HOT CHRISTIAN MESS: So-called gay icon Tammy Faye goes on record as ‘disagreeing’ with gay community, insists Bible is against same-sex marriages
BY DANIEL KUSNER
In her memoir, “I Will Survive … And You Will, Too!” (Diane Pub Co, 2003. $14) Tammy Faye Messner offers T-shirt-like slogans about overcoming hardships.
These cutesy little tidbits are called “Tammy-isms,” which match her baby-voiced approach to life.
After a recent phone interview with the former Queen of the Electric Church, one Tammy-ism seemed to ring especially true: “People are like tea bags — if you want to find out what’s inside them, just drop them in hot water.”
Ever since the RuPaul-narrated documentary “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” was released in 2000, Tammy Faye has become a queer icon by making appearances at a number of gay pride events.
In 2001, she charmed Dallasites in Lee Park following the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.
Wearing a black military-style jacket with gold fringe and a bright red wig, Tammy Faye told a story about a rainstorm erupting while visiting Disney World. As the Disney employees handed out yellow waterproof jackets to everyone, Tammy Faye made a salient observation — race, gender, color and sexual identity were suddenly invisible.
“That’s how God sees us,” she told everyone in Lee Park. “God sees all of us as if we are in a yellow raincoat.”
Until recently, Tammy Faye had backed away from commenting on issues important to gays and lesbians, such as same-sex marriages. But "I Will Survive" might startle gay readers — especially those who heard her “little yellow raincoat” sermon.
In Chapter 47: “The Gay Community,” the First Lady of Televangelism recalls how she showed compassion by reaching out to a gay man dying of AIDS. After the PTL scandal erupted, it was gay men who first reached out to a financially and emotionally depressed Tammy Faye.
“They helped pay my bills while Roe was in prison,” she writes, noting that one gay fan gave her $10,000 — tax-free! “They sent me beautiful things — clothes, jewelry, flowers. They overwhelmed me with the love I no longer felt from the Christian community.”
She returned the kindness by ministering in gay churches and attending AIDS benefits. But Tammy Faye also writes that she doesn’t “even pretend to understand the gay lifestyle,” and when she discusses the Bible and sexuality that her gay friends “allow me to disagree with them.”
With 35 years of experience on live television, sermonizing and singing, Tammy Faye has her act down to a science.
When she’s not playing the tear-stained victim, it’s hard not be won over by her sparkly wit and spunky demeanor. But in a recent phone interview, she repeatedly flew into hysterics like the little girls from The Crucible — especially when it came to clarifying her beliefs on same-sex marriages and trying to figure out what her “disagreement” with gays and lesbians is all about.
“I don’t think there should be gay marriages. I think that marriage is between a husband and wife. I think the Bible decided that many years ago. I feel sorry for the gay people, but I think that there can never really be a marriage between gay people. That’s just my opinion and a billion other people’s,” she says.
Does the Bible actually say anything against marriages between people of the same gender?
“I just think that that is not how God meant it to be — as far as getting married. I know people who have lived together forever but they didn’t take it as far as getting married. They just lived together and loved each other and cared about each other,” she says.
As the interview continued, Tammy Faye shows her agitation by launching into a hyper-shrill response that almost seems rote. And she constantly repeats that she doesn’t want to “argue.” Instead of commenting further on gay marriages, she offers “You can read it in the Bible yourself, honey.”
Isn’t she a preacher? Isn’t it her job to proclaim the gospel?
“Well, what do you think?” she throws the question back into my lap.
I explain that I’m trying to figure out Tammy Faye’s message for gay people regarding salvation. Is her philosophy “love the sinner, hate the sin?” I ask.
“I don’t have a message. I tell them to read their Bibles and seek the Lord. That’s exactly what I tell them. And I’m not going any further on it,” she says.
Why does discussing this topic upset her so much?
“Because it’s all I ever get asked about,” she says.
Gay people have been asking her these questions?
“I’m not saying gay people — I’m asked by the straight people about this all the time,” she says. “I am trying to bring the gay world and the church world together. So that they love each other and care for each other and realize that the gay people are wonderful people and they should be allowed in the churches.”
Is it “gay sex” that she thinks is sinful?
“Listen, if it were me, I would never be gay because I’m a heterosexual. I don’t understand it at all. I think that the gay community and I… We have agreed to disagree. And everywhere I go, we talk about this. And they say, ‘Well, Tammy, that’s fair,’” she explains. “The gay community knows I have a disagreement. I got right on Larry King and I told him, 'The gay people and I have agreed to disagree. I am heterosexual. I do not understand the homosexual life. But I agree to disagree with them and I love them. And we’re going to work together.’”
When it comes to being gay, what is it that she doesn’t understand?
“Listen, this interview is over. And I’m sorry it didn’t go better than this,” she says before she hangs up the phone.
Tammy Faye was scheduled to bring her "cabaret show” to Dallas in mid-October, but those plans have been scrapped because she’s planning to bring “Tammy’s House Party” back as a daytime talk show in 2004.
In the meantime — since these questions are constantly haunting her — maybe she can come up with a more poignant response in reconciling her fundamentalist beliefs with the gay community.
Because she’s returning to daytime TV, Tammy Faye cancelled her “cabaret show” that was scheduled to stop in Dallas on Oct. 11.