One More Final Post on Sexual Conversion:
I appreciate Eugene's reply, but I wonder if we're just left with a question of definitions. In the past, when I have heard the claim that "gays and lesbians are trying to convert others to homosexuality," I did not understand it to mean the narrow claim that Eugene is making. "Conversion" was depicted as something sinister and unusual, generally associated with the homophobic stereotype of gays as sexual predators. Those who have responded by calling such claims a "myth" were not taking the position directly implicated by the point Eugene makes; rather, I understood them to be arguing that the homophobic stereotypes were a "myth." If I'm right, Eugene's position is that the homophobic stereotypes are in fact a myth, but that it is possible to come up with an alternative meaning of the claim that so-defined might not be a myth. Whether that is true, it seems like a question of definitions more than substantive disagreement.
alkali (mail):
Talking about gays trying to "convert" straights means something specific to Christian audiences (and particularly to born-again Christians) to whom that rhetoric is directed. The logic is "just as you were converted to Christ by other Christians, homosexuals were converted to homosexuality by other homosexuals." From this point of view, Christianity is not only opposed to, but implicitly in competition with, homosexuality. It's a very powerful rhetorical device.
8.23.2005 5:35pm
Moshe (mail):
I actually think there is something more substantial here than semantics. We need to go back to the initial statement itself. While the claim that "gays and lesbians are trying to convert others to homosexuality," may often be made with the negative stereotypes of sexual predators in mind, that claim is often made (with equally negative intent) about any behavior meant to sway people to be homosexual--not just sinister or unusual predatory behavior--because, often, for those making the claim, trying to get people to be homosexual is bad enough, even without predatory stereotypes.
When people respond that this is myth, presumably they are responding to the claim, as it is understood by those making it. Thus, it seems to me that Eugene's point is a response to this response, saying that though you may argue about the negative nature of converting others to homosexuality (that those who make the claim that "gays and lesbians are trying to convert others to homosexuality often believe is true," it seems to be the case that for the most part they are right that such attempts at conversion occur.
For those who mean something sinister and predatory by the initial claim, the rejection that that is a myth still stands.
8.23.2005 5:35pm
Paul Gowder (mail):
I think the points I made in response to Eugene's first two posts still stand: (1) Conversion has a miasma of oppression about it, and (2) The assumption that gay people would think that they were doing someone a favor by having someone with bisexual tendencies act on them is totally blind to the social reality of massive discrimination against people who so act.

Eugene hasn't really responded to (2) at all. On the other hand, (1) has been the subject of much discussion, so I leave you with this, the lighter and literary side:


Mephistopheles. How can you talk so heatedly,
Exaggerate in such a way?
Just any little sheet will do, it's all the same.
With one wee drop of blood you sign your name.

Faust. If this will satisfy you, then I say:
Let us agree and put the farce to this odd use.

Mephistopheles. Blood is a quite peculiar juice.

Faust. Fear not! This league with you I shall not break!
The aim and goal of all my energy
Is to fulfil the promise I now make.
I've puffed myself too high, I see;
Only within your ranks do I deserve to be.


Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest -
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men -
Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.

There is a difference...
8.23.2005 5:54pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
Orin, you should admit to yourself that the difference is not one of definitions, but one of fundamental worldviews: You are uncomfortable with an effort to come up with some possible, semantic way to justify a libelous, bigoted stereotype. Professor Volokh is not.
8.23.2005 6:05pm
Richard Bellamy (mail):
To bolster Orin's point, here are a few links. "Convert" means predatory attacks on youth, not "changing the culture."

Here are some examples:

"When a wide-eyed homosexual spreads his hands and pleads that he just wants to be left alone to live like other people, don't believe it. He has a hidden agenda. A breathtaking majority of sodomites and lesbians are dedicated to perverting as many people as possible. Their target is the young."


