US: Former ‘ex-gay’ activist encourages national ban on ‘conversion therapies’

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Yvette Cantu Schneider has become the latest former anti-gay activist to condemn harmful gay-to-straight ‘conversion therapies’, and has encouraged a nation-wide ban “as quickly as possible”.

Schneider told Jeremy Hooper of Good as You, in an interview conducted for GLAAD, that she now believes: “It’s damaging to take a child who is questioning his or her sexuality, or who may display qualities that are not in line with what our society considers normative for their gender, and communicate to the child (and parents) that there is something wrong with him, that in some way he or she is deficient.

“When their feelings fail to change, they’re left holding a big bag of shame instead of feeling empowered because they have embraced their authentic and multi-faceted self.”

She added that she had doubted the efficacy of such therapies even during her time advocating for them, and had refused to date men who claimed to be ‘ex-gay’. “I can say I’ve never met an “ex-gay” man I thought was not still attracted to men and would not go back to gay relationships under the right circumstances,” she said.

Schneider worked with anti-gay organisations for around 14 years from 1998, including Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, and ‘gay cure’ ministry Exodus.

Initially, her personal story put Schneider in a unique position to express the views of the Christian far-right. “A woman who used to be gay is the perfect person to equate gay marriage with all sorts of possible marriage combinations,” she explained, “And, of course, the point is to scare people into thinking these scenarios could happen.”

However, that sense of an individual contribution to “Christian duty” didn’t last. “Near the end, especially with Prop. 8, I felt that I was stripped of my individuality,” she said.

“If it hadn’t been me at an event, it would have been someone else. There was nothing I could add or contribute that was different from what anyone else could contribute.”

She continued: “Everyone reads everyone else’s articles and listens to everyone else’s talks, then says the same things they said. It’s easier that way. But it isn’t only about unoriginal thinking, it’s about being on the same page.

“There are only a few ways to express the conservative viewpoint when you’re talking about policy issues.”

It was during the campaigns for Prop. 8 that Schneider decided she “no longer wanted to be involved” in “pro-family political work”. She says she was “relieved when Prop. 8 was invalidated” by the Supreme Court.

Yet her disillusionment with the movement had apparently been growing for some time. She explained: “The problem for me was that I had to turn away from what I witnessed and experienced in my day-to-day life; I couldn’t allow myself to acknowledge what was glaringly obvious, which was that I saw an abundance of healthy homosexual relationships.”

Schneider is not the first former opponent of gay rights to reverse their position completely. In June 2013, Alan Chambers, then the head of ‘gay cure’ ministry Exodus, closed down the organisation after he revealed that he still experienced same-sex attractions. He apologised for causing “pain and hurt” and said he wanted to “start a conversation” with the gay community to change church culture.