Justinsomnia posted this great parody of “ex-gay” ministry Exodus International’s recruiting billboard (original pictured below). Justinsomnia received a cease-and-desist letter from Exodus International. Screw Exodus International, parody is free speech.
Exodus, as I said, is an “ex-gay” ministry, devoted to “curing” homosexuality. Their “cure” is based on an almost laughable set of misperceptions about both the nature of homosexuality and the nature of gender. The formula, in a nutshell, is “Gay men are men that are like women, so if we make them more masculine, they’ll be cured; gay women are more like men, so if we make them more feminine, they’ll be cured.” Apparently Exodus is unfamiliar with the existence of gay muscle culture or of femme lesbians — to them, all gay men are mincing affected sissies and all gay women are butch dykes. Given this total disconnect from the reality and lived experience of homosexuality, it should come as no surprise that their “cure” doesn’t work — even two of Exodus’ male co-founders, previously considered living proof of the program’s efficacy, ended up living together and ultimately marrying each other! Of course, even without the stupid stereotypes, Exodus is doomed to failure — no program that has aimed at “curing” homosexuality has ever been shown to work. Psychologists gave up long ago when, with the help of the nascent Gay Rights movement, they came to grips with the fact that they had labelled as a “disorder” a condition for which there were absolutely no consistent symptoms other than being gay. There’s no test you can give to determine if someone is gay, other than asking them; there’s no treatment that’s been shown to work; in the end, there’s no “condition” outside of the stigmatization that homosexuality incurs in our society — just people having relations with other people.
But that doesn’t mean Exodus is a failure — it’s managed to survive and even thrive for over 30 years, so it must be meeting someone’s goals. The goal of Exodus and of other, similar organizations, I’m convinced, is not the reformation of homosexuals; rather, Exodus’ function is to maintain the stigmatization of homosexuality, to perpetuate the idea that there’s something wrong with homosexuality that would preclude the possibility of happiness, of comfortable social adjustment. Exodus puts a friendlier face on homophobia than, say, the Westboro Baptist Church — a kinder, gentler post-70s pop-psychology face. They’re not here to condem with hellfire and brimstone, but to help you be happy, to fulfill yourself as a person. Absolutely not part of the program is a recognition that if a gay person is unhappy, it’s probably because s/he faces homophobia like Exodus’ from virtually every side; even people who aren’t actively going out of their way to deny the slightest shred of dignity and comfort to gay people still feel uncomfortable around homosexuals. The pseudo-liberal mantra of “They can do whatever they want as long as I don’t have to see it” (or “…as long as they don’t hit on me”) is hardly a proclamation of acceptance. (The documentary One Nation Under God gives a pretty good look at the philosophy of Exodus International and the context in which it arose and continues to operate.)
Justinsomnia’s parody is brilliant, because it pokes right at the heart of the Exodus mission — lots of straight people are unhappy (33% of Americans take anti-depressants, for example) and yet nobody, least of all Exodus, would suggest it has anything to do with their sexual orientation. And yet, maybe it does — our society puts a lot of pressure on us, especially on men, to be straight, to be super-straight, to be straight beyond any possible question. Maybe what we as a society collectively need is a good night of man-on-man or woman-on-woman loving to break the crushing deathgrip society currently has on our gonads.
(Story and suggestion of minor act of nose-thumbing via Big Queer Blog)