Helle Ingeborg Mellingen
The article’s starting point is two books which present narratives of homosexuality within a contemporary conservative Christian context: Betre død enn homofil and Mine homofile venner, published in Norway in 2009. The first book is written within the conservative Christian context, telling the stories of homosexuals who, because of their faith, live in celibacy or in heterosexual relationships. The second book is written by a gay man who belonged to the same movement until he came out, and was effectively excluded. Both books relate to practices known as conversion therapy, reparative therapy or sexual reorientation, and to the ex-gay discourse, which I describe in the article. Different coming out narratives in that context are analysed, illustrating how current ex-gay discourse no longer perceives homosexuality as an illness that needs to be healed, but as the result of a wound inflicted in childhood. Therapy includes lessons in gender performance and seeks to reinstate patriarchal gender polarity. To support the rhetorical move from healing to therapy, social constructivism has been advanced as a theory, which supports the attempts to ‘reorient’ sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. The article offers a critique of ex-gay discourse and of the false appropriation of constructivist theory, and subsequently argues that the ex-gay position is rather one of religious essentialism.
gender performativity, social constructivism, homosexuality, ex-gay discourse, reparative therapy