Here's the issue (and yes, it does lead back to Michele Bachmann):
This self-identified liberal publishing an opinion column in the Philadelphia Inquirer says that it's wrong to hate on ex-gays who've changed their sexual orientation.
The columnist (Jonathan Zimmerman) points to prominent psychiatrist Robert Spitzer. Spitzer just repudiated his 2001 study claiming some gays could become heterosexuals via so-called "reparative therapy."
Spitzer's repudiation of his study received a hearty welcome in the gay community, which has long insisted that the ex-gay movement is just a front for Christian conservatives who want to stigmatize homosexuality. And it's true that reparative therapy has been employed by some Christian counselors - including by some reports the husband of former GOP presidential aspirant Michele Bachmann.
Last year (when Bachmann was actually leading the Republican presidential pack for a brief moment,) a lot of comedians featured Marcus Bachmann in way too many punchlines. Marcus (who is not only Michele's husband but also a key political adviser) was ridiculed for having stereotypically gay mannerisms.
The political effect on the Bachmanns was telling. Because Michele Bachmann began her state and national rise with homophobic rhetoric. (For example: she told an audience in 2004 that "it's part of Satan, I think, to say this (sexual preference) is gay. It's anything but gay.")
Michele Bachmann said a bunch of stuff like that, ramping up homophobia in Minnesota and eventually riding it to a seat in Congress in a conservative district. In light of the fact that her rise to power was rooted in homophobia, comedians were delighted to repeatedly point out her husband's "gay affect."
I was a little bit dismayed by that. I admit that I laughed at a couple of the jokes about Marcus' gay affect, but I didn't want Marcus' mannerisms to be the reason that voters and media dismissed Bachmann. That's because I've known and read about too many people who faced discrimination and harassment because they registered as gay on the radar of homophobes. So I never made Marcus Bachmann's mannerisms a focus of my anti-Bachmann activism over the years.
I was glad when the national media marginalized Bachmann early on in the presidential contest. The nation should reject Michele because of her politics of lies and paranoia and hatred (which include her documented exploitation of homophobia.) I didn't want supposedly "socially acceptable" homophobia--the ridicule of stereotypically gay mannerisms by comics--to play a major part in that. People should reject her because she's a nut, liar and bigot; not because her husband must be a laughing stock because he "acts gay."
The political stakes were upped when evidence suggested that Marcus Bachmann's therapy clinics offered counseling aimed at changing a client's gay sexual orientation. The circumstances suggest that the Bachmanns combined their loathing for homosexuality with a personal, professional and for-profit effort to cut it off.
The Philadelphia Inquirer columnist's piece quoted above is a plea for tolerance for ex-gays; people who have ostensibly renounced their gay sexual orientation. The columnist's premise is that people who've abandoned the gay lifestyle are themselves victims of bias. According to the author, people who have renounced their gayness are being targeted as "deluded self-haters."
Who's doing the targeting? I'm not sure; the columnist isn't specific about that. But he seems to think it's "liberals" and the unrepentantly gay who are targeting ex-gays and "the people who reach out to" ex-gays.
It does seem that for some activists, the fact that some gay citizens change their sexual orientation to hetero is a hot-button issue. Some activists are clearly delighted when reports appear of prominent ex-gay spokespeople "switching back" to gay, after long periods of public denunciation of the "gay lifestyle."
Gay pride is a political issue. There are lots of people who can't imagine themselves ever being anything else but gay. It's part of their identity, and they're proud of it.
But aren't there also many people who drift in and drift out of same-sex attraction--and then drift back in again? (Or not?) How does anybody know what their sexual orientation is going to be tomorrow? If that's the case, then the bigotry directed against the gay and proud people isn't just vicious--it's vicious and stupid. Because any straight person might become "one of them; the other"--tomorrow.
Another thing: we can point to countless examples of Americans who are targeted because they're gay--victims of beatings and bullying simply because they're gay. The columnist doesn't give parallel examples of beatings and bullying directed at ex-gays. Nevertheless, he pleads with readers not to "repeat the biases of the past"--by subjecting former gays to the kind of disrespectful treatment that American gays have dealt with daily for centuries.
I've seen ex-gays criticized by gays for changing their orientation. But I don't think that gay Americans and ex-gay Americans are similarly situated, when it comes to bigotry and persecution. Because homophobia is still a fact of life in the US, I think that persecution actually diminishes when someone decides that they're no longer gay. (The fact that some people criticize you because you renounce gay sexual orientation does not constitute "persecution.")
I'll agree with the columnist when I see gay people beating up ex-gays because they've changed their sexual orientation to hetero. (The columnist knows that there are too many straight people who beat up gays simply because they're gay.) I'll agree with the columnist when I see ex-gays actively persecuted for their "orientation," in the same way that gays have been hounded by majority communities for their orientation.
I haven't seen that. Throughout my life, I've seen accounts of gay people fired because they were gay, harassed because they were gay--and I've seen gay kids harassed because "they acted gay." (I haven't seen straight people harassed and fired simply because they're no longer gay.) We've all seen the tragic effects of homophobia on young people and gay Americans in general. Where are the reports of similar institutional persecution directed against people who've decided to become straight?
Claiming victim status for ex-gays ("as if" they're persecuted for becoming straight in the same way that gay Americans have been persecuted for being gay): is a false equivalency.
And the false equivalency distracts people from addressing the real problem...
If someone is going around telling other adults what their sexual orientation ought to be...if someone is going around telling other people that their sexual orientation with regard to other adults is wrong...is "a part of Satan," or a "sexual identity disorder" (Bachmann's words again)...
...well, that person--the person sowing the bigotry and exploiting the hatred--is the problem. The person who does that, should be criticized--whether they're gay, ex-gay or straight or "repressed" or whatever. Because it's really none of their business, and it never should have been any of their business. What that person does: encourages the bigotry and hatred.