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Surviving my own personal hell, living through ‘dyke to wife’ reparative therapy

Thursday, October 4, 2012
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California Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012 signed Senate Bill 1172 to ban “reparative therapy” for minors.

With this historic legislation, California becomes the first state to ban licensed mental health professionals from practicing psychological therapy aimed at turning gay and lesbian youth straight – a controversial practice also known as “ex-gay” therapy, conversion therapy and sexual reorientation.

To put it in plain terms – these quack therapists and their supporters want the homosexual to become the heterosexual.

I was going to research all the groups, pro and con, and inform readers on the lawsuits that we know will follow this legislation. I have chosen not to do that, and instead write from personal experience on reparative therapy: trying to change from dyke to wife.

I was born in 1952, and as far back as I can remember, I knew I was different. I knew I wasn’t the frilly little girl my mother wanted me to be. I was way more comfortable in my Sally Star cowgirl hat, boots and gun with holster. I filled my doll carriage with dirt, rocks and twigs, and I ran with the boys on the block. I was the best wrestler, the best pin-ball player, and my little blue peddle car was my pride and joy.

My family was all over the town I was raised in. Aunts, uncles, cousins were everywhere. It can be both a comfort and a curse. When I was a small child, it was a comfort to run from aunts to uncles gathering hugs and kisses as I went!

Holidays were spent together all wrapped up in bows, lights, laughter, love and food, food, food. Any picture you might have in your head about the 1950s and families gathered around a table with the roasted turkey in the middle – my family could have been that family. We were Methodists, Republicans, and very pro-country and pro-military. My brother was the oldest and the boy – so he was favored, and expected to do great and wonderful things. I was the girl and expected to get married and have babies. This was small-town life in America in the 1950s.

It was in the late 1960s that I knew for sure that I was indeed a lesbian. I had no idea what to do about it, had absolutely no one I could talk to about it, and instinctively knew that my family would never, ever understand or accept. It’s a small town, and I knew my mother would have suffered greatly from the gossip and the innuendo that would have come our way, so I chose to see my girlfriend on the sly, and while other girls were sneaking out to see their boyfriends and have their first sexual experience, I was doing the same with my girlfriend.

This was 1968, and it was certainly not safe to be gay then, and certainly not in the confines of my little town.

To keep away the gay rumors, I dated boys and pretended to be involved, but there was rarely kissing and certainly no sex of any kind. The thought of that was just more than I could bear. It actually made me physically ill to think of having sex with a boy, especially when I was enjoying sex with a girl. My life was complicated – to say the least.

Life got even more complicated as I got older, and as I understood there was nowhere to run and no life I could ever have as a lesbian in my little town, I did as my parents wished and got married.

It was the 1970s reparative therapy for gays – you ignored who you were and tried to be what society, your church and your family wanted you to be. I did my best. I went to church, I sang in the choir, I had a job. I cooked, cleaned, did laundry and tried to be happy.

The thing is – I wasted over 20 years of my life, and the life of my husband, trying to be someone I wasn’t. No amount of prayer or Bible reading or laying on of hands could change who I was. No amount of pressure from family or promises from books, literature or therapy could change who I was, and in the end – everyone suffered, and I didn’t suddenly change into a straight woman wanting that heterosexual sex.

The lies, however, did change every single one of us.

The “dyke to wife” therapy was a bust and certainly no one was a winner. Lives wasted, hearts broken, lies, deceit, anger – for what? Appearance? The church? The family? Society?

When I finally came out and refused to partake in any more of the lies, most of my family walked away from me or followed me around reading Scripture, and friends went by the wayside. It turns out that the Scripture is more relevant to them than the human being standing in front of them.

Any gay or lesbian who has lived a life that doesn’t involve your gayness – you have been through your own version of reparative, conversion, reorientation therapy. Your own little version of hell.

We are simply who we are. We are not defined by anyone – gay or straight.

I commend Gov. Brown on his courage to say exactly what this type of therapy is: “quackery.” And I’m proud to live in the State of California, which values the life of every one of its citizens.

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