “killing the gay cowboys” comment.

    He reiterated the sinfulness of homosexuality but never apologized for the comment.

    Was that comment “mean-spirited”? No. It was downright violent. Even in jest, it was totally inappropriate from the pulpit.

    Steve, I’m sorry about what happened to your beloved Dale. I have been there…recently. And now I begin my journey to find another church–one that preaches Christ crucified, the Bible as God’s Word, and loves me as a gay man.

    I’m not sure what I would do if I didn’t have friends like Peterson and Ann to love me through this time of pain.

    Mr. Hetero, I can respect your difference of opinion, but I hope you can accept my sadness for your opinion as well.

  9. Bruce Garrett on February 22, 2006 at 6:22 pm

    Look at our anatomy, people; men aren’t meant to re-produce with other men!

    You look at it. It possible to bring a human male to orgasm by massaging their prostate gland. I don’t know of any other glands inside the human body that produce a sensation of pleasure from massaging them, do you? Yet that one, which happens to be located where it is, does. Tell me what possible other purpose that’s for. Go ahead.

    Socialization didn’t produce that. Loose morals didn’t produce that. Straying from the golden path of righteousness didn’t produce that. Millions of years of adaptive evolution did that. You need to look a little more carefully at the human body before you start yap, yap, yapping your head off about how homosexuality is contradicted by human anatomy. The male sex may not be built to reproduce all by itself, but reproduction isn’t all there is to sex, and the male body is in point of fact very well adapted to same sex, sex.

    Of course you may not accept the idea of adaptive evolution. Fine. Then God did it.

  10. Contemplative Activist on February 22, 2006 at 7:03 pm

    My God ,Bob_P – I cannot even begin to imagine how it must have felt to sit there playing the piano, in front of so many people and hear those words spoken.

    Sympathies – I hope you are able to find a place where you are welcomed and nurtured as a gay Christian man.

    Peace to you.


  11. Reba on February 23, 2006 at 2:45 am

    Thank you all for sharing these experiences. It gives me some insight that, even as an accepting person, I never had.

    You know what, Mr. Hetero? There’s more to love than sex. I am sorry that you think loving relationships are bounded only by our sexual organs. I’ve been married over 13 years and my husband and I are still exploring our love. When my sister and her partner died suddenly, we found enough love letters to fill a large box. They mailed them to each other even though they lived together. They left them on the fridge or in a book or on the nightstand. Everyone should receive such words of love as they shared, such caring and joy and humor, such honest regret when they had been less than kind. How you can think that God meant to limit such an amazing thing as love is beyond me. God is not so small.

  12. Anonymous on February 23, 2006 at 5:31 am

    Thank you for a very eloquent blog post, Peterson. I’m another queer Christian, and I’m just sorry those guys refused to listen to your reasoning (which was, I’m going to take a guess from the mean-spirited tenor of the event) probably a lot more prayerful and genuinely Christian than their reasoning.

    Bob P., I’m sorry, that experience must have been horrible. Good for you for resigning and explaining why, though. I’m sad that a *pastor* would advocate violence from the pulpit. Have you considered joining the Anglican Church (Episcopalian in the USA)? While each parish has a lot of independence, many parishes are very gay-friendly. My parish’s head priest is a partnered gay man, and the organist is too. While the majority of the congregation are straight, they are by and large very supportive of the struggles of their queer fellow parishioners. Basically, any Episcopalian Church that uses words like “welcoming community” to describe itself is probably going to be progressive. The United Church is another Protestant denomination with a long history of inclusion of queer parishioners. Not being a member of that church, I don’t know much about them beyond that, but if the Episcopalian Church isnt’ a good fit for you doctrinally, the United Church might be a good one to try.


    raincitygirl at gmail dot com

  13. Gregory on February 23, 2006 at 2:28 pm

    I, for one, am thrilled to hear of this use for duct tape! I think Mr. Hetero has taught the community something extremely valuable. (And, no, I’m not sure if I’m sarcastic, either.)

    It seems to me that Mr. Hetero and Pastor Tom can make a pretty valid argument about the need for safe places for men to be men. And “it would sound like wisdom, but for the warning in my heart.”

