For our very first minisode, we're responding to a voice submission from a listener & discussing the upcoming documentary Conversion.
Jey: So I talked to a relative who has listened to all of the podcasts but is very super religious, right? They told me, “What happened because you used to be so pretty when you were 15, but now you look like a hedgehog.” I just didn't expect myself to be sexually attractive to a relative at 15 and am glad that I'm not. I responded to them by saying, “Well, maybe I'm not attractive to you, but like five chicks told me that I was hot at Emo Nite so…” But I don't know if that's flirting or if that's just game recognize game.
Clint: My bet is that it’s both.
Jey: How are you?
Clint: I'm great. Just living life, working on season 2. But I was invited to and attended the Chicago premiere of a new documentary called Conversion last week, which was very fun.
Jey: Yo, how was that?
Clint: Absolutely spectacular. It was directed by Zach Meiners who was kind enough to comp us some tickets, so thank you, Zach. Conversion will be making its way to streaming later this year. We’ll definitely post about it on our socials when it’s available so keep an eye out for that. But the film itself is incredibly impactful. It’s heavy but hopeful.
Jey: I also want to say “thank you” to the Hopefully Wandering podcast for shouting us out. That was so sweet and that’s how the people at the Conversion movie found us so big, huge thank you. Can you tell me a little bit more about what Conversion is about?
Clint: So it’s about conversion therapy, which is the unscientific practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation. “Pray the gay away” is a common shorthand. There have been other documentaries on this topic in the past. Perhaps most notably, a Netflix original called Pray Away, but Conversion’s approach was more powerful than any other film I’ve seen about this practice because it really focused on the stories of the victims where other films have been more focused on the history and leadership of the movement. Those aspects are important to be sure, and Conversion doesn’t totally omit them, but I think learning about the effects of conversion therapy on a personal level makes this film more poised to spur action both legislatively and socially. Another aspect I really appreciated is how they presented some of the many forms that conversion therapy can take. When you say the word “therapy,” I think most people’s minds go to talk therapy. Conversion therapy does often masquerade as a form of talk therapy but not always. Sometimes it takes the form of exorcisms or weekend retreats or aversion therapy, an example of which would be physically shocking a patient - a victim - when they’re shown homoerotic images.
Jey: I've also heard that conversion therapy is making a comeback in the church by a different name called Gender Exploratory Therapy. It's where they take trans people and they explore every reason that you would be trans except for the fact that you just are.
Clint: The documentary touches on that a little bit too. Conversion therapy is definitely poised for a comeback, especially considering the growing anti-LGBTQ climate in the US, but it’s coming under different names with different leaders and better branding, but it’s actually just the exact same shit it has always been.
Jey: It’s like playing fucking Whac-A-Mole with shitty, terrible, homophobic fake therapy. Go to a real licensed therapist, go to a real licensed psychiatrist, do not trust Christian counselors. They do not want what's best for you if you're queer.
Clint: But even then you have to be careful because there have been many instances of licensed therapists practicing conversion therapy. And in conservative states, there are lots of licensed therapists who are also highly religious. So vet your therapists, everyone. And speaking of therapists, we recently got our very first voice submission which just so happens to come from a therapist. An affirming therapist, not a conversion therapist. Let’s take a listen.
Voice Submission: Okay, so my question or topic for this is cutting off your toxic evangelical family members. And I have had to do this myself. I have a lot of friends who have had to do this, and I'm a new therapist and know that I will at some point be walking someone through that process for themselves. And I think it's a very isolating process. And the feelings that come with that are loneliness. Even if you have your own chosen family already, but especially for those who don't have a chosen family yet, I know how hard that can be. I think that's something that is really, really important for all of us to talk about.
Clint: Excellent question and thank you so much for your submission. Now while I have a pretty tenuous relationship with my family, we’ve never quite reached the cut-off stage, so I think you should take the lead on this one, Jey.
