Recently I spoke at a well-known British university where I gave a talk about the Ex-Gay Movement and particularly about my own journey attempting to de-gay myself. In the talk I spoke about what happens in many programs and treatments that attempt to alter someone’s orientation and gender expression. I went into the many reasons why someone might choose this course (you can see video of these reasons here) and shared what I found to be the outcome for well over a thousand people I have personally met (at least 100 in the UK) who found that such treatments caused considerable damage.
Interspersed with my talk I performed excerpts from my plays Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House, Queer 101–Now I Know my gAy,B,Cs, and Transfigurations–Transgressing Gender in the Bible. I ended as I often do with my Identity Monologue. We had plenty of time for discussion, and the very full audience asked insightful questions.
After the presentation I learned that some members of the university’s Student Christian Union attended the event. This thrilled me as these Christian Unions often adhere to traditional Evangelical lines that can promote and even at times provide treatment designed to alter a gay Christian’s sexuality. I felt pleased that they were present so that they could see how the ex-gay route is not appropriate pastoral care for gays and lesbians.
A few days later I heard through a friend at the university about the reaction of some of the Christian Union students:
It was all very interesting, but since he is not a Christian, we don’t have to listen to him.
Strange, I believe I mentioned more than once that I am a Christian and how much I value the Bible and my faith in Jesus. But then again I remember how I used to classify people during my own Conservative Evangelical days as TRUE Christian or FALSE Christian (with subcategories of worldly, fleshy, New Age and demonic). In the minds of these Christian Union members I am not a proper Christian, therefore irrelevant in a discussion about faith matters (or sexuality or creation or anything that might present an alternate view to their own).
Yeah, I used to do that too. It proved an effective means to shut out any contrary thought that might cause me to engage in critical thinking. What troubles me in regards to this particular presentation and the Christian Union students’ reaction is that I spoke out of my experience not my theology. I served as eye-witness to what I encountered during nearly two decades of ex-gay treatment. But since they judged me not Christian, they concluded that they could discount my testimony and thus avoid responsibility towards their own actions and beliefs regarding gays and lesbians.
(I can only wonder that certain celestial beings may find displeasure in mere mortals doing all this judgement work before the appointed time.)
This shutting out alternative voices through judging them unsound sources serves as a subtle yet powerful dehumanizing (and de-spiritualzing) method. Progressive Liberals do the same thing when we discount anything a Conservative says as wacko Right Wing ranting. We can reduce those different from us to a simple classification.
In fact, even in this post, my own brief description of the members of the Student Christian Union who attended my talk placed them in a certain box. For all I know only one out of a dozen members of this group made the statement about my Christian faith while most of the others considered what I said and have added it to the knowledge-base they have on the subject and will thoughtfully reflect on what they heard. Their personalities, the quirks, the interests, the diverse fields of study and experience they have get lost when I place people in categories.
Sure we find it helpful and necessary at times to understand in part the philosphy and world view of a certain person or group by assigning a name or category–Fundamentalist, Liberal, Vegan, Quaker, Fascist, Rebublican, Post-Modern, etc. But we can also filter out important information because of the the label we affix to a person.
Long ago in a little Pentecostal Holiness house church I attended in Yonkers, NY, one of the elders of the group pronounced,
Truth is truth, no matter who says it.