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Ex-Gay, Schmex-Gay
Sandy Rapp, December 1, 1998 -- THEY’RE BAA-ACK! Somewhere in the early years of the twentieth century it became politically correct to describe queers as “sick” rather than “sinful.” This linguistic slight-of-hand presumed that one needn’t always set fire to the “diseased,” as was often done with the “sinful.” Of course gay men have hard-earned the nickname “faggot,” (meaning “kindling wood,”) through their long history of burnings at the stake.
    So it developed that one didn’t have to fry the whole gay person, but could get away with incinerating just the offending organ, the brain. Thus it came to pass that the medicalized model of sexual orientation provided a framework for electro-shock and chemical aversion “reorientation” attempts.
    Although aversion “reparations” are almost entirely a thing of the past, attempts at religion-induced “conversions” persist. Now such bastions of mental health as the Christian Coalition, the Family Research Council, and the Concerned Women of America (remember them from the anti-ERA days?) are running
full-page ads in all major newspapers claiming ”homosexuals can change” into “Ex-Gays.”
    “Ex-Gay” is a political term devised by fundamentalists to imply that their dogmata have altered orientation. “Ex-Gays” have been around for quite a while now. In my 1991 book on queer issues God’s Country, I interviewed Damien Martin, cofounder of Manhattan’s Hetrick-Martin Institute for the Protection of Lesbian Gay Youth. He said he had been, since 1980, assailing the “Ex-Gays” as “celibacy cults that encourage denial and dissociation.”
    Most professionals believe that the elements which later emerge as sexual orientation (whether hetero or homo) are functions of both natural (inborn), and developed characteristics, all of which are established before the age of six. In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the organization’s list of mental disorders, concurrently deploring “all private and public discrimination against homosexuals.”
    Directly informing this historic decision were Dr. Evelyn Hooker’s demonstrations through psychological profiles that the psychiatric community was unable to distinguish homosexuals from heterosexuals by any feature other than their orientations. Dr. Hooker’s findings, eventually incorporated in a National Institute of Mental Health Task Force on Homosexuality Report, showed clearly that homosexuality did not imply pathology.
    The psychiatrists’ policy was soon adopted by most mental health clinicians. The American Psychological Association concurred in 1975 and, in 1997, resolved that psychologists would be “breaching ethical guidelines” should they tell clients there is effective “reparative” or “conversion” therapy for gay people. In 1994 the American Medical Association affirmed that aversion therapy was not recommended in that “negative social attitudes” rather than “physiological” causes inspired gays who wished to change their orientations.
    “Cure” claims often involve bisexuals who have become celibate, or lesbians and gays whose fantasies (and often gay relations) continue throughout heterosexual marriages or friendships. In the face of “conversion” claims one must always ask what magnitude of dogma was brought to bear upon any given individual to behave heterosexually and proclaim “reorientaiton.” One must also remember that pressure for religious conformity has been known to induce everything from mass marriage to mass suicide.
    As was explained by Dr. Charles Silverstein, author of The New Joy of Gay Sex: Harper Collins: NY 1992: “What happens in so-called “conversions” is that the churches create immense support for the suppression of sexuality.” But, as Silverstein told Long Island, New York’s Rainbow Community News: “Suppression works for only so long. After a while the experience of support diminishes and is outweighed by the intensity of gay feelings.” Silverstein said that while doing a television talk show he met a fellow who had once attempted religious “reorientation.” The man had attended Christian “conversion” camps and retreats where he said he “HAD A LOT OF SEX!”
    Furthermore, immeasurable harm can be done by these unsuccessful attempts to alter sexual orientation. In the words of Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy Editor-in-Chief, Jack Drescher, MD: “There are many anecdotal accounts of patients who did not convert and who, believing themselves to be
at fault for the failure, were left feeling anxious, depressed, worthless, hopeless, and even suicidal.”
    Now the pseudo-medicine of religious “reparation” is blatantly politicized by the Christian Coalition et. al. Their strategy is fundraising through fear mongering. Ignorance is the only problem and education is the only answer. But the education required is that self-same accurate, scientific information about same-gender orientation that the religious activists would censor from print, schools, speech, art, and of course the Internet.
    Meanwhile, word is OUT that a great many “Ex-Gays,” including two original religious “reparation” leaders, fell in love with each other and renounced the movement to establish a network for recovering fundamentalists - Ex-Ex Gays. Now, ain’t that one for the Ex-Files?

