October 2002

Michael Schaub


The Unhappy Gays: What Everyone Should Know About

Yes, he's for real. It's time for all us book lovers to take a deep breath and admit that America's current bestselling novelist is a fundamentalist Christian preacher with batshit-crazy theories on sexuality, psychology and the end of the world. I don't know how it happened, either. Just five years ago, the most offensive book you could encounter at Wal-Mart was Michael Crichton's latest lame-ass novel, or Marilu Henner's newest book about how to raise your kids. Now it's Left Behind, the series of Christian post-apocalyptic thrillers co-authored by LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins (who does all of the actual writing). The series has spawned comic books, board games, and yes, a Kirk Cameron movie (a second one is forthcoming). It's not just LaHaye's fellow fundamentalists who are eating this stuff up, either -- he's somehow managed to find an audience among certain agnostics, Jews, gays and Catholics, all groups he regards rather venomously. So what the hell is the attraction?

I don't know, because there's no fucking way I'm reading the Left Behind books. I might write about propaganda on a regular basis, but I still have my standards, dammit. Instead, I've chosen to focus on The Unhappy Gays, LaHaye's 1978 opus (now, apparently, out of print) about the evils of homosexuality. After reading it, I'm even more confused about the man's popularity. The guy actually believes in the four-temperament theory of psychology -- but I'm getting ahead of myself. And besides, it's way too obvious to call fundamentalist Christians on believing illogical crap. That's pretty much their job.

It's a job LaHaye is cut out for, clearly. In case the too-subtle title didn't clue you in, LaHaye's publishers chose to make his views on sexual identity clear with the cover illustrations. On the front, there's a rusty chain. This symbolizes, one supposes, the way gay men and women are chained to their godless lifestyle. They're slaves, see, and LaHaye is the Great Liberator. On the back cover, there's a photograph of a dour-looking bearded man holding a protest sign which reads, "I am 32 years old. I laugh, I cry, I express joy and sadness, love and anger. I am an attorney. I pay my taxes and bills. I believe there is a God -- and I am at peace with that understanding. I am also a homosexual -- and I'd not want it any other way!" Clearly, the guy has something to learn about keeping protest signs short, but his presence on the back of his book suggests that LaHaye wants us to know that they walk among us, and we should be careful.

Careful of what? Glad you asked. LaHaye lays out the consequences of a "homosexual society," and if you're a God-fearing Jesus type, well, it don't look too good, partner. The first danger is that a gay-friendly society will "double the homosexual community in the next decade." Yeah, because if gays are allowed to reproduce, then they'll...uh...to be honest, I kind of lost Dr. Tim here. But he does come out (heh) as a Prohibitionist, pining for the days when alcohol was illegal. What this has to do with gay rights is anybody's guess; I'm just telling you what the man wrote. The other "dangers" LaHaye warns against are more or less straight-up homophobic propaganda. Societies where homosexuality is not specifically outlawed are prone to an increase in sadistic murders and sex crimes against little boys, LaHaye warns, not to mention running the risk of incurring God's wrath. LaHaye makes his point with a tasteful little collage of newspaper headlines, which inform us about a "Teacher accused of sex acts with boy students," and a "Former scoutmaster convicted of homosexual acts with boys." Does anyone still buy the bromide about all gays being child molesters? Oh, yeah -- the Southern Baptist Convention and the Republican Party, to name only two.

For the record, LaHaye doesn't actually approve of the word "gay." Or at least he didn't in 1978. The third chapter of The Unhappy Gays is titled, seriously, "Gay It Isn't!" LaHaye explains: "Not many years ago 'gay' meant 'fun' and was a word utilized by all kinds of people....It costs the taxpayers of California approximately $20 million a year to treat homosexuals for VD. Taking massive doses of penicillin to cure VD certainly is not gay!" Uh, I guess not. LaHaye goes on to list "sixteen reasons why 'gay' isn't gay." These include loneliness, guilt, selfishness, depression, and my personal favorite, "vulnerability to sadism-masochism." LaHaye's image of gays seems to have been wholly informed by those horrible '70s melodramas about the evil dark side of the gay world. Think Al Pacino's Cruising -- which, in fairness, was released after LaHaye's book was published.

