By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com August 11 2014 4:57 PM ET
Michael Glatze had a long journey from being the founder of a gay magazine to being a conservative Christian minister who says God helped him change from gay to straight —and now James Franco is portraying him in a movie.
Franco has just released a photo of himself in character as Glatze, the subject of the film Michael, which is expected to be released next year. The movie is based on a 2011 New York Times Magazine article by his friend and former colleague Benoit Denizet-Lewis (a former Advocate contributor).
In the article, Denizet-Lewis describes a reunion with Glatze 12 years after they had worked together at XY, a national magazine for young gay men, based in San Francisco. Glatze went on to start another gay publication, Young Gay America, with his then-boyfriend, Ben, before announcing in 2007 that he was no longer gay. He said a spiritual awakening after a health crisis led him to that point, and he recalled this process in the interview with Denizet-Lewis.
“Sitting in his Y.G.A. office … Michael wrote three words on his computer screen: I am straight,” Denizet-Lewis writes. “They felt true, so he typed a few more: Homosexuality = Death. I choose Life.”
“I don’t see people as gay anymore,” Glatze told Denizet-Lewis when they spoke in 2011. “I don’t see you as gay. ... God creates us heterosexual. We may get other ideas in our head about what we are, and I certainly did, but that doesn’t mean they’re the truth.”
Denizet-Lewis then recalls “the Michael I knew at XY, a young man who was fascinated by queer theory — namely, the idea that sexual and gender identities are culturally constructed rather than biologically fixed — and who dreamed of a world without labels like ‘straight’ and ‘gay,’ which he deemed restrictive and designed to ‘segment and persecute,’ as he argued in a 1998 issue of XY.” After then meeting with Ben, Denizet-Lewis notes, “I couldn’t help wondering if Michael’s new philosophy might, in a strange way, be a logical extension of what he believed back then — that ‘gay’ is a limiting category and that sexual identities can change.”
Glatze is now married to a woman, and they are pastors of a small Christian church in Wyoming. Although he has written several articles denouncing homosexuality, he rejects the label of “ex-gay activist,” which has come up in coverage of the movie.
“I’m fascinated by the press, which calls me an ‘ex-gay activist,’ or something along those lines, which I am not,” he told the Christian Post recently. “In fact, that is really not a part of my life at all, at this point. I did speak out, quite vocally, back in 2007 and over the years since then but God has a way of working in people’s hearts, including mine.”
“I’m really not interested in any sort of activism about healing from homosexuality or ex-gay ministries, or anything along those lines and, also, I’ve completely bowed out of any sort of conservative Christian ‘culture war,’” he continued. “I think it causes more harm than good.”
Michael director Justin Kelly appears to be taking a similar approach. “This isn’t just a story about an ‘ex-gay,’” he told Variety last month. “It’s actually a very relatable story about the power of belief and the desire to belong.” Out actor Zachary Quinto is set to play Glatze’s ex-boyfriend in the movie, which will also feature Emma Roberts and Chris Zylka. Gus Van Sant is an executive producer.