Because "ex-gay" groups are basically PR and propaganda tools for the Christian Right's anti-gay agenda, it is rare that you wil get a comment that really exposes their political motivations and agendas. Virtually every syllable out of ex-gay leaders' mouths is spin and orwellianism and they do their best to keep the politics behind their groups hidden.
But sometimes, actually more often than one would think, "ex-gay" leaders will let the cat out of the bag. Everytime they do it is an opportunity to expose these charlatans for what they really are: right-wing ideologues who just want to delegitimize same-sex relationships.
Joe Dallas, former president of Exodus International (the largest "ex-gay" group), who will speak at the "Love Won Out" conference in Boston is a case-in-point. Very recently, Dallas showed that "Love Won Out" is not about "helping" same-sex attracted people who are unhappy (which is what they desperately want people to buy), but about a political agenda of delegitimizing same-sex relationships. While those comments by Dallas are illuminating, it was another one of Dallas' statements that actually caught my attention. According to the recent report on "Love Won Out" by the NGLTF, at a 2004 "Love Won Out" conference in Minneapolis, Dallas disparaged gay rights activism by comparing it to the LA riots of 1991. The NGLTF report states:
"Dallas made comparisons, for example, between gay activism and the 1991 LA riots/uprising. This is an exemplary example of how references to race--here, to perceptions of inner city African-Americans as symbolic of decay and immorality--are a code to reinforce ideas regarding LGBT activism as productive of social disorder."
I don't know the specific content of the comments, but a transcript is not necessary. The fact that Dallas could use the LA riots in such a cavalier way shows how he views the riots.
People who understand the issues behind the LA riots have a different perspective on this critical event in American history. The roots of the riots were legitimate and understandable rage and anger at repeated police brutality, poverty and racism in Los Angeles. In addition, despite the portrayal of the riot as a "black" riot, it was a multiracial uprising--even queers participated. In fact, Hollywood was a major center of riot activity. Though not everything that went down in the riots was politically acceptable (e.g. attacks on Korean grocery owners, the one attack on a white truck driver), most of the riot was an expression of understandable fury. And despite assertions to the contrary, most Americans, who lived through the same recession that the blacks and Latinos of LA did, sympathized with the rioters and viewed the acquittal of the white officers who beat Rodney King as illegitimate. This shows, also contrary to the assertions of conservatives in the LGBT civil rights movment, that the American people will not necessarily run away scared when radical action is taken--if they clearly see that the issues behind the radical acts are legitimate (I am not suggesting that queer people should riot!).
Racism and the Christian Right are two peas in a pod. The Christian Right supported Reagan and Bush, two Presidents who used subtle racist imagery such as the image of the (black) welfare queen to further their neoliberal, militaristic plans. But you don't need to go to the '80's to see the Christian Right's racism. This week, darling of the right-wing William Bennett said on his radio program: "If you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose -- you could abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down...That would be an impossibly ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down..." Bennett tried to defend his comments by pointing to the fact that he said aborting black pregnancies would be "morally reprehensible." Actually, what's morally reprehensible are the racist assumptions behind Bennett's "example." Without the assumption that black people are the main reason for crime in this country (which is just plain wrong), the "example" would not have worked.
Dallas may not acknowledge the racism and poverty that sparked the riot, but we should see the LA rebellion, like the Stonewall rebellion, as a necessary wake-up call and expression of legitimate rage at a cruel and vicious political order that has it in for people of color, the poor, and queers. We should also remind the black and Latino communities that the "ex-gays" and the Christian Right are not on their side. They are on the side of those who oversee and manage this political order. Black and Latino queers need to demand that their ministers and leaders clarify whose side they are on. Are they squarely on the side of anti-racism, or are they flirting with the Christian Right?