It wasn't a huge surprise when TLC announced that they'd air a one-hour special called My Husband's Not Gay on January 11th. The network has hosted anti-LGBT reality stars the Duggars for many seasons now. But none of the anti-LGBT things the Duggars have done or said – and there are lots of examples – have been as dangerous to the LGBT community as My Husband's not Gay.
The show's premise is to follow the lives of four Mormon men who, although admittedly attracted to men, seek out romantic and, presumably, sexual relationships with women. Their religious beliefs do not allow them to be in same-sex relationships, and it is because of those beliefs that they seek out these "church-sanctioned" relationships. Just from the teaser trailer, people have seen the potential harm, and a petition asking for TLC to cancel the show has garnered over 90,000 signatures so far. Here are four reasons why the LGBT community is speaking out against TLC:
1. Reparative therapy is violence.
Attempting to change your innate sexual orientation has proven to heighten depression, anxiety and suicide attempts. In fact, the American Psychological Association has denounced the practice of reparative therapy. Despite that, it's now being promoted by this special on a platform that brings in millions of viewers. These men use the same verbiage and framework that's been taught by decades by those in the so-called "ex-gay" movement. Using words like "same-sex attracted" in lieu of saying one is gay is ex-gay training 101. The show will most likely avoid using the term "reparative therapy" as it's become known for being deeply harmful. But whether it's explicitly said or not, that's what this show is about.
2. TLC is giving a fringe narrative a platform.
Exodus International, the largest reparative therapy organization, closed its doors in 2013. Alan Chambers, Exodus International's former director, publicly apologized for the irreparable damage done (Chambers himself is "same-sex attracted" and in a marriage with a woman). He also admitted that 99.9 percent of people who went through reparative therapy were unsuccessful in changing their sexual orientation – that's his statistic. Why would TLC promote a story that isn't reflective of the vast majority of LGBT people?
Perpetuating the idea that changing one's sexuality is possible through sincere prayer is willfully ignoring the abundance of evidence in the contrary. This narrative is being seen less and less. Even religious leaders who are non-affirming of same-sex relationships have denounced this practice. It's been pushed back into the small corner of the conservative right who use religious ideologies to harm LGBT people. That's where it should stay.
3. Bisexuality is a thing. This is not it.
Some observers have been quick to label these men as actually bisexual in a quick effort to prove that gay men can't change. As a bisexual man, I'm cautious in labeling these men as bisexual for numerous reasons. Bisexuality, as any sexuality, is an identity. It is not one these men would use to describe themselves, and I would respect that.
There's also the myth that bisexuals can simply choose between genders. It's a myth both straight and gay people have about bisexuals, and it's just not accurate. Does anyone ever truly choose who they fall in love with?
There's a chance these men may be romantically and/or sexually attracted to more than one gender. It's a possibility. It's also a possibility these men have been inundated with religious-based homophobia their entire lives and are actually just gay and are repressing their natural desires because they feel their eternal salvation depends on it. As a bisexual person of faith, I understand their convictions. But this is a dangerous solution for both the gay men and their straight spouses.
4. Reparative therapy hurts trans people, too
This practice is not only dangerous for the sexuality component of the LGB community but also for transgender persons. Recently, transgender teenager Leelah Alcorn committed suicide. Her story of her religious parents rejecting her went viral. She noted that her parents tried to change her through therapy with a "Christian therapist" in hopes to get her to conform to the gender she was assigned at birth. This happens far too often. Transgender people, especially youth, go through reparative therapy too, and it's just as harmful to them as it is to LGB people.
This new TLC show is dangerous to all of the LGBT community.