Gay bashers can truly be cured

August 26, 1998|By Martin Gottlieb

DAYTON, Ohio -- What people don't understand about gay-bashing is that it can be cured.

Some people will try to tell you gay-bashing is genetic, that people are born with it. Baloney. No gay-bashing gene has been isolated. It's all speculation.

What we know for sure is that some people used to be gay-bashers and no longer are.

What we have to understand about gay-bashers is that, even though we reject their behavior as mean -- sinful, if you will -- that doesn't mean we have passed permanent judgment upon them as people. The issue is behavior. If they change their behavior, there's no problem.

Look, lots of other people behave badly, too: alcoholics, kleptomaniacs. That doesn't mean we hate them. We try to help them come to terms with their problem. We provide loving support.

The worst thing we could possibly do to them would be to simply accept their behavior. They need us to help them change. Same thing with gay-bashers. Moreover, when we say change, we don't even necessarily mean they must change their desires. Again, the issue is behavior. If some guy's blood pressure rises (for political reasons) every time he sees Ellen DeGeneres, if he is driven to tell her she is headed for hell, that she's a sinner, fine. As an American, he is entitled to think whatever he wants to think.

Just so long as he doesn't act. Just so long as he behaves according to societal norms. If he keeps quiet, if he denies his fundamental nature, we can love him as a fellow human being who's entitled to live as a free American just like everybody else.

The worst problem arises when these people go beyond living their own lives inappropriately. When they start to promote their lifestyle; when the politicians start being influenced by the gay-bashing agenda; when you can't turn on a television without seeing notions being promoted that are repugnant to all Americans who believe in the traditional values of human dignity and tolerance, then it is time to fight back.

The leaders of the gay-bashing interest groups will say we are trying to squelch them, trying to exclude them from First Amendment protections. But it doesn't matter what the spokesmen say. We know we will be reaching individuals. We know we will be bringing some people to the light.

There's nothing mysterious about the techniques of conversion therapy as applied to gay-bashers. There's nothing any official groups of psychologists or psychiatrists could object to or debunk. The first thing you do, obviously, is separate people from temptation. Get them away -- for a little while, at least -- from other gay-bashers who will congratulate them for agreeing with them, who will, in other words, be enablers.

Then you simply confront the prospective converts with reason. You point out that the idea of, say, a 15- or 17-year-old boy choosing homosexuality -- when he knows that would make him, of all things, different from his friends -- is seriously dubious.

You point out that a huge number of deeply religious, highly expert people read the Bible quite differently from those who point to a quote here and there denouncing homosexuality. You discuss the meaning of the term "pursuit of happiness," and you ask whether it has any meaning if one's sexual nature is to be completely suppressed. Piece of cake. It works.

We have to believe it works -- on those who are ready to listen -- if we believe in reason. To say it doesn't work is to abandon faith in our fellow man.

Martin Gottlieb is a member of the editorial board of the Dayton Daily News.

Pub Date: 8/26/98

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