Accepting Ex-Gays

The ongoing story of ex-gay Larry Houston, a Harvard-employed cook in Annenberg Hall, who was criticized by students late last year for speaking openly about his conversion, is just one more example of the intolerance faced by former homosexuals and lesbians all across this country. Robert Spitzer’s Columbia University study of former homosexuals and lesbians has shown that same-sex attractions can be overcome. Ex-gay organizations such as National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality, Regeneration Books, Evergreen, International Healing Foundation, One by One and Exodus have also helped demonstrate that homosexuality is neither genetic nor irreversible.

Each year thousands of men and women with same-sex attractions make the personal decision to leave homosexuality by means of reparative therapy, ex-gay ministry or group counseling. Their choice is one only they can make. However, there are others who refuse to respect that choice, and endeavor to attack the ex-gay community. Consequently, ex-gays are subject to an increasingly hostile environment where they are reviled or attacked as perpetrators of hate and discrimination simply because they dare to exist.

For example, ex-gay David Ott of Madison, Wisconsin, was charged with a hate crime because he insisted that homosexuals could change their sexual orientation as he had done. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors termed the activities of ex-gay ministries as “acts of discrimination.” The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Educational Network distributed the booklet “Just the Facts” to many of the public school districts in America accusing ex-gay participation in public schools as “harassment.” The Human Rights Campaign demanded that a contributor reconsider her sizeable donation to a children’s school merely because it had indirect ties to an ex-gay ministry.

Tim Wilkins was fired from his job as supervisor at the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer newspaper for daring to “come out” as a former homosexual. Lesbian Jackie Goldberg of the Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution condemning an ex-gay conference held in that city as “perpetuating fear and intolerance.”

Facing homosexual pressure campaigns that mischaracterized ex-gay speech as promoting discrimination, Detroit’s three major television networks rejected ads featuring ex-gay men. Prominent ex-gay author Richard Cohen was accused of discriminating against homosexuals when he released his new book Coming Out Straight. And now Larry Houston. The list is endless because every day brings new hostile acts against the ex-gay community. In this climate of intolerance against ex-gays due to their very existence, support for the ex-gay community is interpreted as bigotry and discrimination against homosexuals.

The harassment of ex-gays by gays themselves is a sad end to the long struggle for tolerance by the gay community. That ex-gays and their supporters are now oppressed by the same people who until recently were victimized themselves, demonstrates how far the gay rights movement has come. Indeed, a new chapter in the movement has begun—the right of homosexuals and lesbians to leave that lifestyle should they so choose.

We need to face the real issue of sexual orientation—intolerance of ex-gays. Would Harvard students allow ex-gays to apply outright for funding under the Undergraduate Council’s Anti-Homophobia project? To give sexual orientation protection to one group while excluding another is the worst form of discrimination. Please remember that former homosexuals and lesbians are also worthy of respect and a voice in the public policy forum. Ex-gays are not the hate mongers you deem us to be.

Regina Griggs is national director of the Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays, based in Alexandria, Va.

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