Days after allegations that he’s closeted resurface, governor announces N.H. trip to speak to group promoting ‘ex-gay’ therapy
Sometimes the comments posted by readers of LGBT newspapers provide a fascinating glimpse into the mindsets of our community’s greatest adversaries because they are often part of the audience.
One that caught my eye recently was posted by a reader who objected to criticism directed against Texas Gov. Rick Perry for agreeing to headline the annual dinner on Oct. 28 of the anti-gay group Cornerstone Action in New Hampshire. The engagement is seen as further evidence that Perry is leaning toward running for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2012 because New Hampshire is the first presidential primary state.
That put Perry on the LGBT community’s radar again because Cornerstone Action advocates the repeal of the state’s same-sex marriage law, and it promotes the work of so-called “ex-gay therapy” groups such as Exodus International, Love Won Out and the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. The conversion therapy practiced by these groups has been denounced by the American Psychological Association, which refutes the notion that homosexuality is a mental illness.
The offended reader who was obviously a proponent of “ex-gay therapy” and a fan of Perry’s wrote, “Many, many people tormented with same-sex attraction have benefited from therapy. The homosexual pressure groups have no moral right to speak for these individuals.”
Only one reason comes to mind why someone would feel tormented by same-sex attraction, and that would be a result of being taught that homosexuality is evil and an aberration. Those same teachings would make someone who is heterosexual fear and despise someone who is openly gay. And if someone is gay and doesn’t want to be, it’s pretty easy to see how they would express homophobic opinions to help keep their shameful secret.
Groups such as Exodus International claim they are not attempting to influence “people who are perfectly happy living their gay life,” but the readers’ remarks make it clear they are monitoring everything we do by reading our publications. They also attend our public events surreptitiously when they are not staging protests, which prompts the question, “Why all the interest if suppression is not their goal?”
Perry’s camp announced the New Hampshire engagement after his appearance the previous weekend at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, where participants, enamored of his conservative social and fiscal policies, reportedly shouted, “Run, Rick, run.”
The announcement of the New Hampshire appearance was viewed as humorous by some because it followed on the heels of the re-emergence of widespread rumors that Perry is secretly gay and that his wife, Anita, almost divorced him over it. The rumors that the governor’s wife caught him involved in a sexual act with another high-level male government official became so widespread several years ago that Perry denied them in an Austin newspaper story, calling them a “political smear campaign.” A spokesman for the governor has acknowledged his staff is prepared to address the rumors again should he run for the presidential nomination.
Although almost no one actually believes Perry is secretly gay, his alignment at this point with a group so involved with the promotion of “ex-gay therapy” seems a little peculiar. After all, many of the proponents of ex-gay therapy claim they are recovered homosexuals, and several have been exposed by gay activists as frauds who still engage in same-sex activity.
With all of the rumors that previously circulated about Perry being gay and others claiming he cheated on his wife with other women, it would seem like the governor and his staff might be concerned that the next wild tale could be that he went to ex-gay therapy. If not, maybe the governor thinks this is a way of appearing to be compassionate toward a group of people his actions seem to indicate he despises.
Having talked with several of Perry’s and his wife’s high school and college acquaintances —some of whom are gay and lesbian — over the years, I doubt that Perry was always so intolerant and self-righteous. In fact, I understand the governor sowed quite a few wild oats in his younger years, to put it in the vernacular of his West Texas roots.
But somewhere along the line during his 26-year career in Texas politics, Perry, who is a Methodist, apparently realized that conservative religious zealots would propel him to fame, fortune and power if he pandered to them. That, unfortunately, puts the LGBT community in the crosshairs of Perry’s aim, so it is a real possibility that the rest of the nation is going to experience what it is like to live in a state where an over-the-top, anti-gay elected official sets the political tone. •
David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.