Being a ex-gay and liberal isn’t a contradiction — it’s what I am. I just happen to exist in one of those demographic/political profiles which tends to get ignored because we don’t fit comfortably into the ideology of the left or the right.
That doesn’t mean people like me are numerically insignificant. Of the people I know like me who are working to change to a heterosexual orientation, many are entirely apolitical. But of those who have a political outlook of some kind, I would say a clear majority have politics on the Democratic/progressive/liberal/left side of the spectrum.
However I think a lot of ex-gay folks with progressive sympathies tend to feel silenced by the heavy right-wing slant of the spiritual and psychological counseling groups serving people who struggle with same-sex attraction. A lot of these institutions are well-meaning but some are outright predatory. And even the well-meaning ones are in thrall to a way of thinking which just can’t separate their mission from the conservative politics of the ‘pro-family’ movement.
Some context from autobiography: I discovered I was primarily attracted to other men at the age of twelve or so. No distant father, domineering mother, sexual abuse, or any of the other things which are supposed to ’cause’ same-sex attraction.
To put it simply, I just wanted to get with other dudes instead of with girls.
For many years — fifteen or so — that worked for me just fine. Again, the stereotypical sob stories of the unhappy homo just weren’t relevant to me. No alcoholism, drugs, rape, parental rejection, or anything like that. No crippling loneliness, certainly — I had three very happy relationships with other men which ended as a result of my having to move around the country too much (the coerced ‘labor mobility’ the Republicans love and want to promote) rather than from any deep seated problems.
But as I started approaching thirty, I came to the realization (for various reasons) that I didn’t want to be ‘gay’ my whole life, and I decided to do whatever I could to change.
I emphasize that no judgement should be inferred on my part towards men who are gay their whole lives. Indeed, many of my friends are gay and living in long term, committed relationships with same sex partners. More power to them!
For myself, however, I knew this wasn’t the way.
The problem was, I knew I couldn’t do it alone. But no matter where I turned for ‘help’ changing my orientation, the ‘help’ always seemed to consist of degrading, insulting slanders against gay people, or else manifest religious insanity.
I participated in one NARTH-recommended seminar which mostly consisted of a lot of the b.s. of the religious right (certain death from AIDS, murder, rape, child molestation) recycled and fed to us in a more ‘sympathetic, gentle’ form with an atom-thin veneer of clinical gentility.
It did absolutely nothing to help me. In fact, it seemed that what they were trying to do was get us to look back at our ‘gay’ lives with regret and disgust, which was certainly not how I felt about mine.
When the group leader asked me to speak about my experiences, I said that most of my memories of being with men were happy and not traumatic at all. I also said I thought it might be easier to get closure on that chapter of my life if I could look back on it in a measured way which took account of how I felt at the time, instead of retroactively colorizing my memories with a tint of artificial loathing.
My comments were — well, maybe not exactly ‘brutally shot down’ — but it was clear they were not approved of, and DEFINITELY not in line with the philosophy of the seminar. I was cautioned against ‘romanticizing’ my experiences, even though I was just trying to be honest and realistic. (But two people came up to me afterward and said they agreed with me.)
There were some other groups I participated in too, with equally disappointing results.
Long story short, I finally found a sympathetic pastor who was willing to counsel me one on one, who helped me learn to resist the attraction to other men without trying to get me to buy into homophobic nonsense or hate a part of myself (which I wouldn’t have been able to do anyway — I really like myself a lot!)
At any rate, one thing my experiences taught me is that there are a lot of us out there who feel strongly that homosexuality is the wrong choice for ourselves individually, but don’t presume to know that it’s a wrong choice for anyone else — or even a choice at all.
People with this point of view seem to be more often in the liberal camp. For myself, I should say that I am a life long Democrat, born and raised in a yellow-dog Democratic household.
It makes me wonder how many other liberal ex gays there are out there…