Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Ex-Gay Movement: What About the Lesbians?

I just had to take a moment and share some terribly grim wedding photos.DSC_0506 Family WB Z

DSC_0475 Michael and Rebekah WB Z

The bride looks fine.  But what’s the deal with the groom?  Why isn’t he smiling?  Why is he leaning away from the bride and not looking at her?

That’s Michael Glatze, an outspoken member of the ex-gay movement.  He looks about how you’d expect someone who’s sworn up and down that he’s no longer gay to look when faced with the prospect of actually marrying a woman.

Glatze is a curious person, even for an ex-gay: According to Truth Wins Out, he was an openly gay man who cofounded a gay teen magazine before suffering a nervous breakdown, converting to Mormonism, declared himself ex-gay, converted to fundamentalist Christianity, becoming a World Net Daily writer and spokesperson for the ex-gay movement, quitting being an ex-gay spokesperson, and just now marrying a woman.  It’s the sort of life that requires popcorn.

Glatze has an explanation for homosexuality that’s unusual, even by fundamentalist standards.  He put it this way on World Net Daily:

Homosexuality is a perversion of the correct relationship between God and His creation, man.

Thus, since God is male and His creation – man – is male, the appropriate relationship (under the Headship of Christ) is to be satisfied in spiritual union with God. That is why Paul, in 1 Corinthians 6, says we have “become one spirit” with God. And, it is also why Paul describes, in Romans 1, the pattern of degradation that takes place when men turn from God. Ultimately, it results in homosexuality, because the man – seeking for a spiritual fellowship with God – positions himself either as a “god” for another man, or in the position of worshiping another man as “god.”

On his personal blog, he elaborates:

If the Lord is for the body — Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me.what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’ — then, why would an individual want to not allow the Lord to have his-or-her body?
“KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF MY BODY” is a popular slogan in feminist circles. But, it’s an ironic twist of actual sentiment. On the one hand, the crier of such a slogan would love to have hands on her body – she just wants to be the one to make the choice whose hands they are. …
If you ask me, the best Person to put His hands on us is the One Whose hands can be trusted – because, He made us.
When I was a teenager, we joked about worship songs that made Jesus sound like someone’s boyfriend (and that was a bad thing).  Glatze, however, sees a relationship with God as not only romantic, but also physical and sexual.  It’s a very strange idea and apparently had a lot to do with why he’s no longer an ex-gay spokesman.

What I couldn’t help noticing was that it doesn’t account for lesbians at all.  In fact, by attributing such drastic causes to homosexuality among men–nothing less than a false relationship with God–he shuts the door on any possible parallel explanation for homosexuality among women.  So, when I found him being a grepping loon on Bot Turtle Bulletin, I asked him about that.  His reply:

To answer your question directly, women are created to have a relationship with a man. And, the order of biblical headship is that a woman submits to a man, while the man submits to God. This connects all three in a submissive relationship which benefits all three. This is not – obviously – a life-style choice that everybody opts for, these days. But, it is not at all an unhealthy one for men or for women. In fact, women are safest if they are with a Godly man who can meet their needs, spiritually.

But, what happens is, when men turn from God, women need protection – because their men have become unsafe. Thus, they turn to each other (lesbianism), and do the best they can at trying to “become men.”

That’s pretty weaksauce.  It basically just says “women have relationships with other women because they don’t want to have relationships with men,” which is something of a truism.  The explanation for male homosexuality stems from the fundamental core of their being (as Glatze sees it); for women, it’s a completely external cause that has nothing to do with them, their nature, or their relationship with God.  Even though he’s talking about women and their relationships with other women, Glatze’s explanation revolves around men and male behavior.

I’ve noticed this throughout the ex-gay movement: Both the organizations’ activities and the theories used as justification revolve around male sexuality, with female sexuality either tacked on as an afterthought or ignored altogether.  It makes sense: Policing of sexuality (inside of Christian fundamentalist circles or outside of them) stems directly from a strictly enforced patriarchal view of society, and since men and male sexuality are considered so much more important, they also get more strictly policed*.  Sometimes that’s literal policing: 24 countries have laws against gay sex but not lesbian sex, for instance, and many others have different punishments or had such laws in the past.  None have laws against lesbian sex but not gay sex.

xnewduReturning to ex-gay groups and their narratives, Glatze’s sex-with-God idea is unusual, but the way his theory was built around men and only addresses women as a slapdash afterthought is perfectly in line with other ex-gay theories.  For instance, many ex-gay proponents (including the now-defunct Exodus International) embrace a Freudian theory that boys develop a healthy (ie, straight) sexuality by having a healthy relationship with their father, and that if the father fails to be a good role model by being to distant or effeminate, or if the mother is too smothering, the boy will end up gay. This is the view presented by Richard Cohen, author of the generally-recognized worst children’s book ever, Alfie’s Home (pictured at right), and guest on the funniest Daily Show segment ever (part 1) (part 2).  On the other hand, Cohen talks far less about lesbians.

This theory was also presented at Exodus International’s Love Won Out conference (as reported on by the Box Turtle Bulletin again).  But the same conference’s talk on lesbians was less clear:

“Maybe because women, we tend to be complex sometimes,” she explained. But her Freudian explanation for lesbianism was similar to Nicolosi’s, except here it was the mother who was cold and distant, while the father was stern, frightening, or even abusive. Unless, of course, the mother was exceptionally close and had a “best friends” relationship with her daughter and the father was distant. Fryrear’s mix of causes for female homosexuality was a Mulligan’s Stew of many different factors: lesbian chic, fashion, peer pressure, feminism, sexual abuse — the list was very long and occasionally contradictory.

Just like Glatze, the Exodus speakers had a straightforward and carefully-constructed explanation for gay men, but for women, offered only a clumsy alteration of the male explanation.  Additionally, while the male speaker was a clinical psychologist, the female speaker was a Focus on the Family employee with a degree in divinity.  The basic theory — that is, the male one — is the one that they saw as requiring a scientific (or quasi-scientific) approach by a professional, while it was fine to tack on a slapdash explanation for women from the conference’s token ex-lesbian.

This discrepancy highlights the close relationship between conservative ex-gay narratives and conservative gender narratives.  Its attitude towards masculinity is a defining factor — almost the defining factor — of conservative evangelicalism.  Gay men are, of course, anathema to their hypermasculine image of a “real man,” but lesbians provoke far less of a reaction simply because they never cared much about women in the first place.

So we shouldn’t be surprised that ex-gay theories focus entirely on gay men and only mention lesbians as an afterthought.  This is one case where slipping under the radar is probably a good thing.

*Their range of acceptable behavior is much larger (eg, traditionally acceptable careers for men vs women), but male transgressions tend to be more harshly punished (eg, male vs female crossdressing).  Since masculinity is so much more highly valued, women wanting to do masculine things is always at least a little bit understandable, whereas men abandoning masculinity are seen as completely unjustified.

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