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The power of silence

Silence encourages the tormenter, never the tormented. – Elie Wiesel

Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly. – Mahatma Gandhi

Your silence will not protect you. – Audre Lorde

To be an activist is to use your voice. To speak up. To take action. Silence, for an activist, is a death knell. It signals complicity with the aggressor. Silence equals death.

Right?

These last few weeks, I haven’t posted any blog articles, which marks the longest stretch of inactivity since I started blogging at The Active  Voice. I can cite lots of reasons for this. I’ve been incredibly busy at work. My daughter’s school and social calendar has taken on a life of its own. And lately, I’ve been driving all over the place – Fresno, San Francisco, Silicon Valley – for book signings and presentations. My gas tank was running on empty – and for weeks, when blog-writing time rolled around, I chose instead to rest, regroup, and refuel. I wanted to be still and quiet. And I wasn’t feeling good about it. You’ve got a blog article to write, the nagging voice said. Don’t slack off.

And then, last week, a friend sent me an article that changed my perspective.

That article was titled “10 Important Reasons to Start Making Time for Silence, Rest, and Solitude.” Oh great, I thought to myself. Another fluffy self-help piece. But the article resonated with me, on several levels – and I found myself realizing that silence is not only personally healing, it can be a powerful tool in a social justice activist’s toolkit. In fact, I probably need to utilize silence much more frequently than I do. I won’t talk about all ten reasons outlined in the article, but I’ll focus on a few.

Silence strengthens intention and action. Most of us think of “silence” and “action” as mutually exclusive and incompatible concepts. However, Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist at Stanford University, says this in the article: “During silence, the mind is best able to cultivate a form of mindful intention that later motivates us to take action.” I might, for example, be dissatisfied with my job, to the point where it affects my work performance. However,  if I’m constantly in a flutter of activity, I’m not creating any space to process what that dissatisfaction is about – and that step needs to happen before I can identify what actions to take.

Here’s an example: Recently, my daughter came home from school singing a song that I thought had lyrics that were sexist. “Who taught you that song?” I asked her.

“My teacher,” she answered brightly, and then went back to singing it.

My initial reaction was anger. RAGE, really. I was ready to pick up my phone and fire off an e-mail to the teacher. Then I thought, No, it’s better to tell her my concerns after school. I started to write down what I wanted to say to her. Maybe I’ll text one of the other parents and see what they think, I thought. And then, somewhere in the depths of my soul, a tiny voice said, Wait.

I listened. And I’m glad I did. Later that day, after she had some after-school “quiet time,” my daughter was singing that song again. When she got to the offending lyric, she said, “I don’t like that part. I’m going to change it.” And she did – she created a totally different line that was positive and non-sexist. “From now on, I’m going to sing it this way at school,” she announced.

Had my daughter not been quiet, the idea might not have come to her. Had I not been quiet, I would have charged like a bull towards the teacher – and I would have denied my daughter the opportunity to take action. In hindsight, her way was far better than mine.

Silence gives us “a-ha” moments. In his memoir, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King talks about how he gets his ideas: “Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.” But in order to recognize them, you need to slow down, be quiet, and pay attention. Jonathan Schooler and Jonathan Smallwood, researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, have studied this very phenomenon. When we’re quiet, they say, we’re more likely to daydream, to let our minds wander. Mind-wandering and daydreaming give us what they call an “incubation period,” where we digest our thoughts and let our ideas percolate – and this is where we’re most likely to have that “eureka!” moment. Interestingly, studies indicate that people who are more prone to daydreaming are more likely to score higher on tests of creativity – an essential skill for an activist navigating the rocky terrain of social justice work.

Silence increases our tolerance for discomfort. Try this: Find a comfortable place to sit. Set a timer for five minutes. Close your eyes, sit, and do nothing until the alarm rings.

How was it?

If you’ve never meditated before, I bet it felt like the longest five minutes of your life.

So many people HATE silence. They’ll chatter incessantly just to fill space. They’ll crack a joke after a period of uncomfortable silence in order to break the tension. Even texting or Facebooking on our phones is a way to prevent silence. If I’m in the waiting room, or on the bus, or in line, just sitting quietly might be too much to bear  – so it’s iPhone to the rescue, to keep the mental chatter going.

