The dialect of Love Won Out
Jim Burroway @ Box Turtle Bulletin went to Love Won Out, the traveling ex-gay conferences put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus, so you don’t have to.
In a thorough, multi-part report (links at the end) on what it was like to attend this all-day event in Phoenix in February, Jim learned a lot about the junk science used to bolster the movement’s opposition to homosexuality, and he reveals how these organizations are quite successful when it comes to message discipline and use of terminology when addressing their audiences.
In essence, they don’t believe there is any such thing as homosexuality — you are straight, but you have a “homosexual problem” and their use of language is consistent with that vision and sales pitch for ex-gaydom.
Dr. Joseph Nicolosi , president of NARTH (the National Association for Research and Treatment of Homosexuality), describes gay relationships in men as an attempt to capture the masculinity of another man that is missing in oneself because his own sense of masculinity is broken. This reduces all notions of romance to “a reparative drive.” He sums it up later in a breakout session by saying, “Heterosexuality is complementary, homosexuality is compensatory.”
Since homosexuality is seen as something that “happens” to someone due to poor parenting, sexual abuse and other factors, then it’s not the child’s fault. When they boy grows up, he tries to “fill” his damaged masculinity with other men. Similar explanations are offered for lesbians. Following this lead, Alan Chambers, president of Exodus, and Melissa Fryrear of Focus on the Family both refer to gay relationships as an “illegitimate way of meeting a legitimate need.”
Another way of saying this then, is that the problem is not that I, as a gay man, like other men. The problem is that other men are pleasing to me. Using language to separate the person from his or her sexuality is one of the most important concepts in Love Won Out’s dialect.
Scott at Reality Cubed read Jim’s blogging on this, and started up an Ex-Gay Glossary of Terms that you should check out. A few choice ones are after the flip.Some definitions from the land of Love Won Out; Scott has quite a few more and is asking for submissions to grow the glossary…
Gay Identified – A person who thinks they are perfectly happy being gay, they should be opposed every step of the way.
Sexual Orientation – Does not exist in the ex-gay world.
Thousands of Ex-gays – This is the term used when any ex-gay spokesperson is talking to a skeptical, secular audience.
Tens of Thousands of Ex-gays – This is the term used mostly in print when the audience is friendlier than a secular audience but could still be seen by the secular crowd.
Hundreds of Thousands of Ex-gays – This term is reserved only for a friendly audience (i.e. preaching to the choir). This is not generally used when specific evidence of “hundreds of thousands” might be asked for.
Homosexual Lifestyle – Used generally within a story of bad human behavior (i.e. “I used to molest innocent squirrels when I was in the homosexual lifestyle”). Once defined as an example of incredibly bad behavior to your listeners for the first time, you can start using it to broadly paint mundane things like getting your mail or grocery shopping as “living the homosexual lifestyle”. After you’ve initially defined this term with your audience and equated the term to bad behavior, it makes generalization of an entire group of people quite easy.
Well adjusted gay person – Does not exist in the ex-gay world. These people are deceived by Satan.
Back to Jim’s report — I found this section of Part 3: A Whole New Dialect extremely amusing, but in the end, quite sad. It’s par for the course for these folks.
Several of the speakers at Love Won Out placed described themselves as having either “left homosexuality,” “walked away from homosexuality” or having “found freedom from homosexuality” – as if they had been released from prison, as one commenter put it. (My favorite was “walked away”, as if someone had just stepped out for a coffee.) And indeed, the testimonies of those who “found freedom” followed the familiar trajectory of all great salvation stories, of having been lost but now found.
The stories began in the misery of “struggling with homosexuality”, the misery that presumably was a common experience of everyone who “struggles,” including the “gay-identified” – a misery of broken relationships, of drug and alcohol abuse, of sexual abuse and absent fathers or mothers, and a misery of an unrelenting longing for something that is clearly missing from their lives, that their “reparative” impulse was unable to fill.
But at the end of these stories comes triumph. After all, it’s theologically impossible for a story to end otherwise after having put their faith in Jesus Christ. And evidence of that triumph was often found in references to wives and children. As far as the audience was concerned, what better proof is there that they had “left homosexuality behind?” Mike Haley’s testimony closed with a wedding photo and pictures of his beautiful children. (And his children really are adorable. No wonder he’s such a proud husband and father.) Joe Dallas and Alan Chambers also spoke of their wives and families. The only speaker who “left homosexuality” but wasn’t married was Melissa Fryrear. Since she didn’t have any wedding photos or adorable children to talk about, she was reduced to describing what her ideal man would look like – “tall, red-headed, looks good in a kilt!” – while joking, “Is it hot in here?”
Hat tip, PageOneQ.