Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Undercover "Ex-Gay"

For anyone interested in reading one woman's undercover account as to what happens at "ex-gay" program Exodus International, I urge you to read this article by journalist Lucy Bannerman.

Personally, I find the account to be both humorous and, at times, sad. For instance, the journalist recounts how the "counseling" center tightly packed a group of women into a small room together for a workshop on "Journeying Through Lesbianism." How dangerous! I'm certain that if I were in that workshop I would be stealing flirty glances and having titillating thoughts about the other Women Struggling With Same-Sex Attraction mostly because it would be inappropriate to do so given the context. Why such workshops are sad is that, at their core, they tell us that it is not okay to love some people in a certain way. You know, because there's entirely too much love in the world and it's a very bad thing to sanction the "wrong" kind of it.

It's easy for those of us who are so comfortable with our sexuality to joke about these ex-gay camps. Yet, we should remember that living in a homophobic society does not allow all gay men and lesbians to be so at east with themselves. The message we often hear is that gay men and lesbians don't deserve the right to marry each other because they can already just marry someone of the opposite sex. Ex-gay boot camps try to make it possible for gay men and lesbians to happily marry those of the opposite sex. While it's clearly possible for gay men and lesbians to conform and enter into heterosexual marriages, actually changing one's sexual orientation is less real. Bannerman writes:

"It could be comical were it not for the teenager shaking in the corner, and the man sobbing as he prayed. Excusing herself from a session, Michelle goes to her room and cries. 'I don't think I want to willpower right through it,' she confides before going to sleep. 'Where's the change in that?'"

The participant, Michelle, gets it. Repressing your sexual orientation does not mean that your orientation has changed. Oftentimes, "ex-gays" become celibate, sex-less people rather than genuine heterosexuals who actually have sexually and emotionally fulfilling relationships with the opposite sex. Sadly, I don't think that matters to proponents of the "ex-gay" movement. In their eyes, that a person is not having a same-sex relationship trumps that person living a fulfilled life.

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