Tag Archive | homelessness

Self-loathing self deceivers—they are never just hurting themselves

“Conversion therapy is harmful to both the individuals who are subjected to it, and society more broadly, as it perpetuates the erroneous belief that homosexuality is a disorder which requires a cure.”

(Click to embiggen)

I know this story broke a couple of weeks ago. If I was still doing the really long weekly round up of links, it would have been included that week, and I might have typed a sentence or two of strongly worded commentary. But it didn’t make it into the top five stories for Friday Five. And besides, if I’m going to comment on the whole Josh Weed situation, I ought to make it a full-fledged post.

Let’s begin with the headline: This Gay Mormon Man Who Got Famous For Marrying A Straight Woman Is Getting Divorced. Quick sum-up, back in 2012 Josh Weed and his wife went public about the fact that he was gay, but that as devout Mormons they were choosing to be married. He claimed to be happy and fulfilled in this loving marriage with a woman, and by the way, he mentioned he was a therapist who was always happy to take on new patients.

He was quick to deny that he was pushing so-called ex-gay or conversion therapy. He was simply “helping those with sexual identity issues, unwanted sexual attractions and behaviors.” In interviews he insisted again and again that this wasn’t conversion therapy because he knew that no one could stop being homosexual. No, he was just helping people (“particularly young people”) struggling with this problem by “meeting them where they are and helping them find a solution that meets their needs.”

And specifically, he was holding himself up as an example of a gay man who could enter into a heterosexual marriage, never act on his same-sex attractions, while living a happy, fulfilled life that was congruent with his church’s belief that being gay was an abomination. Except, of course, he didn’t mention that abomination part.

To claim this wasn’t conversion therapy was to draw a distinction without a difference, at best. To do it while advertising one’s therapy services moves it squarely into the lying category.

“The couple is now apologizing to the LGBT community for how the “publicity of our supposedly successful marriage” has been “used to bully others.””

As part of the process of the downfall of the explicitly ex-gay conversion business (and it was always a business), there were a number of court cases (often parents of children sent off to this quack therapy now suing over the wrongful deaths of their children) where the practicioners were forced to admit under oath that at least 99.9 percent of the time no one was ever cured of being gay. Their previous claims about cure percentages was to count anyone who was able for a period of time to resist their feelings and put on a good front pretending to be happy while the refrained from acting on those feelings as a “cure.”

In other words, all the people doing it knew that it never worked.

Part of Josh’s and his soon-to-be-ex-wife’s apology now is to claim they are deeply saddened and ashamed that their story was used to bully other people. They write a supposedly heartfelt account of a person in his twenties coming home for Thanksgiving not long after the Weeds’ story first came about and being physically assaulted by his father because, “If Josh Weed can stop being gay, so can you!” And many many other horrible tales.

Here’s one of my problems taking this apology as sincere. This assault? Happened back in 2012. The young man who endured it wrote to them about in shortly after it happened. And he wasn’t the only queer person from a conservatively religious family who during the time the Weeds were in the headlines previously experienced something like this, went to Josh Weed’s website, and posted a comment years ago.

If Josh Weed was sincerely sorry about people supposedly misconstruing his allegedly not-homophobic story, he would have began issuing apologies and clarifications when the comments first turned up on the website. What he did instead, was to continue to insist in interview after interview in various publications throughout the years since that 1) he wasn’t providing conversion therapy himself, and 2) he didn’t think that him choosing to live in an opposite sex relationship implied that other people ought to do it.

That’s not my only problem with this. As part of their announcement and apology, they recount the epiphany that Josh had that his sexual orientation isn’t a “biological aberration” after all. Back in 2012 and in all those subsequent interviews, he constantly insisted that he didn’t think there was inherently anything wrong with being gay, he was just offering help to those who didn’t want to act on their desires. But now we clearly know that he and his wife (because while talking about the epiphany he also talks about all the conversations he had with his wife about it) believed all along that being queer was a biological aberration.

So in his apology he is tacitly admitting he was lying for all those years.

Listen, I used to be a self-loathing closet case. I spent most of my teens and twenties scared to death that people would find proof that I was the faggot that many of them called me all the time. I prayed and cried and pleaded with god during those teen years to make it go away. The Southern Baptist churches I was raised in are no more welcoming to queers than the Morman churches Weed grew up in. I understand how he got in that situation. I understand how the fear of being rejected by your family, your church, and everyone you know drives a closeted queer person to terrible rationalizations. I understand that when you’re in that situation, you are lying to yourself and trying to convince yourself to believe the lie even more than you are lying and selling the lie to everyone else.

