Okay, so, this rant is a bit after the fact, but I haven’t been able to let this go.
First off, I need to clarify something—I am not gay, bisexual or any other letter found in the LGBTQ acronym.
What I am, is a feminist. Now, the root of feminism (TMIMO)*** is that all people everywhere are equal; as in, all deserve an equal chance of making the most of the existence they’ve been given without a bunch of asshats getting in their way. Now, I can’t go around thinking women and men should be equal and not a) recognize that there’s a bunch of other inequality happening all around me, and b) want to do something about it. I became an activist for the LQTBQ community as a result of my feminist beliefs, as well as my personal relationship with members of the LGBTQ community. So, I’m not an expert on “the gay experience,” and I have no more insight into what makes a person gay than any other straight person.
But, I can damn well tell you that there is no “cure for homosexuality.” So, when Kyra Phillips of CNN started a segment earlier this month with the question: “Homosexuality – Is It a Problem In Need of a Cure?” , I got a little twitchy. And then, when she brought on an alleged “expert in the field of sexual reorientation” for one side of the discussion, and an Assemblywoman just trying to get some outdated law in California repealed for the other, I got downright about-to-explode-y.
First, let me give a fair review of the actual debate. Despite Phillips’s introductory question (which she follows up with “grabs your attention, doesn’t it?” thus revealing the whole point behind the segment in that one line), the debate is framed by Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal’s, (D-Long Beach) introduction of a bill which would repeal Section 8050 of the Welfare and Institutions Code. Section 8050 declares that the State Department of Mental Health
“shall plan, conduct and cause to be conducted scientific research into the causes and cures of sexual deviation, including deviations conducive to sex crimes against children, and the causes and cures of homosexuality…”
Never mind that the original wording equates (once again) homosexuality with sexual deviation and pedophilia, the law outright demands that research into a cure for homosexuality be conducted. Thus, having Lowenthal appear on Phillips’s show in order to discuss why she is trying to repeal that law makes a lot of sense.
To represent the opposing view, however, Phillips brought in one Richard Cohen, a supposedly ex-gay “conversion therapist” who was permanently expelled from the American Counseling Association in 2002,
“after it accused him of six violations of its ethics code, which bars members from actions which ‘seek to meet their personal needs at the expense of clients, those that exploit the trust and dependency of clients, and for soliciting testimonials or promoting products in a deceptive manner.’”
Phillips starts with Lowenthal, who gives a very good history of the law and why she thinks it is offensive and why she wants to get rid of it. Phillips then switches to Cohen and asks him if he thinks his homosexuality was a disorder. Instead of responding to Phillips’ question, Cohen talks about the other parts of the law, the parts that Lowenthal isn’t addressing, including research into why sexual predators are the asshats they are, and then says that since not everyone who is gay wants to be gay, we should keep looking into a “cure” for homosexuality. He actually uses the phrase, “come out straight.”
So, of course, the debate becomes not about the bill, but about whether homosexuality can be, and perhaps should be, cured.
First of all, as this LA Times article states:
“There is no evidence to support the claims of some practitioners that sexual orientation can be changed through therapy, a special committee of the American Psychological Association [APA] reported.
Mental health professionals should not tell patients that they can change their sexual orientation and instead should help them ‘explore possible life paths that address the reality of their sexual orientation.’”
Second of all, how dare any debate about whether or not homosexuality is “a problem in need of a cure” be held without a single self-identifying homosexual person participating! If Phillips wanted to address the repeal of the law in question (section 8050), then sure, keep Lowenthal, and then maybe get someone from the other side (there are plenty of asshats to chose from). But by picking Cohen—someone who supposedly cured his own and other people’s homosexuality—to be her guest speaker, Phillips not only loaded the debate to justify her own controversial question, but also provided an answer to that controversial question by presenting someone who has been “cured,” while not presenting anyone from the other side; someone with the appropriate background to assert that homosexuality doesn’t need to be cured.
I understand that there are gay people out there who don’t want to be gay. We call those people “in the closet.” But sexuality is not a zero-sum equation, where you are either a 1 or a 0, gay or straight. As the APA says:
“Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes. Sexual orientation also refers to a person’s sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors, and membership in a community of others who share those attractions. Research over several decades has demonstrated that sexual orientation ranges along a continuum, from exclusive attraction to the other sex to exclusive attraction to the same sex.”
In fact, I’d wager that most people are, in fact, at least a little bit gay. And, I’d wager that even though Cohen is married, has kids, and is no longer cheating on his wife with a man (see his Wikipedia entry), he is at least bisexual. Dude is still gay. Dude probably still catches himself staring longingly at the cute guy behind the register at Trader Joe’s (which always seems to hire attractive people). Moreover, he’d probably be a lot happier if he would just admit to himself that he is gay or bisexual, rather than letting religious teachings tell him that his sexual preferences are wrong, or that liking sex of any kind is wrong.
Look, if you want to go all “zero-sum thinking” when it comes to sex, then go be a nun, because either sex is okay, or it isn’t. I don’t understand how there exists this idea that some sex is okay and some isn’t. Like, your wife can do things to you that it’s not okay for a man to do to you, or you can do things to your wife that it’s not okay to do to another man. When you think about it, the penis has no idea whether the nearest mouth or asshole belongs to a man or a woman. The penis doesn’t recognize gender. So, take a cue from the little brain and just let it go, guys! Age of consent and actual consent (and probably a lot of safety precautions) are pretty much all that matter, and none of it needs a cure.
But thanks, Kyra, for making a news program which strongly suggests the opposite, and which tells people that it’s better to stay in the closet and pretend to be cured than to come out and be who they really are. I hope you got the ratings you were looking for. I hope it was worth it. You have now won the Douchebag Award for Perpetuating Homosexual Stereotypes.
Choke on it.
***TMIMO is short for “to me, in my opinion.” It is used when expressing an opinion–an über-opinion, if you will–when saying “in my opinion” just isn’t enough.