The Tradial Values Colation

"As GLSEN continues to recruit children into homosexuality and gender confusion, we can expect to see rising levels of oral and anal cancers among teenagers. Is this really what parents want for their children?"


"Larry Spencer, the Canadian Alliance Party's critic for family issues, in an interview with the Vancouver Sun said gay activists embarked on a "well-orchestrated" campaign to "convert" young boys in school playgrounds and locker rooms to homosexuality and to "deliberately infiltrate the North America's judiciary, schools, religious community and the entertainment industry."


Family Research Institute:

Those who engage in homosexuality also:

"• frequently seek to 'convert' others, particularly the young, to their sexual tastes" (also: more frequently engage in odd sex practices (e.g., sadomasochism, anal-oral sex)
8.23.2005 6:17pm
Goober (mail):
I take no joy in saying it, but Greedy Clerk has been 100% right about this, and remains so.
8.23.2005 7:14pm
Rational Spidermonkey (mail):
Greedy Clerk is right when he points out that the disagreement between Christian traditionalists who fear mass gay conversions and those who think it ridiculous is largely one of world view. By and large, the gay view of homosexuality renders it essentially impossible: Christian activists decry it as a choice, but gay men and women think of it as an immutable and most likely genetic mandate.

Given that world view, gays would have no interest in converting straights - it would be as ridiculous as trying to convert an white man to being black. Perhaps in theory gays would not oppose bisexuals from experimenting but to think that they really have an orchestrated campaign to make straight people gay is absurd.
8.23.2005 7:56pm
The problem here is that people are trying to counter the conservative Christian myth ("there is a massive gay conspiracy to convince heterosexuals to turn gay") with an equally ridiculous myth ("no homosexual would ever dream of trying to convince a previously-straight man to sleep with him").

A little honesty is called for here. Eugene's position isn't that the Christian position is correct, but simply that the counter-myth isn't right either. The problem is that most of the people in this thread are taking the implausible position that homosexuals, unlike just about every other type of human on the planet, have zero interest in other people being more like them.
8.23.2005 8:35pm
Jay O'C:
I've been thinking about Prof. Volokh's postings on this issue over the past day (to the detriment of my real work). While I appreciate his efforts to stimulate debate, I agree with those posters (and Prof. Kerr) who suggest that Prof. Volokh's argument doesn't really get him (or us) where he wants to go. The stated purpose of Prof. Volokh's original post was to show that the "myth" that "gays and lesbians are trying to convert straights" had some truth to it. I think his argument boils down to four points:

1) Gays and lesbians want to reduce the social stigma surrounding homosexuality and allow people with homosexual inclinations to express them freely.
2) If gays and lesbians succeed in reducing the social stigma towards homosexuality, it is likely that some people who have never had same-sex relations, but have always had some degree of same-sex desire or orientation, will, in Prof. Volokh's words, "experiment" with same-sex relationships. Professor Volokh is specifically thinking of people with a bisexual orientation as falling in this category, but presumably it would also include those who are exclusively sexually oriented to the same-sex but who nonetheless sublimate that desire into conventional opposite-sex relations.
3) Gays and lesbians actually intend and desire the foreseeable result set out in #2.
4) Therefore gays and lesbians can be said to want to "convert" heterosexuals.

From the comments of those posting, it seems almost everyone can agree on propositions #1 and #2 (although some folks question the existence of true bisexuality), but many (including Prof. Kerr in his first "last thought") have problems with #3, and almost everyone has problems with #4.

I'd like to suggest that Prof. Volokh is probably right about proposition #3, at least if its slightly reframed. It seems to me an unremarkable statement to say that gays and lesbians desire and indeed are actively working toward a world where more people have homosexual relationships. Specifically, I think it's both unremarkable and unobjectionable to say gays and lesbians would like to achieve a world where closeted homosexuals who now have only opposite sex relations or no sex at all would feel comfortable enough with themselves to express their sexuality. I also agree with Prof. Volokh that most gays and lesbians would probably like to achieve a world where closeted bisexuals, who now only have sexual relations with members of the opposite sex, would be free to express their sexuality by having same-sex relations if that's what they choose to do. Encouraging closeted people to express their true sexuality seems to me a fundamental message behind every Gay Pride rally, PFLAG meeting and Queer as Folk episode.

