Why I Do Not Support Evergreen
By Rick Fernández
[This message was written in response to an email about Evergreen. Because Evergreen works virtually exclusively with men, the references are to males. No gender exclusion is intended.]
I must respond to some of the points made, but before I do, let me say that, unlike some, I do not believe that Evergreen is an appropriate place to make a referral. I respect the opinions of those who differ from me on this, but I maintain my position.
Evergreen is founded on a vicious fallacy, viz., that there is no such thing as a real homosexual. Instead, we have men who have been victimized by a socially created same-sex oriented behaviour pattern resulting from the failure to bond appropriately with other men. (I honestly don't know what they say about women, even after asking people in Evergreen, so I won't delve into that.) If such men can be shown how to bond appropriately with other men and adopt the "proper" male role, they can be rescued from the delusion that they are gay. Of course, the proper male role is very culturally defined itself, and includes all the values traditionally associated with the patriarchal male model, e.g., the elevation of sports and the privileging of maleness over femaleness.
Many men fall into the belief that Evergreen offers something valuable because two elements in the message tend to resonate with them, but for the wrong reasons. The first is that it feeds off of and into the shame and fear that our society (and the church) instills in those who recognize same-sex feelings within themselves. It does this by validating this negative assessment of homosexual feelings, and by offering the hope that these can be "overcome." The second is that it hits on something that is true: many men feel isolated from and alienated from other men, including fathers and brothers, and secretly long for greater emotional intimacy with them. At the same time, they are prevented from seeking this intimacy out, or even acknowledging these feelings, because of the fear that they will be labelled queers or fags for doing so. Thus, men who are ashamed or disturbed about their same-sex feelings, and who do not have healthy, intimate non-genital relationships with other men think that Evergreen has correctly diagnosed them and therefore must have the answer.
The error in the first element of the Evergreen message is readily apparent. No one wants a cure more than those who already believe they need one. In other words, one who is convinced that there is something profoundly wrong with himself will be relieved when "relief" is finally in sight. Like Quasimodo in Disney's "Hunchback," he believes he is vile and ugly, repeats the message to himself, and validates it when those over him confirm that it is so. It is all he has known. Cloak the same message with the voice of God, and you have a guaranteed market of believers. The defect in the second element of the Evergreen message is likewise easily exposed. In its essence, the idea is that because a man suffered from inadequate bonding with other males, he hasn't learned how to act like a real man. Instead, he confuses sexual feelings for intimacy, adopting gay behaviour, and deluding himself into believing he is gay. Of course, what is not explained is the simple fact that far and away most men do not have intimacy with other men, and yet most men are not gay. Men are notorious in our society for being unable to express emotions with other men, for being unable to be physically intimate with other men, for being unable to have deep friendships with other men, and for having tremendous inner pain that adversely affects their family and work life as a result. It is ironic and a slander that this inability to be intimate is somehow associated with gay men, when often gay men enjoy a closeness with other men that straight men can only dream about (without ever daring to admit it).
Thus, Evergreen does not offer real hope. It offers, to put it bluntly, snake oil. It is simply another variation on a tired and destructive theme: gays bad, church good. When this dog won't run anymore, the leaders will trot another one out to take its place, and pretend the former one didn't exist. (As evidenced by your Evergreen friend's own failure to know that electroshock has been used in the "treatment" of gays, though I don't blame him for this. The church has done an excellent job of making that inconvenient fact disappear.) Only so long as Evergreen can caricaturize the "gay lifestyle," reducing us to one negative stereotype that can be easily dismissed as evil, can it boast about how free agency has elevated its members above the mire. (Of course, one waits in vain to hear Evergreen explain why heterosexuals who choose to marry and reproduce have not surrendered free agency to genetic or biological destiny.) How unfortunate for the Evergreen propaganda that many gays and lesbians somehow manage to lead upstanding lives, enjoy enriching relationships with friends and spouses, and contribute significantly to their community and work. Nor would it occur to Evergreen that the failure of many heterosexuals to lead upstanding, ethical lives (witness the high rate of divorce, adultery, abortion, child abuse, etc., which can under no conceivable scenario be pinned on homosexuals) is no more proof of the failure of heterosexuality than the failure of gays somehow proves that homosexuality is bad. Of course, taking its cue from headquarters, such facts do not deter Evergreen from confidently spreading its message.
And what is this message? It is critical that we in Affirmation grasp this. The message is simply this: that we do not exist. We do not exist not only psychologically, but also in the legal, moral, and spiritual sense. Our identity as gays and lesbians has no validity. Period. It is not a question of "live and let live," despite the disclaimer to this effect in the message below. There can be no authentic respect for gays, when we are characterized as victims of our own choice, and when we are described as people, like alcoholics, in need of a cure (regardless whether it is an "easy" one or not). The reason we get angry (and should be angry) when we hear such messages is the same as why Jews get angry when told that they should become Christians, when Blacks get angry when told they are genetically inferior, or why Mormons get angry when told they don't know the "real" Jesus. Such a message conveys a profound disrespect for the other who is different, and delegitimizes that difference. It says "there's something wrong with you; you're not good enough as you are; you need to be like me to be acceptable." And historically, as both Jews, Blacks, and Mormons know only too well, such private intolerance leads to public intolerance, and ultimately to publicly sanctioned prejudice and persecution. So long as people believe that we are sick or sad or evil people in need of rescuing, we will not be treated with respect. Our relationships will continue to be illegal, we will not get equal pay and benefits for equal work, we will be denied protections against irrational discrimination in employment, housing, and accommodations, we will be physically attacked and emotionally damaged, we will hide from family and friends, we will squander our true selves and our gifts in a constant attempt to win the approval of others, we will enter into self-serving marriages out of duty, we will grow up hating ourselves, we will believe that God too hates us, and we will attempt to kill ourselves at significantly higher rates than the rest of the population. (I must also add that it is insensitive in the extreme for any man who enjoys the social, ecclesiastical, and legal privileges that heterosexuality automatically confers on him to presume to tell gays that happiness does not depend to any extent on societal acceptance-let his marriage be declared void and his sexual expressions criminalized, let him fear losing his job because he chose to marry a woman, let him be excommunicated from his church for loving that woman, and then he can come talk with us about the impact of society's acceptance on our happiness.)
For all these reasons, I refuse to support in any way Evergreen's (and the church's) efforts to make us go away. It is not a question of being fair or even-handed. Honestly! Not for a second would Mormons think such fairness requires them to refer all potential converts to the Baptists. It is a question of respect for myself and others. I exist, I am good, and I am happy and proud to be me. I know who I am. I reject Evergreen's message because I cannot believe that the price of acceptance, by others or by God, is the denial of one's identity.