Jey: Cutting off toxic evangelical family members. This is near and dear to my heart. I think this is twofold. First of all, if people are never going to recognize your humanity, you do not need to be around those people. You have no responsibility to those people. Sometimes there's relatives. We do not have to call those people family. It does not matter if you came out of someone, if they do not treat you with just basic respect, whether that's using your chosen name or pronouns, or just every time they see you trying to shove the Bible down your throat, even though you literally were raised in the church, like they are not worth keeping around. And I'm kind of changing my tune on that because I was really wanting a family and really kind of depressed that I'm like, “Why can I not have parents?” I would give my parents, like, redemption arcs again and again and again, and I would just cut them off for like a few years and forget and then let them back into my life because they're old and going to die soon. And then every time I'm around them, I would have to sob to my friends about them and my therapist for like a week. And I'm like, You know what? At some point, is it worth it?
Clint: If you have to ask that question, the answer is probably “no.” But what about us? Do we have any responsibility, as queer people, to at least attempt to connect with and educate people in our biological family about the queer experience? Not to our own detriment, of course. Take care of yourself first. If engaging with them is harmful to you, absolutely do not do it.
Jey: Put on your own oxygen mask first before you try to assist others.
Clint: But most of the conflict between me and my mom has sprouted from me trying to help her see past the political and religious extremism that has consumed her life. It has undoubtedly hurt our relationship, but I feel an obligation to at least try.
Jey: As I'm educating myself more and going through and learning more about the history of colonization in the U.S. and the history of all of the shit that white people have done that's just so fucked up. Kind of getting off, not even getting off track here. But as I'm learning more and more about this, I really do think that it is our responsibility to check our family members if they're in our presence and say something racist, like I don't care if it's going to start a fight. Like you need to teach them how to be decent human beings, you are probably the only queer person in Jim-Bob Jr's life and you should really, like teach them about how to treat queer people because otherwise if you don't speak up and say something, they're going to be like, I have a queer nephew and he's fine with all of this stuff. Like, I don't even use his name. He's fine. So why do I have to use your name, if they encounter another queer person in their life. So in some sense there is personal responsibility. But when people don't even recognize your humanity, it's a lost cause already. So you kind of have to weigh those options.
Clint: And the loneliness that comes along with all of this has to be acknowledged. Cutting off toxic family can be lonely as hell. Trying to speak truth to your family when you’re the only one doing so is lonely. Trying to find a new chosen family or community is also a lonely process.
Jey: I've told my mom multiple times that the three things that she needs to do to let me back in her life are use my chosen name, which is officially, legally my fucking name.
Clint: Let’s get a little applause here.
Jey: Thank you. And then on a personal note, not talk to my stepdad ever again or ever let him back into my life and she keeps bringing him around.
Clint: That one’s a little more specific to you.
Jey: Yeah, that one’s specific to me. I've told her this on the phone, but she said she was driving at the time. I've texted her this. She says, well I don't check all my text messages. And then I've told her in person at Christmas and texted her again recently because I've been texting her a bunch of like pro trans biblical memes because I was like, Well, these are on her level, she goes on Facebook. And then I said, You know, we could have a relationship of you just say my name, Jey, and then we could just talk like, I will still let you say horrible things to me like you like to do if you just use my fucking name when you do it. And she won’t.
Clint: What is it with families and name changes? I personally think pronouns are more difficult because gendering is ingrained in our society. I understand how that can be initially difficult for people to wrap their heads around. But conservatives have no trouble honoring name changes under certain circumstances, like when a woman changes her name after she gets married. In fact, they’re often incredulous if the woman doesn’t change her name.
Jey: They are like, “Oh yeah, we'll call you Mrs. whatever your husband's name is now.” So why is it so big when I change my name?
Clint: Is it that parents take personal offense because you don't want the name they gave you anymore?
