What happens if a group of “ex-gay” marchers hit the streets of Washington, D.C., and no one notices?
Did you know there was a march last week for people who consider themselves “ex-gays”?
On May 5, Voice for the Voiceless — a Christian group that describes its mission, in part, as helping “defend the rights of former homosexuals” — helped organize “The Freedom March” in Washington, D.C. The march was designed to celebrate and bring awareness to people who “freed” themselves from homosexuality by giving themselves over to Jesus Christ. The event didn't bring out many people, but judging by the event's Facebook page, participants who were there are very passionate about their personal journeys to become straight. (LGBTQI organizations were critical of the march, particularly of the toxic idea that queer people can or need to be “fixed.”)
One of the participants in “The Freedom March” was Luis Javier Ruiz, a survivor of the June 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, an incident that left 49 people dead and many more injured, including Ruiz. Since the shooting, he has declared himself free from homosexuality, saying he adheres to a Christian lifestyle.
In a Facebook post, Ruiz wrote, “I should have been number 50.”
“Going through old pictures of the night of Pulse, I remember my struggles of perversion, heavy drinking to drown out everything and having promiscuous sex that led to HIV,” the post continued. “My struggles were real! The enemy had its grip, and now God has taken me from that moment and has given me Christ.”
While his story isn't the norm for most gay people in this country, for the people who attended this march, there is a common thread. Because they are not members of the larger gay movement, they feel they do not have any representation or protection. But, I have to ask, is there really a need for representation for people who consider themselves free from homosexuality? Have they been denied any rights? Are they really oppressed in any sense?
Since we live in a democratic republic where free speech is a birthright, there is nothing inherently wrong with “The Freedom March,” but it does present a narrative that is incomplete.
Sexuality exists on a spectrum, and can be really complex. To consider these people “free” from the gay lifestyle downplays the fact that they might have always been sexually fluid. It also presents a narrative that being gay is something that needs to be fixed or changed, which isn't true, and has led some Christian groups to adopt the harmful practice of conversion therapy.
There were no reports of major pushback for this event, and it looks as though only a small number of people showed up — be it marchers or protesters — which surprised me. When I first heard about the march, I immediately pictured groups of LGBTQI people arriving in protest with combative signs. I wasn't disappointed by the absence of a counter-protest, though. We need to stay focused on the bigger picture and not let these little blips in the news cycle sidetrack us.