Several years ago, I participated in the Day of Silence, an annual day of action organized by GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network). Participants take a day-long vow of silence as a symbolic representation of the silencing of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. It’s a powerful experience, and for me, it was profoundly uncomfortable. Every time I nonverbally asserted my right to silence, I felt uncomfortable. Every time I watched other people’s uncomfortable reactions, I felt uncomfortable. The whole thing was just . . . uncomfortable. And that, actually, was the most illuminating part of the whole experience for me. I tolerated a tremendous amount of discomfort throughout the day, and to cope with it, I drew on internal resources I didn’t know I had. At the same time, I witnessed discomfort in others – lots of it. For me, it was an exercise that created a boundary between my discomfort and theirs – and that it’s not my job to rescue people from their feelings. Because the only way to do that, of course, would have been for me to break my silence.

Silence as a regular practice. Think about it.

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The healing power of art and activism

Years ago, I took a class at Sacramento City College called “Psychology of Creativity, Intuition, and Problem-Solving.” The reading list included a book titled The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, which was a book I’d heard of. In fact, at one point I had actually borrowed the book from the library, but I never got around to reading it. I had signed up for the class because I’d sat in on a class session to do an instructor evaluation (I teach at Sacramento City College in the psychology department) – and after half an hour in the class, I was more than a little intrigued. I knew I’d be in for a ride, but I really had no idea how much I’d be transformed by the healing power of the creative process. I also had no idea how creatively blocked I was – and how that block was impeding my effectiveness as an activist.

After just a few weeks of being in the class, a river of creativity opened up for me – and amazing things started happening. I created a painting of a woman on a beach, leaping boundlessly through the surf. (I’ve never taken any art classes – unless you count the once-a-week public elementary school art.) And then I painted some more. I went to music clubs and danced. I bought wool sweaters at thrift stores, felted them, and made all sorts of creations from the results. I knitted. I sewed. I dyed things in Kool-Aid. I made sidewalk chalk and drew all over our patio. And from these seemingly superficial creative endeavors, things really started happening for me. Things that had a much stronger personal and social impact – like creating a course focusing on sexual and gender minorities. And writing a book (and then another one) about edgy LGBTQ issues. And deciding to have a baby. Things like that.

I began to speak up more, and speak out. I took more risks in various areas of my life – and, through that process, I began to experience the power of my own voice, in its many forms. Not that this was completely new to me – it’s been over 20 years since I was first introduced to feminism, queer activism, and social justice work. But most of my prior work had been left-hemispheric stuff – logical, rational, scholarly, cogently argued, well-researched. When I started drawing on the right side of the brain (a shameless plagiarization of Betty Edwards’ title), something shifted. And I think that shift has something to do with anger.

Yes, anger.

Those of us who are members of oppressed groups have good reason to be angry. If you’ve been silenced, if you’ve been swept aside, if you’ve been made to feel in any way that you’re not okay the way that you are, whether it’s because of your race, or your body size, or your gender expression, or your sexual practices, or your offbeat geeky personality – these are the seeds of oppression that fuel some serious anger.  In fact, it was when I read this passage in The Artist’s Way that I started to connect the dots between anger and oppression, art and activism:

Anger is fuel. We feel it and we want to do something. Hit someone, break something, throw a fit, smash a fist into the wall, tell those bastards. But we are nice people, and what we do with our anger is stuff it, deny it, bury it, block it, hide it, lie about it, medicate it, muffle it, ignore it. We do everything but listen to it.

When Julia Cameron wrote this passage, she was referring to the anger that blocked artists are likely to experience. People who are artistic and creative – and who go to any lengths to pursue those drives – are often told: You’re being irresponsible and impractical. You won’t make any money. You’re living in a fantasy world. You’re crazyIt makes sense that people whose creative energy has been policed into conformity would experience a deep well of anger. But when I read this passage, I wasn’t just thinking about artists. I was thinking of those of us who have had to conform in order to survive and be accepted. And if we resist, we risk being told: You’re crazy. There’s a lot of anger that comes from living in a crazy world, and being told again and again that we’re the crazy ones.

Later in that same passage, Cameron goes on to say this:

Anger is our friend. Not a nice friend. Not a gentle friend. But a very, very loyal friend. It will always tell us when we have been betrayed. It will always tell us when we have betrayed ourselves. It will always tell us that it is time to act in our own best interests.

