Last night I watched a documentary on Netflix called “This Is What Love in Action Looks Like.” It’s about a 16-year-old Gay boy whose fundamentalist parents shipped him off to a “Gay cure” residential program in Memphis, Tennessee, against his will.
I found it hard to watch, partly because of several poor choices made by the filmmaker (failure to attribute some sources, sitting for a pseudo-interview instead of just facing the camera himself, and constant use of MySpace, the declining social network, as a framing device, which gets old very fast) – and, of course, the topic. It amazes me that in 2010 there were still people – some of them adults – going for the “Gay cure,” paying through the nose for unqualified hucksters to shame them morning, noon and night.
This week Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, the umbrella group for “ex-Gay” ministries, has finally agreed there’s no such thing as a “Gay cure.” Good for him; he has a bit of integrity at last.
However, his announcement is causing him to be slammed by others in the “pray away the Gay” movement, a story you can read here in The New York Times: “Rift Forms in Movement as Belief in Gay ‘Cure’ is Renounced.”
So far Exodus seems to be holding most of its supporters, though some have left the group. The Times article contains this killer quote:
Robert Gagnon, an associate professor at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and author of books on homosexuality and the Bible, last week issued a public call for Mr. Chambers to resign. “My greatest concern has to do with Alan’s repeated assurances to homosexually active ‘gay Christians’ that they will be with him in heaven,” he said in an e-mail.
The quote marks around Gay Christian are Gagnon’s. The man can’t even write an e-mail without insulting millions of people. Some Christianity, huh?
Meanwhile a website I sometimes visit has a video up from something called The David Pakman Show in which Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out, a pro-LGBT group, debates a military chaplain who claims he can exorcise the Gay out of him.
It isn’t worth watching, unless you also get a thrill out of seeing Pat Robertson predict that God will send a hurricane to destroy Orlando because of Gay Day at Disney World.
Not very amusing, to my taste. Seen one, you’ve seen ’em all.
There was a time, early in my activist career, when I used to appear on television a lot, talking about Gay stuff. That’s partly how I became, for a few years anyway, “the most famous Gay person in Ohio,” according to Cleveland magazine. Such a title, eh? I’m sure I could have pawned that for a peanut butter sandwich.
I mostly did it because no one else would. Now there are plenty of spokespeople. I think I was fairly good at it, but I quickly realized that I didn’t care to debate homophobes about whether we have a right to exist. Wayne Besen can, if he wants; I find it boring, and useless, and even worse, insulting.
Elie Weisel shouldn’t have to go on TV and sit next to someone denying the Holocaust, just to satisfy some misguided journalist putting on “both sides of the story.”
There’s only one story about the Holocaust; it happened, six million were murdered.
There are six million stories about the Holocaust, but skinheads and bigots can’t tell you one of them.
I’m no Elie Weisel, of course; just one little Gay guy in the Midwest. And what’s happened over the centuries to GLBT people is that we’ve mostly been picked off one by one, not as part of an organized, nationalistic genocide.
Death is death, and injustice is injustice. They don’t give prizes for who’s the most oppressed, and if they did the Jews would win.
However, none of them would show up to collect their plaque. And I really think we shouldn’t either.
Wayne Besen is free to do his thing; maybe it’s useful to someone. But the journalism involved is badly flawed.
TV did the same thing to Martin Luther King, Jr.
And no, reporters, it’s not a matter of “giving the other side enough rope to hang themselves.” That was never TV’s motivation in the Civil Rights Era. There was only one side to the story, and CBS, NBC and ABC were too scared to say so. Their big fear was that Southern stations would cancel the network news and they’d lose money. Lester Maddox and his axe handles got on TV to safeguard corporate profits.
So here’s little David Pakman, who found himself a chaplain in a freak show. And here’s Wayne Besen, thinking he can get some logic through to the audience over the intertubes.
We need to understand that bigots’ prejudice precedes their Bible-quoting. They learned the prejudice before they were old enough to read.
This fact, that the bigotry comes before the religious “justification,” is important for LGBTs, especially Christians, to remember, because we can easily get caught up in debates with homophobes just like Wayne Besen and others do, without any cameras rolling. Principles of the faith, such as listening to others and respecting them, almost seem to require it.
But in 2012, let’s be aware of the Law of Diminishing Returns. In my experience, homophobes understand one thing only: power. They shut up when we show up.
That’s what happens in the movie; the teenage boy blogs on MySpace about being trapped in Christian hell, and protesters show up where he’s being held against his will.
The protesters are smart, loving and kind – just like Gay people mostly are – and eventually the state of Tennessee shuts the place down for providing mental health services without a license or qualified personnel.
No doubt, Alan Chambers has experienced much of the same; that’s the reason for his shift. He and his board members have finally realized those queers make some good points.
There isn’t any “cure,” and Exodus has finally stopped claiming there is one. Praise the Lord for small favors.
President Obama has come out for same-sex marriage in an election year. That is, he finally did the right thing he was afraid to do before.
I remain half-bemused and half-appalled at the Big Media descriptions of all this. While there are more and more LGBT voices being heard, of writers, thinkers and activists, Big Media’s still playing it straight, focusing on rising poll numbers supporting equality. I guess they’re so caught up in the moment (and the homophobic history of their companies and profession) they can’t get much perspective. They don’t seem to know why attitudes are changing, beyond that a generational shift is taking place.
Well, yes, but that doesn’t explain it. The facts are on our side!
We’ve always told the truth about ourselves, including the science, what’s known and what’s unknown. We’ve told the truth like Martin did and Elie still does.
The generational shift is happening because we’ve got the facts, our opponents put out bald-faced lies – and the rising generation can tell the difference.
They were not carefully taught the prejudice – for which we have the civil rights movement and especially the women’s movement to thank.
They told the truth too.
It will be interesting to see what happens when America stops denying global warming – but that apparently will take another generation, and I’m not sure I’ll live that long.
Truth Wins Out is well-named, Wayne Besen; I give you credit for that. (Their slogan is “Fighting Anti-Gay Lies and the Ex-Gay Myth.”)
Though really, you should have dressed up like Linda Blair and made that chaplain exorcise your Gay away right on camera.++