Did We Just Vote For Conversion Therapy?

This last week has left me confused, angry, disappointed and outraged by the avoidable amount of trauma that was just created for so many young LGBT children all across this country.  These are the same children that like my generation and the one before mine will feel forced to flee to bigger cities where they are accepted. I am well aware that LGBT people will not be the only group affected by this election. Women, people of color, immigrants, Muslims and many more have or will also be affected. I also stand with them, join them in their causes and am going to do everything I can to advocate for their rights as well.

LGBT people are the group that I work with daily, the group I want to speak for here. It is the group that many of my colleagues are deeply concerned about and the group that in the last few years we’ve seen a few of the larger treatment providers aggressively pursue by offering specialized tracks and or pitching their affirmative beliefs.

I have been asking myself and also trying to make peace with why someone would vote against the rights of LGBT people. Were people not listening to what that ticket was saying about LBGT people’s rights? Were they not aware of or simply ignoring past efforts by the now second-in-command in repressing LGBT people or did they just simply not care?  I understand that it is not that simple or black and white. However, elections have consequences and this is one has great significance to so many including LGBT people.

On election night in NYC, a gay man was beaten and told that he’d lost and he better get use to it.  If this can happen in NYC, I am terrified to think of what will happen in cities where there is far less diversity and protection. Was I too naïve in trusting all of the progress we’d recently made? Will families instead of becoming more accepting and open continue abandoning their gay children? Will kids that seem different continue to be bullied on playgrounds by their peers who feel they now have permission to do so? These newly traumatized children, if lucky, will find their way into therapy offices and some of them will arrive at the doors steps of our treatment centers asking for our help.  I don’t feel I am being dramatic here, I can almost guarantee this. What will we tell them? Anyone who works with our population should start thinking about this.

Michelangelo Signorile, author and Queer Voices Editor-at Large at The Huffington Post wrote on Sunday November 13, 2016 in Huff’s Post Queer Voices section: “Mike Pence is perhaps one of the most anti-LGBT evangelical Christian political crusaders to serve in Congress and as governor of a state. Long before he signed the draconian anti-LGBT “religious liberty” law in Indiana last year, he supported “conversion therapy” as a member of Congress, and later, as a columnist and radio host, he gave a speech in which he said that marriage equality would lead to “societal collapse,” and called homosexuality “a choice.” Stopping gays from marrying wasn’t biased, he said, but was rather about compelling “God’s idea.” This guy is part of the team who we elected and who is in charge of the transition team. We should never take our eyes off of him and his dealings. He has yet to come forward and express a change on any of his ideas.

It pains me to think about this, but I must and I invite you to also imagine what it must be like to be a 12-year-old who is confused today about their sexuality or gender, who may not have the safety net at home needed to navigate their confusion, who is experiencing an ultra conservative upbringing and for over a year has been listening to the now president-elect say that one of the first things he wants to do is repeal marriage equality. Just recently the now president-elect gave a lukewarm statement that he won’t go after marriage equality. He may not go after marriage equality but his newly appointed conservative judges when seated if strategically prompted could overturn marriage equality. I’ve sat in sadness over this for the last week for myself, for my brother who married his partner of 44 years, for my friends and for the 12-year who like myself at that age will have to duck and dive to feel safe in a world that just took ten steps backwards.

I am optimistic about my future because as a 55-year old gay man, I’ve gained strength from some of my life’s greatest difficulties; the AIDS crisis and recovering daily from addiction for the last 23 years are just two. I will continue to be optimistic because life is just sweeter when I am. However, I will also remain vigilant and respond accordingly.

Let’s commit to holding a light for that 12-year old, for women, for people of color, for Muslins and anyone who is marginalized by doing everything we can to continue moving progress forward. It may seem impossible at times but I don’t remember anyone saying that it was going to be easy.

In Strength and Peace,

Manny Rodriguez