There are a couple of stories in LGTB news this week that have me thinking. The first is about actor Zachary Quinto coming out as a gay man. The second is about the apology of Minister John Smid and his admission that so-called “reparative therapy” does not work.
The story about Rev. Smid was in Friday’s Daily Beast. In the story Simd admits to being gay himself, though he is married to a woman and intends to stay that way. More importantly he talks frankly about the fact that he has never seen a success in changing the sexual orientation of any of the people that went to his Love in Action boot camp.
This is a good news/bad news story. The good news is that someone who was at the core of the ex-gay movement has changed his mind and publically admitted what the non-Evangelical part of the nation knew from the start.
The bad news is that he has done so far, far too late. The just for a second imagine if you were sent off to a place where you could not leave and were constantly told that your sexual orientation was not only wrong but was the work of the Devil.
This was a place where they practiced the most pernicious kind of behavior modification. Patrons (inmates) were not allowed to listen to any kind of secular music and even time in the bathroom was closely monitored to prevent any masturbation.
When people did insist on leaving the program made it as painful as possible, from the Daily Beast article:
Toscano describes an incident when Smid, responding to a young man of 19 or 20 who wanted to leave the program, staged a mock funeral. The would-be defector had to lie still on a table while the other participants “talked about how terrible it was that he didn’t stick with God, and now look where he is, he’s dead because he left,” says Toscano.
I can not even begin to imagine how totally destructive that is to someone’s sense of self. Especially if they were someone raised in an hard-core Evangelical family.
I might be a lot more sympathetic to Rev. Smid, if it were not for the fact that even when he is saying his program was an utter failure he try’s to soft pedal the damage he did in the name of his god and the name of making money.
“I think there was some positive things about them being there,” he says. “I think we did a good job of listening to them, of hearing their hearts. There was some validation from the staff and from me while they were there.”
This is a man that damaged hundreds of people yet he still thinks that there was something nurturing about his telling them over and over that their sexual orientation was wrong and evil.
If there is good that comes out this it is his on the record admission that he no longer believes that peoples sexual orientation can be changed.
On a related note actor Zachary Quinto has made a bit of a splash today by confirming publicly that he is gay. Again I see this as a good news/bad news story. The good news is that he is being honest with the world and is providing another much needed positive example for all those young folks who are gay and are having a tough time coming to grips with it.
I am all for anyone who is a celebrity and gay coming forward and making it clear who they are. It makes it clear that sexuality has exactly nothing to do with success or failure and even hunky leading men are just as likely to be gay as anyone else in the general population.
It is not even like Mr. Quinto (who was on Heroes and played a great and lusty Spock in the recent re-boot of the Star Trek franchise) even made a big deal of the announcement. He was giving an interview to New York Magazine and said of his recent work in Angles in America:
“Doing that play made me realize how fortunate I am to have been born when I was born. And to not have to witness the decimation of an entire generation of amazingly talented and otherwise vital men. And at the same time, as a gay man, it made me feel like I — there’s still so much work to be done.”
That was enough for him to make the news in the Washington Post, on CBS, and a slew of blog posts (including this one). Which is where the bad news comes in. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t care what Mr. Quinto’s sexual orientation is.
Beyond the reasons that I gave above I think it should matter not even one jot. It is really only germane to anyone actively trying to have a sexual relationship with him. I say actively because there is nothing to prevent anyone from fantasying about one with him, after all a fantasy is a fantasy, it has very little to do with reality.
But because he is hot and has been a leading man in it seems that it is big news that he is gay. This is what gets up my nose. Does no one remember Rock Hudson? He was the beef cake leading man in the 60’s and 70’s yet he was a gay as the day is long. In fact he was one of the first (admitted) celebrity losses to HIV/AIDS.
I seems to me that people need a reminder that actors are not the characters they play. Gary Oldman is not a Russian nationalist taking over Air Force One, Harrison Ford is not an archeologist, a starship captain, nor the a cowboy.
What these two stories say to me is that we are making progress on the idea of full rights and acceptance for our gay friends, brothers, sisters and extended family. But like Mr. Quinto I think that there is a long way to go and the work never ends.
Here is hoping that we really are seeing a second awakening of social consciousness and that this time we take it all the way to full equality for everyone and a total lack of social acceptance of bigotry about sexuality or gender.
The floor is yours.