Anger is not the action itself. It is action’s invitation.

Activism is healing. And in some cases, activism is a literal lifeline. Case in point: Jeff 4 Justice is an LGBTQ activist who lives in his vehicle – initially by choice, currently by necessity. He has no money. He has few friends where he’s currently living. He suffers from periodic bouts of depression – and he has no money to get treatment for it. For him, activism is the thread of hope and empowerment that keeps him hanging on. “Activism has therapeutic value,” he said. “Everything I do as an activist, it’s not always about winning, it’s not about convincing people. Sometimes what I do as an activist is keeping my damn self sane by expressing myself how I want to express myself.”

If your selfhood has been blocked, and your creativity has been blocked, dislodging those stones opens up a wide, flowing river of potential – an opportunity to channel that suppressed anger into transformative action. And art is a powerful tool in that process. We have people that Susan Lundy of UCLA calls “Aerosol Activists” – political graffiti artists in Oakland, California whose work evokes themes of racism, war, poverty, colonization, and cultural resiliency. We have the guerilla theater tactics used by groups like ACT-UP and the Lesbian Avengers – as well as by college students who, in a class taught at Westminster College of Pennsylvania, demonstrate against sexual violence through unannounced public performances on campus. We have members of the homeless community, described in Frances Kaplan’s book Art Therapy and Social Action, who create masks and exhibit them as a way of conveying their sense of invisibility, fear, anger, and disconnection. These are actions that heal our communities – and that heal our souls.

One of our Sacramento Pride events taking place this coming weekend is called “Art on the Edge,” where trans*, queer, and ally artists and creatives are invited to display their work and to engage in on-the-spot creativity. Out of all the Pride events taking place in my city this weekend (and there are many), this is the one that I’m the most excited about. It’ll be expressive, creative, energetic, empowering – and healing. Those of you who live in Northern California, I hope you’ll join me there.

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Filed under culture, gender nonconformity, homophobia, human rights, intersectionality, mental health, racism, Sacramento, transgender, Uncategorized, violence

The disease of “isms”

(NOTE: This post is in honor of my friend Matt, who is doing the AIDS LifeCycle ride this week from San Francisco to Los Angeles.)

June 17, 1982. Tom Brokaw began his NBC News report with the following statement: “The lifestyle of some male homosexuals has triggered an outbreak of a new form of cancer.” The report went on to describe two men who “suffer from a mysterious, newly-discovered disease, which affects mostly homosexual men.” It was a disease with no name, yet its deadliness was undeniable: “Researchers know of 413 people who have contracted the condition in the past year. One-third of them have died. None of them have been cured.”

I was ten years old at the time. I actually remember watching this segment. I also remember feeling scared. There’s this disease that doesn’t have a name, and nobody seems to know how you get it. But it can kill you. Anyone would be frightened by that prospect.

Understandably, many people were. Very quickly, a mass panic erupted – largely because people didn’t know how this mysterious disease was transmitted. The media initially referred to the syndrome as GRID – gay-related immune deficiency, assuming that it was a disease concentrated solely among gay males. The CDC originally called it the “4-H” disease, based on the assumption that it affected homosexuals, hard-drug users, hemophiliacs, and Haitians. Both of these terms, marginalizing and othering as they were, were probably intended to quell the fears of the general public (“As long as you’re not in one of those groups, you should be just fine.”). A month after Tom Brokaw’s news report, a Time magazine article introduced the term “AIDS” for the first time, which is the acronym that has come to embody the effects of oppression on the LGBTQ community. An epidemic was born.

The devastating effects of the AIDS virus are well-documented. So is the government’s apathetic response to the epidemic, and the activist efforts that arose from that apathy. Read And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts – and then watch David France’s award-winning documentary How to Survive a Plague. Entire communities were dying off, and it seemed as if nobody cared. The edge communities of the day – homosexuals and drug addicts – were being completely ignored.

Thirty-one years later, and the impact of HIV and AIDS is still devastating. According to the Center for Disease Control, there are over 1 million people with AIDS (PWAs) currently living in the United States. Fifty thousand people are infected every year with HIV. And about 15,000 PWAs die each year. Of course, more people with HIV and AIDS are living longer, healthier lives, since the development of protease inhibitors and antiretrovirals. But today, we’re facing the long-range effects of the ignorance and apathy of the 1980s and early 1990s. We’re in what Carlos del Rio of the Emory University School of Medicine calls the “second wave of AIDS” – and that wave is continuing to most strongly impact people who exist on the edges of the mainstream.

