Give Me That Old-Time Ex-Gay Snake Oil

After losing prominent “ex-gay” mouthpieces to apology (Alan Chambers), scandal (George Rekers) or enlightenment (John Paulk), the religious right is scrambling for a new face to sell its snake oil.

Say hello to David Kyle Foster, author of a pair of books about leaving homosexuality, whose new article over at the Christian Post rehashes all the lies the right-wing loves to spout about lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people.

Lest you think he was never gay in the first place, his first paragraph is used to prove his queer cred: “To those who suggest that I never was homosexual, my response is, ‘Does sleeping with over 1,000 men count?'”

Actually, no, it doesn’t. Neither the number nor the gender of the people one has slept with in their life proves anything about one’s sexual orientation. What this “proof” reveals is that, indeed, Foster’s problem isn’t homosexuality, but (as the title of his most recent book alludes to) sexual addiction, and gets the most bang (sorry) for his buck out of sex with men. Perhaps he has other psychological issues centering around shame or self-hatred or body image that lead him to prefer anonymous encounters over deeper, loving relationships. Perhaps what Foster really needed was a good psychotherapist to help him work through his sexual issues so he could fully integrate his sexuality with his identity in a healthy way and remain who he most likely was (and still is, of course) … a gay man.

You see, this kind of full integration happens all the time and people give up addictions or other harmful behaviors and remain happy, healthy … and gay or straight. One’s sexual proclivities have little to do with orientation and a lot to do with how we relate to ourselves and others through intimacy and other forms of physical contact.

But, this is how the ex-gay industry wants the world to view LGBT people—as purely sexual beings. Foster’s screed is simply a long promo for a new ex-gay movie coming out, and the trailer, three-minutes of nauseating footage, centers around how each of these former homosexuals lived their lives in clubs, engaging in cheap, easy, and often public sex, or were sexually abused.

For all the claptrap the religious right yells about how they don’t want to think of us “that way,” the trailer for the film is positively voyeuristic! Let’s face it, gay sex is completely titillating to heterosexuals, especially conservative Christian heterosexuals. They can’t stop thinking about us in bed! Remind me again, who’s the perv here?

If the number of partners one has, the amount of time one spends in clubs, and what kind of sexual abuse one has suffered in their lifetime makes a person gay, then I suppose I ought to turn in my lesbian card. I can count the number of sexual partners I have had in 49 years on two hands and have some fingers left over. Not because there weren’t offers, but because, as a general rule, I like to have some sort of close relationship and trust with the person I get naked with. I plan to share something special with them, so I want to have some feelings before I fall into bed with them.

As for clubs, they were never my scene and I ditched them in my 20s. There are plenty of other ways to meet other LGBT people … church, for instance!

Certainly, many LGBT people have suffered from sexual abuse, but so have many straight people, who continue to be straight to this day, despite the horrors they may have suffered at the hands of adults when they were children. There is no excuse for anyone, gay or straight, to abuse a powerless child. But, the experts agree, sexual abuse doesn’t affect sexual orientation.

Oh, but Fisher continues:

Homosexual behavior also tears at the soul, causing much higher rates for substance abuse, suicide, depression, domestic violence, early death – even in the most gay-friendly regions of the globe. Why? Because active homosexuals are trying to find something through gay relationships that can never be found there.

I fear that Fisher mistakes symptoms for the disease here. To say that homosexuality is the cause of substance abuse, depression, violence and early death in the LGBT community is like saying being a teenager causes gangs. While gang membership may be predominantly composed of teenagers, there are societal and familial forces that bring those teens into the gangs. Gangs, aside from the violence they perpetrate, are often a replacement for the love, opportunity and sense of belonging that many teens may not be getting at home.

The same can be said for homosexuality. A sexual orientation does not cause one to become addicted, depressed, violent or die early. Instead, a society and a church that calls you abnormal, crazy, “intrinsically disordered,” and asserts that God hates you enough for who you are to send you to an eternal hell creates these kinds of behaviors.

At our core, human beings want to fit in. We want to be loved and accepted and when we aren’t, when we’re made to feel like scum and ashamed of who we are, we turn to things that make us feel better—drugs and alcohol perhaps. Being rejected by family, church and society can bring on depression or violence in acting out our frustrations. Early death, though, for our community can be caused by any of these problems … and sometimes violence from those outside our community who believe the world would be a better place without us.

So, no, LGBT people are not addicted, depressed, violent or checking out early because of who we are. What really “tears at the soul” is how we are treated by people who believe, and preach, and attempt to legislate that we are “less than” everyone else.

When it comes to my own sexual orientation, I know that I did not choose it. The ex-gay industry can try to revive itself by telling the same lies and trotting out the same distorted and debunked “research” all it wants. The picture they paint of LGBT lives is a sad one. They have to tell it this way because if they told the story of all the happy, healthy, boring LGBT people and their happy, healthy boring relationships, nobody would buy their lies. What’s sad is they find people, such as Fisher, who play right into their hands and parrot the words they’ve been paid to speak.

I do hope that each person, including Fisher, Rekers, and others who make their living by psychologically and spiritually destroying genuinely hurting LGBT people can sleep at night. But, people such as Chambers and Paulk show us the real truth: change is possible.