Sunday, June 24, 2007

Right Wingnuttery - Creating Counter Lobby Groups

[Note]:I started writing this a week ago, and have been mulling over publishing it since. My decision was made for me this morning when I heard this on the news this morning.

Driving into work one morning, I was treated to a rather lengthy treatise on CBC about the Anglican Synod voting on blessing same sex unions. Let me be clear about one thing here - I don't in fact really care how any given church chooses to handle the notion of gays and lesbians being married. That's a matter for the church to decide based on their theology. Choose to be accepting, and the church opens its doors to a population that has been excluded - either explicitly or implicitly (but that is really more of a "marketing decision" IMO)

However, during the interview, there was mention made of "ex-gay" groups lobbying "to be heard" because they had been "excluded" by the gays.

This is an intriguing tactic. The first thing that you have to realize is that the majority of "ex-gay" groups are closely allied with a faith community of some sort. (Often they are hooked in with the fundamentalists)

In general, I have always felt that the "ex-gay" thing was primarily created in an effort to "disprove" the often claimed argument of gays and lesbians that they are "just that way", and don't ask them to "change". The ex-gay argument is that people can change, and they did it by "accepting God" (most often, or via religious conversion and some odd little notion called Reparative Therapy) As I've argued before, human sexuality is sufficiently diverse to encompass the existence of both "absolute" gays and ex-gays without either in fact invalidating the other.

However, here we have the 'ex-gays' claiming the same basic discrimination that the GLBT organizations have long asserted is levelled at them. Groups like PFOX argue that ex-gays face discrimination too. Intriguingly, in a maneuver straight out of the old Mad Magazine Spy Versus Spy cartoon, the ex-gay lobby works hand in hand with the evangelical lobby to claim that the GLBT narrative is invalid. It's an interesting political strategy - find a few people who struggle with their identity, often because of the proscriptions of society, convince them to act differently and then use their narrative to claim that someone else's narrative is invalid.

As if to confirm my position that the "ex-gay" movement is primarily focused on denying the legitimacy of the GLB narrative, today's update on the story had this lovely little quote:

The Rev. Don Alcock from Ontario once lived as a gay man, but then turned to the church to heal what he calls his "brokenness."

"Our argument is you were not born to be that way. You were born the way God created us to be, and that was man and woman."

This has been the ranting tirade of the ex-gay movement as well as anti-gay organizations such as Dobson's "Focus on the Family".

There are two problems I see with the 'ex-gay' narrative. First, is that it attempts to invalidate the story of many GLB people. It implies that because some have "changed", that all can change. (Anyone with a first year logics course under their belt can tell you the problem with that little induction!) The second problem it puts forth is one I addressed here, is that such claims are founded upon views of human experience that are unreasonably rigid when held up against the light of human variability.

This leads me to suspect that "ex-gay" groups are really little more than an extension of the militant "christian" anti-gay lobby. They form the second side of the militant "christian" argument, and adopt the cloak of persecution themselves in a way that seeks to undermine the validity of the GLB narrative.

Just to extend things a little further, the gender identity population is not left to one side of this hypocritical set of arguments. In recent years "Ex-Transgender" organizations have begun to appear, recycling much of the rubric of the "ex-gay" movement, only spinning it into the world of gender identity.

In reality, neither of these movements would particularly bother me, if it weren't for the fact that they ultimately boil down to attempting to deny others the legitimacy of their life experiences. However, that is precisely their goal, and it is yet another insight into the crude viciousness that the evangelical right-wing has brought into the political dialogue in both Canada and the United States.


Stephanie said...

Who is discriminating against ex-gays? Have any of them ever been fired from a job when the boss discovered that they are ex-gay?

It seems they are only complaining about being discriminated against by gay people because they infer that gays are somehow preventing them from being heard. I wonder where we got the power to shut them up? (And why isn't it working?)

And they say this is all because they are being "excluded" by the gays. By claiming that they are no longer one of those filthy broken perverts, they are self-excluding themselves from the gay community, then they turn around and claim persecution and act as if they should still have a voice as part of the community that they voluntarily left.

It is all very two-faced.

Grog said...

It is the very irony that should make all of us suspicious of these organizations' motives.

The logical extension of someone being "ex-gay" is that the are now "swimming in the mainstream" of society, right?

So...the only reason for the ex-gays to claim "discrimination" is if the GLBT communities refuse to allow the ex-gays to invalidate the GLBT narratives.

It's a very destructive tactic because it does several things:

1) It is divisive for sexual minority populations - creating a small, but very vocal sub-group that claims membership as a minority as well.

2) It focuses some energies on infighting within the GLBT dialogue.

3) It spreads doubt within the general population about the claim of being "just made that way" that has been a strong part of the GLBT narrative for years.

And, perhaps the richest irony for the likes of Dobson, McVety and others is that they get to use the struggles of others for political gain.

Steve Boese said...

Hey Grog... speaking of counter-lobby groups, another voice is emerging these days -- folks who identified as ex-gay for some period of time but have since come to accept themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered.

I'm not one of them, but I'm the web developer for, where folks are creating a supportive community.

The purpose of the group is less about lobbying or protesting than it is about healing from ex-gay experiences which ended up causing more hurt than help. But, in this case, healing is sometimes also a political act.

So, the group is reaching out to ex-gay leaders who ministered to them in the past, asking for a chance to tell the stories of what happened to them after leaving their ex-gay experiences behind.

Take care...