The real problem, as I'm sure it will be tediously obvious to anyone who's read this far, is with Volokh's proposition #4. As Prof. Kerr has suggested, this largely turns on a semantic question of how one defines "convert," but I disagree with Prof. Kerr that this is just an uninteresting question of definitions. Prof. Volokh, if I understand him correctly, is saying that when gays and lesbians encourage closeted homosexuals and bisexuals to express their sexuality, they can legitimately be said to be seeking to "convert" them from heterosexuality. As several commentators have pointed out, this doesn't really make any sense under any ordinary definition of "convert." Encouraging a closeted homosexual to express his or her homosexuality or a closeted bisexual his or her bisexuality may cause them to have more same sex relations and fewer opposite sex relations, but it doesn't "convert" them to something they weren't already.

And I think here is where we get to the root of the problem with Prof. Volokh's argument. Prof. Volokh wants to ground his argument in the modern scientific understanding of sexuality -- that sexual orientation is at least primarily innate and that some people are exclusively heterosexual in orientation, some exclusively homosexual, and some oriented bisexually. But, once he accepts this, he can't really convincingly argue that gays and lesbians want to "convert" anyone from one category to another. Even in his own examples, all gays and lesbians are trying to achieve is for homosexuals and bisexuals to have the sexual experiences that their innate orientation would lead them to have.

Of course, most people who propound the "conversion myth" don't share Prof. Volokh's problem. They for the most part reject the idea that some people are inherently homosexual or bisexual and conceive of humanity as heterosexual in its very essence. In that world view, one might be able to say that persuading someone to come out of the closet is "converting" them to homosexuality. But you can't say it while accepting the modern liberal (small l) and scientific consensus on the nature of human sexuality. In other words, you can't say it (at least convincingly) when you're Prof. Volokh.
8.23.2005 9:54pm
lucklucky (mail):
I worked with a gay that had the view that straights are only that way because didnt "tasted" being gays yet and arent open minded. Preachers exists in all places. Now contrary to stereotyping i was in art department of that store and he is/was? a seller...
8.23.2005 11:23pm
JGUNS (mail):
Look it is this simple: There is no scientific data that sexuality is fixed EITHER way. Sexuality is most likely a combination of socieological, psychological, and environmental factors. Sexual identity is most likely fixed around the time of sexual maturation (mental). Historically, we have seen that sexual behavior has a LOT to do with the social more's of the times. How else can you explain the commonplace homosexual practices of Greek and Roman society? Especially in the military, where it was common practice for an older male to take a younger male under his "wing" with a sexual relationship. We as a society need to get away from the idea that sexuality is fixed and I don't see that heppening with the gay movement which is vociferously against the idea of any question that persuations are dynamic.
8.24.2005 1:36pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
-- How else can you explain the commonplace homosexual practices of Greek and Roman society? --

There is no credible historical evidence that "real homosexuals" -- that is folks with a primary or exclusive same-sex orientation who desired lifelong predominant or exclusive homosexual relationships -- existed in any greater percentages in Ancient Greek and Roman societies than they do today. There is no evidence that real homosexuals were any more than 2-3% of overall society.

The overwhelming majority of those engaging in homosexual acts had a primary heterosexual orientation, engaged in the behavior ritualistically (that is as customs in which they were expected to go through) for some period of time in their lives, and then went on to get married to women and sire families.
8.24.2005 10:54pm
Lackey (www):
Well by the restricted definition, I've been guilty many times of trying to convert people to homosexuality. And I'm straight.
8.25.2005 3:08am