Conversion therapy — commonly associated with sexual orientation and gender identity — is big news in Utah.
We were all set to pass a legislative bill that would have prevented therapists from engaging in attempts to realign gender attraction, essentially through actions that experts labeled as “bat-spit crazy.” But far-right advocates objected.
A move to end the practice among minors through professional licensing rules ran into opposition this past week when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints protested, saying that the proposed ban went too far.
In a quote I entirely invented, a church spokesman said, “There is only one appropriate form of sexual attraction. Anyone who behaves or even thinks outside the heterosexual norm is a total perv.”
OK, the real quote is, “The church is concerned that the proposed professional licensing rule is ambiguous in key areas and overreaches in others.”
The very phrase “conversion therapy” is repugnant. It just sounds evil, right? I’d like to see someone try that conversion crap to change me from being the hard-wired heterosexual person that I am.
Wait. No, I wouldn’t. Some of the activities these so called conversion therapists put people — including children — through are beyond the pale. I won’t spell them out here because my editor would freak. Also, I might barf.
“Conversion therapy” has been tried on me. Not the sexual orientation kind but still potentially damaging.
The closest this therapy ever came to gender assignment was from Miss Bodie, my second grade teacher, who dragged me into the hall one mind-numbing afternoon.
Her • “Bobby, why can’t you behave like the other boys and girls?”
Me • “I dunno.”
That’s what I said. What I thought was — “boys AND girls.” Why in hell would I try to behave like a girl? That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard. Girls are boring!
Note: Please understand that it was second grade. My thoughts on that subject had completely reversed by the middle of sixth grade. Girls were in fact the most interesting thing in the world.
That’s as close to sexual attraction as conversion therapy ever took me. The rest of the horrible treatment came through nonsexual elements.
The Army comes immediately to mind. I’m not normally a team player — what passes as my brain wanders a lot — and I don’t much care for authority. To correct this biological matter, Drill Sgt. Valentine resorted to barbaric methods.
One rainy South Carolina afternoon, we were ordered to keep our eyes closed while taking apart our rifles and reassembling them. True to my nature, I couldn’t, wouldn’t or just kept forgetting.
Suddenly, I saw him staring at me. I closed my eyes. My head was seized and an eyelid thumbed back open. Valentine’s dark face was an inch from mine. He spit on a finger and moved it toward my terrified eyeball.
Him • “Kubby, you want some black spit in your eye?”
Me • “N-n-no, Drill Sergeant.”
I was semi-converted after that. It’s a poor comparison, I know, but it follows the same principle. I still couldn’t keep my eyes shut, but I made damn sure Valentine was nowhere in the vicinity.
The rest of the conversion-therapy outrages — attempts to get me to be something I was naturally not — came from church.
Soul-robbing Primary lessons, intolerable missionary companions, confusing temple rituals, and conferences that created a detestable sense of spirituality that only a stampede of clowns could have improved. It all failed to change me.
I kept hearing the same thing, uttered the same way, by the same mindset that insisted I would never find true joy if I didn’t come around to being something I wasn’t.
Mission District Leader • “You’re going to hell if you don’t stop being that way.”
Me • “Long as you’re not there.”
That’s right. Eventually, I had to be me. It’s the best shot I had at happiness. And it worked.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.