I happened today to read an old story (nearly a year ago!) about a brief scandal in Tennessee about fundamentalist reorientation camps for teens with same-sex attraction, to one of which a 16 year-old boy was allegedly sent against his will by his parents. The camps are called Refuge, and are run by a group called Love in Action.
The scandal is long over now, the queer coalition have stopped demonstrating in support of the teen, he has erased his blog that caused all the fuss, and is trying to live down his notoriety. It’s an ex-story, but part of the article still jolted me when I read about the Refuge rules for teens attending the camp.
“1. All clients must maintain appropriate hygiene, including daily showering, use of deodorant, and brushing teeth twice daily.
Men: Men must remove all facial hair seven days weekly, and sideburns must not fall below the top of the ear (the top of the ear is defined as where the ear meets the face below the temple). Clean business-like haircuts must be worn at all times. Hair must be long enough to be pinched between two fingers.
Women: Women must shave legs and underarms at least twice weekly.
All: Only natural hair color is allowed. Hair that is colored, highlighted or streaked, must be dyed back to its original color, or the color must be cut out before entrance into the Refuge program.”
“No hugging or physical touch between clients. Brief handshakes or a brief affirmative hand on a shoulder is allowed …
“LIA wants to encourage each client, male and female, by affirming his/her gender identity,” the rules continued. “LIA also wants each client to pursue integrity in all of his/her actions and appearances. Therefore, any belongings, appearances, clothing, actions, or humor that might connect a client to an inappropriate past are excluded from the program. These hindrances are called False Images. FI behavior may include hyper-masculinity, seductive clothing, mannish/boyish attire (on women), excessive jewelry (on men), mascoting, and ‘campy’ or gay/lesbian behavior and talk.”
Right, because we all know that as long as men dress like John Wayne in the Wild West and women dress like Annette Funicello in a Beach-Blanket Tempest, TEH GAY is righteously repelled. That’s all it takes!
Cut that hair son! Grow that hair missy! Scowl manfully! Simper submissively! Nooo! – Sarah! Joshua! – you’re mixing it up and doing it all wrong!
Cue some FI behaviour lifted holus bolus from the collected works of Monty Python:
Interviewer And next the men of the Second Armoured Division regale us with their famous close order swanning about.
Cut to sergeant with eight soldiers.
Sergeant-MajorSquad… CAMP it UP!
[soldiers all chant in unison while mincing about]
Soldiers: Ooh get her! Whoops, I’ve got your number ducky, you couldn’t afford me dear, two three. I’ll scratch your eyes out! Don’t come the Brigadier bit with us dear, we all know where you’ve been, you military fairy. Two, three, one, two, three, four, five, six. Whoops! Don’t look now girls, the man has just minced in with that jolly colour Sergeant, two three. OOOOH!
Sergeant-Major[walks on] Right now! Stop that! Silly. And a bit suspect, I think. Time for a cartoon.
Of course the Python skit is absurd. But only a little more so than the ex-gay movement’s simplistic overemphasis of rigid gender roles as a way of combatting same-sex attraction.