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January 21st, 2024

Survivors’ Tales

I hadn’t used my Netflix account for a long time and needed to reestablish my credentials on the Roku. The idea was to finally watch Pray Away,┬áthe Netflix documentary about the rise and fall of ex-gay ministries like Love In Action and Exodus. When I was able to get my account working with a new password, and some updated profile info, I found the documentary and first watched the trailer. Then I became too depressed to actually watch the documentary. But probably will later.

I never went through anything like that, although I’ve often wondered whether mom would have done it to me had I come directly out to her. I’ve written about that elsewhere, and touched on it in A Coming Out Story. So I don’t have those particular scars on my heart. Mine are different. But I lived through those times, and made friends of people who were there, by choice and not. Revisiting it is difficult, even for the likes of me, who never felt any shame, never believed that God hated him. That torrent of abuse you got from every direction got to all of us, worked its way deep inside.

I might not even be the audience for this documentary. I don’t need convincing about how toxic the practice is. But I do now firmly believe that much of the progress we’ve made to that better world where we can all live honest lives, has been because people who’ve been through this have found their voices and have spoken out. If you need any convincing that sexual orientation is biologically innate and cannot be therapied out of, listen to the people who tried really hard, and then listen to the people who ran those outfits and finally had to stop because they could not keep lying to their customers anymore, or to themselves about what they were doing to them.

by Bruce | Link | React!

November 23rd, 2023

The Homosexual Trope Behind Ex-Gay Therapy

Wow…they weren’t kidding when they called Peter and Barbara’s book Growing Up Straight a veritable encyclopedia of homophobia. And yes, from what I’ve read of it so far it draws very heavily on the work of Irving Bieber (he of the Mothers Did It school). Every wee passage in the book where they take notice of others in the field who were beginning to realize that homosexuals were not necessarily mentally disturbed and that those mental issues homosexuals face could largely be laid at the feet of the profound social and legal stigmas they face, which the authors freely acknowledge, is dismissed with a wave of the hand to the effect that Bieber disagrees. A better title for the book might have been What Irving Bieber Told Us.

They practically catalog every aspect of the social stigma that homosexuals endured in that period, and then go on to assert that nearly all homosexuals wish they weren’t and would do practically anything to get free of it, as though one had nothing to do with the other. It is the central premise of the book: that homosexuality is a dangerous practice, that homosexuals are inwardly miserable, that adult homosexuals are desperate for a cure, and this is why it is essential that parents nip it in the bud.

There are case histories that I haven’t done much but glance over now, but in their dry yet voyeuristic tone they remind me of all the case histories I read back in the day. These are not people, they are homosexual tropes that only exist to serve the narrative. But that was all we had to see ourselves by in 1968. I still remember vividly when that curtain was lifted for me, and it wasn’t the Internet that did it. It was FidoNet.

To look at how FidoNet worked from the perspective of today is to be stunned at how primitive and rickety it all was. And yet in the early to mid 1980s it allowed me to witness something I never had before, after a kindly sysop gave me private access to a gay echoboard called “gaylink”: gay men talking about their lives to one another, unfiltered, unedited, simply chit chatting away in their own voices. And in that moment, all the case studies fell away.

They had to on first contact with the reality of our lives, because they were never meant to illuminate, to raise awareness of the people we are and the lives we lead. They were self serving stereotypes propped up to prove a point. You never saw any case studies that didn’t prove the point. There, in my first exposure to the authentic voices of other gay men, I saw many.

I’ve blogged before about the young teenager from the Netherlands who said he thought he might be gay and asked the group how they knew it about themselves, and how from all over the world the kid got coming out to yourself stories, the breadth and depth of which you never saw in the case studies. It was stunning. If the wonks of the ex-gay industrial complex seem perpetually bewildered and frustrated that few people take them seriously anymore this is why. They never really looked at us, only the scarecrows they made of us, and ever since the early 1980s we could see ourselves no matter where we lived, if we had a computer and a modem.

A couple links to critical reviews of Bieber below…

The Bieber study: A review revisited (Warren Throckmorton)

A Half-Century of Conflict Over Attempts to ‘Cure’ Gay People (Time Magazine February 12, 2015)


by Bruce | Link | React!

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