20 July 2011

Worse Than Their Homo- (and Trans-) Phobia

I like to remain optimistic.  Really, I do.  I don't like what I see in the mirror when I become a cynical bitch.

Still, I can't help but to think that there's no idea that's too farfetched, too illogical, too counterintuitive or too just plain wrongheaded to rear its ugly head from time to time.

One of those ideas is the ones that non-heterosexual, non-gender-conforming people can have their "deviance" beaten, shocked, prayed, hugged, drugged, jailed or talked out of them.  It seems that every few years, there's a spate of reports about "reparative" "therapies (something supported by US Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and practiced by her husband Marcus) ," "healing" "ministries" or some program concocted by the law enforcement/military/government complex in some country or another, that aims to change of us who love whom we're not supposed to love or don't live according to the "M" or "F" on our birth certificates. 

Almost none of those programs or ministries has been started, or is administered or practiced by, anyone with any sort of scientific or clinical background in anything having to do with the study of human behavior.  Such programs are routinely dismissed as "junk science" even by those whose religious or cultural beliefs might be in agreement with those who believe they are, in essence, performing or facilitating exorcisms. 

So why do they proliferate?  I don't think they get their impetus only from those who believe that they can "love the sinner but hate the sin" or from those, like Fred Phelps and his followers, who are pure and simple haters.  Instead, I think that the therapies, ministries and other programs continue, in large part, because of the anxieties too many of us in the LGBT community still have.

Thankfully, for more and more people today, "coming out" is a joyous occasion, or at least a relief.   However, in my youth, realizing that one was not attracted to members of the opposite sex (Yes, that's how we phrased it in those days.), let alone not the person idenitified by the name and sex on the birth certificate, was a cause for anxiety, at best, and more often, pain, loneliness, isolation and depression--which, of course, led too many of us to the bars, the bottle or a bridge.   So many of us didn't "come out"--or did so, and "recanted" later on.  Some of us entered marriages that fooled no one.  Or we pursued careers in the military or law enforcement and engaged in, or became fans of, the most "macho" sports and other endeavors we could find, while others paid extra attention to their hair, makeup and dresses.  

In other words, even if we didn't seek those "reparative" "therapies" or "healing" "ministries", or weren't forced into programs that would punish, if not change, us, many of us did those things to ourselves.  I think of the days when I trained athletically: I pedalled fifty miles a day, every day, lifted weights and did all sorts of other exercises; I pushed my body beyond its seeming limits in an attempt to pound it into submission.  All I managed to do was pull myself further and further away from any chance of meaningful community with anyone else, or myself.

These days, most rational people and those with any sort of empathy recoil at the thought of trying to "cure" homosexuality through electroshock, or even behavior modification or prayer and sermons.  So I don't think the Bachmanns and their ilk are nearly as much a threat to us as the fear and isolation that comes with trying to be "normal" and knowing that one can't.  As long as it's still possible to lose one's job, one's friends, family and community--in short, one's life as he or she knows it--too many of us will remain, and die, in the closet. 

No comments: