Corvino offers an excellent and respectful criticism of the ex-gay movement, as well as those individuals and organizations that comprise it, while affirming the rights of ex-gay individuals to follow their journey towards heterosexuality. (I will note, however, that Mr. Corvino seems unaware that some ex-gay individuals are now accepting life-long celibacy as a valid alternative.) What I find more interesting about Mr. Corvino’s article, however, is when he touches upon the question of whether he feels threatened by ex-gays and their testimonies:
I am not at all threatened by the notion that some people can change their sexual orientation, if indeed they can. In reality, it seems that at best only a small number can do so, and only with tremendous effort. But if they can, and that makes them happy, good for them. I?m confident enough in my own happiness that I need not doubt theirs.
Unlike Mr. Corvino, many people do feel threatened by the possibility that some people might actually be able to change their sexual orientation. And to some degree, that reaction is perfectly understandable. Many in the ex-gay movement, and certainly most of their political supporters, are banking a lot on the claim that people can change their sexual orientation. This is because many of them have the desire to make the poorly founded jump from evidence that some people can change their sexual orientation to anyone can change their orientation. And once they’ve made that jump, their next step is to conclude that everyone (everyonte who isn’t heterosexual, of course) should change their sexual orientation.
The threat comes not from the possibility that some people can change from gay to heterosexual, but from the reality of where many in the ex-gay movement and their supporters want to lead the conversation from there. After all, organizations like NARTH still lament the declassification of homosexuality as a mental disease and would like to see its eventual reclassification.
Of course, the solution to this “threat” is to simply point out that the fact that something can be done does not necessarily mean it should be done. And I think that’s where we queers as a community tend to fall down. We’re so wrapped up playing defense in proving that sexual orientation can’t be changed that we don’t take a more proactive force and ask the bigger question: WHY should it be changed? That’s why the declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder is a great thing, and why organizations like NARTH have to try and dismiss its declassification as a “political move” rather than a reasoned decision based on careful study. That hurt their entire position and we would do well to remind it.
Corvino talks about this when he admits he’s happy with his life and sees no need to change. This isn’t based on the fact that he “can’t” change (or so it seems to this blogger), but on the realization that it’s a satisfying part of who he is. It’s a great place to be on a personal level, but I think it’s also a great argument on a communal level.
Let those who wish to seek change have it. But those who wish to force that same change on the rest of us will need to justify that decision. And quite frankly, I think they have a losing battle on their hands.