By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com July 10 2014 2:27 PM ET
The leader of a right-wing group stridently opposed to homosexuality has penned an open letter to Michael Sam, the first openly gay man drafted into the NFL, warning the newest member of the St. Louis Rams that his sexuality will earn him negative publicity and likely result in more people contracting HIV.
But Peter LaBarbera, president of the antigay organization Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, does offer what he apparently sees as a glimmer of hope for Sam's future: By undergoing so-called reparative therapy, Sam could ensure that his legacy is related to his football career, not his sexual orientation.
In typically convoluted language, LaBarbera's open letter cautions Sam against wielding his newfound notoriety as a means to model "a lifestyle that the cost for those living it, has been unpublicized but appalling."
Pointing to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, LaBarbera claims that Sam, this month's cover model for The Advocate's sibling publication Out magazine, is setting a dangerous precedent for black youth, who are "twice as likely to get HIV/AIDS than those of other ethnic groups," according to LaBarbera's interpretation of CDC data.
Aside from the inaccurate conflation of homosexuality and near-certain HIV infection, LaBarbera also suggests that Sam should seek the ineffective, medically and legally disavowed practice of "ex-gay therapy," which aims to turn gay people straight through counseling, prayer, and aversion therapy. In so doing, LaBarbera typically rejects the belief that gay people are born that way.
"Believe it or not, no one is born 'gay,'" writes LaBarbera, who as a matter of course puts the word gay in scare quotes to imply he does not believe it to be a real thing. "Molestation, emotional deprivation, parental or peer rejection, or other traumatic factors can foster same-sex attraction–but many men and women have managed it, diminished it, or eliminated it altogether."
Presumably without a hint of irony, and explicitly without mentioning the fact that every major medical and mental health organization in the country has denounced the practice of trying to change one's sexuality, LaBarbera includes a parenthetical reference to a series of "heartwarming ex-'gay' testimonies." LaBarbera claims that "many" gay people have achieved heterosexuality "through Reparative Therapy and counseling, despite the relentless, unwarranted condemnation of and campaign against both by self-serving 'gay' activists."
LaBarbera's letter closes with a hope that Sam doesn't make his "feelings," also known as his sexual orientation, his "claim to fame." Instead, LaBarbera says Sam's "achievements on the football field will earn [him] a legacy [he] can be proud of." By contrast, LaBarbera says Sam's coming-out (again placed in scare quotes) and "celebrating homosexuality as normative can earn [him] only regret, as well as notoriety among millions of us."