Which edge communities are we talking about? For my upcoming book, I interviewed Aaron Riley, president of New Leaf Columbus, a social and professional networking group for queer people of color. “When I was doing HIV work,” said Aaron, who is HIV-positive, “we would see Black men coming into the system, progressing within 1-2 years to an AIDS diagnosis, and within another 24 months they typically were dead. We had White males who were in the system for 20, 25 years. Why are we having such different mortality rates?”

Why, indeed? “People weren’t getting tested. By the time they came in, their immune systems were so far compromised, and the virus was so far along, that there really wasn’t a lot that could be done.” Aaron paused. “I’ve watched the community respond to AIDS, or not respond to AIDS, for a really long time. The African-American church has to resolve how it’s going to deal with this issue. The church won’t talk about the issue, and in the meantime, people continue to get infected, and people continue to die.”

Kyle House, former president of the now-defunct Sacramento Valley Leathercorps, became infected with HIV in the early 1990s through an accidental prick from his partner’s medical syringe. Kyle, whose birthright includes Dutch, English, Iroquois, and Seminole lineage, had this to say: “The rates of HIV in some Indian nations are incredibly high. Astronomically high. But they don’t report. They don’t trust the government. And I don’t blame them. Plus there’s a huge stigma in the community for being gay, and for being positive. That silences people.”

People of color, particularly African-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans, are disproportionately more likely to get infected with HIV – and are significantly more likely than White people to die from complications arising from AIDS. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. According to the CDC, risk factors for HIV infection include the following:

  • poverty
  • homelessness
  • disability
  • low education
  • being a gay or bisexual male
  • being female
  • being young
  • being transgender
  • being incarcerated.

“This disease is climbing in women, people of color, people of lower economics,” said Aaron. “Disenfranchised people are the ones being affected.”

In 2006, NPR aired a report titled, “The Changing Face of AIDS: 25 Years Later.” The Gay Men’s Health Center has a page on its website titled The New Face of HIV/AIDS. ThinkProgress has an interactive map on its site titled The Changing Face of AIDS. “There’s a phrase I’ve been hearing more and more: ‘The Changing Face of AIDS,'” said Marc Thibodeau, an International Mr. Leather titleholder who in 1992 learned he was HIV-positive. “I hate that phrase. The face of AIDS isn’t changing. What’s happening is that AIDS is spreading. It’s spreading into more and more communities.” Marginalized communities. Oppressed communities. Disenfranchised communities. The communities that are impacted by the wide-ranging constellation of “isms.”

In 1982, we were faced with a new form of cancer. Today, that cancer has metastasized – and even in the post-ACT-UP era, we still see fear, apathy, and silence within affected communities. We see young people who think, Oh, if I get it, I’ll just take a pill.  We see people of color who are afraid to get tested for fear of outing themselves. We see religious communities that have remained silent about the presence of the disease within their congregations. We see people who get infected because they were the victims of sexual assault – and who know they’ll be stigmatized if they come forward. We see people who, even in 2013, don’t have accurate information about how to protect themselves and others from the virus.

AIDS is a disease that thrives on “isms” – racism, sexism, genderism, heterosexism, classism, ableism, ageism. If we’re going to win the war on AIDS, we need to eliminate the conditions that enable it to survive and thrive.

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Respecting our elders

Several days ago, a Huffington Post blogger posted an article titled “Sitting Out Pride This Year,” which lamented the hijacking of Pride celebrations by major corporations – particularly those that make their profits from sales of alcoholic beverages. Hundreds of people commented on this post, and these comments ranged from this:

Amen! I did not go to Pride this year for exactly the same reasons. Thanks for saying it so clearly.

to this:

Our community is under attack . . . Sit out pride? I think not.

But it was this statement that really got me thinking:

Our first Pride March was held in 1985. At night, downtown. There were 60 of us. People threw bricks and bottles at us. This year attendance is expected to be over 4,000. It is being advertised on TV, even. Perhaps the author is too young and spoiled to understand how these things began. How hard it was at the beginning, the price those of us who are over 50 paid so he can gripe about “corporate sponsorship.”

