The Conversion of Venus

Michelle over at Metacentricities recently blogged about the conversion of Venus Magazine to an ex-gay publication. I really had to do a double-take when I read this. The website has the testimony of its publisher, who started the magazine thirteen years ago as a voice for the black lgbt community which is so often invisible in main-stream lgbt media.

I don’t subscribe to any lgbt magazines, but I pick them up occasionally when there is an article that interests me. In the past I have bought a copy of Venus, and I was always appreciative of the presence of that voice among all of the others in the lgbt community. Being a white lesbian with a black wife living in Oakland, I know how important this visible presence is.

I must say that this conversion saddens me for many reasons. First of all, I view converting to “ex-gay” as a self-hating act. So many lgbt folks have a hard time coming out in the first place because of all of the negative messages that we are bombarded with about what it means to be lgbt. We are taught to hate ourselves, to surpress who we are, to be something we are not. And it hurts.

Also, she is doing this from an Evangelical Christian platform. As a Christian, I feel this is sinful. Jesus preached about love, compassion, and community. He taught that the Kingdom of God is within each one of us, and God created us as S/He intended. The “ex-gay” movement is manipulating the words of Jesus to strike fear and self-hatred into the hearts of all lgbt people. As Woody Allen so insightfully stated, “If Jesus Christ came back today and saw what was being done in his name, he’d never stop throwing up.”

To hear about someone who had once embraced who she was, who had once even loved who she was, who fought for the rights of others like herself, who very publicly provided a voice and image for the black lgbt community, I can’t help but feel this is anything but tragic. Not to mention the fact that she is now using Venus as a vehicle for her Christian testimony and that of others who have converted to “ex-gay” in order to “convert” other lgbt folks.

Finally, there is already so much hatred of lgbt folks in the African American, and specifically African American Christian community, which is a tragedy in itself. I am pleased that there is a movement to work to change this, and that there are communities like my church, First Congregational Church of Oakland and our sister church in San Francisco, City of Refuge that are not only open and affirming but also addressing the needs of the black gay community. Thank God for this good news!

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