And, yeah, I’m happy for him now that he’s finally realized that forcing himself to pretend to be happy and fulfilled in a marriage to someone with whom he wasn’t in love—a marriage in which his sexual and emotional needs weren’t being met—was actually harmful. And I’m happy that, unlike a lot of other ex-gays out there who came to their senses he’s actually gone public about it. And sure, it’s nice that he’s apologized for some of what he did.

But it isn’t enough. The current apology is just a variant on the old “if someone was offended” non-apology. He’s apologized that other people used his story to hurt queer family and friends, as if it’s just a completely unexpected side effect that he has only recently learned about. We know that he was contacted by a lot of the victims years ago. He knew. He knew and yet he used the impression people had that if he could pretend to be heterosexual than anyone can to advertise his own counseling services. And in those therapy sessions he told many patients all the things that he says now he’s realized weren’t true.

When people like Josh Weed tell their story of choosing not to act on their sexual orientation—when they actively seek out interviews and coverage in the religious press for their story—that lie he’s telling himself is weaponized by other people. It is used as an excuse by those people to bully their own queer children or any other queer people in their families and communities. It is used in far too many cases to bully those queer people to death. It is used as an excuse to throw queer and gender nonconforming children out on the street.

I’ve written before about my personal experience of having family members use the stories of people like Josh Weed as the justification to reject me, threaten me, and say I and my husband aren’t welcome. I don’t know a single queer person who hasn’t had someone browbeat them with stories like Josh Weed and other ex-gays.

I’m going to keep insisting that Josh was an ex-gay. It doesn’t matter that he rejected that label. The hair-splitting he was doing to justify the rejection was ludicrous. And I’m not going to accept this apology because it is incomplete. He wasn’t just deluding himself for those years, he was literally selling that lie to other people. And until he admits that he was doing that; until he admits that the weaponizing of his story wasn’t happening without his knowledge; until he admits that his denials about the nature of his counseling was wrong; until he admits his silence until very recently in the face of that weaponization was also wrong; he doesn’t have an ethical right to ask for forgiveness.

Gay it forward

Source: thedesmondproject.com/Homelessness-Info.html (Click to embiggen)

The Department of Justice estimates that about 1.7 million teen-agers are homeless in America at any time. Of those, about 40% identify as queer (that’s 680,000 kids). According to research by the True Colors Fund and similar groups, the single biggest cause of those queer teens being homeless is family rejection because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. But note that the next most common reasons are abusive homophobia or transphobia in their school, church, or community, even when their parents don’t go to the extreme of kicking them out.

Growing up in Southern Baptist churches in mostly redneck communities, I knew from a very early age that I didn’t belong. I was constantly breaking unspoken rules I didn’t understand. Nearly everyone–not just my physically abusive father, but other relatives, church leaders, many of my teachers, and a lot of the kids at school–made it abundantly clear that I didn’t act like a normal boy, and that if I didn’t figure out how to man up, there would be even more severe consequences than the beatings, teasing, and humiliations I was already enduring. I was taught–not just at church, but also at public school in health and science classes–that homosexuality was a severe mental disease that turned the people who had it into pedophiles, rapists, and worse. Homosexuals, they said, were evil creatures who deserved to die gruesomely.

When puberty hit, I finally realized that those two messages were one and the same. Puberty hit like a Tomahawk missle, blasting away my hopes of growing up to have what I had been taught was a normal, successful life. Because suddenly I realized that those odd fascinations I had had with certain men and boys wasn’t just friendship, they had been crushes. And now my hormones and body were reacting to the guys my emotions had been before. All of that added up to the horrifying conclusion that I could never man up enough not to deserve the scorn, ridicule, physical assaults, and even worse. It was no longer a matter of trying to figure out what I was doing wrong–it became a matter of life and death that I hide the truth about what I was from everyone I knew.

