Updated July 20, 2004
D.L. Foster operates Witness for the World, an ex-gay ministry.
On his web page, Understanding Exgays: People or Politics, Foster shares his stereotypes of gay people with readers. Among his first sweeping generalizations:
Homosexuals have become masters at the art of redefinition….
Is it not, in fact, Foster who is redefining “ex-gay” — or is he simply disagreeing with fellow ex-gay activists, like Anthony Falzarano and Stephen Bennett, who assert that anyone can change, and change completely?
The words “gay” and “lesbian” have, since the birth of the gay equal-rights movement, referred to a person’s tendency to be sexually attracted mostly or exclusively to the same gender. Without substantiation, Foster accuses gay activists of redefining the terms into a singular, presumably left-wing political identity. He then (again without substantiation) asserts that it is all gay activists, rather than specific ex-gay activists, who claim that “exgay” implies significant or total change in sexual orientation.
Unwisely assuming that the political and spiritual call for equality for gay people hinges on a rigid and inflexible definition of sexual orientation, Foster argues that the “carefully crafted theory of inborn sexual orientation would crumble” if fluidity were ever acknowledged.
Fluidity, in fact, has not been a major concern among gays, bisexuals, tolerant heterosexuals, or for that matter scientists. Rather, what has upset gay observers of ex-gay ministries has been, first, the stereotypes and discriminatory behavior promoted by exgay religious-right activists affiliated with Exodus and Focus on the Family, and second, the ex-gay movement’s refusal to methodically study and report success and failure rates of reparative-therapy programs.
Foster proposes that the “fight against exgays in the public square is purely to protect the political interests of the homosexual establishment.” But Foster does not describe the nature of this fight: He offers no examples of discrimination by specific gays against specific ex-gays. Instead, he generalizes the existence of a stereotypical “homosexual establishment” without taking the time to define who belongs to it, nor to acknowledge of the existence of any gays who might not conform to Foster’s stereotype.
Foster’s generalizations do not stop with gays. He also asserts the existence of a singular, stereotypical, political “transgenderism” that denies psychological, social and political diversity among people who experience psychological gender variance — and people who were born with body parts and body chemistry of both sexes.
Foster then confuses transgender issues with same-sex attraction before moving on to the case of a drag queen. Specifically, exgay activist and author John Paulk, who was a drag queen before joining the religious right. Foster guesses (without substantiation) that gay activists felt Mr. Paulk’s mingling with patrons at a gay bar, Mr. P’s in Washington was proof that he was not ex-gay. In fact, Paulk would have been considerably more welcome in Washington’s gay bar Mr. P’s if he had:
- reported in his books and Focus on the Family activism that he was still struggling with attraction to other men and occasionally visiting gay bars, and
- refrained from promoting employment, housing, and religious discrimination against the very men whom he treated to cocktails at Mr. P’s under the dishonest guise that he was still a gay man.
Given Foster’s less-than-sincere account of gay viewpoints thus far, I am pleasantly surprised that Mr. Foster admits the ex-gay lifestyle is a journey requiring maturity — not an infantile, black-and-white state of purity or damnation.
Foster encourages ex-gays to assert their free-speech rights — no argument there. However, I disagree with Foster’s statement that his movement is “stuck” with the “ex-gay” label. This surrender to an inaccurate label is, quite frankly, a cop-out. Foster’s other suggestions, “overcomer” and “redeemed,” are equally misleading because, like “ex-gay,” they literally mean that one’s eradication of homosexual desire has already been achieved.
There are people in the ex-gay movement who have thoughtfully and logically defined their position and suggested better labels, but Foster has yet to do so. Instead, he concludes that ex-gays should accept the religious right’s misleading label for their movement, without satisfactorily explaining why.