As a clinical sexologist, I had a particular interest in watching Ted Haggard in his many media appearances this week and the conversation it has sparked among many. From his interview on Oprah, Ted Haggard seems to understand that human sexuality is complex. He said this several times. He also said that he didn’t want to be pigeon-holed into either a “homosexual” or a “heterosexual” category, although it seems that everyone (on both sides of the debate) is trying to do just that.
What was missing from the conversation was the awareness that sexual orientation exists on a spectrum. Between the polarizing categories of “gay” and “straight,” there is a diversity of experiences and orientations. Intuitively, I think we understand this, yet our culture loves to categorize people into easily-definable boxes.
In his ground-breaking 1948 book Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, Alfred Kinsey wrote:
Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats. Not all things are black nor all things white. It is a fundamental of taxonomy that nature rarely deals with discrete categories. Only the human mind invents categories and tries to force facts into separated pigeon-holes. The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects. The sooner we learn this concerning human sexual behavior the sooner we shall reach a sound understanding of the realities of sex. (p. 639)
Kinsey, after painstakingly interviewing over 12,000 men, devised a seven-point scale to reflect the spectrum of sexual experience:
- 0- Exclusively heterosexual with no homosexual
- 1- Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual
- 2- Predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual
- 3- Equally heterosexual and homosexual
- 4- Predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual
- 5- Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual
- 6- Exclusively homosexual
It is foolish for anyone to assume anything about Ted Haggard’s sexual orientation. We are fond of thinking that we know more about another person than they know about themselves. The truth is that we are all on a journey of self-discovery.
From my limited interaction with Ted Haggard’s story, it sounds to me like he has reached a place of understanding about his own sexuality and grasped this basic concept that many, gay and straight (including Oprah Winfrey), have not seemed to grasp — that there are more than two categories of human sexual experience.