Most people think of genocide as mass murder of a group, but the “social death” inflicted on LGBT people by the ex-gay movement is a form of genocide that can lead to mass murder, according to professors Sue E. Spivey and Christine M. Robinson of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Their groundbreaking article “Genocidal Intentions: Social Death and the Ex-Gay Movement” appears in the April 2010 issue of the scholarly journal “Genocide Studies and Prevention.”
Using UN documents, they present genocide as a continuum of oppression, with social death at one end and mass murder at the other. The UN definition of genocide includes “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.”
If causing serious MENTAL harm is genocide, then the ex-gay movement is clearly genocidal. Art by ex-gay survivors shows the serious mental harm inflicted by ex-gay conversion therapies. These therapies can break the spirit and shatter lives.
The damage is made visible in powerful art by ex-gay survivors appearing with this blog post and at BeyondExGay.com. Images with this post are The Broken Image by Christine Bakke (above) and Broken (below right) by Jason Ingram. More ex-gay art may be viewed online at:http://www.beyondexgay.com/resources/visualarts
Spivey and Robinson explain that the ex-gay movement is “predominantly an evangelical Christian Right social movement which aims to purge society of homosexuality and transgenderism.” The movement promotes the belief that “same-sex attraction” is a sinful disorder that can be cured through “reparative” and “conversion” therapies. The professors do an excellent job of analyzing the genocidal intentions expressed by ex-gay movement entrepreneurs and organizations such as Exodus International and Focus on the Family.
The UN definition of genocide also includes “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group” and “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” As Spivey and Robinson point out, “ex-gay organizations seek to deny reproductive technologies and adoption rights for homosexuals, and support policies and court decisions that have forcibly removed children from the custody of their parents solely based on their homosexuality.”
The conclusion is clear. “The ex-gay movement is actively pursuing public policies that would, if implemented, constitute state-sponsored genocidal practices in the United States and globally,” Spivey and Robinson say in the article. Uganda’s notorious 2009 Anti-Homosexuality Bill is given as an example.
The authors admit that the original UN definition of genocide did not include social or political groups and was not applied to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. However, they noted that the recent International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda established a precedent by broadening the definition of possible genocide victims as any group sharing a common culture. The UN has also begun to formally recognize human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The new understanding of genocide can benefit people beyond the GLBT community. Seeing genocide as a continuum enables people to recognize its early stages, thus predicting and preventing mass murder.
Meanwhile, genocide or not, those who have survived ex-gay experiences are joining together to heal, thrive and create art. Two artists from the BeyondExGay.com exhibit, Jason Ingram and Christine Bakke, agreed to share their work with this post.
Bakke takes the title of her artwork from the classic ex-gay book “The Broken Image.” Bakke explains, “For those of you who read ‘The Broken Image’ by Leanne Payne, or who were fed the notion that our sexuality or gender identity were broken, this piece of art is for you. For all those years that you were taught to see a broken image....perhaps it was only the mirror that was broken.”
Many thanks to the artists, the scholars and to Jallen Rix, author of “Ex-Gay No Way,” whose Advocate article first alerted me to the “Genocidal Intentions” scholarship.
This was written by lesbian author Kittredge Cherry. She blogs regularly on LGBT spirituality and the arts at the Jesus in Love Blog, where this is cross-posted.Images with this post are The Broken Image by Christine Bakke (top left) and Broken (right) by Jason Ingram.