Way back in 1997, I wrote an article in response to the rise of so-called “ex-gay ministries” for Whosoever, the online magazine for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians I founded just a year earlier. In the article, (please forgive the primitive HTML coding, I was young and inexperienced) I mused that if being gay is a choice and those who choose to renounce their homosexuality are to be known forever after as “ex-gay” then as a lesbian I must be “ex-straight.”
I ran with the idea in the piece and even started a related Web site for other “ex-straights” that has since been lost in the vapors of the Internet.
It seems the idea has been revived.
Revision Studios, famous for the Princess Diana Gay Bible has launched “Leviticus International,” a new website which promises to help unhappy straights become gay. According to film producer Max Mitchell, creator of the site, “Jesus Christ has the power to end heterosexuals’ misery and make them happy well-adjusted gays.”
The site promises to help release people “from the shackles of straight life,” and provides testimonies from those who “Prayed and Got Laid.”
Mary Bermanoff, of Dearborn, another ex-straight, says she’s never been so happy. “I truly am born again. Who knew Jesus could make me a happy lesbian? Twenty years with a man who smelled and never once emptied the recycle bin on the computer was more than I could take. My girlfriend, Janine, actually cooks and brings me coffee in bed. Hallelujah! I no longer have to be drunk to have sex.”
Personally, I’m not gung-ho about the project. Being gay isn’t as easy as being straight, so unless the entrance requirements are very stringent, I don’t believe just anyone should be allowed to become “ex-straight.” There should at least be a daunting audition and perhaps even a swimsuit competition before such esteemed status is conferred on potential converts.
On a serious note, Mitchell, in the organization’s press release, reveals the underlying anger that motivated the founding of Leviticus International.
Mitchell claims, “There are scholars who say that Jesus was gay. But gays are the only group left in America that it’s still okay to hate. Even President-elect Obama is a homophobe who thinks gays and lesbians don’t deserve the same rights as straights. Gays helped get Obama elected but he still hates them along with Rick Warren.”
While it’s funny to talk about plucking people from “Hetero Hell” and sending them instead to “Homo Heaven” – even tongue-in-cheek parodies of the harmful ex-gay industry only serve to widen the divide between straights and gays, and continue the myth that gays and lesbians have somehow “chosen” this “lifestyle”.
As I concluded in my 12-year-old essay, if we feel the need to label each other, Jesus gives us a perfectly adequate one.
Ultimately the distinction between gay and ex-gay is unimportant. To God there is no gay, there is no ex-gay. Paul assures us that in Christ there are no distinctions, no Greek or Jew, no male or female, no slave or master. Indeed, we are all one in Christ Jesus. Instead, we are called to love neighbor as self, rising above the distinctions. Soren Kierkegaard gives a wonderful example in “Works of Love.”
“Distinction is temporality’s confusing element which marks every man as different, but neighbor is eternity’s mark— on every man. Take many sheets of paper and write something different one each one— then they do not resemble each other. But then take again every single sheet; do not let yourself be confused by the differentiating inscriptions; hold each one up to the light and you see the same watermark on them all. Thus is neighbor the common mark, but you see it only by help of the light of the eternal when it shines through distinction.”
We are all God’s children, all neighbors in Christ. If we still feel the need to label others then let “neighbor” be the only label we use. Loving neighbor is difficult, especially when distinctions are so sharply drawn between “gay” and “ex-gay.” But with the “light of the eternal” to guide us, may we all strive to see the watermark of God in everyone.