LaHaye's discussion of the causes of homosexuality allows him to indulge his loony fixation on the four-temperament theory of psychology, which is about as scientific as the zodiac. (Unlike astrology, the four-temperament movement has caught on big time among right-wing Christians.) This theory, which you have heard discredited a million times, holds that a person's temperament is governed by whichever fluid is predominant in his body. So if you've got an excess of black bile, you're melancholy; if there's a lot of blood running through you, you're sanguine. But it's not that simple: "...(W)e are all a blend of at least two (temperaments). One temperament will predominate, the other remaining secondary. A 60 percent Sanguine and 40 percent Phlegmatic is a 'SanPhleg'; a 70 percent Choleric and 30 percent Melancholy is known as a 'ChlorMel.'" And no, I have no idea why the abbreviation for "choleric" is "chlor," but then, I'm not America's bestselling novelist. Anyway, there are six temperaments prone to homosexuality, LaHaye writes: MelPhleg, MelSan, MelChlor, PhlegMel, SanMel and ChlorMel. I am a MelPhleg, but this doesn't necessarily mean I'm gay. Temperament is only one part of the homosexual disposition.

As for the rest, LaHaye makes it easy to understand with a handy mathematic formula, which he titles "The Components for Developing a Homosexual Disposition." It goes like this: "Melancholy Temperament + Permissive Childhood Training + Insecurity about Sexual Identity + Childhood Sexual Experiences + Early Interest in Sex + Youthful Masturbator and Sexual Fantasizer = A Predisposition Toward Homosexuality." All clear on that? Good, because you don't want to get it confused with LaHaye's other formula, which involves multiplication: "The Formula for Producing a Homosexual." This one goes: "A Predisposition Toward Homosexuality + That First Homosexual Experience x Pleasurable and Positive Homosexual Thoughts + More Homosexual Experiences x More Pleasurable Thoughts = A Homosexual." I, for one, didn't know it was so easy to make a real-life homosexual. I'm kind of pissed we didn't learn this in chemistry class; I would've had a much more active social life in college.

That's not to say LaHaye doesn't offer any good news. Homosexuality can be cured, he writes, provided you accept Jesus into your heart. Look, you saw that coming. I'd go more deeply into LaHaye's religious proselytizing, but frankly, I don't care. Also, you've heard all this before: the quotes from Leviticus and Romans, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the warnings of an imminent apocalypse unless we, as a society, mend our ways. LaHaye's writings on this subject are kind of an eerie predecessor to the "ex-gay" movement, which makes money by convincing gays and lesbians that their sexual identity can be changed. It was evil then; it's evil now. It's beyond me how LaHaye, who claims expertise in psychology, could condone this type of brainwashing. But he, not I, is the bestselling novelist in America, so I guess I should just gracefully defer.

Sure, this is pretty loathsome stuff, but LaHaye isn't the most contemptible homophobe out there. He warns his readers against stereotyping homosexuals, and cautions parents not to disown their gay kids. I know that's not much, but when you grow up in conservative Texas, you tend to take the good news wherever you can find it. On the other hand, the man basically libels millions and millions of gay men and women by calling them inveterate liars and sluts, so I don't want to go too far with the he's-not-such-a-bad-guy thing. It's just that he's not Fred Phelps -- though at times, he seems to be not-so-far behind.

My personal favorite parts of The Unhappy Gays are the pages where LaHaye rushes to the defense of Anita Bryant, the former Miss America/orange juice spokeswoman who founded the Save Our Children from Homosexuality movement in Florida in the 1970s. I sort of wonder if LaHaye had a little crush going when he wrote this book. I mean, Bryant was a beautiful woman (not anymore, friends, not anymore) who also happened to be a hate-filled bigot. You'd think it would be a perfect match. LaHaye can barely control his anger over the way she was treated by gay-rights advocates. Perhaps he was thinking of David Allan Coe, the country singer who penned the deathless classic "Fuck Anita Bryant." (The lyrics, as far as I can remember, go: "Fuck Anita Bryant, who the hell is she / Telling them homosexuals that they can't be free / Put that bitch in prison, then maybe she'll see / Just how much them goddamned homosexuals mean to me.")

I'm not exactly surprised that The Unhappy Gays appears to be out of print; it's too much unvarnished hatred for most of LaHaye's new mainstream fans. Still, I'd love to see this one turned into a movie, too, with Kirk Cameron, if possible. I think the board game version might be fun, too. It's really easy to laugh this book off -- in fact, that's exactly what I plan to do with it -- but it becomes a little less funny when you realize that this guy is, indeed, America's bestselling novelist. You've got to wonder how he survived the past 25 years of progress in the gay rights field without suffering a brain aneurysm. The best we can do, I guess, is to hope that he eventually becomes forgotten -- like Leander Perez, like Fob James, like Anita Bryant, like every hatemonger consigned to the footnotes of American social history.

The Unhappy Gays: What Everyone Should Know About
Homosexuality by Tim LaHaye
Published by Tyndale House
ISBN: 0-8423-7797-2
206 Pages