20 February 2007
Can A Queer Person Become Straight?
If you listen to the right-winged fundamentalist Christian organizations (Focus on the Family, et. al.) you’d be given the impression that there are, indeed, programs that exist which can “cure” someone from being queer. Exodus International is what first springs into my mind when I think of these organizations. Moreover, the lingo “to cure” makes it sound as if being queer is a disease from which someone suffers. In fact, there are quite a few generalizations that are made on behalf of the straight community that simply resonates their ignorance toward the entire gay community.
Another term that I deplore is “lifestyle.” When I think of lifestyle, I think of Robin Leach’s Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. A lifestyle is a manner in which someone chooses to live. “Gosh, Penny, I’d really like to decorate our back porch along the lines of a Bahamian theme.” And that also brings up the very next word that sends chills down my spine: choice. Now, where should I start?
Being queer is not a lifestyle which assumes a choice is made, no more so than being straight. As I have said to many well-intentioned queer bashers, “When did you wake up one morning and decide to be straight?” It wasn’t as though I was bouncing around this lifespan and suddenly it occurs to me, “Hey, I think I’ll be queer.” Why on earth would someone ever choose to live a life doomed to perilous subjugation on the part of the majority of the population (it is said that approximately one in ten persons is queer, although, in my own humble opinion, I think that is quite a modest figure—may one in ten are out of the closet). Why would I choose to be yelled at, spit upon, most certainly, in some cases, physically beaten beyond recognition, and yes, even killed just because I am queer?
Theories abound regarding what makes one straight and another queer. Are we born this way? Is it a matter of social and environmental influences? The whys are better left for another diatribe, which I choose not to address here at this moment. What I want to spend time discussing is whether someone who is queer can become straight.
Being queer is inherently a part of someone’s make-up (no pun intended against my friendly queens!). There have been a number of studies that observed children over periods of time that addressed gender identity. In our culture, sadly to say, little girls and boys are conditioned to “become” rather than be accepted for whom they are evolving into. It isn’t OK for little girls to display masculine traits (tom boys). I wonder how many parents, upon seeing little Suzie trying to keep up with her older brother or the other boys in the neighborhood as they play cops and robbers, scurry down to the local toy store and buy Barbie dolls and the such to attempt to veer Suzie away from this form of social interaction? And isn’t there hell to pay if little Johnny gets caught playing around with Mommy’s make-up and clothes. Maybe Suzie really can kick the crap out of most of the boys in the neighborhood and Johnny has a real fascination with colors and textures (most of the high-end haute-couture houses are headed by men).
There is an actual fear among parents that their children will grow up and become “that way.” Well, what “way” is that? Being queer? What is so damn wrong with that anyway? About the only thing wrong with being queer is what 90% of the population has to say about this subject, all of which is negative. Did you realize that the suicide attempts among queer teenagers is at an all-time high? OK, so there is a difference of opinion that may exist. Parents may have a valid concern that their child may grow up queer if that concern is based upon the fear of the type of life to which he or she will be subject. If I were a parent of a teenager trying to find his or her place in this world and has discovered that he or she is queer, then my first concern would be one of safety. Why would I want my child exposed to ridicule and hatred? Instead of affirming the reality of the situation, most parents try to bully their children into being straight. I wonder how many boys are threatened with military boarding school. In my case, I had the luxury of going to an all-girl’s Catholic high school—if the nuns only knew what I learned there!
OK, so back to my original premise—can a queer become straight? I can say from personal experience that I truly believe that this answer is a resounding no. I have been through a reparative therapy course in which counselors attempt to convince queers of their wayward ways and brightly introduce them to the happy and fulfilling life being straight can bring them. These groups are all faith-based initiatives that derive their value on Biblical teachings. I can’t speak for the entire group I was in session with, but I can say with absolute certainty, there were a few of us who never did make the switch. And later, I learned that those in my group who “chose” (a word carefully adopted here) to go straight, get married, and have children ended up being in a miserable life—one in which they had no experience. Hormones are basic biology and sexual attraction is hard-wired into the brain. Trying to veer away from that is equally as harmful to one’s self-esteem and natural expression as bullying children into being “proper” little girls and boys.
Can a queer person choose to walk away from the gay community? By that, I mean, turn their back on the way one has been living his or her life with a same-sex partner and go it alone. There is quite a price to be paid here emotionally, but I do believe that this can be done. Why on earth, you might ask, would someone want to make this choice (and here, choice is exactly what is being made). During the course of my entire life (minus the minor dalliances with the Junior-Senior Prom date) I have been queer. But, at the same time I also considered myself a Christian. I did not see these two ideals as being mutually exclusive at the time. I even attended the local Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), which is a Christian organization that affirms the gay community. Sitting in an MCC service, to me, was no different from sitting in any other Christian service. There is an invocation at the beginning, the Word is read from the Epistles and the Gospel, communion is served, and there is the final benediction.
Ironically, it was during a Bible study class entitled “What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality” that started the wheels turning in my head. Perhaps part of that was being exposed to a fundamentalist environment at one point in my life during that reparative therapy group. It occurred to me that you couldn’t take just pieces of the Bible, declare it OK, and leave other pieces out because you didn’t like what they had to say. The Bible either is or isn’t the inherent Word of God. It’s an all-or-nothing concept. Sure, it was written a few thousand years ago by quite a different culture by man; but the Christian supposition is that man wrote this book based upon the movement of the Holy Spirit. Those organizations that affirm the gay community have their spin on what the Bible says just as much as the fundamentalist Christian organizations. However, I will be the first to say that I never once heard any passages that spoke against homosexuality preached in an MCC church.
Ultimately, my heart ruled my decision. I decided, after quite a grief process, that I could no longer reconcile being the Christian I felt being called to be and queer. This now became a mutually exclusive dilemma for me. Therefore, I did choose to turn my back on the gay community, but I will be the first to tell you that I have not become straight. I guess I am like an ambassador without papers. I will always be a lesbian, but that does not mean that I have to live within the confines of what that entails. I choose not to have a same-sex partner, but my sacrifice is that I will live my life alone. I have lost many friendships over this decision by queers who simply either don’t understand why, or feel I am doing more harm to myself than good. It boils down to the fact that I do believe in my heart that the Bible is the Word of God (both the Old and New Testament) and I have to take all of what it says as my truth for me as I see it. Maybe it’s my political activism that wants me to keep hold of my identity as a lesbian, celibate though it may be. I may no longer be active in the gay community, but I will never be straight.©2007