It’s a White Male Thing

Daniel Gonzales over at Ex-Gay Watch is compiling a media list of “ex-gay” survivors who can speak to the press about their experiences. He asked if I knew of any people of color who have been through the “ex-gay” process. Out of the hundreds of people I’ve met who attended “ex-gay” programs, two are black men. I do not know any latinos except for a man from Brazil who attended Love in Action with me. (And I don’t know if Brazilians consider themselves latinos)

Really, the “ex-gay” movement is a white male thing. The vast majority of people who run and attend these programs are white males. (alhough during my first weeks at LIA, we were challenged by the staff to stop talking like sassy black divas). Yes, in the “ex-gay” world there are some women, and yes, some people of color, but if you look at the documentary Fish Can’t Fly, out of the dozen or so people interviewed, you will only see white folks and very few women.

I don’t think Tom Murray chose to be exclusive when making his film. I think it represents the reality of who goes to these programs. Why is “ex-gaydom” a white male thing? Lots of reasons I’m sure and I am still just wrapping my brain around some of them.

I think in part it has to do with straight white male (swm) power and privilege in the US. Life is significantly easier for straight white males in this country. Jobs, housing, safety, credit, respect, so many things flow freely for the swm compared to the struggles that people of color and women experience. (Of course white men of a lower class have struggles, but often they then rely on white straight male privilege more than those of higher classes–oh and yes, we do have classes in America and I’m not talking about Physics or PE class either)

Experpiencing the distinct lost of power and privilege, white gay men, particularly in the conservative church, may seek to win back some of their place through becoming “ex-gay”. It’s all very subtle, but I remember wanting to be a Chrisitan missionary. I understood that being gay was the one thing that stood in my way. If I were a woman or a person of color, I would have had other hoops to jump through in order to get into a missionary postition, um, job. Of course at the time it felt like I wanted to change for Jesus, to exchange my unnatural sexual desires towards other men for a deep and intimate love relationship with Jesus, the God-man, but fueling that obsesion were other factors.

Every news story in the US has multiple angles to it. As a white male, it may be difficult for me to see it right away, but race and class and gender and ability affect so much of US culture, news, and policy. I’m sure studies have been done in regards to race and the “ex-gay” movement (as well as in the queer community).

We need to demystify the “ex-gay” experience and wrestle the arguments out of the realm of a few scripture passages. The level of hate and fear leveled against LGBTQ individuals cannot be sustained simply because of these scriptures and the ick fatctor. By desconstructing the reasons people pursue change from their same-sex attraction, we may discover how white same-gender loving people have much more in common with people of color, straight women, and individuals with disabilities than we ever imagined. We can also learn about our differences and how white queer folks contribute to systems of oppression.

This is all new territory for me, so those of you know a thing or two (or more) about these weighty issues, please feel free to share your wisdom and understanding.

This post has 8 Comments

  1. Clint from GCN on August 13, 2005 at 4:09 pm

    Poignant and astute. This ties in very well with you icky Mackinac Island incident.


  2. Anonymous on August 13, 2005 at 10:33 pm

    It is possible that women in general and men of color operate on the downlow. Women-because they can and husbands usually don’t freak about their wives s/s/a’s. “It’s not real sex after all.” Just a thought…

  3. Clint from GCN on August 14, 2005 at 3:35 am

    One more thing–CONGRATS on the bit in the Advocate–it was a good article.


  4. Peterson Toscano on August 15, 2005 at 2:48 am

    I haven’t yet gotten to see the Advocate. Is it the piece about teens in the “ex-gay” movement?

    This article about gay confessional theater just appeared in the Hartford Courant. Although they misspell my name and get some details wrong (I was born in Stamford not Stratford), it is a great piece.

  5. Willie Hewes on August 15, 2005 at 8:14 am

    If the major minorities (non-whites, gays, disabled and non-Christian religious, for instance) would band together, they could out-vote the white man. Especially if some white women help out.

    Thing about minorities is that often they minoritise each other, too.

    …Is that even a word? Ugh, Monday morning brain…

  6. Jennifer on August 18, 2005 at 4:26 pm

    There are some people here that went to FGC: Jennifer Chapin Harris to name one, the coordinator of the young adult program for FCNL. And then there is Julian O’Reilly from Pendle Hill. Talking about Pendle Hil, we get to hike up it on next Monday. My trip choice for tomorrow’s trip day is visiting Swarthmoor Hall. Things are going well here and I’m meeting Quakers from many other countries. My email doesn’t seem to want to let me in here, so this (blogging) is currently the only mode of communication I have to the world outside of WGYF and Lancaster University. Hopefully the contact info. that I sent you for Oxford Meeting with prove to be helpful to you next month when you travel here.

  7. Regan on September 14, 2005 at 12:42 am

    Well darling,
    I’m sure you’re onto something here. What an analysis.
    I’m a black woman and frequent poster in XGW.
    I raised the attention then the ire of one DL Foster and black minister based in Atlanta.
    He’s not the only one. I’ve learned a lot from homophobic black men.
    Their condescension, if not hatred of black women, lesbian or not…is legendary.
    SWM’s as you say have an unquenchable need to run everyone’s life.
    Into the ground if need be.
    This is a particularly intense vocation in men of the cloth, who tend to get unconditional support (and tax free congregational income).
    They like to be judges, but not judged.
    It’s a situation of power that doesn’t require a college education, full literacy or ability to disseminate the Bible or other philosophies.
    Since I’ve had to revisit a LOT of civil rights history for a literary project, I have noticed plenty of legitimate similarities in the struggles that gay folks face that other minorities have.
    But those ex gays, ad hoc disciples that are Senators now and well connected pompous self appointed shepards like Dobson and Robertson are working to have black Christians turn on gays and lesbians.
    They actively recruit in black churches and neighborhoods, except for the urgency of fighting gay marriage,…wouldn’t be caught dead in.
    Historical context is important when discussing this issue and the SWM and SBM are wont to really utilize it fully or correctly.
    As I have often stated, I couldn’t possible know what it’s like to be gay or understand the struggle with one’s sexuality.
    But I do know how bigotry feels, it’s cruelty and stinging indictment that one’s sincerest contributions isn’t ever enough for one’s fellow citizens.
    The only difference between me and the SBM’s and their white counterparts…is listening, empathy and the determination to try on the shoes of my gay brethren.
    Avoiding empathy and feeling for gay people is just another way, shows me, they are really a bunch of cowardly wussies.

  8. Peterson Toscano on September 14, 2005 at 3:37 am

    I was hoping you would comment. I so enjoy the way you format your comments. Like poetry. Thanks.

    I like very much what you say about empathy and listening. As a white man, I am learning that is so much my work these days.

    In one of my plays, Queer 101, and in the Fish Can’t Fly film, I quote Audre Lorde:

    “Perhaps I am the face of one of your worse fears, because I am Black, because I am a woman, because I am a lesbian, because I am myself–a Black woman warrior poet come to do my work asking you–are you doing yours?”

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