Saturday, April 03, 2004

2, 4, 6, 8, God is good, God is straight! 

Jason has pointed me in the direction of an article in yesterday's Guardian about sexual reorientation therapy. Some of the therapy mentioned, particularly that involving men using more 'masculine' vocabulary, reminded me of nothing so much as the film But I'm A Cheerleader. A great indie comedy, it centres on the experiences of Megan, a cheerleader who's taken to a camp designed to 'straighten' people out, after her family collect 'evidence' of her lesbianism. This evidence includes the fact that she's a vegetarian and likes listening to Melissa Etheridge.

A lot of the amusement lies in the minor details - RuPaul is cast as the 'ex-gay' male leader of the camp, but can't stop looking at the muscular boy passing by; the camp uniform is PVC in baby blue and pink; the girls are given corrective electric shock-giving toys for when they have sinful thoughts, which the goth girl ends up using for her own amusement... But the best bits are the gendered therapies, where the boys are taught to kick a football and cut wood (the axe flies into the woods behind them), and the girls are taught to cook and rear children. The final class involves simulated intercourse between the participants. At graduation, only 3 of about 16 participants remain, and the graduation ceremony is ambushed by people from the ex-ex-gay survivors of the camp, coming to rescue them.

While the film's very enjoyable, there's a serious point to be made, as the Guardian article shows. Most of the people who enter into reorientation therapy do so only because of family or other pressure - their cure is a function of their willingness to put themselves aside for their family. A large amount of this pressure is religious, and among the 'successful' changes found by one survey the great majority were said their religion was very important to them. This pressure exists in England, too, with the 'spiritual leader' of the Alpha course - designed to convert people to Christianity in ten weeks - famously comparing homosexuals with paedophiles, and the course in general promoting the wonders of 'cures' for homosexuality, while condemning even those straight people who see nothing wrong with it. There's a good article about this here.

The religious right continues to promote this attitude to sexuality. Even the most enlightened of the fundamentalists seem to believe that, while homosexuality may be something natural, any good Christian can repress these desires and embrace celibacy, if not heterosexuality. So, the choice seems to be a life of frustration (I approve of celibacy, but only when it's a real choice) or a life of denial...

I guess I choose hell-fire. Or more to the point, that's just the way I am - no choice involved.

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