Pondering “Out of a Far Country”: Conflating Issues

There’s a part of me that wishes I lived in a different world.  That part of me wishes that I lived in a world where the Yuans’ book, “Out of a Far Country,” existed in a vacuum.  In such a world, I could appreciate the book for its own merits and my discussion of it would be complete with my previous post on the topic and a brief explanation of where I disagree with Christopher’s conclusions and theology and leave it at that.

Unfortunately, that’s not the reality I occupy.  In reality, I live in a world where some people — influential people — have invested a great deal of time and money in presenting QUILTBAG people — particularly gay men — in the worst light possible.  There are those who still either explicitly or implicitly seek to link homosexuality with substance abuse, pedophilia, risky sex, and other destructive behaviors.

Such people like men like Christopher Yuan.  They love such men’s stories, because they can point those men’s experiences, generalize them, and say, “See?  This is what all gay men (and QUILTBAG people in general) are like!”  Courageous men like Christopher — and I do not discount his courage or the truly amazing nature of his transformative journey — become tools in the anti-gay political machine’s to inaccurately paint and even dehumanize an entire class of people.

Some may feel that it’s unfair to hold Christopher responsible for how others might misuse his story.  After all, such people are responsible for their own actions some might say.  And in many ways that’s quite correct.  However, I will note that Christopher and Angela are not isolated or separate from the very community that would misuse this book to generalize about all QUILTBAG people.  Indeed, the book makes it quite clear that Christopher and Angela were familiar with groups like Exodus International — which has spent years cultivating the “gay lifestyle = risky sex and substance abuse” narratives. In fact, in the chapter “Holy Sexuality,” Christopher invokes the common Exodus slogan, “The opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality, but holiness,” and talks about “gay identity” that is identical to the view expressed by many ex-gay groups and individuals.

As such, I have to assume that Christopher knew how his story would be perceived and presented by others.  I find the fact that he did nothing to address that and point out that his story is unique and not representative of all gay men, let alone QUILTBAG people in general, troubling and questionable.

He spends much of the book talking about friends — friends that eventually abandon him — from the circuit party scene, from the drug scene, from the porn scene.  And I have no doubt that they did exactly that.  But he makes no note that the problem isn’t that his friends were gay, but were part of scenes that are notorious for being filled with the kind of people who are only friends of convenience.  Perhaps Christopher didn’t make any gay friends from other scenes — coffee shops, pub-style gay bars, social groups, or groups that have a political/social justice bent — that tend to be filled with gay people who are more likely to swarm around someone in need.  People get involved in different scenes after all, and I’m not questioning his experience.  But again, as someone who should know what the narrative many conservative evangelical Christians try to push concerning QUILTBAG people, I’m troubled that he put in no effort to make it clear that his friends’ abandonment of him was probably far more influenced by factors other than their sexual orientation.

I find the same problem in the chapter “Holy Sexuality,” which I hope to cover more in a future blog post.  But for now, I’d like to note that Christopher describes the sequence in which he identifies and eliminates his “idols.”  He starts by identifying drug use as an idol and something he needs to live without, which I can certainly agree with.  Then he moves on to determine that dance music and the party scene is idol for him.  He is quick to note, however, that there is nothing inherently wrong with dance music or going to clubs.  He simply points out that he does not believe that he could do these things without falling back into old drug habits.  I can certainly understand this and honor his personal wisdom in realizing what he needs to do for himself in order to keep himself healthy and under control.  I’ll also note that in a sense, he also acknowledges this as a personal struggle and a personal choice of how to deal with it.  He doesn’t try to make it a universal ban on dance music and clubbing for all people.

Then he gets to the issue of sex.  He describes his own relationship to sex as follows:

I had an addiction to sex.  Having several anonymous partners at a bathhouse in the same day had been nothing out of the ordinary for me.

An actual addiction to sex is a serious problem, and I sympathize with Christopher and anyone else who has struggled with sexual addiction.  But Christopher jumps from the above statement right to the question of living without sex at all.  It’s as if in Christopher’s mind, there’s no middle ground here.  A gay man is either celibate or he is addicted to sex.

Perhaps he doesn’t mean that.[1]  Perhaps he means this as a personal decision, that for him, the only way to break free from the sexual addiction he felt was to turn to abstinence.  If that is the case, then I can respect that as another personal decision based on personal struggles.

However, the context of the rest of the chapter doesn’t leave me with that impression.  But my analysis of the rest of his views on holy sexuality will have to wait for another post.  And at any rate, given the tendency of many in the ex-gay/anti-gay movement(s) to conflate homosexuality and sexual addiction/”promiscuity,” I’m still concerned that he either intentionally or unintentionally contributed to that conflation by not addressing the issue.

Notes:
[1]  Assuming the email I received regarding my last post, Christopher is reading my blog posts concerning his and his mother’s books.  Given that, perhaps he will see fit to clarify what his thinking/intent on this and my other concerns are.

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