The XX Factor

Ex-Gay Creepiness

I propose a new motto for the ex-gay movement, after reading this story at Truth Wins Out: It’s not gay if it’s coerced. Or that seems to be the logic of the ex-gay life coach Alan Downing, who is being accused by two former clients of convincing them to strip for him and fondle their genitals in front of him on the grounds that this would somehow make them straight. The modus operandi of the ex-gay movement is to cure your homosexuality by replacing it with skin-crawling creepiness .

The creepy ex-gay dude du jour , Alan Downing, runs a Jewish ex-gay group called JONAH, short for Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality. According to the complaints offered by former clients Ben Unger and Chaim Levin, the “alternatives” to homosexuality include being watched by a creepy older dude as you strip off your clothes in front of a mirror and admire your own beautiful, youthful male body in the mirror, with a side dose of touching your own man bits. The self-loathing that would drive a man to do this to young, confused men is certainly homophobic in nature, but I can’t say that I think that simply dosing yourself with homophobia somehow makes you not gay.

The ex-gay movement isn’t heterosexual, but it sure is patriarchal. Sexuality is relegated to a shadowy world of coercion and repression, and sexual interaction with the wife is cast as a joyless duty aimed more at creating heirs and proving your nominal heterosexuality to your male peers. If the ex-gay movement took off in any real way, I suspect there would be even more of a quiet understanding that older closeted men can have the space to abuse younger closeted men, as long as there are wives and children installed in homes for the presentation of formal heterosexuality.

Photograph by David McNew/Getty Images News.