Lesbian Notions

Walk Like a Girl

Libby Post | August 17, 2005

In all of my 47 years, I've never forgotten that day in sixth grade.

During recess, a group of girls, whom I considered my friends, were determined to make me walk like a girl. It was 1970. I was a self-avowed tomboy. The Stonewall riots may have been already happened, but I didn't know from gay, straight, or anything in between - I was 12. But it seems my friends knew better.

They said I walked like a boy, carried my books like a boy, dressed like a boy. They were trying to change who I was. Who, as it happens, I still am. It was one of the most devastating events of my young life. I broke down in class after recess. Thankfully, my teacher took my friends to task and not me.

I can only imagine the pain of 16-year-old Zach Stark when his parents, not his peers, were the ones telling him he didn't walk the right way.

Zach is a young gay man who created a small tidal wave with a blog entry that said he was being sent by Mom and Dad to a "we can make you not gay" camp run by Love in Action International. He wrote that his parents "tell me that there is something psychologically wrong with me...I'm a big screw up to them�who isn't on the path God wants me to be on. So I'm sitting here in tears...and I can't help it."

Love in Action's website (www.loveinaction.org) is clear about what was in store for Zach. The group's goal is to erase Zach's reality. Under the heading of "Exploring the Homosexual Myth," I read the following: "There is no such creation as a 'gay' or 'homosexual' person. There is only homosexual attraction and behavior; accordingly, there can be no change for a sexual identity that never existed in the first place."

Love in Action's rhetoric mirrors that of groups like Exodus, one of the first ex-gay organizations to tout the psychobabble of reparative therapy (the practice of trying to alter one's sexual orientation), and Focus on the Family's "Love Won Out" conferences. What these groups believe is that acting on same-sex attraction is just a behavioral problem, and with reparative therapy and finding the love of Christ, all can be cured.

Who are they kidding? No reputable therapist or medical professional today buys this hogwash. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Medical Association have all agreed that reparative therapy does not work and is harmful to the mental and physical health of lesbians and gay men.

But more frightening is the political traction the "ex-gay" movement has achieved. Just as the Christian Right's antigay agenda has been absorbed as fact by the majority of Republican elected officials and policy-makers, the fiction of ex-gay politics has wound its way into our schools.

Consider this. Maryland's Montgomery County public schools wanted to develop a health curriculum that provided positive information for LGBT students. Once the word got out about the new curriculum, a group called PFOX, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (how original), went to court saying the school district was "denigrating" ex-gays. Bad enough that the school district was providing its students with positive information, but what got PFOX's knickers in a real twist was that the students were given a list of LGBT positive religious groups such as Dignity, More Light Presbyterians, and Lutherans Concerned. PFOX sued to make sure churches teaching that homosexuality is wrong would be included in the curriculum. Their suit accused the school board of "an irrational phobia of the ex-gay community" and said that it "urges censorship of ex-gay materials in our schools." Astoundingly, U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams agreed with PFOX.

Well, I'm sure the folks at Montgomery County schools attempted to do what professional educators do. They sought out information that would help their students, information that has been supported by credible organizations with good reputations. I'll bet they didn't even know there was an ex-gay "community." And that's because there isn't one.

All this ex-gay rhetoric and action is just another front for the Christian Right's constant bombardment of our right to exist, let alone gain the rights and responsibilities of other citizens. This suit is just another example of the lengths to which the right will go to support their rhetoric that there is a "war on Christianity" in this country.

But the reality is this – for kids like Zach, despite his parents' efforts, his sexual orientation is his sexual orientation. No amount of reparative therapy is going to make Zach walk a different path in life. He knows he's gay and doesn't have a problem with it. Perhaps it's his parents who need some therapy – to accept their son and love him the way he is.

Libby Post is the founding chair of the Empire State Pride Agenda and a political commentator on public radio, on the Web, and in print media.

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