I spent the morning working to develop a training for the directors of some local senior centers about the unique challenges faced by LGBT elders. One of the most telling experiences about folks who are currently in their 50s or older is that they dealt with coming out at a time when homosexuality was still considered a mental disorder.
Thus, when thinking about serving this population, it’s easy to think that it’s only been since 1973 that those 81 words were removed from the DSM. That’s less than 40 years that our understanding of sexual orientation has not seen as disorder and malfunction. That’s barely one generation.
At the same time, it is one generation. It’s also easy to step back and realize that that’s almost 40 years that we’ve known better. From my perspective, that was 12 years before I was born that people had it figured out. And yet, 37 years later, some people still haven’t figured it out.
That’s why this weekend is committed to rebelling against that aging myth. NARTH will be having their annual conference in Philadelphia, a weekend of stodgy old men regurgitating their lies and fallacies about sexual orientation. Their basic premise is simple: some people don’t like to be gay, so there must be a way to not be gay. They care not that the real problem is societal stigma, nor do they care that they are very much enablers of that stigma. The hypothesis that sexual orientation can be changed is, of course, wrong, and even worse, harmful.
And yet, there they will be, continuing to convince each other they’re not wrong.
That’s why I’m proud to support Truth Wins Out‘s “Lift My Luggage” protest. On Saturday, I will join TWO, Equality Pennsylvania, and a number of organizations as well as fellow bloggers Joe Jervis, Jeremy Hooper, and Pam Spaulding to demonstrate outside the NARTH conference. You may recall that one of NARTH’s most prominent leaders, George Rekers, was caught hiring a “rent boy” earlier this year, reminding us that many of NARTH’s participants are motivated by their own internalized homophobia.
Personally, my hope is that the quacks who maintain NARTH will die out sooner than later and help the awful mythology of ex-gay therapy end. Until then, they continue to wreak havoc on young people, and we must interrupt them as we are able.
I’m proud too to be participating in SoulForce’s symposium that is happening simultaneously. The true goal of the symposium is to create some media resources that can be shared well beyond this weekend’s meeting, particularly testimonials and presentations from survivors of the ex-gay movement. While I personally have disagreements with SoulForce’s reinforcement of faith and religion, they still do important work to resist the negative impact by anti-gay religious beliefs.
It seems fitting, I suppose, that I will be participating in the Lift My Luggage protest while my good friend and podcast partner Peterson Toscano will be participating in the Soulforce symposium. Of course, he and I will be recording some interviews while we are in Philadelphia this weekend, so make sure to tune in to Queer and Queerer next week to hear from the brilliant and courageous folks speaking out at these events.
For many, ex-gay ministries and reparative therapy might sound like old, worn-out fads that no longer impact people who are bi, lesbian, and gay. The truth is that groups like NARTH continue to spread their hurtful ideas and cause harm to young people all over our nation and world. While their impact may be shrinking, the harm is not, and I’m glad to be working with so many fantastic individuals and groups to be countering them this weekend.
Hope to see you there!