Quacks and Busybodies

From Bachmann to Kass, the interest in altering orientation is suspect

by Richard J. Rosendall
Published on July 21, 2011, 1:45am | Comments

I resisted a temptation in my last column to report the speculation then stirring that Marcus Bachmann, who is married to Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and practices "ex-gay" therapy in his Christian counseling practice, is a gay closet case. It seemed to me that his setting off Cher's "gaydar" was insufficient evidence.

By July 13, however, when Jerry Seinfeld used "Comedy Repression Therapy" on The Daily Show to cure Jon Stewart's urge to tell gay jokes about Dr. Bachmann, my caution was moot.

The fact that such speculations are no longer taboo may be the latest sign of gay progress. Let's keep in mind, however, that others can play this game. The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week on a straight man in Gary, Ind., being rejected by a blood-donation center because he appeared to be gay. William Saletan in Slate warns against using superficial characteristics to make conclusions about people's orientation. The Gaydar Wars could break out any day now.

Nonetheless, it does seem increasingly hard to find an anti-gay public figure who is not (A) a closeted homosexual, (B) the estranged parent of a gay child, or (C) a woman embittered by her husband leaving her for his boyfriend. A case could be made for the rebuttable presumption that any outspoken homophobe has a personal gay issue for which his or her anti-gay pronouncements are merely a cover.

To be sure, the junk science known as "reparative therapy" is no joke. On July 8, John M. Becker of Truth Wins Out reported on undercover work in which he received reparative therapy from Bachmann's firm. He concluded, "Based on my experiences at Bachmann & Associates, there can no longer be any doubt that Marcus Bachmann's state- and federally-funded clinic endorses and practices reparative therapy aimed at changing a gay person's sexual orientation, despite the fact that such 'therapy' is widely discredited by the scientific and medical communities."

Bachmann defensively replied that he only offers the therapy "at the client's discretion." Truth Wins Out observed that "if a bodybuilder had asked a doctor to help him or her inject steroids, the practitioner could refuse. If an African American asked a doctor for a skin bleaching, he or she could decline."

The quacks at Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX), leaders in "ex-gay" propaganda, love posing as victims. They even got a judge in 2009 to rule that ex-gays are a protected class under the D.C. Human Rights Act. But their victimhood is mostly imaginary. I myself defend their right to place ads in D.C.'s Metro system, because Metro, as a quasi-governmental body, is barred by the First Amendment from censoring ads. I also think it wiser to refute lies than to repress them.

As it happens, an "ex-gay" proponent and busybody named Sharon Kass, who enjoys emailing me, wrote to me on July 14 saying, "Tip: Ex-gay science is real. PC 'gay-affirmative' is not," and provided links for narth.com, gaytostraight.org and peoplecanchange.com. I suggested that instead of sloganeering she should try to refute Wayne Besen's book, Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth. I added that I am happy the way I am.

Our happiness, in fact, is the real issue, not whether we can change. We have a right to pursue our happiness regardless of whether our orientation is immutable. Even if being gay were a choice, it would not require our neighbors' approval any more than people's choice of religion. The immutability argument is a red herring.

Kass replied, "You're deep in denial, Rick." She could be a wind-up doll. I suspect she could use some therapy herself; but I am no doctor, so I just told her to mind her own business.

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at rrosendall@starpower.net.


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