John M. Becker

Another 'Ex-Gay' Activist Leaves the Movement

Filed By John M. Becker | July 30, 2014 9:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: ex ex-gay, ex-gay, ex-gay myth, GLAAD, Jeremy Hooper, Yvette Cantu Schneider

yvette-schneider.jpgIt never gets old: another former "ex-gay" leader has left the movement, recanted their former views on homosexuality, and announced their support for LGBT equality. This time, it's Yvette Cantu Schneider, an activist who's worked with seemingly every major anti-gay group from the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America to Focus on the Family and the American Family Association. She also worked hard to pass Proposition 8 in California.

Schneider was one of the (male-dominated) "ex-gay" industry's highest-profile spokespeople and most prominent female voices, and her "success story" is still widely citedd by proponents of the "ex-gay" myth as "proof" that sexual orientation change is possible. The American Family Association, for example, sells a video called "It's Not Gay" that features Schneider; international anti-LGBT activist and hate group leader Peter LaBarbera -- a former colleague of Schneider's at FRC -- touts her as an example of someone who has "overcome homosexuality through faith in Jesus Christ;" and her testimony is featured prominently on "ex-gay" websites.

Yet in a two-part interview with GLAAD's Jeremy Hooper, Schneider now says she no longer identifies with the "ex-gay" and anti-LGBT movement, fully supports LGBT people and families, and feels "truly sorry" for the pain her former work has caused. Schneider says of her journey:

Five months after Proposition 8 passed in California, my five-year-old daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. During the month she spent as an inpatient at Oakland Children's Hospital, I suffered from tremendous anxiety, punctuated by debilitating panic attacks. When my daughter was released from the hospital, I sought help from Dr. Diana Wright, a respected psychologist. She said to me, "Anxiety is the result of a threat you fear will overtake you... it can also arise when you are living incongruously from your true self, when you're living according to someone else's expectations of you and not according to who you really are. I have a feeling this isn't your first experience with anxiety; you've likely experienced it your whole life."

Dr. Wright taught me to manage my limbic responses through mindfulness meditation, and a form of guided imagery meditation used by combat troops who suffer from PTSD. As I became more adept at meditating, goddesses and other female images appeared. It was clear I had neglected the feminine and the feminine divine when I embraced patriarchal dogma that regarded women as secondary to men. I spent the next few years digging deep within my soul to unearth my true self-the authentic me who celebrates the worthiness and equality of all people. The me who knows we all deserve to be who we are, not who others want and expect us to be. It was only when I embraced this true self that I regained my life. It meant shedding many of the beliefs I had espoused for decades--beliefs about what it means to be gay, and what it means to treat people with dignity and respect.

More, after the break.

Schneider notes that even within the "ex-gay" movement, it's an open secret that people don't actually change:

I can say I've never met an "ex-gay" man I thought was not still attracted to men and would not go back to gay relationships under the right circumstances. One of my colleagues tried to fix me up with an "ex-gay" man when I was still single. I said, "No way. I have no interest in dating an ex-gay man. I don't trust that they're actually ex-gay." My colleague said, "The Bible says people can change--'and such were some of you'--so you have to believe it's true. It's incredibly defamatory of you to believe otherwise." The particular "ex-gay" man who was to be my date was caught having sex with a man about a year later.

That gay men could be considered "ex-gay" was questioned many times during my tenure at FRC.

She is a strong supporter of legislative efforts to ban "ex-gay" therapy for children, says that supporting families of all kinds -- including those headed by same-sex parents -- is what it really means to be "pro-family," and declares that she loves her husband completely and knows he's her soul mate, but now realizes that she could have had "an equally strong bond with a woman"... and that that would have been just fine.

Schneider's message to young LGBT people who are struggling to love themselves for who they are?

Don't let anyone define you. I let other people define me for years... decades. I let them, most of them pastors and ministers, tell me what was wrong with me, how I wasn't good enough, how I needed to change. Don't give anyone that kind of power over you. Be your own person.

Jeremy's entire interview is worth reading in full. Click here for part 1; part 2 lives here.

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