Brynn Tannehill

The 'Ex-Gay' Movement's Dangerous New Myths

Filed By Brynn Tannehill | August 15, 2014 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Living
Tags: celibacy, ex-gay, ex-gay movement, ex-gay myth, Matt Barber, Matt Moore, mixed-orientation couples, mixed-orientation marriage, pray away the gay

In the past few years, as the "ex-gay" movement has sputtered and died, many within that movement -- and some of their religiously conservative supporters -- have begun pushing some ideas to get lesbians and gays to stop having sex. Or more specifically, get lesbians and gays to stop having, well, gay sex.

Matt Moore, who was part of the "ex-gay" movement (and then got caught with a Grindr account), has stopped saying that gays can be cured... except if God makes it happen. Somehow. He occasionally writes for the virulently anti-LGBT website Barbwire.com, run by hate group leader Matt Barber. Mr. Moore is now pushing the "celibate gay" narrative.

He isn't the only one: institutions like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) have tried to soften their image by changing their stance on "same-sex attraction": it may not be "curable," they now say, but lesbians and gays are welcome to join if they stay celibate or marry members of the opposite sex.

Not only are these narratives completely impractical, they are incredibly damaging on so many levels.

no-sex-celibacy.jpgFirst of all, if abstinence-only education doesn't work for straight people and makes them less likely to use protection, why would it work for lesbians and gays? Short, answer: it doesn't. Even the poster boy for celibate gays got caught trolling on Grindr. People buying into the "celibate gay" myth will almost always end up having sex on the DL anyway, and that leads to higher rates of HIV transmission.

Besides, sex is good -- it's good for men's health, good for women's health, good for people in general. Being in stable, enduring relationships has health benefits for both straight and gay people. In short, following the advice of the "celibate gay" cheerleaders is a bit like listening to a doctor who tells you to cut fruits and vegetables out of your diet.

In one of Mr. Moore's most recent articles, he used the word "sin" no less than 22 times in 924 words. That works out to once every other sentence or so. Obsessing over how nasty, wicked, disgusting, and abominable you are can't be healthy. Trust me: been there, done that, got the refrigerator magnet at the end of therapy. If you feel like you have to choose between being Christian and being gay, you don't -- there are plenty of Christian denominations that accept gay people, celibate or not.

Even worse than the push for celibacy, though, is the one encouraging lesbians and gays to enter into mixed-orientation marriages.

The idea behind mixed-orientation marriages is that you can lead a full and godly life if you just turn off the lights and use a lot of imagination. The LDS Church does not formally endorse mixed-orientation marriage as a cure for homosexuality anymore, but neither do they do anything dissuade people from trying it.

The church's media arm actively encourages it, as do well-known Mormon bloggers. Organizations like the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) leap on these examples as evidence that there's hope for "escaping the gay lifestyle."

mixed-orientation-marriage.jpgThe problem is, doesn't actually work out that way. Eighty-five percent of mixed orientation marriages fail in the first three years. Couples who have children stretch it a little further, but also almost universally dissolve thereafter.

So what are the consequences of divorce? Well, it's really, really bad for children. It's really, really bad for women too: twenty percent of women who get divorced fall into poverty. It's financially devastating for everyone.

If you want to royally screw up your life and the life of your spouse, and "gift" your children with a significant life penalty, a divorce is a great way to do it. Mixed-orientation marriage offers an 85% "success" rate at that.

Sometimes, though, the only thing worse than a divorce from a mixed orientation marriage is staying in one.

"We were still family, but not romantic partners. There was no escape from the situation for either of us. The only good that comes from this spiritual suicide pact is that the kids are taken care of, and that maybe other people can learn some things from this." - Lesbian in a mixed-orientation marriage

"I am so fed up, it's unbelievable. There is no simple solution. No single right answer. I have to answer to so many. A family who needs me, but I am dying emotionally, mentally, spiritually... Yet to leave my children, to cause pain to both them and wife - that is something that is not me, not something I would deliberately do, let alone choose to do. I would rather die. And so I am dying..." - Gay Mormon in a mixed-orientation marriage

"It was heartbreaking for me to see women who wanted in every way to believe that their husbands were never, ever again going to act on their sex drives with other men. Unfortunately, it was a rare man who didn't go to the computer or video store for porn, visit a park for anonymous sex, or keep a boyfriend on the side. The actions of these men left their families at risk for disease." - Former spouse

Again, just because someone stays in a mixed-orientation marriage doesn't mean they don't have sex with others outside the marriage -- in fact, they often do. The APA cites this as one of the primary ways HIV bridges the gap between heterosexual and homosexual populations.

Some would argue that celibacy and mixed-orientation marriages work for some (read: very few) people, so why should they be discouraged from doing so?

Because they're outliers and anecdotes, just like that second cousin thrice-removed who lived to age 100 while smoking two packs of unfiltered Marlboros a day. Smoking, celibacy for life, and mixed-orientation marriages are all horrible ideas because the odds are so poor, and the consequences so devastating.

Any doctor who advised you to take up smoking because it didn't kill your cousin is either a fraud or an idiot. So why would someone telling you to try being celibate for life or to enter into a mixed-orientation marriage be any different?


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