Monday, July 21, 2008

M Butterfly

For those that haven’t seen or read the play, or even seen the movie, I highly recommend you do so. M Butterfly is an absolutely amazing play about love—love that defies convention and really sparks your mind to begin thinking about gender in a whole new way. It is a story of a French man that finds his true love in a Chinese woman, his “butterfly,” but later discovers that his precious “butterfly” is indeed a man posing as woman to spy for the Chinese government.

In my Religion and Film class we just finished watching the movie and had an interesting discussion about the film. We discussed the different elements of love and spent a great deal of time examining the deception that took place in their relationship. The question that we spent the most time discussing though was: Did Rene Gallimard know that Song Liling was really man?

Everyone in the class was in utter shock! This couple had been together for over 20 years and the gender of Song was never discussed. There is a scene where Song is asked, “Did Mr. Gallimard know that you were a man?” The response from Song is deliciously perfect, “I never asked him.”

There was this thought floating around the class that Song deceived Rene and distorted his image of what or who his “butterfly” was. I challenged everyone to ask, “Does it matter?” Rene got everything he wanted out of his relationship with the “ideal Oriental woman.” He was loved, he got a child, he was sexually satisfied, he was happy! So in what way was his “love” distorted? Even after he discovered that Song was a man (although I argued along the lines of Song being gender queer) he was still in love!

The author of the play wrote in his afterword that it is Western mind that gets preoccupied with knowledge. We have a “false knowledge of gender, sexuality, etc.” It is the abuse of knowledge that sets us behind in a quest for equality. I have provided the final scene of the movie that was brilliantly done and shows the intensity of their love they had in their relationship. But I highly encourage everyone to either read or see the movie!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Great Frontier: The Myth of the "Ex-Gay" Movement

As children (American, at least), we were all acquainted with the great stories of the "Old West," the "Great Frontier." Our thoughts of the "frontier" may bring images to mind of the Indian Wars, John Wayne, caballeros, etc. The idea of the "frontier" was brought to us by both Theodore Roosevelt and Frederick Jackson Turner. Both gentlemen describe the "frontier" as sort of a "land of opportunity." Stories that arose out of these theses were of the great "hero" that would destroy the "savages" (usually Native Americans) to make the "frontier" a safer place for the settlers. Usually there was also forced assimilation into "White culture" but that will be addressed later.

In the twenty-first century I believe that we still fighting on the "frontier." Surely there are many Native American tribes that are losing their reservations and such, but I argue that there are new "frontiers" that are being encroached upon by the assumed "heroes" and there are now new "savages." In the 21st Century Evangelical movement the "new frontier" is the world and the Church. The assumed "heroes" are the powerful leaders within the Church, and I will argue that homosexual and transgender individuals are being interpreted as the "savages."

In this article I will compare and contrast the traditional "frontier" to the "ex-gay" movement of the 21st century. I will argue that the "ex-gay" experiences follows suit with the structure of a classical "hero myth" (myth meaning truth). I will also flip the tables as I introduce new perspectives into the "frontier" and change the roles of the "heroes" and "savages." Finally, I hope to present a resolution to the new "wars" that are taking place on the "frontier."

The myth of the "traditional frontier" is our oldest and most characteristic myth, expressed in a body of literature, folklore, ritual, historiography, and polemics produced over a period of three centuries. The original ideological task of the Myth was to explain and justify the establishment of the American colonies. Conflict was a central and peculiar feature in the process of American development in the colonies. As a result, the "savage war" became a characteristic episode of each phase of westward expansion.

In each stage of its development, the Myth of the Frontier relates the achievement of "progress" to a particular form or scenario of violent action. Therefore, the image of the "savage wars" becomes the symbol of "progress" for American history--regeneration through violence.

The frontier would therefore be considered a violent and dangerous place to be. Settlers response to the frontier is that it is the "country that [kills] our children." The frontier is not a safe place unless we (the White man) make it a safe place. They make it safe by destroying the “enemy,” or the “others.” In the eyes of many Christians and Church leaders, the world can be perceived as a "dangerous place." The world teaches "sinful behaviors" and there are many individuals that are "lost in the world." Their response to the "new frontier" is that we (the Church) need to deliver "redemption" to the world. It has become the Evangelical credo that we must "save the world through Him (Christ)." There are Evangelical leaders that have called the Evangelical movement a "spiritual war between good and evil." Unlike the "savage wars," there isn't the bloodshed and lives being ended in the attempt to "save the world" from sin--at least not since the Crusades. In this battle there is a struggle for the Christians (the presumed heroes) to save the “others” by saving their souls. How is this done? Forcing assimilation. Much like the “Great Americans” did with the Native Americans.

How does this apply with the “ex-gay” movement? Well I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. I argue that the “others” are the LGBTQ individuals (closeted and out). In the attempt to make the frontier safe, or free of sin, “ex-gay” leaders try to change the lives of LGBTQ individuals. Like the traditional frontier, there is violence in which they try to achieve regeneration on the frontier. Spiritual violence. Through the abuse of Scripture and the misuse of religion “ex-gay” leaders have destroyed the souls and inner well-beings of individuals to a point where they “convert.”

To be continued...Part 2 coming soon!