Let’s All Be “Anti” So No One Else Ever Has To Be “Ex”
August 20th, 2009
Note from Jim Burroway: I am very excited to be a co-sponsor of an exciting conference scheduled for November 20-22, 2009 in West Palm Beach, Florida. I will be there, as will BTB contributors Daniel Gonzales and Gabriel Arana. I hope you will too. Here’s Soulforce Executive Director Jeff Lutes to tell you all about it.
Two weeks ago a task force from the American Psychological Association released a ground breaking report after a two year analysis of the research on sexual orientation change efforts. Based on a rigorous review of 83 studies conducted between 1960 and 2007, the APA advised psychologists to avoid telling their clients that therapy or other treatments can change them from gay to straight.
Not surprisingly, NARTH (National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality), Exodus International, and a slew of other religious groups immediately denounced the APA report. They claimed, as they so often do, that any research affirming the goodness and wholeness of queer people is bogus and only their twisted belief that we are sick, sinful, and second-class (and therefore in need of “change”) has any credibility.
In my view, the conversation about whether gays can change is a distraction from the much more important question; which is “Why do those in power encourage change in the first place?” The answer, of course, is the rampant heterosexism that infuses nearly every aspect of our culture.
Heterosexism is a system of attitudes, behaviors, and practices that subordinate queer people on the basis of their sexual orientation. In the same way that racism keeps whites in power over people of color and sexism keeps women subordinate to men, heterosexism keeps those who are straight dominant over those who are not. Heterosexism is the prejudice that only heterosexuality is normative, combined with the power to enforce that privilege across every spectrum of society. Heterosexism is advanced by nearly every tune on the radio, sitcom and commercial on television, print ad in the newspaper, film at the box office, and institutional policy within our government and work place. In innumerable ways each day, our society idealizes straightness and ignores or devalues the existence of any person or family who identifies otherwise.
When was the last time you heard a debate about whether therapy and prayer can change a straight person to gay?
I believe “change”, “repair”, and “conversion” are indeed possible. Millions of people have changed their minds and now believe that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens deserve full equality under the law. A growing number of churches have repaired their previously broken theology and now welcome and affirm everyone in their congregations. Slowly, the religious denominations that create and enforce church doctrine are undergoing a conversion in their understanding of LGBTQ people (let’s hope the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America undergoes such a conversion this week).
But the only way things change is if you and I are willing to be “anti” so that no one ever again has to be “ex.” Focusing on the work of anti-heterosexism (undoing the notion that straightness is superior and preferable) undermines the toxic belief system that encourages so many to waste thousands of dollars and precious years trying to become “ex-gay” in therapies and programs that end up doing more harm than good.
So, I’m proud of Soulforce, Beyond Ex-Gay, Box Turtle Bulletin, Truth Wins Out, Equality Florida, and the National Black Justice Coalition for coming together to sponsor the 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference in West Palm Beach, Florida (November 20-22, 2009) during the same weekend and in the same city where NARTH will hold its annual conference. Early registration begins today at www.anti-heterosexismconference.org and the conference features powerful keynotes by Dr. Sylvia Rhue, Dr. Jack Drescher, and Rev. Deborah Johnson, plus an exciting line-up of concurrent workshops that will be announced in September.
It’s our moral obligation to be “anti” and resist, oppose, and prevent the systems of power that oppress and discriminate. Join us this November in West Palm Beach as together we learn effective tools for undoing heterosexism in communities across the globe.
Warning: At this conference, you will most likely change . . . into your bathing suit!
Hope to see you there.