The Other Side of Life: Conversion therapy

By : Jason LeClerc
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Jason Leclerc

Long before I became aware of consciousness – an occurrence part way through my 11th grade year, perched between The Scarlet Letter and Leaves of Grass – I was merely aware. Around the age of three, I discovered that I was male and that the possession of an extra appendage made me fundamentally and anatomically different from mothers and sisters.

I knew, even then, that it made me powerful. Shortly after that, around the age of five, I realized that the love that was showered upon me was a special gift – an entitlement bestowed – from God. I knew that I was loved by Jesus and by others who carried Jesus in their hearts. I knew that I was Christian. At the age of seven, a first grader mesmerized by a charming and optimistically charismatic Ronald Reagan, I knew that I was a Republican. Certainly, I’ve learned (and continue to learn) much more about myself as I’ve acquired more life experiences: I am white, I am American, I am gay. I respect hard work and call out for personal responsibility. I believe incentives matter and that respect for all life is fundamental to village life.

Then, with the help of Hawthorne and Whitman, I realized nuance; that I was privileged and that I was obligated to share the bounties of my blessings with others. Then I became aware that these absolute pieces of me came with a certain ephemerality – if not dilettantism.

Genetics affected each of these traits, making them fundamental to my makeup from my first meiotic moment.

Except one, of course.

And for that one, I’ve endured decades of increasing marginalization. I have watched others like me endure harsh treatments by the forces that wrested control of culture. Academics have conducted the equivalent of ice-pick lobotomies – re-assessing history in light of an alternate vision of the future – upon those who’ve shared my proclivities. The mainstream media has treated my affliction as though a psychiatric disease, advocating digital castration in an attempt to mitigate the power underwritten by my affinities. Friends and family who claim to “love the sinner and hate the sin” have thrown me into the dark closets of masturbatory reconditioning, hormonal treatments, and good old-fashioned prayer. I’ve been bullied and humiliated; I’ve been made into a caricatured boogey man for those who’d rather wrest power than share it. Through all of these “treatments” and “therapies,” I have been true to myself, asserting and re-asserting – even in the most painful situations – that “I was born this way.”

It seems, despite the pseudo-science to which I’d previously clung, that I was less-than-perfectly-correct. With all of these forces at play, doubt implanted, I slowly evolved with the times, still gripping the fundamentals of who I was.

The ultimate conversion therapy, emerging from the darkest, smokiest casino’s corners where reality TV and failed business speculation meet to create walls, childish insults, misogyny and obtuseness, has gotten me: It has redefined my genetic makeup.

I’ve been cured! (But, I’m a cheerleader).

Truth told, the party left me, not vice-versa. I’m not sure that I’ve actually changed so much as the double-helix of Republican has been fundamentally converted. The uncontrolled replication of the mutated genes has manifested itself, coagulated around lily-white blood cells, as a tumor hardened against diversity (and sanity).

History tells us that conversion therapies are often met with high rates of recidivism, especially when a suitable substitute isn’t presented: I already have Jesus, I don’t want to smoke, and becoming black or straight are equally impossible. I can’t imagine that the Republican Party will ever again be the party of Reagan or Kemp (or Lincoln). Though the most strident anti-name-its are former-name-its, I don’t see supplanting R with capital D as an option either. My conversion from the former does not imply the conversion to the other.

Perhaps, thinking of conversions, there could be a genuine “pivot” toward sanity within the remnants of the party’s standard bearers. Though I doubt it, there may be something salvageable in all of this. In this unconventional campaign season, where the only part of the Constitution that seems to matter is the Second Amendment (since the three-fifths compromise expired), the party could radiation-blast back from the brink. Maybe the strange cancer that has invaded our DNA can be eradicated as the demons of racism and economic marginalization call out for cures that are being both poked and ignored without solution: palliatively. Instead, we are obsessed with personalities, conspiracies, emails, walls, insults, and fear-mongering.

There is an irreparable hole in the core of what remains of me – us. Forces rush to fill that vacuum with other possible identities, other ways to supplant – CRISPR-like – the damaged chromosomes, but the science of politics is caught in a practically empty Hadron collider.

It’s not conversion therapy that we need, it’s chemo. Short of a cure, I fear, the best we may ever again manage is remission. Short of that, we’ve hospice.

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