After fighting my feelings and having a couple of furtive relationships with other guys my age who were just as scared, I came to know with all my being that three things were absolutely true: If the wrong people found proof about what I was, I would be rejected and certainly come to an untimely and probably gruesome death alone and unloved. If I couldn’t stop having these feelings and acting on any of those urges, I would spend eternity in hell. And absolutely nothing I did–no amount of tearfully pleading with god, reading the Bible cover to cover three times, stealing my dad’s porn magazines and trying to make myself feel attraction to the women in them, et cetera–would make those feelings go away.

I was doomed. It wasn’t a matter of if, merely when.

Despite knowing I was doomed, my basic temperament just doesn’t accept no-win situations. So part of me kept trying to convince the rest of me that we could fake it as long as it took. I also had certain glimmers of encouragement I’ve written about before in science fiction. One thing I didn’t have was any role model or even a hint that there might be another kind of life possible.

There were no openly gay people in any of the communities we’d lived in until I was in my 20s. There were no openly gay characters in TV or movies or the like until at least my mid-teens. Oh, there were characters that seemed to be gay, but they were always either the comic relief or someone you were supposed to despise. When a few openly gay characters started showing up, they were never regular characters or even heroic. They were still either comedic characters, or victims. Very occasionally one would appear on a single episode to make a message about tolerance. But they were always alone and there was no sense they had a life or friends, let alone a love life!

And then I saw a news story about a gay pride event that changed my life. I had seen some news stories before about the gay protest marches, but they had been brief, and were always accompanied by images of either very angry people with protest signs, or outrageous images selected to portray all the queers as freaks. This story did include some of those images, but there was more of an attempt to give the queer people a chance to speak. They showed brief clips from interviews with several people, but the moment that stuck in my head was when a pair of middle-aged men who were interviewed mentioned that they had been together for nearly 20 years. They were boyfriends, and they had been together for years.

That single bit of data changed everything. I was 19 or 20 years old. I had had a few secret relationships and flings with guys. They had all been steeped in anxiety and fear of what would happen if we were caught. These other closeted gay guys were the only queer people I had met, and they were all, so far as I knew, just as certain that we were going to burn in hell for eternity because of what we were. Though some of the fiction I’d read by then mentioned gay or bisexual people in relationships, it had all be in various sci fi settings where things were very different than the real world.

But there. on the TV in a news program two men who weren’t sci fi characters were comfortable saying on camera that they were boyfriends and had been for years.

It was several more years before I would even utter aloud to anyone the words, “I think I might be gay,” but knowing that there were actual, flesh and blood queer people out there who were in love and having relationships is what let me hold on to hope for a few more years and gave me the strength to finally come out.

“I a not a sinner”

“I a not a sinner”

And that is another reason I support Pride Parades and all sorts of other out gay events. Because there are tens of thousands of frightened queer children out there scared to death to be who they are. Worried that their own parents will reject them or worse. And because we know that every year hundreds of those kids commit suicide because they have no hope. As long as we have our crazy, flashy, glittery, contentious but fabulous pride parades and festivals and so on, then news sites will run stories about them. It doesn’t matter that the coverage may be slanted. Some of those frightened kids will see those stories. Some of them will click on those images. They will know that they aren’t alone. If we can give some of them hope, then our mission has been a success.

All of us who are living our lives out and proud got here because of the hard, brave work of the drag queens, trans activists, marching gays and lesbians and so forth who came before us. We owe them a debt we can’t repay directly. So we have a duty to not just pay it forward, but gay it forward.


Edited to Add:

If you can, give a donation to help queer kids who have been rejected by their families and kicked out on the street : True Colors Fund or The Ali Forney Center are good places to start. Many communities have local programs focusing on teen homelessness and particularly queer teen homelessness; a quick Google search with the name of your city or town, and the words “queer teen homeless” should point you in the right way. And if you want to hlp support transgender kids, please donate to: National Center for Transgender Equality.

Weekend Update – 11/7/2015: Children Being Failed

Source: thedesmondproject.com/Homelessness-Info.html (Click to embiggen)

Source: thedesmondproject.com/Homelessness-Info.html (Click to embiggen)

Every minute I’m blogging is a minute I’m not adding to my NaNoWriMo word count, but some things have crossed my virtual desktop since making yesterday’s Friday Links post that I think need to be shared.

