People Can Change

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People Can Change

Can’t We All Just Get Along?
by Rich Wyler, republished with permission

That was the plaintive cry of police beating victim Rodney King during the 1992 Los Angeles riots that erupted after a jury found the police not guilty. I was working at a bank in downtown Los Angeles at the time, and was a firsthand witness to the rampant destruction that led Rodney King to go on television to plead for civility.

“Can’t we all just get along?”

Rodney King’s words come back to me as I contemplate this year’s planned “Day of Silence” on Friday, April 17, organized by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, or GLSEN. On the Day of Silence, high school and middle school students are encouraged to take a day-long vow of silence to symbolize solidarity with the supposed “silencing” of “GLBT” students and their supporters.

In response, more than 20 conservative groups are calling for a walk-out at participating middle and high schools, urging parents to keep their children home Friday, according to the Christian Post. Meanwhile, the Alliance Defense Fund has responded by organizing its own “Day of Truth,” scheduled for Monday April 20. Students are encouraged to wear T-shirts and pass out cards with messages like:

“I’m speaking the Truth to break the silence. True tolerance means that people with differing — even opposing — viewpoints can freely exchange ideas and respectfully listen to each other. It’s time for an honest conversation about homosexuality. There’s freedom to change if you want to. Let’s talk.”

I find the claim of gays being silenced to be ironic to the point of Orwellian doublespeak. From where I sit, the gay lobby appears to have an enormous platform to speak out, including the world’s news media in their hands. Never has any “oppressed minority” overcome so much to become so celebrated and endorsed by the world’s media and political and entertainment elite in so few years.

Meanwhile, those who would dare claim that maybe gays are not “born that way,” and point out that some people have changed from gay to straight, are routinely and roundly ridiculed as small-minded, hate-mongering homophobes and are regularly shamed into silence. Try speaking out with this alternative viewpoint, and see who it is that is really being silenced. Your view will typically be labeled as divisive hate speech, and hate speech cannot be tolerated.

Nevertheless, the answer, in my view, is not to lash out at the gay lobby and fan the flames of dissent. The answer is to display true tolerance, not the artificial tolerance that is really a code word for “endorse-our-viewpoint-and-our-way-of-life-or-be-attacked-as-a-homophobe.”

Too many people want to make homosexuality and the possibility of change an us-versus-them, all-or-nothing issue with clear winners and losers. Small-minded, hate-mongering homophobes (allegedly) on one side versus lust-driven, devil-loving perverts (allegedly) on the other side.

Can’t we all just get along?

As the founder of People Can Change, I quite clearly represent the viewpoint that sexual orientation change is possible…at least for some people. Is it possible for everyone? How could I possibly know that?

I only know that I have experienced profound change, and am much happier for it. I also know that many of my friends and colleagues in this movement have experienced dramatic change, and are much happier for it. And that is the message I choose to share.

I have always said as much on the People Can Change Web site. I have stated it in my audio CD, Journey Out of Homosexuality. It is part of our organization’s foundational philosophies, which state in part:

– We recognize the inherent and equal worth of all people. We strongly object to “gay bashing” – just as we object to “ex-gay bashing” – and instead encourage compassion and understanding for all who deal with or have ever dealt with homosexuality, however they may choose to address it in their lives. We respect their dignity, worth, right to self-determination, and right to equal protection under the law.

– Significant sexual-orientation change may or may not be possible for every person who has homosexual desires. Likewise, pursuing change is not the only possible response to unwanted homosexual feelings and may or may not be the most appropriate resolution for any particular individual.

– No one can make anyone else change their sexual orientation against their will, nor do we believe anyone should attempt to force or pressure someone to change who is not intrinsically motivated to do so.

Despite this policy of tolerance and respect, I regularly receive hate email, lashing out at me as a homophobe and hate-monger, sometimes damning me to hell and wishing me an early and painful death.

Whatever happened to freedom of choice? To the right to self determination? And simply to free speech?

Sharing my personal story, and the path that worked for me and has worked for so many others, is not anti-gay.

It is pro-individual.

It is pro-self-determination.

It is pro-choice.

If we could all show more respect for the individual, for self-determination, for freedom of choice, then certainly we could all get along.

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