Exodus announces the second ex-gay ad, published today in the L.A. Times. (Here’s other XGW coverage of the Exodus ads.)
Exodus does not state who funded the $200,000 campaign, but most of the people appearing in the ads are affiliated with the partisan political organization Focus on the Family.
The L.A. Times ad, available as a PDF file here, features Exodus spokesman Randy Thomas. In the ad, Thomas says:
Like a lot of homosexual men, I grew up with an absentee father.
This is, of course, a long-standing stereotype that the ex-gay movement has avoided substantiating. It is also an effort to scapegoat fathers and further alienate them from their sons — an ironic endeavor for an organization that claims to be “pro-family.”
Thomas proceeds to explain that his first sexual experiences were abuse as a teen-ager at the hands of at least four older men. The abuse does not, in fact, sound anything like what most gay men experience. Thomas describes his role as passive — that of a victim, rather than someone who was compelled by mature same-gender attraction to relate equally — romantically and sexually — with men.
I soon found that all the male attention I’d ached for so long came packaged with a gay identity. So that’s what I became.
Once again, Thomas stereotypes gays, asserting the existence of a singular “identity” to which he conformed, rather than acknowledging the existence of as many identities as there are gay people.
Seven years of the gay club scene and circuit parties was like a blur, going from guy to guy, medicating my emptiness with sex and short relationships.
The lifestyle that Thomas describes has little to do, per se, with being attracted to the same gender. What Thomas describes is a sequence of impersonal and compulsive behavioral choices that valued genital conduct over relationship, personal values, or faith. Instead of accepting responsibility for his choices and acknowledging that different same-sex-attracted people make different choices, Thomas seems to assert that his choices were inseparable from whatever attraction to men he experienced.
“It took an old friend to see past the mask I was wearing, to help me
finally face the doubts and scars I’d been avoiding. He showed me the irony of how my ‘mask’ was the very thing keeping me from genuine male intimacy.” Randy defines himself now outside of his sexual identity and has experienced sexual re-orientation.
Thomas refrains from explaining what he means by “mask,” implies that intimacy between gay men is not “genuine,” and misleads his audience by declining to disclose the extent of his ongoing same-gender sexual attraction. He also accuses gay people of defining themselves by their “sexual identity.”
Would I ever find the male acceptance not rooted in sex? Over time, the answers I found – especially that I wasn’t born homosexual – began leading me away from a gay identity.
Thomas strangely assumes that acknowledging one’s same-gender attraction — one’s gay or bisexual orientation — requires one to view male acceptance as rooted in sex. He goes on to say that he was led away from a gay identity, but he does not explain whether or not he is attracted to men today, or what his attractions consist of. Affection? Eroticism? Platonic friendship?
I’m living proof that change is possible.
Thomas neglects to acknowledge that gay people change all the time, without help from religious-right organizations. Some gay people get older, some lose interest in the bar scene, some become more religious, some become less religious. Some build families and some do not. Some gay people become less interested or compulsive about sex, some become more interested. Some become slightly more attracted to the opposite sex; most do not.
The ad concludes without ever acknowledging the Exodus ad campaign’s religious-right affiliation, as well as Exodus’ mission to convert people to a politically biased, “literal” interpretation of the Bible. One must look behind the scenes, beyond what L.A. Times readers will see, to discover that Exodus’ press release acknowledges the campaign’s close ties to Focus on the Family:
This ad featured Alan Chambers, President of Exodus, and his wife Leslie. Future ads will highlight Mike Haley, Director of Gender Issues for Focus on the Family, and his wife Angie. Both couples write about their experience with leaving homosexuality and also about the importance of traditional marriage. Melissa Fryrear, Gender Issues Analyst for Focus on the Family, will also be featured later in the campaign writing as a single woman coming out of homosexuality.
Regrettably, full disclosure has never been a strong point in ex-gay advertising.
Addendum: The Advocate reports that the L.A. Times received about 200 complaints about the ad. Times columnist Steve Lopez’s commentary offers blunt ridicule of the ad’s illogical arguments, but the column is sadly quite flippant about sexual abuse.