Dr. Robert Spitzer, the psychiatrist behind the irredeemable "conversion" therapy for gays, has apologized for the study he performed that led to gay men and women being subjected to horrific abuses by therapists in an attempt to change their orientation.
Pardon me for not applauding.
"Conversion" therapy, championed by many anti-gay institutions (particularly religious ones) as an "effective" method of turning gay people straight, was the equivalent of using leeches on a healthy person. It encouraged GLBT people to see themselves as wrong, unnatural, and broken. It did little but worsen the self-esteem and depression afflicting those who sought out such therapy in the first place. It forced GLBT people to lie to themselves and insist that the "cure" had "worked," even though it meant lying to themselves and their families--in short, going back into the closet, and not only shutting the door, but nailing it shut.
I have no love of the closet. I've lived in it. Hated it. Not going back to it. Wouldn't encourage any friend of mine to do it, either.
It's been a long time since I've arrived in Seattle, WA. After two false starts, I've finally found a permanent job, a good one with a good company. My friends, who've put me up since August, introduced me to one of their oldest and best friends--and the two of us fell in love almost at first sight. And of all things, said friend is a man. I never thought I would ever trust any man to get that close to me--and here I am, mad for a fellow geek who is wicked smart, sharp-humored, generous, clear-sighted, and everything I could have asked for in a partner.
Of course I told him I was bisexual a day after we met. I had to see how he'd react. To my relief, he accepted it matter-of-factly--and then I discovered that his ex had also been bisexual. Or, as he told me after we admitted we were crazy about each other, "How do I keep attracting bisexual ladies? Is it the pheromones?" (Actually, there's a list of reasons why, but I'm not giving you that much information.) We've also had a few talks about what we expect out of our relationship, namely, monogamy. He really wasn't worried that I was going to leave him for a long-legged blonde or redhead, but he was amused when I promised not to check out any gorgeous women in front of him. As he said, "That's usually my line."
So yes, I'm doing well out of the closet. I wish everyone were. And by everyone, I mean one couple in particular.
I have a good friend who's been like a little sister to me. She and her husband fell in love in high school, and married soon after. They've been together for 20 years. And within the last month, Little Sister's beloved husband told her that not only is he no longer in love with her, he never was in love with her--in short, he's gay, he's coming out, and he wants a divorce.
He not only slammed the closet door open, he shattered my Little Sister's heart with it.
They live in the South, that quaint old region where if you don't believe in God, the Bible, and the rightful place of women and blacks, you're going to Hell on a greased slide. I've wondered sometimes, after reading about the youngsters who kill themselves after being bullied for their sexual orientation, or the adults beaten half to death (or just to death)--is gay bashing just considered another sport for some Southerners? The first buck of the year is nothing compared to the first dyke or faggot of the season?
I digress, but not much. It's why I can understand why Little Sister's husband stayed in the closet from his adolescence. When you grow up in an environment that says you're everything from the scum of the earth to demon-possessed for loving your own gender, where your parents would be encouraged to spit on you (if not club you like a seal) if you came out to them, how do you muster the courage to do it at all? And yet it can be done. The Nephew is still posting here, and doing well, I see. It does take courage, and maybe it takes a certain amount of being fed up to the teeth. There's only so much you can take before you refuse to continue, before you fight back, before you kick open the door and stomp it to splinters.
Little Sister's pain, though, is what stops me in my tracks. Imagine, if you will, a young woman who has lived her entire adult life in love with the same man. Imagine this young woman, once shy and terribly insecure, coming into her own thanks to her husband's strength and support of her right to be heard, to be listened to, to feel worthy. Now imagine this young woman hearing that her husband's steadfast, passionate love for her has been a lie . . . for twenty years.
The closet is a frightening place. It beckons with an illusion of safety, security, and acceptance. Close the doors, it whispers, and you'll live a life where no one will ever suspect who you are. They'll see you with a proper spouse or partner, and never think about the desires and shame you try to smother. Open them, and you'll let loose plagues with which not even Pandora's box could compare. And you'll be just one more casualty among all the rest--shunned, insulted, maybe even beaten or killed.
But it forces you to live that lie in front of those you love. I don't doubt that Little Sister's husband loves her still. I believe that, in time, he'll come to realize it. But I also know the truth of one thing he told her: that he has always yearned to be with another man instead of her. And she is devastated, because she knows that nothing, not her devotion to him, her admiration of him, her love of him, will ever erase that fact.
It's killing her.
I've had sickening flashbacks all week to Francesca, the first woman I dated, whom I had feelings for. If you recall, Francesca had come out to her husband, who divorced her and won custody of their only child. Francesca was allowed to call her daughter every other week, for just five minutes. Her daughter never got to say goodbye. One moment Francesca would hear her child's voice; the next, her ex-husband would take the phone and hang it up. Click.
Like slamming a door shut.
And so Francesca couldn't bear it any longer. She decided to go back into the closet and live a lie, pretend she could be straight, live as a straight woman, anything it took to get her daughter back.
The closet is the only trap that draws its victims, once escaped, back inside its jaws.
# # # #
Little Sister is going to counseling. She's looking into groups that help spouses of uncloseted men and women. But she has no enthusiasm for any of it, because it all points to the same thing: her marriage is dead.
She dreamed of a long future with her husband. Her dreams are ashes.
If there is such a thing as a just, loving God, she raged this week, then why is she losing the man she loves? Why will he get to have a new life, with a new lover, when she'll be left alone and hurting? What has she done to deserve the end of her marriage?
And yet she doesn't want him to stay with her only because he has to. If she had her way, he would be in truth what she always felt him to be: the man that loved her, completely, honestly, without reservation.
The hideous truth is that her husband is like millions of men and women in this country: hiding in the closet in an attempt to seem "normal," lying to themselves and everyone around them, because being honest about themselves would only earn them ridicule or ostracism.
An attitude, by the way, fostered by the rancid theory behind "ex-gay" conversion therapy.
It's nice that you're sorry, Dr. Spitzer. But you're about twenty years too late for Little Sister, and many, many dollars short.