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.