Though it’s a story we’ve seen play out many, many times, it never fails to be refreshing when a former “ex-gay” leader comes out in support of LGBT people and recants their former work. Yvette Cantu Schneider, a former “ex-gay” activist who worked with the Family Research Council, Focus On The Family, and fought for Proposition 8 in California, has recanted her earlier involvement with the religious right movement against LGBT people in a long Q & A with Good As You’s Jeremy Hooper. Though there are many gems to be found in the interview, several highlights are worth mentioning.
She echoes what we have heard so often, the fact that even in “ex-gay” circles, it’s well known that nobody really changes their sexual orientation:
I overheard two of my male colleagues talking one day about how women shouldn’t be allowed to vote because they (we) place their votes according to their emotions not according to reason. If women see images of happy gay couples, they’ll tend to think homosexuality is okay. But if they were to be exposed to what gay men do sexually, women would be more likely to vote against any gay-friendly initiatives. Men, on the other hand, are rational voters who can be trusted to see that homosexuality is wrong. I should have resigned that minute.
Many people I knew suspected all along that change—true change where all same-sex attractions disappear or become rare and incidental, and heterosexual attractions take their place—never happened. I can say I’ve never met an “ex-gay” man I thought was not still attracted to men and would not go back to gay relationships under the right circumstances. One of my colleagues tried to fix me up with an “ex-gay” man when I was still single. I said, “No way. I have no interest in dating an ex-gay man. I don’t trust that they’re actually ex-gay.” My colleague said, “The Bible says people can change—‘and such were some of you’—so you have to believe it’s true. It’s incredibly defamatory of you to believe otherwise.” The particular “ex-gay” man who was to be my date was caught having sex with a man about a year later.
Cantu Schneider also confirms that “ex-gay” events are often populated by people who have been recruited to be there to give the movement an appearance of popularity. She discusses a National Coming Out Of Homosexuality Day event and admits that, far from seeking to actually help people, it was a publicity stunt meant to provoke:
I participated in a National Coming Out of Homosexuality Day event in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park that was sponsored by AFA. Jerry Falwell spoke via satellite, and Michael Johnston was the other “ex-gay” speaker. This was an event I didn’t feel comfortable with from the start. Going into an urban gay mecca such as San Francisco on National Coming Out Day seemed designed to provoke and that’s what it did. A young man in attendance threw a blueberry pie in Michael’s face when he finished speaking, which instantly made our tiny event the lead story on the local evening news. This event didn’t draw anyone who hated being gay or anyone looking for help or inspiration. The only people there were a handful of supporters recruited to attend, and a smattering of pissed off spectators. But I guess it accomplished its purpose, which was to draw media attention to people who say they’re no longer gay.
Longtime Truth Wins Out readers will recognize the name Michael Johnston:
Jerry [Falwell] was heavily involved in the “ex-gay” arena, working with Michael Johnston, the founder of National Coming Out Of Homosexuality Day. Johnston was later shuffled off to a sex addiction facility in Kentucky after what his compatriots called a “moral fall,” which involved Johnston potentially infecting men with HIV through unprotected sex during his “ex-gay” career.
Jeremy asks Yvette a question that brings clarity in another area, the phony conservative notion of “hating the sin, loving the sinner.” They specifically address the fact that the “ex-gay” industry is little more than a prop for the Religious Right, so that they may feign actual concern for the well-being of the LGBT people they attack day in and day out:
HOOPER: I’ve always felt that these political groups on the religious right see the “ex-gay” movement as their “ace in the hole”—a way for them to justify a “love the sinner, hate the sin” approach. That way they can spin their resistance to LGBT rights, protections, and accommodations as something other than discrimination, since they are supposedly working against a person’s “chosen behavior” rather than the person as a human being. As someone who has been on the inside of so many of these organizations, would you say that is accurate?
SCHNEIDER: Yep. You summed it up perfectly. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
The way some Christians justify their efforts to deny LGBT rights is by saying, “It’s for your own good. You shouldn’t be living that way anyway.” When they can also say, “Look at this person who used to be like you and isn’t anymore,” it adds that much more power to the message. But there’s nothing in scripture that says discriminating against certain people in terms of rights and protections is okay. If you believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible—a collection of books a council of bishops originally voted on and ratified as the inspired word of God in the third century, 1300 years before the Protestants voted on their version of the Bible—there is still no precedent for forcing people to live by your religious values.
Finally, Yvette expresses support for the various “ex-gay” therapy bans working their ways through state legislatures, pointing out how crucial it is to protect minors from quack “counselors” who value their agenda more than they value their patients:
SCHNEIDER: These types of bans need to progress throughout the nation as quickly as possible. Not only is the efficacy of change therapy dubious at best, but the type of therapy this legislation bans is specifically for minors. It’s damaging to take a child who is questioning his or her sexuality, or who may display qualities that are not in line with what our society considers normative for their gender, and communicate to the child (and parents) that there is something wrong with him, that in some way he or she is deficient. When their feelings fail to change, they’re left holding a big bag of shame instead of feeling empowered because they have embraced their authentic and multi-faceted self.
As I said, there are many, many gems in the Q & A. Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.