Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Ex-Gay Therapy" Is Offensive To All

[TW: Gender policing, homophobia]

I've been following the Marcus Bachmann ex-gay conversion therapy thing with mild interest. Of course, I think the concept of "ex- gay conversion therapy" is horribly offensive and rightly condemned for its framing of same-sex attraction as disordered. I think much of the criticism he (and his presidential candidate wife) are getting is deserved.


When we consider that the core of "ex-gay conversion therapy" is the enforcement of the most rigid of gender roles and presentations, only one aspect of which is heterosexuality, why are so many of the criticisms only focusing on the "this is so offensive to gay people" aspect of what makes this sort of therapy abhorrent?

A description of the "therapy," from a man who underwent it, via Truth Wins Out:

"During session 5, Wiertzema advised Becker to 'further develop your own sense of masculinity.' Reparative therapy reinforces strict gender roles and works to erase outward appearances of femininity in men and masculinity in women. Because these programs do not genuinely change sexual orientation, much focus is placed on changing behavior so an individual can 'pass' as heterosexual, even if the gay person has not changed on the inside."

Notice the all-too-familiar circularity in the thinking of those who promote these strict gender roles.

On the one hand, they tell us, masculinity is inherent in and essential to men, while femininity is inherent in and essential to women. But on the other hand, some men and women must be indoctrinated into how to display proper masculinity and femininity. Even though the very existence of men and women who don't "properly" display masculinity and femininity subverts the very notion that there is One Correct Way to be a man or a woman, "conversion therapy" proponets nonetheless continue to insist on their stifling version of gender conformity.

The message is clear.

There are certain proper, healthy ways to be a real woman and there are certain proper, healthy ways to be a real man. I question whether any person on the planet fully meets the standards of Real Manhood and Real Womanhood that those who have deemed themselves the deciders of such things put out as models.

"Ex-gay conversion therapy" isn't just offensive to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. It's offensive to everyone.

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