On Becoming Ex-Straight


I saw over on Crooks & Liars today that the anti-LGBT activist Peter LaBarbera was pushing the alleged success stories of ex-gay people in the media. His idea is that since Fox News has been so good about distorting demographics by highlighting the few black Republicans, the network should do the same for the ex-gays.

Let’s think about that for a minute. I can well imagine why Fox News might have a problem with it. As a people, we aren’t too comfortable with sexual vagaries. So even acknowledging that people get confused sexually is likely to turn off the average viewer who is in his 70s. But there is the other aspect of this, which is that almost no one really believes that sexual orientation is something that people decide. I think everyone’s experience is like mine: when I reached puberty, I started noticing girls. If I had been gay, it would have been boys. There wouldn’t have been a decision. So people introduced to the concept of ex-gay generally think that the people involved are really mixed up or they are simply lying to themselves.

For me, this is kind of personal, but I think most people, if they are honest, will understand if not identify. You can ask my many and varied wives and girlfriends and they will all confirm that I do not have a very great sex drive. But my sexual orientation is pretty strongly heterosexual. Still, I can imagine the effect it would have on me if I lived in a world that told me since I was a kid that heterosexuality was wrong. Or if I were told that God himself hated the fact that I had sex with girls and would torture me to the end of the time for doing it. In that situation, I would be an excellent subject for anti-straight therapy.

And look how great it would work if they put me together with some guy who also liked girls but didn’t have a particularly strong sex drive. A night of mutual masturbation, some cuddling while watching a movie, and we’d be home free. We wouldn’t be gay, really. We’d just have managed to stifle our sex drives and focus on the other aspects of our lives. And that, I think, is how it works with those successful ex-gay folks. It is common for ex-gay men to hook up with ex-lesbians. What’s up with that? God forbid an ex-lesbian would hook up with a man who had a strong sex drive!

So my guess is that the successful ex-gays are a collection of people who have been really warped by religion and other social mores. But they’ve got to be people who either have weak sex drives or who are bisexual and can choose to just go one way or the other. What it most definitely is not is a bunch of people who have strong homosexual drives learning to have strong heterosexual drives. And what that means is that the movement does not “cure” the people they ought to care the most about. In that same article, Tea Party leader Rick Scarborough said that “homosexuality much more likely leads to AIDS than smoking leads to cancer.” If that’s the case, you’d want to go “cure” the most intense of the gays.

It reminds me of Prohibition. A lot of people have noted that making alcohol illegal really did reduce drinking. The problem is that it most reduced drinking among those who didn’t have a problem! So they take these poor men away and make them play football and slap each other on the back. And they take these poor women away and, I don’t know, force them to pretend they aren’t capable. And all they manage to do is get some bisexual woman to settle down with an effeminate man. Brilliant!

The whole thing is so sad from the perspective of those who are driven into such ex-gay therapy. The truth is that sex is a strange thing that our society ill prepares us for. And people have all kinds of sexual tastes and when those aren’t the rather narrow socially acceptable tastes, it has to be difficult. But the other side of it is pure evil. These are people who take the weaknesses of others and exploit them. They are the modern con artist and it makes it even worse that they do it for God.

Good Movie

If I Were YouI just finished watching If I Were You, a charming movie about Madelyn, a middle-aged woman who discovers her husband is having an affair with a young European woman. Then a bunch of stuff happens and soon after her mother passes away.

It’s much lighter than it sounds. The only reason I’m even mentioning it is because of this bit of dialogue. At her mother’s funeral, a co-worker offers his trite consolation:

Keith: But just remember – God doesn’t give us any more than we can carry.

Madelyn: God has some formula where he can calculate exactly how much pain to inflict on each individual? (Turning to her husband) Isn’t it interesting that things that are supposed to be mindlessly comforting are really, really horrible. You know, when you think about it.

On This Day in History: October 18

The United States took formal possession of Alaska from Russia.
[Two places I will probably never see, and I’m okay with that.]

The first long-distance telephone line between New York and Chicago was officially opened (it could only handle one call at a time).
[Kind of like AT&T today.]

The British Broadcasting Co., Ltd. (BBC) was founded.
[I love Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, and Karl Pilkington.]

Inventor Thomas Alva Edison died in West Orange, N.J., at age 84.
[He was predeceased by Topsy, the elephant he electrocuted.]

James D. Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins received the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology for determining the double-helix molecular structure of DNA.

The federal government banned artificial sweeteners known as cyclamates (SY’-kluh-maytz) because of evidence they caused cancer in laboratory rats.
[I had at least three years of ingesting sweets before it was banned.]

Congress passed the Clean Water Act, overriding President Nixon’s veto.
[Once upon a time, the U.S. Congress actually did a good thing.]

Other than that, nothing awesome happened on this day until 1992 when my son was born (see below).