Sandy Rapp is a feminist singer and author of God's Country: A Case Against Theocracy: 1-800-3-HAWORTH. Rapp’s CD We The People, featuring "Everyone Was At Stonewall," "Remember Rose: A Song For Choice," and a guest vocal by Bella Abzug, is available at 516-329-5193 and (c) Sandy Rapp 1998

The Truth About Sex Lies
Sandy Rapp, October 1, 1998 -- The truth about sex lies is that they are everywhere, not just in the US Presidency. For example, lesbians and gays are raised to lie about sex. It's the premise of our survival and always has been. As was written by a founder of Manhattan's Hetrick-Martin Institute for the Protection of Lesbian and Gay Youth, the whole business of gay childhood is about "learning to hide." Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered kids hide their orientations to avoid murder, suicide, expulsion from school, ridicule, harassment, exorcism, and "reparative" therapy. How well they lie is how well they survive. Gay girls often lie by getting pregnant and gay men sometimes lie by dating prospective nuns to avoid sexual encounter. Most often gays lie by marrying heterosexuals. They then lie to their spouses about their infidelity.
    Likewise most non-gay Americans learn to lie about sex because our country has fetishized and demonized sex to the point that telling the truth about it rarely crosses anyone's mind. For gays the phenomenon is so rigidly institutionalized that not lying is criminal in twenty states and grounds for discharge from the US armed forces.
    Some lies about sex are so huge they've become completely invisible. For example, there's the lie that gender roles exist somewhere outside the culture so that males and females "naturally" fall into different behavior patterns. That particular lie is government-sponsored through any public school with a "gender-appropriate" dress code. Then there's the lie about humans' forming families only with members of opposite genders. This lie is enforced through bans against same-sex marriage. There is also the lie, enforced through anti-adultery laws, that all humans are monogamous, and that partners of the non monogamous are always "wronged." And there is the truth that "Don't Ask Don't Tell" is a full-time job, requiring constant lookout. The non-telling gay lives in a constant state of "heads up," altering pronouns, falsifying sites, hiding books, and so on.
    So do you know who's getting treated like a gay these days? Bill Clinton. It's not half as bad for him as it is for gays, because his orientation is the majority one (unless all this stuff is a really elaborate beard). But Clinton is being perceived as sexually deviant, just like gays, and it matters not one whit whether Hillary Rodham Clinton is relieved or reviled by her husband's extracurricular activities. No one either asks or tells whether the Clintons have an open relationship and, what's more, he's being involuntarily outed in a criminalized context.
    And what dangerous sport this Whitewater shafting has become, what with the presidency of the United States at hand. Why its Arthur Miller's witch trials expose’, The Crucible, with all the sanctimonious Republicans screaming: “I saw Billy Clinton with the Devil!” Meanwhile, the world watches while a country that trumpets freedom at every port tramples upon the very basics of personal and constitutional privacy.
    The political left is as much to blame as is the fringe right. In the name of feminism, protectionists are restigmatizing sex with restrictions proposed for the Internet and antiharassment policies that impugn even consensual sex between workplace acquaintances. The Paula Jones case, where no job related threats or consequences were even alleged, survived long enough to provide a perjury trap for the President about a consensual affair with a very willing adult.
    Prudery, legislated through censorship and witch-hunts has been, throughout US history, a weapon of choice against women and gay men, major cases in point being the Comstock Act of 1873 prohibiting all reproductive and sex education as “pornographic”, and the theater padlock laws closing all shows on gay themes. Today Congressional prudery still blocks gay-specific, i.e. effective, HIV education as “indecent”.
    The witch hunts have gone too far, and as long as legal, social, and cultural hurdles prevent openness about sexual matters, sex-lying, by presidents and janitors, will remain this county's most practical virtue. Surely this period will be remembered not as Monicagate but as Starrgate, America’s second McCarthy Era.

Sandy Rapp is an activist and singer whose CD We The People is available at and 516-329-5193.
Rapp's book
God’s Country: A Case Against Theocracy is available at
1-800-3HAWORTH. Sandy Rapp