    Lately, I wonder how it is that we begin to educate the masses about power. A power analysis is critical to any justice movement. Power, unfortunately, is invisible to those who wield it. Power is also relational; few (if any) of us are truly 100% power-less. (A very simplistic example: a poor man has more power when in conversation with a poor woman.) It is when we are unaware of our power that we risk real betrayal.

    Men don’t need permission to be men, nor do they need safe spaces. The entire world is built around the needs and desires of men. What these Mr. Hetero men perceive as danger is, in fact, a greater accountability and awareness being expected of the powerful. Men are being asked to reflect on how their self-actualization might impact all those around them.

    For a long time now, the quality of what makes a man a man has been negatively defined. It’s less that a man is something; it’s more about what he’s not. A manly man is NOT a sissy. A manly man can hammer and drill and grunt, but he CANNOT cook, sew or primp properly. A manly man can’t be too feminine. What is ‘man’ is defined by demeaning that which is ‘not man.’

    It sounds like Mr. Hetero could have been a chance to help men positively define who they are (without negating the existence of any subjugated peoples). It sounds like Mr. Hetero has a long way yet to go.

  14. Jeremy Marks on February 23, 2006 at 4:17 pm

    I think there is a cultural thing here.

    Please forgive me Peterson if this sounds really awful – the mind of a crabby old fashioned and probably very snobbish Englishman! But looking at the report of the Mr Hetero event, I find myself feeling staggered that such an event could even be staged – it might just be the way the writer reports the event, coupled with the fact that the notion is a very un-English kind of event (so I find myself just incredulous) – an event that I don’t believe could ever take place in the UK.

    But to me, the whole account describes an event so low in utter vulgarity and bad taste, that I find myself gasping with incredulity and amazed that the organisers are not so embarrassed to expose themselves in this way that they don’t want to dig a great big hole for themselves and jump in it – to disappear from public life forever!

    Roy Clements once told me that when he was a pastor in Africa for some years, (and Roy is a brilliant bible expositor) a black man asked him, “Why is that white men always think that they know what is right for the black man – as if we black people cannot seekGod for ourselves?”

    By the same token, why is it that straight white male pastors cannot listen to those of us who are Christian and gay who have sought God on the subject for years – often with loud cries and tears (he should read and meditate on Hebrews 5:7-9 – all about Jesus learning obedience through suffering.)

    What I learned through such times of suffering and seeking God is that God does not want me to be concerned for my reputation (as a squeaky-clean man who can pass, falsely for a Hetero) but that I should live a life that is honest, true and authentic before God and man, hall-marked with love and faithfulness.

  15. Anonymous on March 10, 2006 at 4:33 am

    I have been reading these posts and I commend you for all being honest with your experience. My question is: what makes your experience any more valid then the experience of the man who was homosexual and repented of his sin and was saved by the blood of Christ.

    The man that gave his testimony at Mr. Hetero testified as to Jesus Christ saving him from his sin. He made a point I would like to repeat, that it wasn’t just from homosexuality. It was from all sin. Jesus didn’t die for homosexuality. He died for sin. Now the question for those of you on here seems to be is homosexuality a sin. Actually now that I think about it, you don’t seem to be questioning it being a sin; which you shouldn’t but for the wrong reason. You shouldn’t question it because God’s word is so very clear on this matter, but instead, due to the hardness of your hearts you have repressed the fact that God has spoken such as being sin. You are repeating as Satan did in the garden, “Did God really say…”

    In Leviticus I am aware of the homosexual stance, but with your misinterpretation of ceremonial laws and moral laws you can make it say whatever you want. I am aware that the account of Sodom and Gomorah is twisted into saying it was destroyed for hospitality. Again, the bible is very clear, you are only decieving yourselves making it say something it so clearly doesn’t.

    What is even more clear is in Corinthian 6:9 where it says and I quote from the ESV, “do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be decieved; neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor theives, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindler will inherit the kingdom of God.”