You Never Can Tell With Chuck Berry

Chuck BerryIt’s a big day for literature. Moby-Dick was first published on this day back in 1851 under the name The Whale. And almost as quickly, it was disparaged and forgotten and not long after Melville pretty much stopped writing until shortly before his death. It’s sad. There are a lot of similarities between Melville and Cervantes, although the latter never stopped writing. But they both spent what should have been very productive years slogging through life doing government work. Its all very sad, but they both left us multiple gems of varying brilliance.

On this day in 1927, the great actor George C. Scott was born. I’ve liked him for a number of movies, most notably in Dr. Strangelove and Patton. But for me, the best film he ever made was They Might Be Giants. Yes, it is a modern version of Don Quixote, but that isn’t what matters most here. Scott’s performance is by far his most nuanced. Both film and actor are under appreciated.

Assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was born in 1939. I bring him up only because I had no idea he was so young. He had just turned 24 when he murdered President Kennedy. Clearly, he was a very troubled young man. And because of that, I worry about loose talk of revolution and tyranny. In the late 1960s, we definitely got a lot of that from the left. That was wrong and dangerous. But today, we not only get it from the right, we get it from a lot of mainstream people. I suspect the only reason no one has taken a shot at President Obama is that the Secret Service have thankfully gotten so good at their jobs. But it really ought to be unthinkable.

Other birthdays: Baroque painter Luca Giordano (1634); the late Baroque, early Classical composer Baldassare Galuppi (1706); poet Thomas Love Peacock (1785); theoretical physicist Pascual Jordan (1902); one of the great racist villains of 20th century America Jesse Helms (1921); actor Peter Boyle (1935); actor Dawn Wells, our own Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island (75); one of the few really distinctive movie composers Howard Shore (67); and musician Wynton Marsalis (52).

The day, however, belongs to the very great Chuck Berry who is 87 today and still performing. Most people associate him with his guitar playing. And it is great, fun pentatonic noodling—probably the most distinctive style in pop music. But that’s not why I gave the the day to him. As I noted back on 17 September, “If I had to name the greatest songwriter of the 20th century, it would be Chuck Berry.” His musical sense is wonderful and his lyrics are clever as hell. It’s just amazing stuff. Here is one of my favorites, “You Never Can Tell”:

Happy birthday Chuck Berry!

Someone Turns 21 Today!

newbornOn this day twenty-one years ago, my one and only son, emerged into the world and posed for his one and only mug shot.

Today he is a bona fide man, planning his very first beer run. He will not be drinking and then driving as he has more sense than his mother used to. To clarify, I do not drink and then drive, not anymore.

Still, the idea that I have a child who is twenty-one years old is a teeny bit unsettling. On the other hand, he is officially no longer my responsibility. Time to get a dog.


In lieu of gifts, donations to the Colin English Student Loan Fund
are be greatly appreciated.

Support the BART Strike

BARTThe BART strike that started this morning is a major inconvenience for me—totally screwing up a work project. Still, I support the workers in this conflict. Sadly, I think that most American workers look at strikes from the standpoint of management and this is perverse. I see it as akin to a San Franciscan (or anyone, really) supporting the Dallas Cowboys.

Strikes are rarely about what they seem. In this country, they are usually about management trying to put workers in their place. It’s about power. It’s about control. In fact, this is why companies like Walmart are so much against allowing unions. It isn’t that the unions would be that powerful and “steal” all their profits. It is mostly just about keeping workers as helpless as possible so that the management is in control.

A good example of this is Milton Hershey during the first half of the last century. He is a legend for having treated his employees really well. But he was totally against allowing them to unionize. In his mind, he was the patriarch and the workers were his children. He wanted to be nice to them, but he did not want them to think of themselves as peers, much less equals. He wanted to give them good wages because he wanted to, not because they demanded them.

We are seeing the same thing going on in the BART strike. The two sides are in agreement about the economic issues. The negotiations have broken down over the issue of work rules. As it is now, if there are changes to how the work gets down, management and the workers must agree. Management claims this is hurting their ability to manage work. That seems like a reasonable complaint. Management needs to be able to manage, right? But that’s a great overstatement. Their prime example is that if they decide to run extra trains for a special event, then they would be required to do that every year. Okay. But if that’s their best example, I’m not too sympathetic.

The union rightly worries that if management can just change the work rules willy-nilly, they will do so to punish workers who have filed workplace complaints. But the union did give on this issue. They agreed to allow binding arbitration on such matters. That would seemingly address the concerns on both sides.

Unfortunately, it looks like management is engaged in a gambit. They have been pretty reasonable on the economic issues but are sticking with this one issue that they know the union hates. It is terrible but entirely typical. If there is one thing that has been destroying America for the last 60 years (first slowly and then quickly), it is the erosion of unions. What we are seeing in San Francisco is part of that. And this is what happens when the workers still have a strong union; it is much worse for most workers. As annoying as this strike is, we must support the workers.