A few days ago, one Diane Parker wrote to the Journal American with her own argument that homosexuality is not genetic. She believes that the “reformed homosexuals” now visible in certain videos, programs and organizations is compelling proof that homosexuals can really change.
I am always amazed at the power of wishful thinking in people like Parker. Their whole position is based on a fierce belief in this alleged capacity of homosexuals to “change.” The videos, programs, etc. represent a 2000-year effort by Christianity to wish away the existential fact of homosexuality, whatever its root cause. The fact is: in repressive times, homosexuals do not change. They conform.
Gay people disagree about many things, but this is one area where we agree — because so many of us have lived face-to-face with our own “is-ness” through long decades of pretense. I, for one, did a terrific job of conforming to the heterosexual canon, as a wife for 16 years. I even tried both Protestantism and Catholicism in a desperate effort to transmogrify my conformity into change. But it didn’t work.
The conformity goes so deep that it can masquerade brilliantly as change. Unlike leopards, homosexuals can make their spots look like tiger stripes. The penalties for being fingered as gay — loss of family and job, assault and battery, long prison sentences, incarceration in mental hospitals, to name a few — cause many of us to drive that conformity as deep as we can. We fool a lot of people, including the wishful thinkers. Some of us even manage to fool our own mothers. For a time, we even fool ourselves. But it is still conformity. It is not change.
Acting straight when you know you’re gay is not change. It is not a moral act. It is not reform. It is not healing. It is a living death. In the Sixties, a whole generation of youth rose up against all kinds of forced conformity in American society, and their protest embraced this deadly conformity demanded of gay people. Yet today the wishful thinkers among us are trying to engineer the re-imposition of their wishes. They demand it in the name of “saving marriage.” What they want, in many marriages, adds up to shape-shifting of the spookiest kind. It adds up to acting performances that will never get an Oscar.
Those who settle for our conformity get it at an appalling cost to themselves. The wishful thinkers lose their power to see what is real. They can look into the eyes of a homosexual who is living in deep cover, and utterly fail to see that person’s true spirit. Even in the eyes of their own children, parents, closest friends, the wishful thinkers see only what they choose to see.
Heaven help the American marriage if it is “saved” by people who can’t tell the difference between conformity and change.
Copyright Patricia Nell Warren. This column may be crossposted on the internet, without change and in its entirety for noncommercial purposes, without prior permission from the author. To reprint in print or other media, express permission must be asked.
American novelist, poet, editor and journalist Patricia Nell Warren is best known for her second novel, The Front Runner, the first work of contemporary gay fiction to make The New York Times best seller list.