Sunday, July 22, 2012

"Pray Away the Narth".

I've never considered myself a passionate person about major political or social justice things. To be totally honest, often my involvement doesn't extend beyond "Like"-ing organizations on Facebook. I've attended about 4 Pride Parades in my life - usually because it's been a way to hang out with someone who was really adamant about going, or because I was promoting a show I was in. And to be totally honest, I think it's musical theatre that really forced me at a young age to accept gay rights - I realized that if I was going to stay in musical theatre, I'd better learn to become friends with some gay boys. Especially the ones I had crushes on (I suppose that was my first experience that no matter how hard you try, you're really not going to turn a boy straight!).

Of course that is a massive stereotype. But this blog all started with being kinda tired on a drizzly Saturday evening. I didn't really know what movie to watch, so I Googled "good movies to watch" (creative, right?) - and came across this link from Gala Darling (who looks like a pretty wicked awesome lady actually). And for the record, just reading her movie selection made me realize that her and I could for sure be friends.

So one of the movies on the list was "But I'm a Cheerleader" - looked cute and funny (RuPaul plays an "ex-gay" and wears short shorts, I mean how could I not watch it?!) So I watched the silly, campy movie, and it was exactly as I thought it would be (silly and campy).

But while watching it, I realized: this is actually something that people do in the world today. There are loving parents out there who are, in fact, so scared themselves of 'veering away from God's path' that they send their children to camps to "pray away the gay", "butch up", and use the argument that you can quit from drugs or alcohol, so why can't you quit from gay thoughts.

Not entirely believing that Conversation Therapy was a thing, I wikipedia'd it (thank you Internet!). Sure enough, I came across a few organizations: the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality) and Exodus. I spent my morning reading arguments and studies on why kids of same-sex couples have grown up with "negative" consequences, and how "participants [report] positive outcomes from [conversion] therapy". This is a direct quote from Julie Hamilton, the Ph.D. 'd head of NARTH, by the way. In fact, upon learning that she gives presentations on her beliefs, I watched a YouTube clip of hers entitled "Homosexuality 101". She's actually a great speaker, for the record. She and NARTH hold firm to the belief that - to summarize - people are not born gay and do not choose to be gay. They theorize that while there are a bunch of reasons why a person "turns" gay, a predominant one is that a child's relationship with his/her parent is broken through some traumatic event, and so this child finds solace identifying with traits of the opposite gender. This "conversion therapy" seeks for every person to dig down into their memories, find that event, and heal it. Amongst other things. CNN did a great 3-part story on the research and everything leading to it.

So while absorbing all of this this morning, I thought a bunch of things. Most of which won't make it on this blog because chances are, if you're reading this, you think like me, let's be honest, you're someone who's clicked on the link off my Facebook page, and I don't really need to preach to the converted. And I'm not a debator or an academic because when I get passionate about things, my thoughts just get muddled with emotion so please excuse any technical inaccuracies and/or my lack of through-line.

But allow me to list off just a few of the thoughts that are circling through my head right now:

  • People spend time, resources, and money on this as a social cause? And not just a little money. A LOT of money. Those fancy websites and impressive conventions are not cheap.
  • This Julie lady is a wonderful speaker, and clearly an excellent academic due to completing her Ph.D. and her ability to craft a persuasive argument. So why can't she be a good speaker on other things? What drives her so deeply to spend her life "curing" people of homosexual lifestyles?
  • For that matter, what do any of these people think when they look in the mirror? Is it really that much more important to them to have a traditional male-female relationship than a same-sex relationship with love and support? To live by severe boundaries than explore who they are?
  • And lastly, perhaps what bugs me the most is that there are these educated people (although biased, they are educated) who form arguments that, at first glance, can sound reasonable, effective even. These arguments reach perhaps less-educated people that really only desire love and acceptance in their community (let's call it a church community). And suddenly, the way to receive love and acceptance is to follow this message.
  • How did the anti-gay-rights movement start? Yes I know it's been something that's been thought for ages. But WHY did someone EVER think a gay lifestyle was wrong?

So I thought, If I were to engage in an argument with someone believing firmly in this stance (thankfully, I don't know anyone personally), what would I say?

To be honest, I don't know. Because I'd probably argue really poorly and then end the discussion with me allowing them to be entitled to their beliefs. Which to be honest, is probably an excellent thing because arguments where the other person doesn't listen are never helpful.

But if I were to engage, I'd probaby ask - WHY IS HOMOSEXUALITY WRONG? How can you compare Drinking or Smoking to Homosexuality? Drinking causes harm to yourself. Maybe harm to others if you're abusive. Maybe you can be in an abusive same-sex relationship. Perhaps sex with someone who has an STD is bad. But let's be honest, STDs and STIs are definitely NOT limited to gay sex. This page supports that children from same-sex parents are less likely to have lower levels of happiness and are more likely to be abused, either as children or adults (of course, it also doesn't ask children who have grown up with same-sex parents, only who have had same-sex parents at the time of the questionnaire, so it's entirely likely their childhood could have included an unhappy heterosexual relationship stemming to their issues). To that I say, "and you are relying on a study rather than your own heart"?

And it's quite obvious that that's where the debate/argument would end, as you can tell I sometimes run out of logical things to say. Yup, remind me never to enter that argument.

So, I'm not a Christian. I don't understand so-called Christian values, co-habitation doesn't seem wrong to me. Marriage doesn't seem right to me (really? It's a thing to commit the rest of your life to one person, because you are completely sure that neither of you will ever change?)
But I do very much believe that we should all have a right to our own opinions as long as they don't harm others. I have a cousin who just recently had a very Christian wedding - while I definitely did not enjoy the dogmatic speeches of the guests/wedding party, I love hanging around my cousin. I believe people are people. Let's just do things that make us happy and if they are hurting other people, chances are they're not making us truthfully happy.

I really admire the strong people who make the stance to go against the grain, but moreso the pioneers who did it at a time when NARTH's view was the world view (Gertrude Stein comes to mind). I can't even imagine the horror, and the bravery, and the extreme tancity it must've taken to live solidly by their lifestyle at a time when it meant social excommunication.

I have a male cousin who, at 10, is quite effiminate in mannerisms (and actually can be a little bitchy to his younger brother - we'll have to watch that). But he is an AMAZING performer and his parents support him in all they do. I can't even imagine if he had to go to "conversion therapy" - I look at all the potential he has to create incredible things, and I think, if he had to spend his entire life trying to be approved by changing the the way he speaks or judging the people he finds attractive, he would have a VERY different life.

As I stated early on, I'm not one to go to every pride rally and write picket signs and elicit donations. Sometimes I wish I was, but that's not me. However, I felt the need to state my opinion on this topic, especially as July is coming to a close, a time when cities all over have Pride Parades (which are often just an excuse to wear underwear and glitter, but hey, at least it celebrates that we can do that).

So I'll just end this by asking: if you "pray away the gay", what do you indeed become? I'd think just someone who's spending their daily existence shrouded in emotional baggage. Can't we all just seek love in our lives, and focus on the addictions that really do matter?

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