A story has been circulating about Obama’s incorporation of gospel singer Donnie McClurkin into his South Carolina tour. McClurkin was gay. He’s not any more. For him, homosexuality was not simply a lifestyle choice, but stemmed from deeper sexual confusion due to abuse as a child.

He’s taken a very public stand on the issue of homosexuality, stating quite clearly that 1) there are many gay men and women like him and 2) they don’t have to continue living a life that makes them feel guilty.

Suddenly, McClurkin is radically anti-gay and Obama is “[pandering] to anti-gay mania.” Is this really homophobia?

First, let’s be clear – a phobia is an irrational fear of something. Crowds. Spiders. Simply disagreeing with the lifestyle doesn’t give an accuser the right to throw the “homophobic” epithet – and that’s what it is, an epithet – at the accused.

Secondly, McClurkin is far from “anti-gay”. He contends that the lifestyle is wrong, but makes no claims about homosexuals themselves. How could he be, having once been gay himself?

This raises a host of questions.

  1. Why do those in the media consistently conflate a person’s single belief with that person’s identity? (Anyone remember the Strom Thurmon/Trent Lott incident?) Their logic runs like this: McClurkin is against homosexuality (but not gays, though they forget the distinction). Therefore, any news story that mentions him must identify him as anti-gay. In addition, anyone who associates with him must have an anti-gay agenda as well.
  2. Why do “gay rights activists” harbor such hatred virulent intolerance for those who leave the lifestyle?
  3. How can you champion flexible sexuality if you ignore those who embody that very flexibility?
  4. How much longer until we realize that these rigid labels – “gay” “straight” – don’t do a good job describing sexuality? How many sexual encounters of a certain kind must one have to qualify? What of someone who changes their sexuality? Were they always one or the other?

Tolerance must be more than a one-way street.