Ex-Gays and the “threat” they pose

Jonathan Rowe, one of the contributors to Positive Liberty, pointed his readers to a great opinion piece by John Corvino in regards to ex-gays. It’s well worth the read and I highly recommend it.

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.

10 thoughts on “Ex-Gays and the “threat” they pose”

  1. I thought of two things. One, and please tell me if this seems an unfair comparison: a recent study said that of people who are overweight but diet and lose significant weight, only 2% ever keep it off. Why? Well, because it’s a change in our NATURE that most of us cannot succeed at. Not to mention the only reason it matters is because of what society at large thinks is “acceptable”. Can change happen? Sure. SHOULD change happen? Not necessarily. I was born with a definite genetic predisposition to being overweight. I COULD starve myself and overcome that, but why should I? Would it be more healthy to be skinny and miserable (and therefore socially acceptable) or to be overweight and happy (even if not as socially acceptable) – as long as I’m being active and wise about protecting my heart health? The problem is, of course, the 2% of people who do successfully lose weight, because it makes the rest of look bad. I hate that.

    But then again, with both issues, check back with these “successful” people in 5 years or 10 years.

    The other thing I thought of is when the original founders of Exodus apologized and said “we were wrong” to try to convince/force people to change. I thought that was cool.

  2. I liked Erin’s analogy too. Don’t even get me started on that subject, I could go on and on (I’ll just say this one thing: for those of us who are female, single and overweight and choose to accept that we will never reach “societally accepted thinness” are also facing the fact that because of that we will most likely remain single.)

    I also like that Exodus apologized, I know a guy that they really messed up.

    Personally, I could not change my sexual orientation even if I wanted to, so its hard for me to understand how anyone could.

  3. Jarred, KUDOS to you for speaking such a great deal of truth. I especially like what you wrote

    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?

    It’s high time we (and ESPECIALLY gay Christians) stop letting ourselves be put on the defensive (and putting ourselves on the defensive for that matter!) for who we are.

  4. The problem is the apparently political nature of this “ex-gay movement.” It seems insane to me for anyone to want to re-classify homosexuality as a “mental disorder,” but then there would have to be political motives for it. Once power is involved in any matter….

  5. What’s even more frighteningly insane, Adam, is that there are still even those people (I’m really hoping they’re so far out on the fringe that they’ll fall off any day now) who are in favor making “sodomy” a criminal offense again.

    The sad thing, though, is that even some ex-gays are getting tired of being used as political pawns. For example, consider Disputed Mutability’s reaction to statements Scott Lively made last June.

    Of course, DM might take issue with me referring to her as an ex-gay, too. But I’m hoping she’ll overlook that under the circumstances.

  6. the topic’s a little to deep for me but i just think it’s easy to go from being straight to gay and almost impossible to do it the other way around

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