As a queer activist, and an ex-gay survivor, I have gotten pretty frustrated with how the media tends to handle the ex-gay topic. What amazes me is that most of them seem to do the same old thing over and over.
Mind you, every person I have worked with in the media has thought that the ex-gay propaganda is hog-wash, and yet what do they do? Right off the bat, they often bring on air an ex-gay minister who gets to exclusively explain their perspective is if they are a qualified expert on sexuality. Often times this is where the host tries to let the ex-gay talk himself into a corner or maybe sound so religiously zealous that they invalidate themselves. But much to the host surprise, this leader is rather articulate, and almost kind of makes sense. He even sounds caring and accepting of sad homosexuals.
What the media is usually unprepared for is that these leaders are pretty slick. In fact ex-gays have created a whole system of denial that convinces themselves that their disdain for homosexuality is a righteous attribute, so you can bet they are going to sound appealing. In fact, leaders are often paid to preach that heterosexuality is Godliness. So they are going to come across in a 4 minute sound-bite as VERY palatable. It really takes someone who has been there, and worked very hard on recovering to sift through the rhetoric and expose what’s really going on.
Furthermore, as my colleague, Peterson Toscano will say, if the media was going to do an article about the damaging effects of crack cocaine, would they first interview the drug dealer and why it is so great to use crack cocaine – they’re the dealer! Of course that’s what they are going to say. This is nothing new. What’s not being heard and therefore more easily denied are the long and short-term consequences to ex-gay and religious abuse.
When the newscaster and ex-gay come back from their commercial break, we get to hear from usually an ex-gay survivor, someone. like me. Maybe that person will get a minute or two to say something about all they did to repair the damage of attending one of these groups, but just like clockwork, the host then turns back to the ex-gay leader and asks, “What do you think of that?” and the leader gets another opportunity for a quasi-palatable sound bite, where they usually play all innocent “I don’t know about that I’ll have to look into it…” T-yah, sure. How many times have I heard that…
Maybe they will get a Psychologist in there to make a statement about how reparative therapy is damaging, maybe the ex-gay leader brings another (usually) paid person as a”poster child.” but in the end all that’s really been done is that the “news agency” has just given the ex-gay movement one big free commercial.
And never is discussed that the majority of the people leave these groups feeling worse than when they entered. Never is the discussed the suicide attempts of the people who have felt rejected by their families and by God because of what these groups are preaching. Never are these leaders called on the carpet for any of the damage they do in the name of “Healing.” Never is discussed that what they are attempting to “fix’ is not broken in the first place. Never is discussed that their beliefs to “heal” society of homosexuality is the very same belief that bullies have, who commit acts of violence in attempts to remove homosexuals from society. They believe the same thing – that homosexuality has no place in this society.
So media, do something more than just scratching the surface of this topic. Do something different from what most media outlets do – start with the horrible damage that occurs because of these ministries, focus on that and have the leaders answer for it on nationwide TV. Don’t enable them, put a stop to the harm.
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