Huffpost Gay Voices
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Juliet Jeske Headshot

Rick Perry, This Is What Happens When People Are Forced to Live in the Closet

Posted: Updated:
Print

Rick Perry, you really don't understand homosexuality. To quote you directly:

Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that. I may have the genetic coding that I'm inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.

You also advocated for the widely discredited, reparative therapy for homosexuals. To quote the Southern Poverty Law Center:

Conversion therapy -- sometimes known as reparative or "sexual reorientation" therapy -- is a dangerous practice based on the premise that people can change their sexual orientation, literally "converting" from gay to straight. Conversion therapy has been discredited or highly criticized by virtually all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations.

People who have undergone conversion therapy have reported increased anxiety, depression, and in some cases, suicidal ideation.

You might also think that homosexuality is a disease, but the medical community would strongly disagree with you. To quote psychiatrytoday.com:

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association's Board of Trustees removed homosexuality from its official diagnostic manual, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Second Edition (DSM II). The action was taken following a review of the scientific literature and consultation with experts in the field. The experts found that homosexuality does not meet the criteria to be considered a mental illness.

I hate to break this to you but, gay men and women have existed in every culture on the planet, long before a few scant condemnations in the Old and New Testaments. Despite the importance some Christians have placed on the evils of homosexuality, Jesus Christ didn't think it was worthy of discussion.

Rick, do you ever wonder what happens to gay men and women when they try to force themselves to live a lie? Do you think that it's just a matter of self-control? Do you think once they get married, settle down and have a few kids that those urges and attractions will vanish?

Well Rick, I've got news for you. Most mixed orientation marriages end catastrophically, with both partners greatly damaged. I was in one of those marriages. I had no idea my husband was gay when I married him. He was full of so much self-hate about his sexual orientation he thought he could change himself. He was basically lying to me, and everyone else close to him for years. He tried desperately to change, but realized he couldn't. He is gay. He was gay before we got married, he was gay during our marriage, and he's gay now. It's a fundamental part him. It's not a weakness of moral character, it's not a lifestyle choice, and it's not an addiction. He lived in misery because he was desperately trying to be something he wasn't. Now that he is out and proud, he's a much happier person.

His self-loathing and shame came from the false belief that being gay is a fault or shortcoming. When I first confronted my ex-husband about his sexual orientation, he would have given anything to change it. Luckily for both of us, he has grown to accept and love himself. We are both better off now living authentic lives and not trapped in a sham marriage.

There are millions of other straight spouses like me all over the country. Most of these marriages leave a path of destruction in their wake. I know women who have buried their husbands with full-blown AIDS, others who have contracted the virus from their spouse. I have heard of suicides and even homicides when these marriages disintegrate, parents who lose access to their children, and children who now have to split time between two homes. I've met damaged and broken men and women on both sides of these doomed partnerships. I suffered from a massive depression, I was nearly financially destroyed, I've had to accept that I'll probably never have my own children and at my worst, I was suicidal. It's hardly been an easy road for me, and I know it's a daily struggle for many of my straight spouse counterparts.

If our spouses were happier in their own skin, if they could envision a happy and healthy life for themselves, they never would have entered into these fraud marriages. If you claim to champion family values, you would never encourage a gay person to try to force themselves to be straight. You would never expect someone to try to change something so fundamental about themselves. Rick, do you think you could force yourself to live as a gay man? Do you think you would be happy if every day you had to live a lie?

Your words have consequences. You lead a state with over 26 million people. Every time you condemn homosexuality, you reinforce the bullying, the discrimination and hate that leads to misery, self-destructive behavior and even suicide. LGTB youth are more than twice as likely to try to commit suicide than their straight peers. When you call for medical quackery like reparative therapy you cause more suffering. Homophobia affects more than just the gay people you target. The hate splinters out like broken shards of glass cutting into everyone around the intended target. Relationships between parents and children are destroyed and families are torn apart, and all for something that cannot be changed. My own life was greatly harmed by this nonsense and I'm not going to be silent when you perpetuate myths and misinformation.

Homosexuality is just another way of being human, and there are a lot of beautiful LGBT human beings in your state. They just want to live their lives authentically and without shame. They want to raise families and grow old with their partners. They just want to live like any other Texan. You can remain in the dark ages as states around the country legalize same-sex marriage and end discrimination against LGTB people. I know not every Texan agrees with you. Hopefully more and more of them will speak out against this bigotry. Which side of history do you want to be on?