Jey: I think that's part of it. But you've got to realize that parents have some of the creepiest and weirdest reasons for why they named you certain things. My sisters don't have middle names because my mom looked at them when they were babies and was like, “Hmm, they're going to get married one day and lose their middle name, so why would they need one?” So she just didn't give them one. She gave me one though.
Clint: Wow. That was prophetic. Honestly, I'm surprised there aren’t more people changing their name, even for reasons unrelated to gender or sexuality.
Jey: Like I knew this cis girl named Tranny. I would have changed that when I turned 18. Sorry, I’m just saying.
Clint: So I think it’s important to have older people in your life who respect and understand your existence, whether or not you’re related. Where have you found that outside of your biological parents?
Jey: I have relationships that are like older women that I've met throughout my life, whether it's like professors that I've really clicked with, that I've kept over the years, like kept in contact with or like mentors at jobs and like, sure, that isn't the same as your mom. But through the process of cutting off my mom because she doesn't realize my humanity, I've reached out to like my aunts and they're the ones that are inviting me to Christmas. And I've started to get to know more of my extended family because they at least use my name. And so it's like, “Wow, even though I'm losing my immediate family, I'm gaining a lot of my other family that didn't talk to us a lot because we were way too religious.” And now I'm finally getting that family in my life. I really would say go to therapy, but also, like, you're not alone in this process. We started this podcast because we wanted people to realize that they're not alone. Well, one of the reasons. I've been watching this show called We Are Here, where it's a bunch of drag queens who are from small towns that won RuPaul's Drag Race, and they go to small towns and then get drag queens from the area to perform with them on a drag show in small town America. And through that, it's just helped me realize just how prevalent the queer community is throughout the US or wherever you are. Meetups.com is a great way to find places. You can also like search hashtags on Instagram. Search like all this different stuff to just try and find queer meetups. Try and find more people like you that will accept you for who you are. Just get involved in your local queer community. I am shit at doing this, but sometimes it works. Like one of my best friends. I made it from a dating app for queer people that I downloaded for like one day after my breakup, met someone, we hung out and hiked, and then eventually the rest of the day, we found myself getting choked next to a waterfall and it was great. But the point is, you know, friendship from there. And we eventually would just go work out together and stuff and start talking about life and living life together. And you just build those relationships over time. Like in Austin, there's a bodybuilding gym and they do like a queer running club or like the local gay shop which has a queer bookstore. They always have a meet. There's all sorts of stuff to just get out and find your community. I know it really fucking sucks and it doesn't feel like you have any community, especially if you're really insular or like the church was your everything. I obviously am not religious, but there are churches for if you are still religious. The Metropolitan Community Church is a denomination by queer people, for queer people and their hymns are sung to like a non gendered god, which was really fucking cool. So yeah, go find your community. It can be hard at first, but I believe in you.
Clint: I still think it's hard. You and I both live in major cities, so it’s easier, but it can be particularly difficult if you live in a rural area. But it's worth the effort and the community is out there. You can find people. It might take time, it might take a lot of work. If you live in a rural area, it might be an online community. But even that is so validating - just having people in your life who relate to your experience, who respect your existence.
Jey: Online is huge. Like, I'm having a birthday party. I had my in-person birthday party this weekend, which was like four people. I'm going to have my online birthday party and all my close friends are on the internet. I know them all in person. I've visited almost all of them, but like the person who helped me pick out my new name, I still have never met in person, but she is one of my best friends. But I've known other people that met people through Tik Tok, just messaging the creator of a video they liked. You've got this, I believe in you.
Clint: Thank you everyone for listening to our first minisode. And thank you listener for submitting your voice recording! If anyone else would like to submit a voice recording of their own, you can find a link to do that on our website - howgaythouart.com. We wanted to give you a little taste with this minisode but in the future, most of these will be Patreon-exclusives so hop on there to subscribe for as little as $5. You’ll be supporting the pod and getting lots of premium content as well. As always, find us on all social media platforms @HowGayThouArt. We will see you on January 30th for the first episode of season 2!