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Tolerance and pluralism are bedrock principles of American society. The ex-gay movement and the Christian Right are attacking these principles and furthering a rigid moral agenda which offers Christian dogma and heterosexuality as the only acceptable norm. While Americans generally support equal treatment for gay and lesbian people, gay men and lesbians still remain among the most disliked groups of people in the nation.73 Working through the ex-gay movement, the Christian Right has tapped into the fear that many people have of homosexuality in order to further its theocratic agenda.

The ex-gay movement is in many ways a typically American phenomenon. Schramm and Upchurch tried for years to become straight so that they would fit into society. Many people, no matter what their differences may be-skin color, language, body size, and sexual orientation-are encouraged to change in ways that promote success, to "be all that you can be." It's hardly a surprise, then, to see the ex-gay movement growing in popularity. If you're a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender person, mask your identity, or better yet, change it completely if you can.

American culture promotes certain acceptable images of men and women. A dominant heterosexual culture mandates that people strive to get married to a member of the opposite sex, buy a house, have kids. Those who stray from these models of prescribed normalcy inevitably begin to see themselves as "other," and begin the difficult journey of trying to conform to society's definitions of what is acceptable and what isn't. And some people will go to great lengths to mask their differences in order to fit in.

At the center of the ex-gay movement is a long-standing struggle between sexual identity and religious identity. Many lesbian/bisexual/gay/transgender people struggle to reconcile their sexual identity with their religious faith. The ex-gay movement has tapped into this insecurity and is exploiting it for political purposes.

Hundreds of people turn to ex-gay ministries in an honest search for truth and meaning in relation to their sexual identity and their faith in Christianity, and this sincerity must be recognized in responding to the ex-gay movement and its followers. However, ex-gay movement leaders recruit men and women based on one set of messages, and then reveal a very different one once they are organized into ex-gay ministries. The goal is not exclusively to convert homosexuals to heterosexuality but to recruit people into the Christian Right in order to promote a broader theocratic agenda. Challenging the leadership of the ex-gay movement must include an understanding of this broader agenda in order to defend equal rights for all people, regardless of sexual orientation.

The partnership between the ex-gay movement and the Christian Right represents a serious threat not only to lesbian/bisexual/gay/transgender people, but to democracy and diversity in the US. By appealing to people's fear of homosexuality, the Christian Right is manipulating political forces within the Republican party, as well as the media and the general public, in promoting a false image of homosexual conversion that is at odds with mainstream psychological, psychiatric, and religious institutions. By exploiting the pressures many people feel to conform to the dominant culture, the ex-gay movement is taking advantage of, and flourishing in, this restrictive environment.

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