Putting the X in Ex-Gay

Jeff White

We can’t report on every run-of-the-mill sex scandal involving a fundamentalist preacher or anti-gay politician, but every so often one comes along that seems to harbor a deeper meaning.

Take the case of Steven Barnes, a former teacher at the Bethel Baptist School in Wills, Mississippi, who stands accused of raping a student once a week for three years starting when the kid was fourteen. Jeff White is suing the teacher, and his accounts of what happened are pretty specific. One thing he remembers vividly about the weekly ordeal is Barnes’ insistence that the rapes were an “ex-gay” technique designed to cure the boy of his homosexuality by causing him “to hate men.”

And perhaps Barnes truly believed this line: his explanation is consistent with other reports that there’s something suspiciously homoerotic about ex-gay therapy itself, whose practitioners are mostly gay men claiming to have been “cured” of homosexuality. Or not.