    None of these will. None who continue to practice such things as it says in first John regarding the sinner will inherit the kingdom of God. it is not about you stopping your sin, it is about Christ saving you from your sin. But to your own destruction, when you live in your sin and fight with yourself to believe it is not a sin you are only leading yourself into hell with a smile.

    this problem leads back to a bigger problem with modern day evangelism. Some may believe they are Christians due to a prayer they prayed or an aisle they walked, but let me tell you the bible is clear you shall know them by their fruit. Romans 6:1 says, “shall we continue to sin so that grace may abound? by no means we died to sin how can we live in it any longer?”.

    so homosexual, heterosexual whoever is reading this. before God, you are a sinner. God is holy and just and because of your sin all you have earned before him is death. you dont deserve anything more. God has created you and you have fought against him defaming his name. ephesians 2: describes everyone unequivically as dead. we are all dead in our sins. we are all born sinners. sin isnt about us as much as it is about robbing God of his glory. we are called to repend and believe in Christ for the forgiveness of sins, that Christ paid the price for sins on calvary. That he laid down his life for his sheep. True love was shown that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

    Christ didnt just die but he rose again conquering death. the power of God is seen and the sufficiency of the sacrifice as well as the acceptance of it is seen.

    Seeing that love upon the cross, that he received the wrath of God that we deserved there is freedom from the hold of sin. The bible says that if we love him we will obey his commands. We can’t pick and choose what Jesus says. The Spirit of Jesus is what carried along all the New Testament writers to write and the Old Testament was said to be God’s Word by God himself, Jesus Christ.

    By the authority of scripture your experience can say you are a Christian and openly homosexual just like a heterosexual who is living in sexual sin can say such but the bible is clear, many will say Lord Lord on that day and he will say depart from me I never knew you. The bible is clear that there are many who are deceived and the bible describes those that are deceived as being JUST LIKE YOU. REPENT and believe in Christ. It says in 1 Corinthias 13:5 says to examine yourselves to see whether your in the faith, test yourselves, do you not know that Christ Jesus is in you unless of course you fail the test. I am telling you by the authority of Scripture that if you are living in ANY SIN UNREPENTANT you can’t claim to love God. Yes, everyone still sins, but as a Christian it no longer distinguishes a life. A true Christian battles sin. They hate it and want to rid themselves of it. God is the one who has begun the good work in the life of a believer and will carry it on to completion. God will not leave a saved sinner in a state of cherishing their sin. The law doesn’t save. Living by God’s law won’t save you. It only points out your sin, points out your condemnation. (Rom 3) Everything points to faith. We are saved by grace through faith. Ask God to give you faith to believe.

    There isn’t much more I can say to this. I hope you can see your self deception in this that you are trusting in your own authority and raising yourself to being God when you deny God’s Word as you do.

    On another note, have some more class than to relate your sin to black people. Being black is not a sin. I have never met a black man who was saved into a white man. That is absurd. I have met a homosexual man that was saved and is no longer homosexual though. Your remarks are offensive to the black community!

  16. Anonymous on May 5, 2006 at 4:37 pm

    “Your remarks are offensive to the black community!”

    I am a black gay man and I am here to tell you that you have absolutely no authority whatsoever to speak for the black community.

    Furthermore, I question your motives for posting on this forum. Your words hurt, they do not heal. You are clearly not gay, so what brought you here? I suspect it the arrogance and self-righteousness typical of the Pharisees.

  17. Hetero supporter on August 30, 2006 at 6:30 pm

    Remember, a Christian is defined as “little Christ” – a follower of Jesus Christ, not someone that merely believes in God, or some of his statues.
    The hetero contest was not held to tell anyone that they’re bad people, or wrong, or any of that nature.
    The bible clearly states (on several occasions) that homosexuality is not accepted by the Lord. JUST AS murdering, cheating, stealing, or any other SINS.
    If there were a contest held to celebrate the freedom from pride in our hearts, it’d be the same intention as Mr Hetero was.
    There is nothing about entrenched powers, or being higher than anyone else – stop with that nonsense.
    All Pastor Tom is pointing out is what the bible clearly states.
    if you want to argue doctrine, then argue doctrine.
    Don’t argue with power stuggles, or fear, or any of that nonsense you try to bring up, because thats not the point, thats not the argument. Marriage is originally defined as a union of soul and flesh between man and woman. The term marriage is a holy term designed and given to us by GOD for a man and a woman to wed one another.
    If 2 same-sex people want to become “unified” or “binded by law together” thats fine!
    But don’t change around the definition of a word given by a holy God.
    God is good! (all the time)
    Peace be with you all

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