Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Dutch TV station apologises for interview with a "cured" gay man

This is more or less a translation of an article in the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant. I've included my own contribution where I thought was necessary and my own thoughts on the case afterwards. 

Thony. Photo from his Intagme profile
A week ago the Dutch TV channel EO (Evangelische Omroep - Evangelical Broadcast) published on its youth website BEAM an interview (in Dutch) with the 19-year-old Thony Kraamer, who says that God helped him put an end to his gay lifestyle. The interview caused a lot of reactions and a storm of criticism from individuals and organisations. 

In the interview Thony tells about his life in the gay scene: "Every weekend I was in the sleaziest bars and clubs. I would go up on the dance floor, dress up as a girl, use hard drugs, have one boyfriend after another and still cheat on them... I did literally everything that God has forbidden."

Then he says he decided never again to have gay relations: "Whether I'll live my life as a single man or maybe find a wife, I'm looking positively towards the future. I'm giving my life to God."

EO received a storm of criticism after publishing the interview. Kraamer's statements were considered as reinforcing a stereotypical and negative image of homosexuality. 

Today (17 February) EO apologised for the interview. In its statement, the channel said that the aim of BEAM was to tell different stories and opinions and to think, together with its audience, what these stories mean to them: "But it didn't work. Thony's intense story brought to many homosexual readers associations with rejection, estrangement and grief. This should never be the consequence of a personal story, regardless of our good intentions... if we have hurt you, we are very sorry."

So this was the article and I have to say, hats off to the EO for the apology. I followed part of the Twitter storm that fell on them a few days ago and they were very careful to reply to most Tweets respectfully and say things like "this is just one personal story, we also have other stories, and we think they should be heard". And this is admirable for a Christian TV station and indeed the different stories of young people should be heard. If anything, I'm more angry at Thony and I want to share some thoughts about the whole debacle. 

If you read the interview from the link above (e.g. with Google translate), it actually starts off quite nicely - Thony felt different all his life, played with dolls, dressed up in girls' clothes, didn't like his first kiss with a girl... Then (I don't know when - I guess 16-18 years old?) he came out as gay on Facebook and received very positive reactions from his friends and classmates. Something that many people don't have! Then apparently his "crazy gay life" began - going to bars and clubs, doing drugs, having sex with random guys, boyfriend after boyfriend, webcamming for money... Until he felt he had hit rock bottom.

So first of all, Thony seems to be rather transgender/gender-dysphoric than a gay boy. By his own admission, he dressed up in women's clothes, wanted to be a woman and even asked his house doctor for a referral to the "gender team". Perhaps the clubs, drugs and promiscuity were just an acting out of his anxiety over his gender dysphoria? Perhaps if he had had more support and understanding, both from himself and his family, he would've transitioned and lived a happy life as a woman? Instead of denying everything he is and "giving his life to God". As if gay/transgender is incompatible with God... 

But let's say he is a gay boy, since he considers his previous life to have been gay. In my opinion 18-19-year-olds are expected, or at least excused, to live a crazy life of promiscuity, drugs and clubs (always in moderation, boys!!). The realisation that this is not the life you want should come later. But at whatever age, this realisation should lead you to focus more on yourself, your personal development, education, career and improved relationships with people, in other words, find "the golden mean". Not go from one extreme - parties, drugs and sex, to the other - celibacy and denial of your sexual desires. Most of life, most of happiness, is somewhere in between the extremes. 

But figuring out where the "golden mean" is and how you can be happy there takes wisdom and maturity, which a 19-year-old typically doesn't have. And I have the feeling that Thony's "rebirth" as a God-fearing, law-abiding, hetero-wannabe was strongly encouraged, if not forced, by outside - family or church community. And to be honest, I also have the feeling it won't last forever... 

Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret.
You may drive out Nature with a pitchfork, yet she still will hurry back.

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