The same day I read the Huffington Post article (and comments), Routledge LGBT Studies (which you can “like” on Facebook) posted a free-access article on their page from the Journal of Gerontological Social Work titled, “Lesbian and Gay Elders and Long-Term Care: Identifying the Unique Psychosocial Perspectives and Challenges,” authored by Gary Stein and Nancy Beckerman of Yeshiva University and Patricia Sherman of Kean University. I don’t know about you, but when I read a comment about the “young and spoiled,” and then later I come across an article about the “unique challenges” of lesbian and gay elders, I take it as a sign and pay attention. So I read the article, and I wanted to share some thoughts about it – and about how times, and people, have changed.

First, let’s take stock of the social, political, and cultural landscape for LGBTQ people who are currently 65 or older:

  • They were born in 1947 or earlier. Some were very young children during World War II.
  • Their formative elementary school years spanned the McCarthy Era, during which time anyone remotely associated with the Communist party or with leftist politics (including lesbians and gay men) were persecuted by the U.S. government.
  • They were at least 10 years old in 1957, when Evelyn Hooker published her groundbreaking study demonstrating that gay men are just as psychologically well-adjusted as heterosexual men.
  • They were at least 22 years old in 1969 when the Stonewall Riots took place – and it’s highly likely that members of this age cohort participated in that event.
  • They were at least 26 years old when, in 1973, the American Psychiatric Associaton removed the diagnosis of “homosexuality” from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
  • They were at least 35 years old in 1981, when AIDS was discovered in the United States.
  • And, in 1985, when the above commenter participated in his first Pride march they were, well, the age I am now, in 2012.

If you think about it, these are the people who lived through the worst kinds of homophobia. But they are also pioneers of the LGBTQ rights movement. Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin, both in their early 30s at the time, formed the Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian rights organization, at the height of the McCarthy era in 1955. Frank Kameny, who was born in 1925 and died last October, co-founded the Mattachine Society in 1961. ACT UP was founded in 1987 by LGBT activist Larry Kramer, who was 52 years old at the time. And if it wasn’t for Craig Rodwell, who, at 29 years old, organized the first Gay Pride march in New York City in 1969, we wouldn’t have the privilege of discussing whether or not to “sit out Pride.”

You know what’s really sad? Our elders clearly did the heavy lifting of political activism so that life would be easier for the next generations of LGBTQ people. But by the same token, our elders are now caught in the ugly confluence of homophobia and aging. Although many LGBTQ elders were pioneers and activists, many were not – they had internalized the cultural attitudes of the time period in which they grew up. And, sadly, these internalized attitudes, coupled with ageism and homophobia in our culture, appear to contribute to some troubling outcomes for LGBTQ elders. According to the Journal of Gerontological Social Work article, which qualitatively assessed their comfort level with being open about their sexual identites in retirement communities, in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, and to health care staff and other service providers:

  • LGBTQ elders feared being rejected or neglected by health care providers. This fear was particularly strong with regard to personal care aides, who have one-on-one contact with elders and would be more likely to perpetrate discrimination and abuse.
  • LGBTQ elders feared not being accepted and respected by other residents. More than 80% of participants reported experiencing discrimination and stigma from their neighbors.
  • LGBTQ elders feared having to go back into the closet if placed in a mainstream long-term care facility (and more than half indicated that they would stay in the closet).

Although we’ve come a long way, we’ve still got a long way to go. How ironic that our LGBTQ elders who planted the seeds of Pride for us seem to be so marginalized from the very community they created. I’m reminded that I have good reason to be grateful for all the strides our community has made, and that Pride is a call for me to “give back what we have so generously been given” (to plagiarize an oft-quoted phrase from Alcoholics Anonymous). Today, on the day of the 42nd annual San Francisco Pride celebration (which, by the way, is the largest LGBT event in the United States), this is a good mantra to hold in my heart.

You can access the Journal of Gerontological Social Work article by clicking this link:  http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/01634372.2010.496478

“Sitting Out Pride This Year” can be accessed by clicking this link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/justin-adkins/sitting-out-pride-this-year_b_1587044.html

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Silence = death

Homophobia is a powerfully destructive force in our culture.  And it is most deadly when it is met with silence. For some reason, this week I’ve noticed several disturbing examples of silence, committed by individuals who have significant power to reduce and eliminate homophobia in our culture.

