5 Lessons From an Ex-Gay Industry Defector

After spending 15 years of her life serving as “proof” that gays and lesbians can “change” and become heterosexual, Yvette Cantu Schneider has officially  become “ex-ex-gay.”

Now married and a mother, Schneider does not label her sexuality, simply saying she has “intense emotional connections,” and could “of course” have fallen in love with a woman.” She recounts her story to GLAAD’s special projects consultant Jeremy Hooper, telling him that she was out and proud before she discovered Christianity and came to believe being a lesbian was sinful.

Her Q&A with Hooper is fascinating and the following quotes reveal five valuable lessons from the ex-gay industry, four of which are not at all surprising, and one final revelation that even the most devoted ex-gay acolyte could see right through.

1. Men are ickier than women:

On several occasions, I heard conversations about how the culture would be better off if homosexuality were re-stigmatized on the playground. If boys would go back to calling other boys “f*ggot,” the cultural tide would shift against the acceptance of homosexuality as a normal orientation. Never were there conversations about the deviancy of lesbians, only gay men, and the “bathos” of the [transgender community].

[...]

A favorite tactic of certain sectors of the pro-family movement is to highlight the sexual behaviors of gay men. You never hear anyone talk about the sexual practices of lesbians. Women are rarely mentioned unless you’re talking about smoking or excessive alcohol consumption. The assumption is that the general public is disturbed by sexual situations in bathrooms, parks, or other public places, or by men acting flamboyantly during pride parades and celebrations. News of these types of situations could be used as fodder to demonstrate the supposed inherent depravity of homosexual men, implying that all gay men have it within their nature to lurk in bushes waiting to hook up with someone.

One outspoken conservative rabbi said to me, “I think male homosexuality is far worse than female homosexuality. But I’d never say that in public.”

2. The anti-gay Christian movement is deeply misogynistic:

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.

3. Ex-gay poster children are scripted and interchangeable:

Near the end, especially with Prop. 8, I felt that I was stripped of my individuality. If it hadn’t been me at an event, it would have been someone else. When a speaking engagement conflicted with my schedule, someone else was found to be the “ex-gay” voice. There was nothing I could add or contribute that was different from what anyone else could contribute. I had never met the people I worked with, nor did they care to know me. There weren’t any meet and greets or private conversations. It was all about showing up and delivering my lines. I hated that.

4. When giving their testimony of conversion from their “homosexual sin” they followed a set pattern and tailored their story for the audience:

There is a clear, well-delineated pattern to salvation stories and testimonies. You start by explaining the problem, how you used to be a wretch (just like the song lyrics from Amazing Grace) and how through a series of events or internal experiences you now see the “truth”. [...] I knew the expected pattern from the years I spent in the church prior to my public policy work. I don’t know if others embellished their stories or if they were encouraged to pad them to make them more convincing, either explicitly or implicitly. I do think we have goals when we speak to certain audiences, and fashion our stories to meet those goals, excluding some pieces of information and highlighting others.

5. Last but not least, don’t ever date an ex-gay:

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.

We can just call that one the Anne and John Paulk Rule.

Candace Chellew-Hodge is the founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians and currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C. She is also the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008)

  • Aravis Tarkheena
  • http://technologos.net/ Christian Marble

    “The truth shall set you free” is what comforted me the most when I came out and had to deal with anxieties related to my religion. Repression leads to darkness. When the Bible says “and such were some of you,” it’s not saying that we’re going to suddenly change our physiology and no longer be gay. It’s saying that we are no longer going to be ruled by a spirit of degradation that leads to depravity and hurt. That is exactly what the “ex-gay” movement is – a tool of repression and oppression. Jesus is the great liberator of souls, not the prison warden.

  • Frank2918

    People may not have a choice about who they are attracted to but everyone, unless mentally Ill, has a choice over their behavior. People can choose to engage in sinful behavior or not. Anyone who encourages anyone to sin does not love or care for them.

  • fiona64

    When did you choose your sexual orientation, “Guest”?

  • Jim ‘Prup’ Benton

    But what, after all is ‘sexual sin’? For me it has nothing to do with the gender you have sex with, and everything to do with how you interact with that person. Lack of consent — everything from actual rape or ‘drug rape’ down to lying about yourself because you know the truth would make the other person say no — deceit, lack of respect, treating sex as a game where you ‘win’ by ‘scoring the most conquests’ rather than an interaction between two people — these are the true sexual sins — yet how frequently are sermons even written mentioning them?
    But with that definition of sin, I entirely agree with your last two sentences. And far too often, it is the fathers, the older brothers, and the members of the ‘locker room culture’ that are the most guilty.

  • Jim ‘Prup’ Benton

    actually, Fiona, he — at least pretends to — agree with you on this. See his first sentence.