Make no mistake. Gay Republicans have an agenda. Their agenda is equality. And they know that some of their biggest detractors are working hard to target them from within their same political party – and even claim their sexuality can and should be “changed.”
“One of the reasons the social conservatives took over our party is because they showed up,” says Patrick Sammon, national president of the Log Cabin Republicans. “Now, we have to do that.”With 68 chapters and thousands of members across the United States, Log Cabin Republicans are, generally speaking, conservative to the core, embracing limited government, a strong national defense, lower taxes, personal responsibility and free markets. But much of the focus of their national convention this year was on the myriad of ways – from gay marriage to the ability to adopt children or serve in the millitary – that fellow conservatives from groups like Focus on the Family have gone after them.
Peter Toscano, a theatrical performance activist delivered an at-times hysterical, at times heartrending story about his own struggle with trying to become “ex-gay” – and the various so-called reparative therapy programs that are out there.
His involved living in a boardinghouse, which he called the “Homo Nomo Halfway House,” with other gay men. Toscano says his effort to become straight was inspired after being in “a biblically-induced coma for many years.”
“People ask me, ‘why did you spend so much money? You’re smart.’ The number one reason [for trying to change] was my love for Jesus. I had to repent for my sins and what bigger sin is there then being a faggot? I’ve begun to unearth other reasons for it – I came of age during the Reagan-Thatcher years, and learned to be a good patriotic American I had to be a straight American.”
The “Homo Nomo Halfway House,” Toscano said, was a completely controlled environment, and they had no idea what was going on in the outside world. They were taught to spy on each other and snitch on each other, and the program was set up to move participants along in phases of “recovery.”
“It gave us illusion that we were progressing and moving along, and so you’d say, ‘oh my gosh I’m already working on phase three,” he said.
Eventually, Toscano gave up the struggle. He accepted the fact that he is gay. He wrote his parents a letter. It was short. “Dear Mom and Dad, I am gay, truly I am.” His mom called him on the phone.
“Yea, we got your letter. It’s about time. But your dad wants to talk to you.”
Uh oh. Dad is a Marine. He gets on the phone.
“You did your best,” Dad said. “Besides, you can’t make a fish fly.”
Toscano ended his story: “Now, you can take a fish and chuck it against the wall and for a few seconds it appears the fish is flying – until the head smashes against the wall.”
Many conservative groups, including the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family, have programs designed to convince gay people, or their parents or other family members, that being gay is an abomination that can be “cured.” They also tend to highlight what Toscano described as the most desperate stories – gay people who have struggled with sex addiction and drug addiction and alcoholism.
The best thing to do, to counter the stereotypes, he noted, is to “simply live our lives, healthfully, beautifully, and without shame.”
Cara DeGette is a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential, and a columnist and contributing editor at the Colorado Springs Independent. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org