The Latest Sexual Tyranny from the Southern Poverty Law Center

This just came in off the wire at Advocate: the Southern Poverty Law Center is financing a lawsuit against JONAH, an organization that offers Jews "new alternatives to homosexuality."  Here is how the Advocate reports it:

SPLC, along with two law firms, filed the suit on behalf of four young men who had used the service and two of their parents.

This is the first time a "conversion therapy" practitioner has been directly sued for deceptive practices, SPLC officials said.

"JONAH profits off of shameful and dangerous attempts to fix something that isn't broken," said SPLC deputy legal director Christine P. Sun. "Despite the consensus of mainstream professional organizations that conversion therapy doesn't work, this racket continues to scam vulnerable gay men and lesbians out of thousands of dollars and inflicts significant harm on them."

On its website, the Southern Poverty Law Center says, "Conversion therapy is a dangerous practice based on the premise that people can change their sexual orientation."

The witch hunt against "ex-gay therapy" must be explained with some context.  First, it makes sense to speak in terms of "ex-gays" only if you begin with the false assumption that bisexuality does not exist.

Every respectable therapist I know acknowledges that sexuality exists on a spectrum, and people develop attractions to different kinds of people under different circumstances.  Think of how few jokes we'd have about prison if it were impossible for people to redirect their sexual desire to a new object based on context.

And imagine how many New England liberal arts colleges would be much the poorer without the famous "four-year lesbians" who date a girl their sophomore year and then show up at the ten-year reunion with a husband who trades at Morgan Stanley.

The gay community has already dealt with several waves of rebellion against its own tyrannically dichotomous labels of gay and straight.  "Queer" was one rejection of ironclad essentialist dyads; unlike "gay" or "homosexual," it was supposed to encompass a broader range.

"LGBT" is another faint attempt at complexity. If one acknowledges bisexuality, then there is no such thing as an ex-gay.  There are, rather, bisexuals who have worked through same-sex attractions and figured out how not to act on them.

No matter what label you use, you can't act on every desire.  Some of your passions will have to be tamed.  Even Freud understood this, calling repression dream-work an "innocent and indeed useful function" in one of his Vienna lectures.

For instance, you can't eat all the chocolate cake you want.  Sometimes your body wants to sleep, but you have to stay awake, because you're driving.  And sometimes you cannot stimulate yourself with someone else's body, because that's the body of your sister-in-law, or a murderous gambler, or Dan Savage.

If we understand that everybody has to deal with desires and urges that cannot be enacted, then it makes sense that professionals who are experts in counseling -- such as clergy and therapists -- are natural folks to turn to, in order to strengthen one's willpower.  In light of how visible, even ubiquitous, sexuality has become in our culture, one needs strong willpower in any case.

There are several logical reasons why someone might be attracted to the same sex and not be able to act on the urges.  The person might be primarily attracted to the opposite sex (as in my case), so incidental same-sex attractions are potentially a distraction or at least an impractical derailment.  Once one enters the gay social world, it becomes hard to get out of it and start dating the opposite sex.  If one's main goal is to find a lifelong partner of the opposite sex and have children, then it makes sense to tame one's homosexual inclinations.  A therapist can be helpful in thinking about such things.

Some people might have been traumatized by a homosexual assault -- such is the case for the vast majority of adult men who were sexually abused as boys.  Their desires for the same sex might be so linked to guilt, fear, and the loss of self that it would be self-destructive to define oneself as homosexual.

Other people might be lifelong homosexuals but not well-suited to gay life.  Gay life, like military life, isn't for everyone.

Consider this hit piece in The Advocate, for the same issue as the article profiled above, entitled "The Mystery of Gay Republicans."  The author of this editorial has posted a picture of himself with perfectly coiffed hair and chiseled biceps, bursting out of a tight tank top:

Now, I had heard rumors there were such things as gay Republicans, but not having known any personally, I wasn't 100% certain they actually existed. However, there one was, in front of me, reaching out to make contact. I felt like I was in a natural history program and the voice of Sir David Attenborough could be soothingly heard overhead, "Here we have the elusive gay Republican. Don't get too close, their archaic political views make them extremely dangerous and unpredictable." [...]

What kind of internalized homophobia and self-loathing must one possess in order to stand behind a political party that would put our civil rights' accomplishments back decades when President Obama and the Democratic ticket were so vocal in their belief in LGBT equality?

It isn't necessary to discuss the many reasons why one might imagine a gay thinker seeing Obama and the Democrats as less than saviors.  That would be a digression.

Rather, reflect simply on John Carroll's tufty bangs, puffy lips, and bulging deltoids.  He is the standard against which gay men are judged, and he clearly knows it, which is why he chose to place the salacious pic next to his article.  What if you're a gay man and you're ugly?  Shy?  Fat?  Poor?  Not terribly stylish?

Or conservative?

A gay man might look at John Carroll's pose in front of an urban backdrop and say to himself, "I can't do this.  That world looks cold and selfish and empty.  There's no place for me in it."

The gay man might value things like religion, the sanctity of life, tradition, the Second Amendment, strong defense policy, or Medicare entitlement reform so much that the gay community's obvious disdain for his central beliefs renders it not only implausible, but even untenable to find an adequate romantic partner of the same sex.  And if he doesn't want to claw his way through a hundred fawning gawkers to get John Carroll to listen to him, he may decide to talk to a JONAH rabbi about alternatives to homosexuality.

If gay rights activists keep saying they want politics out of their bedroom, then they need to stay out of the bedrooms of people who choose not to identify the way they do.  And they ought to stay out of people's therapy sessions, too.