Monday, December 16, 2019

Semi-Review/Deep Thought: The Miseducation of Cameron Post

I recently read The Miseducation of Cameron Post (and then proceeded to watch the movie adaptation, as well), about a lesbian teen sent to "conversion therapy" in the 1990s for being gay. Think of it as a more realistic, less campy, but still at times darkly-comedic version of But I'm a Cheerleader.

It was a very good read (and movie) and I identified pretty closely to the main character Cameron and, specifically, her inherent resistance to being indoctrinated by anti-gay bigotry, even as it permeated her environment.

As a teen, I felt pretty strongly that I didn't have a huge problem with myself being gay; rather, the main problem was that it seemed like everyone else had such a huge fucking problem with it. I realize that's not a universal experience for all lesbian/gay/bi/queer people and, maybe not even all that common, even now, but that was my personal experience with it. I knew I was gay at a very young age and really made no serious attempts to thwart it.

Anyway, as I wrote on Twitter recently, something I think about in the context of how relatively quickly LGBT progress has happened in the US, on some issues, is that, for some of us in Gen X, LGBT social and legal progress has likely outpaced how quickly our trauma from coming of age in a deeply homobigoted society has healed.

For instance, as more and more states ban "conversion therapy," it is a pretty mainstream opinion in the US that the practice is immoral and abusive. That wasn't really the case in the 1990s.  And now, in a post-marriage-equality US, even some of the most prominent opponents of marriage equality will do things like publicly acknowledge that divorce rate are currently at historic lows, without concurrently referencing or acknowledging their previous fear-mongering around same-sex marriage and the Imminent and Total Destruction of Marriage and Society!

While a pre-marriage-equality narrative was that Fred Phelps was perhaps the last homobigot left in the US, or that the only way a person could be one is if they went around saying "faggot," now a lot of people simply act like, "Sure, there were bigots back then, but I certainly wasn't one of them."

Look, I get it. The US mainstream is, historically speaking, bad at apologies for social injustice. A lot of people, once they lose a culture war, just want people to move on without having their noses rubbed in the loss. Or, you know, they continue to pathetically cling to their Confederate flags and racist mascots.

Many cishet people simply don't seem willing to acknowledge, much less apologize or atone for, their past complicity in LGBT bigotry, even if that bigotry did tangible harm to people in their lives.
 Now that acceptance of LGBT people is more mainstream, compared to 20-30 years ago, it's like they conveniently act like bigotry was a thing "other people" engaged in "back then," rather than something they believed and that probably all people (still) have to some extent.*

I suspect that many LGBT people have friends and family members who were previously pretty openly anti-LGBT who have quietly come to the other side and are now accepting.

The opinion change is not a bad thing. I want to be clear about that. We always wanted people to change!

The issue is more that there's probably many LGBT people of a certain age who are still walking around with residual trauma from bigotry and "conversion therapy" that happened in our lifetimes, years ago, inflicted upon us by people who now see themselves as allies, and there's a certain level of pain in that that I think a lot of people are holding onto because a lot of harm was simply never directly addressed.

*And, to be clear, the LGBT rights struggle is not over and explicit bigotry, particularly facing trans individuals, still exists. I also believe our gains are at risk of being rolled back, due to the current composition of the US Supreme Court, Congress, and Executive branch, if not all at once, at least on a piecemeal basis.

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