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OP-ED: Reparative Therapy Survivor Says Bachmann’s Rhetoric Matters

OP-ED: Reparative Therapy Survivor Says Bachmann’s Rhetoric Matters


A survivor of so-called reparative therapy, who testified in the federal Proposition 8 trial about its dangers, says lives are on the line because of the rhetoric coming from Michele and Marcus Bachmann.

The Bachmanns' role in the antigay movement makes for flashy news and great comedy, but Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann and her husband should not be written off as a sideshow. We cannot forget -- for even a second -- that Bachmann's antigay politics and her husband's use of reversal therapy are making life worse for countless teens just when we are trying to tell them "it gets better."

It is too easy to mock Bachmann for her political antics. It is even easier to condemn her husband, Marcus Bachmann, for his unethical and harmful "reparative therapy" practice. Still, even though Bachmann and her husband offer a target-rich environment for criticism, my thoughts remain fixed on a seemingly unrelated story.

It was a summary of a recent MTV True Life episode, titled "I'm Trying to Be Straight." As the preview says:

"Kevin cannot deny his sexual attraction to men, but has sworn off same-sex relationships because of the pain it caused him and his devoutly religious family. Kevin believes that with the help of a therapist, supportive friends, and his own willpower he can redirect his urges and be embraced once more by his parents -- and his church."

There is no word -- not even horror -- to describe how this makes me feel. Like Kevin, I once thought I had been rejected by God for being gay, and the reparative therapy I experienced at the hands of Joseph Nicolosi at the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality tore apart my soul and my family.

My parents are evangelical Christians, and they could not tolerate the idea of having a gay son. Indeed, they advocated for Colorado's discriminatory Amendment 2, which constitutionalized all discrimination against LGBT people in that state. Their antigay beliefs were certainly as deeply held as those of the congresswoman and her husband; they were also just as clearly wrong.

To fix the problem of their son being gay, my parents sent me to a series of Christian reparative "therapists" and abused me emotionally and verbally. The personal effects were dangerous. I spent a decade of my life suicidal, abusing drugs, and occasionally homeless. I survived the anguish of being rejected by my family for being gay, but just barely.

This issue lives close to my heart, and I was grateful to be able to tell my story as a fact witness in the landmark civil rights case Perry v. Schwarzenegger. I've lived this issue, as have thousands, and we don't have to imagine the harm such treatment causes. The effects of family rejection, often aided by the arguments used to justify reparative therapy, are well documented and tragic. At moments like this one, with Bachmann's rhetoric on display and her "Dr." husband's widely discredited therapy showcased, my thoughts are with Kevin and the hope that one day he will find himself. And if he or someone like him is reading, I want them to know there is nothing wrong with who they are and that love is not a sin.

We must ask more from our politics and our morality so that youths like Kevin grow up knowing they are valued and worthy of love and not in a world where they repress who they are with the aid of quack therapists. As far as I can tell, there is nothing Christlike or moral about such therapy.

Fringe political figures and people motivated by misguided faith have seized upon the notion that being gay is a choice. They use this argument to deny equal rights to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender based on the falsehood that we are choosing condemnable behavior, but as Lady Gaga reminds us, the truth is we are just "born this way."

Ryan Kendall was a fact witness in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the federal lawsuit challenging Prop. 8.

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