Barack Obama is one of them. Although his administration has made powerful strides in advancing LGBTQ civil rights (repealing DADT, for example),  his “evolution” regarding same-sex marriage rights has been painfully slow. And this week, Obama refused to add sexual orientation and gender identity to an executive order that would prevent discrimination by federal contractors. With a simple stroke of the pen, Obama could have granted protections for a lot of LGBTQ people. But he chose not to take that action – probably because he doesn’t want to ruffle feathers during an election season.

 So, in order not to ruffle feathers, Obama stays silent. And the LGBTQ community gets to bear the costs.

But it was another act of silence that I found myself reacting to more strongly. Nearly forty years ago, then-president of the American Psychiatric Association Robert Spitzer took a powerful – and potentially risky – stance when he led the effort to depathologize homosexuality by removing it from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Spitzer is not gay, and was never previously involved with any form of gay activism. But he used his position of power and made a decision in the service of social justice that impacted millions of people. He could have remained cloaked in his heterosexual privilege, as many people do, and chosen not to implement this change. Instead, he took the path of a straight ally, speaking out and acting with courage and integrity.

But the story doesn’t end here.

Almost thirty years later, at the annual APA convention, Spitzer presented a paper based on 200 interviews of lesbians and gay men who had undergone some form of reparative therapy, mainly through ex-gay ministries like Exodus International, or with therapists affiliated with the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). This paper, titled, “Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation?” revealed that 66% of male participants and 44% of female participants had achieved “good heterosexual functioning,” and that “89 percent of men and 95 percent of women said they were bothered only slightly, or not at all, by unwanted homosexual feelings.” Spitzer’s attempts to soften these damning statistics, noting that “only 11 percent of the men and 37 percent of the women reported a complete absence of homosexual indicators, including same-sex attraction,” were ineffective and weak. Despite the fact that the APA issued an official disavowal of the paper, and despite the fact that numerous criticisms had been made of the study, the damage had been done. For the first time, a researcher who was not affiliated with NARTH, or the Family Research Council, or Focus on the Family had determined that sexual orientation change was possible. And it wasn’t just any old researcher – it was the researcher who had removed the homosexuality diagnosis from the DSM in the first place. To add insult to injury, Spitzer even took an active step forward with his research – he submitted his paper to the Archives of Sexual Behavior, a highly respected scientific journal, and it was published two years later in 2003. If anything could have felt a complete and total betrayal to the LGBTQ community, this was it.

Spitzer’s been interviewed numerous times since then, and he’s consistently stood by the findings of his study. And even though he’s recognized and acknowledged that his paper provoked feelings of tremendous anger and betrayal from the LGBTQ community, he’s never made a public statement of apology.

Until this week.

In an interview with Gabriel Arana, who wrote an article titled, “My So-Called Ex-Gay Life,” Spitzer talked about how troubled he was by how his study was received. He noted that his goal in conducting the study in the first place was never to provide ammunition for reparative therapy groups – it was merely to assess whether sexual orientation change was even a possibility. He acknowledged that the criticisms that were lodged against the study were “largely correct.” He said that he had spoken with the editor of the Archives of Sexual Behavior and asked them to print a retraction, but that the editor declined the request. And, at the end of his interview with Arana, Spitzer asked if he would print a retraction, so, in his words, “I don’t have to worry about it anymore.”

Why didn’t Spitzer push harder for the retraction of his paper? Why didn’t he speak out when NARTH used his study for political purposes? Instead of issuing a second-hand retraction via an online article, why didn’t Spitzer attempt to get a retraction into a more academically rigorous publication?

It’s easy and convenient to blame the victim, and to try to burn Spitzer at the stake. However, I don’t think we can ever underestimate the powerful silencing effects of homophobia. Homophobia wants LGBTQ people to keep quiet and disappear. And homophobia knows that when powerful people speak up and speak out, change happens. So homophobia goes to any lengths to suppress the voices of powerful people.

But if we know what homophobia is capable of, and we know the tactics that homophobia will use to achieve its goals, then we have powerful ammunition against it. Silence is the ally of homophobia. Our voices and actions are the allies of social justice.

You can find Gabriel Arana’s article, “My So-Called Ex-Gay Life,” at http://prospect.org/article/my-so-called-ex-gay-life.

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