By Vaid, Urvashi
The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine) , No. 768
The ex-gay movement arouses among many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people, like me, as much compassion as its blatant lies arouse anger. We are familiar with "exodus" movements: Many of us left our hometowns, our families of origin, our very selves to try to be straight. Many of us are ex-straight. We have learned from that experience that denial, shame, and repression about our homosexual or bisexual orientation or our gender identity does not work. Coming out has been our rallying cry and our salvation, personally and politically. But during the recent ad wars, which my girlfriend quickly dubbed the "ex-gay games," I kept asking myself, Why? Why now?
The most common answer given is that the Right is trying to energize its political base. They are using the hot-button issue of sexuality to motivate supporters at the ballot boxes in November. The prize: to maintain control of the Senate, House, and state legislatures, to continue the past two decades of political realignment in America. This analysis is certainly accurate; the fall election matters a great deal, and the GLBT issue will play a more critical role than is traditionally acknowledged.
Nationally, exit polls have shown the gay-lesbian-bisexual vote to be quite significant, especially in urban areas. A forthcoming report from the Policy Institute of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force shows just how important that vote is. According to Voter News Service data analyzed by Robert Bailey, an associate professor in public policy and administration at Rutgers, the percentage of voters surveyed during exit polls who self-identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual increased from under 1% in 1990 to 3.2% in 1992 to 5% in 1996. Perhaps this fall the Right's ad wars will have the wonderfully unintended effect of increasing GLBT self-identification and voter turnout even more.
Still, to see the Right's new offensive as motivated entirely by electoral politics misses two additional truths. First, it misses the Right's desperation over our movement's success. Second, it misses the centrality of enforced heterosexuality and rigid gender identity to the right wing's cultural agenda for America. …