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Learning from Mr. Hetero

I posted about the Mr. Hetero Contest back in December; the joyous event was finally held recently in Massachusetts. It was billed as “A Celebration of God’s Creation — a real competition that will bring fun and laughter as we celebrate God’s design,” put on by Tom Crouse, pastor of Massachusetts’ Holland Congregational Church. You can catch his take on the event on his blog. He sounds a tad defensive.

If you are a believer who vocally opposed the event, I would encourage you to find someone who went and hear for yourself what it really was. If you are someone who is homosexual and opposed the event, contact some of the activists who attended and hear for yourself what really went on.

For the record, I didn’t oppose the event; I just thought it was hysterical and over-the-top. After all, the rainbow sticker and the “we’re taking it back!” message pretty much says it all — the guy protests a bit too much. These clownish events need the light of the exposure upon them.

Peterson Toscano, blogging out of Hartford, CT, actually went to Mr. Hetero to check out the action, and the sad state of this misguided group of straight guys. Peterson describes himself as “a theatrical, performance, artist, a very queer and quirky Quaker,” and you can imagine that he has an interesting take on the events…

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 strength. 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).

Now back to Crouse’s claim that the event had nothing to do with gay-bashing and was only about men exploring their Dobson-approved manliness and connection to the Creator. Peterson saw something quite different going on.

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).

The rest of Peterson’s post is moving and personal as he engages with young people who attended the event, and describes the painful and damaging messages sent by people like Crouse. Another post with more thoughts on the Mr. Hetero Contest by Peterson is here. He also points to another on-the-scene report from the Worcester Independent’s Mike Benedetti. Here are snippets that made me laugh out loud:

One could not help but note three major Hetero things that were missing from this pageant:

* The Three Stooges
* Procreation
* Anything that might lead to procreation

…Crouse described the Mr. Hetero competition as the “First ever. Last ever too, the way this one is going.”

The PA played Queen’s “We
Are the Champions” and Crouse sang along. (How is this resisting the Gay Menace?)

My recommendations for future Mr. Heteros:

* Make the thing a celebration of heterosexuality. Nix the stuff about being saved from homosexuality. It derails the event, and attracts protesters.

* Find some way to not have to pay $6500 for police protection. Otherwise you’ll end up deep in the red.

* Hold it in a church rather than a concert hall. You’re not going to get enough people to fill the hall. There was a monster truck rally this weekend, which attracted all the real heteros.

* Don’t ask people to pay to watch a bunch of amateur hams goof around on stage. It’s kind of entertaining, but this stuff should be free, not $12 .

Hat tip, Christine.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding