Monday, June 24, 2013

Do You Want the Good News First?

This is part one of what might be a multi-part blogging adventure, who knows?

What a week! So many things have happened in the ex-gay (and ex-ex-gay world) in the last week that a blog post seemed to be a good way for me to sort out some of my thoughts on this. I know I don't have much readership any longer, and that's OK. My life has grown so far beyond the online world (or perhaps too many things just happen on facebook these days), that it hasn't felt like a priority for me. So....there you are. But here we are. And here I am trying to cobble thoughts together.

People have asked me what I thought about the demise of Exodus: Alan's Apology, his opening night talk at the last Exodus Conference, the shutting down of Exodus International (although perhaps in name only), and the Lisa Ling show and outtakes. Frankly, I have a lot of mixed thoughts and sometimes conflicting emotions, depending on what point of view I take. So I'll share a few with you.

Viewpoint #1 - From the point of view of someone who doesn't know much about the inner workings of the ex-gay world, the apology from Alan is a BIG deal and a GREAT thing for LGBT people and their families in the long run.

Here's why I think so:

For the media, who has rarely been able to deal with this issue with any level of real nuance, the reporting of this is also lacking nuance, but this time it's a good thing from my point of view. For years it's been frustrating to witness the media stories about the ex-gay world, and how everything is reduced to the simplest (and therefore often mostly wrong) terms. The debate has been framed as "does it work" with two sides—"yes" and "no"—and we've struggled for a long time to get the discussion onto the issues of harm. If you just talk about "does it work", it sounds like it's a neutral thing that people can decide to try without the potential for the consequences, which we know for some can be tragic. It gives parents and grandparents and ministers hope that if they just push hard enough, their loved one can change. Self-defined "ex-gay strugglers" look at "success stories" (which often omit the truth of remaining gay orientation) and feel like failures, and they decide to try even harder to succeed, with sometimes bad results.

The media has generally not had the time or the interest to delve beyond sound bites, and they rarely, if ever, question all the double-speak coming out of the ex-gay movement, either. In the past, this has always benefitted the ex-gay movement who could say things like "Change is possible" and know that the vast majority of viewers and readers would think "orientation change" and not "behavior change". Most people without a stake in this conversation will not follow up to determine what kind of change is being talked about.

So this time, it's nothing new with the media (for the most part)—and for that I'm actually grateful! Headlines saying "Largest 'gay cure' clinic shuts down" are of course, not remotely accurate. But you know what? The majority of people don't know and don't care. They are now just hearing the sound bite that the largest "gay cure" organization shut down, and the leader apologized. The language of "survivor" is being used, and harm is being mentioned. In my mind, this is an extremely good thing, and I'm grateful for it.

If this means that one more parent decides that they should let their kids be who they are, and if it means that one more grandparent stops sending articles and books to their grandkids, and if it means that one more kid won't get kicked out of the house while still a minor, and if it means that one more teenager decides to stick it out and see if it really does get better, and if it means that one more exhausted and heartbroken ex-gay person can let themselves off the hook and believe that there's nothing broken about them, then this is the best thing that could have happened.

I'm not sure it's what Alan Chambers ultimately wanted, and it's certainly not the message that current ex-gays or their supporters want shouted from all the media outlets, but it's what is, and for once I'm grateful for the lack of nuance and attention to detail in the media. If this is all that "the moveable middle" takes in for right now, that's fine by me:

Next I'll address the viewpoint of those who are highly involved in the ex-gay movement, or ex-gay survivors. I have a lot of life going on (work, a broken water heater and slightly flooded basement, among other things), so stay tuned and hopefully I can write more soon.....some time before 2014.