First, many weeks back I shared links to the story of Joel Andrew, an 18-year-old student who was kicked out by his parents for being gay. They didn’t just kick him out, they refused to pay for tuition at the college he was enrolled at, they refused to sign any financial aid forms (which means that legally he can’t apply for federal aid until he turns 25, yes it’s a thing), and they demanded that he stop using his last name (Andrew is not his original surname). The daughter of his dance teacher set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to pay his tuition for one semester, tons of people donated, and so on. There’s more news, and it’s good news (as much as you can get from a story like this): College Dance Student Raises $60K For Tuition After Parents Disown Him For Being Gay. Go read the linked stories.

The parents now claim that they didn’t kick him out, and didn’t demand that he stop using their last name, but I strongly suspect that’s a case of the classic, “I didn’t tell him he had to move out. I told him that if he was living under my roof who would have to stop seeing his boyfriend, stop admitting he’s gay, et cetera, et cetera.” Anyway, Joel is doing alright, now. Which is good. I want to echo Dan Savage’s comments that there are a lot of Joels out there who didn’t have someone to set up a GoFundMe page. We can help kids like Joel by donated to organizations such as the Ali Forney Center, the True Colors Fund, or the Point Foundation. There are a lot of local charities that serve the homeless, particularly homeless teens. Find one near you and help if you can.

Second: I included one link yesterday to news that the Latter Day Saints church has officially declared that gay members are no longer simply sinning, but are now apostates, and not only that, but that children of gay people in same sex relationships are banned from Baptism and serving in the church until they turn 18 and then only if they renounce their own parents. As Natasha Helfer Parker writes at Patheos: ‘…how dare we go against our own doctrines and punish the children for the “sins of their fathers?”‘ Being an apostate means that one has renounced or completely abandoned their faith and it in utter rebellion against said faith and principals. Calling being in a gay relationship ‘apostasy’ puts it on par with murder and rape, and as more than one observer as commented, the church doesn’t refuse baptism to the children of murderers nor rapists. It’s got more than a few members upset, obviously.

It would be really easy to make snarky comments. When stories like this are posted on gay news sites, there are always people chiming in with, “what gay person would want to live in {fill in name of extremely conservative state}” or “why would anyone want to belong to a religion that doesn’t welcome them?” or “all religions are B.S. anyway, so why should we care?” and so on. My answer remains the same: we don’t choose where we are born and we don’t choose which family we are born into. As children we were dependent on our families and communities of origin for the means of survival. Policies like this hurt people who cannot protect themselves. They create an atmosphere of bullying and coercion that drives children to commit suicide. And particularly in close-knit communities that encourage extended families to remain close and depend upon one another, this kind of intolerance ruins lives.

The repercussions of B.S. like this reach well past childhood or the children directly impacted. These teachings are what drives parents to kick their children who appear to be gay, lesbian, bi, or trans from their homes, for instance. The LDS church isn’t alone in this by any means. The Southern Baptists can claim that they love and respect everyone, but when in the same statement about marriage equality they say “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil” they’re saying to every queer or questioning kid growing up in their churches that they way they were born is evil. Which will lead many of them, after years of praying and doing everything in their power to stop feeling the way they do and being who they are to believing they are irredeemable and inherently unlovable. Just as the Catholic church can keep tricking reporters into repeating the claim that the church is “more welcoming to LGBT people” when that welcome is not unlike the parents I talked about earlier—you’re welcome to be told again and again that who you are is inherently disordered and you may only stay so long as you live a miserable, lonely existence constantly denying who you are.

Third: The loss of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance is not simply a matter of one city. Nor is it as simple as hate and ignorance winning. We need to do some evaluation like this one: Why Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance Failed 80 if for no other reason that we’ve seen before that the anti-gay folks will reuse arguments that worked once again and again to take rights away. They are going to mount more campaigns just like this one to try to take away protections in jobs, housing, and so on. It isn’t a new tactic, by any means, but it’s one that can be made to work: How The Religious Right Learned To Use Bathrooms As A Weapon Against Justice

And they aren’t just using it to get anti-gay people to vote against us, they are already trying to get us to turn on each other: Homocon Petition: Drop The “T” From LGBT. It’s an anonymous petition. It is being promoted by certain gay republican jerks who have in the past argued against marriage equality and anti-discrimination laws. Scores of books can be written about why those folks actively participate in their own oppression, but make no mistake: this petition is not coming from people who have the well-being and rights of any queer person in mind. It’s called divide and conquer. If they can get us fighting among ourselves, it will be easy to not just stop the advancement of freedom, but to actually turn back the clock.

Don’t be fooled!

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