We thought it was a little bit funny when the Human Rights Campaign was cheering after Disney shareholders shot down an attempt to add ex-gays, as a sexual orientation, to its list of employees’ protected classes. After all, if we demand people believe us homosexuals and bisexuals and lesbians and trasngender folks have a right not to be discriminated against, wouldn’t we also support the anti-discrimination cause of anyone professing to have another orientation? Most of you — or at least those of you who left comments — disagreed with us, but much of the ire was directed at the ex gay movement (i.e. the organization PFOX), which encourages conversion therapy, a treatment that is fake, worthless, and can be quite harmful. But the Disney vote wasn’t about PFOX or terrorist psychologists; it was about actual human beings who believe themselves to have gone from gay to straight, and their right not to lose their jobs because of it. Is that such a hard thing to get behind?
But we found some common wisdom in the CATO Institute’s Jason Kuznicki, who writes on The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, “One of the ways I differ from the typical gay-activist blogger (aside from being a shameless free-marketeer) is that I’m willing to give ex-gays at least some benefit of the doubt, in a few very limited ways.”
Okay, keep talking Jason — not because we don’t want to hear from anyone disagrees with us (hello, that’s what the comments are for), but because he explains the argument quite reasonably.
Being an openly gay man means asking people to credit my inner experience in a way that, in Popperian terms, is not falsifiable. I declare that I’ve always felt this way, that I’ve never sincerely been attracted to women, and that I really, genuinely find intimacy with my husband appealing rather than uninteresting or repulsive. That’s just how I am, I ask you to believe, and I ask for this belief on no evidence whatsoever. And guess what? Most of you believe me!
It seems only fair, then, that I should credit others’ affirmed internal experiences as well, even if I can’t falsify theirs, either. So I don’t imagine that I can convert heterosexuals. When they tell me that they can’t change, I accept it.
Likewise, I’m willing to credit ex-gays — those who say that they can change, and who say that they have changed. Ex-gays often fault gays for failing to do this, and I have to admit that they have a point. If we’re going to make truth claims based on introspection, we had better at least be consistent about it.
Thus: If ex-gays live up to the change that they declare has happened, and if they are happy with themselves, then I have no business doubting. The world is a big, complicated place, full of strangeness and wonder. It confronts me every day with things that I can scarcely imagine, including this. That’s just how it works. I accept you, ex-gays, as sincere.
And that’s precisely the point. We point to scientific and empirical evidence to explain why we are a certain sexual orientation or gender identity. But that’s not why we deserve protection in the workplace — we deserve it because nobody’s job should be at risk simply because of who they choose to love. And that includes ex-gays.
Reserve your criticism for groups like Exodus International and its leader Alan Chambers (pictured), or Pastor Bob Perdue. But the actual skin and bones of people who believe they are ex-gay are just like us queers: often the outcast, for no good reason other than being different and unaccepted. They deserve, at the very least, our tolerance, if not our acceptance for the way they want to live their “lifestyle.”
Protecting them — no matter how few their numbers — in the workplace might be the work of a rancid organization like PFOX. But the people it seeks to protect, who may have already been so harmed by quack psychologists, are the ones who truly deserve our good will.
(And now that you’re done here, go read Jason’s post in full here. It’s good.)