Homo No Mo — No More!
For over 20 years the Ex-Gay Movement, with its promises to heal homosexuals, played large in my life. First I was caught up in that madness desperately believing I would be more valuable to God, church, and society in general if I were a fully functioning heterosexual masculine man. (My husband is thrilled that I failed at that!) After I escaped ex-gay treatment, I spent a time speaking out against the dangers of gay conversion therapy in whatever forms it took.
From about 2008 I have been trying to move on to other issues that I find much more interesting: queer theology, transgender equality and liberation, and climate change as a social justice issue. Still the ex-gay thing pops up quite regularly. Some states passed laws banning conversion therapy for minors. Even President Obama himself denounced treatments to “cure” LGBTQ people after the suicide of Leelah Alcorn.
The Crap is Back
With another presidential election we now have the ex-gay nonsense come up again. This time the Republican Party platform has included it as one of its planks (along with support for discrimination against transgender people and public restrooms.)
At first when I read a headline about Republican platform and ex-gay movement, I thought that they too, like every medical association in the world, loads of faith organizations, and countless politicians issued a statement declaring reparative therapy is wrong and harmful. I mean they are trying to appeal to a wider base, right? They even have a lesbian on the committee to develop the platform. But no, I was mistaken.
As the Republican National Convention begins, party heads are doing damage control after seeing the negative response to the party platform plank that supports conversion therapy. The Advocate magazine reports that RNC head Reince Priebus insists that the party doesn’t endorse reparative therapy.
The plank, pushed by Family Research Council president and convention delegate Tony Perkins, reads, “We support the right of parents to determine the proper treatment or therapy, for their minor children.” Several states and at least one city have barred licensed therapists from subjecting minors to “ex-gay” therapy, and the plank appears to be aimed at such bans. But Priebus contended the plank is not an endorsement of this type of therapy, which has been condemned by medical groups as ineffective and harmful.
Where are they now?
Steven Blum, a journalist in California, contacted me in hopes of better understanding the current status of the ex-gay movement. Didn’t it just quietly go away? I explained that it went underground and overseas.
Toscano says he wouldn’t be surprised if many church counselors today were schooled in the Exodus dogma of yesteryear, but he doesn’t think they’re having much of an impact on congregants anymore. Scrolling through the counselors in the Restored Hope Network, it’s hard not to imagine most of these men and women fruitlessly waiting in their counseling rooms for gays who want to be saved. “Some of these Christian counselors still live in cultural bubbles and they earnestly don’t know that what they were told [about sexuality] was false,” he adds.
But the most troubling thing about the ex-gay movement is that America has exported it, according to Toscano “It’s like the failed tobacco industry: Once they started losing market share, they just shipped their product overseas” — in the case of conversion therapy, to Eastern Europe, Southern and Eastern Africa and parts of Asia and Latin America, in particular, where ministries invest millions of dollars annually in conferences, workshops, publications and more.
In his article, Checking in With the Ex-Gay Movement, Blum asks, “Where are they now?” like unearthing a one-hit wonder from the 1990’s. He highlights a group called Desert Streams, one that has flown under the radar for a long time. It is alive and well, still quiet, but ambitious and entrepreneurial. They offer healing courses all over the world that look at a variety of issues–including how to straighten out an LGBTQ person.
Supporting Ex-Gay Treatment Causes Harm to your Cause
The good news is that in the USA the ex-gay movement has lost its power. There are less and less reasons for people to pursue these programs. Most realize they do not work–not as advertised for sure–and more and more people realize they are dangerous–they cause real harm.
Likely embracing ex-gay therapy will also cause harm to the Republican Party.