Curing The Gays Of Our Gayness: An Open Letter To RTE

Hi there RTE,

I would say that I’m not normally one for open letters, but this is the second in as many months. Congratulations- you’re turning a first into a trend.

I’m afraid, though, that that’s all I can congratulate you on tonight. You see, I’m writing this to express, well, my utter outrage and disgust at the extremely irresponsible and damaging actions of your spokespeople tonight. Specifically? On The God Slot’s Twitter account.

The God Slot- that’s, as you know, a programme on your very own RTE Radio 1- published this tweet regarding their programme for Friday 17th January:


“Can gays be cured of being gay? Try The God Slot Fri 17.01”

When challenged on this, this was one of their responses:

"Can questions not be posed in this age of fascism masquerading as liberalism?" Pic credit @mattuna

“Can questions not be posed in this age of fascism masquerading as liberalism?”
Pic credit @mattuna

You deleted the posts several hours after they were made- a bad mistake, by the way, in a social media landscape where accountability is expected and screenshots are barely a click away.

There are several points I need to make on this. If I were you, I’d make sure I was sitting comfortably.

Curing “The Gays”

Let’s start with the idea of a ‘cure’, shall we? Let’s take a moment to ask a question- what is it that needs to be cured? That’s not a trick question, by the way- there’s an obvious answer. We cure illnesses and disorders. Sometimes those are things which we catch from others. Sometimes they are genetic, innate syndromes, inheritable conditions that require treatment. Sometimes they’re mutations in our cells gone wild. However we came about them, we cure- or attempt to cure- the things that are wrong with us.

Being LGBTQ- really, describing our entire community as ‘gay’ is so twenty years ago- is not something that is wrong with us. I don’t say that because many LGBTQ people feel that we were born with our orientations, or because our identities are as consistent throughout our lives as those of straight people. I say that because, unlike the homophobia, biphobia and transphobia that we live with, our sexual and romantic orientations are a source of profound joy, connection, intimacy, family and community.

When you ask if gays can be “cured” of our gayness, you don’t just ask if a particular characteristic can be changed- you assert that it is something disordered. And somehow, somehow you manage to do that in utter ignorance that the thing you are describing as disordered is one of the most transcendent experiences we humans have. You are saying that our falling in love- from the moment we meet someone who catches our eye, to the sparkling bliss of a new relationship, to building homes, supporting each other through our lives, all the way to holding each other safe and caring for each other through our final days- that this is a sickness.

Love is not a neutral trait. It is not something we can idly talk about ‘curing’. To ask whether we can be cured of our gayness- or, as you didn’t mention, of our bi-ness and our queerness- is to ask whether we can be cured of profound love, cured of some of our closest and most valued relationships.

A Question of Pointlessness

Let’s leave that for the moment, though, shall we? Let’s pretend for a second that you are not asking about a cure which would destroy families and tear loving relationships and marriages apart. Let’s leave the word ‘cure’ behind and simply ask, in more neutral and less homophobic terms: does therapy to alter a person’s sexual orientation work? Is this something that is still open to questioning?

If you ask the World Health Organisation or the American Psychiatric Association, the verdict is a firm ‘no’- conversion therapy does not work, homo and bisexuality are not disorders, and it is, in fact, unethical to attempt it. You’d get a similar answer from the American Counseling Association, the Pan American Health Organization, the UK’s Royal College of Psychiatrists- any legitimate, reputable organisation you can find. ‘Therapies’ with the aim of changing people’s sexual orientation are both entirely ineffective and profoundly damaging.

There is no question to be asked on this worth spending an hour on. To do so does nothing but foster the illusion that there is a debate to be had on this subject. The debate is over. It has been over for years.

And remember: this is not simply a clever topic to play with. This debate is about our families, our relationships, our ability to love. Is about ‘curing’ us of our partners, our husbands, our wives. It is about curing children of their mothers or of their fathers.

Let’s move on.

Fascists, Queers, and Remarkable Ignorance

I would have hoped that your staff, being professionals working in a field made up entirely of communication and sharing of perspectives, would be able to respond with dignity and respect to feedback. I would have hoped that they wouldn’t accuse LGBT people responding to them of “fascism masquerading as liberalism”.

I would have expected, RTE, that you would have some people employed to research the topics you’re covering* and the people being covered by them. I would also have expected them to show some competence. I would have expected them to have a basic knowledge of history, for example, and to know that describing LGBT people defending our right to not be ‘cured’ of our orientation as fascists is not only inaccurate, but deeply ignorant of the profound homophobia of fascism, both in its historical and current forms. Fascists kill queers. They kill- and if you go back a few decades, killed in huge numbers- people like me. How dare you use the label owned by people who have murdered countless queer people to describe a queer person defending their right to exist? How dare you?

And at the end of all of this, here is the apology we recieve:

You apologise if we are offended. You do not apologise for your words. You do not apologise for the damage they cause. You apologise for our feelings, not for your actions. And- to add insult to injury- you entirely ignore what you said after your initial tweet.

This is not good enough, RTE.

Edited to add: If you feel like RTE should be held accountable for their actions, you can send them a complaint here:

*On the off chance you’re looking for a researcher, by the way, I do have a couple of social science degrees and a bunch of postgrad research experience under my belt. Y’know where to find me.

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11 thoughts on “Curing The Gays Of Our Gayness: An Open Letter To RTE

  1. Bravo. Every question does not have two valid sides. Bigotry is not a position to make legitimate arguments from, and as far as I am concerned, anyone using fascism to describe someone telling them that their bigoted opinion is bigoted is contemptible.

  2. There is a right and a wrong side of history to be on regarding LGBTQ rights and RTE in their ignorance are just plain wrong. Between shows like The God Slot and Gay Byrne’s show The Meaning of Life I despise having to pay a TV license for such bigotry.

  3. Oh, the peevish whining of “Can’t I ask a simple question?” No, you can’t. Because it’s done, it’s over, we solved it, the vast majority of us are on board and society is moving on without you. The fact that you think it’s still important to ask your simple question shows willful ignorance of current issues facing “the gays”. Even if the programme concludes that conversion “therapy” is both ineffective and damaging, you are dragging the conversation backwards by about twenty years, and by doing it on national radio you are giving validity regressive narratives and LGBTQ folk.

    RTE is particularly slavish in its adherence to Two Sides to Every Story. See: every time an extreme right-wing pro-life group such as Youth Defence is given equal airtime to pro-choice representatives to make sure things are “fair”. It creates the illusion that their views actually have a lot of traction in modern Irish society, that they are representative of something other than a vocal fanatical minority whose tactics are getting more and more frantic in the face of logic and reason and basic human decency. It would be entertaining if it didn’t make it so difficult to actually advance the dialogue and foster meaningful debate.

    • OK, I actually cannot type. Last sentence, first paragraph should say “giving validity TO regressive narratives ABOUT LGBTQ folk.”

    • It’s interesting, though, that while they seem determined to show Both Sides to already-settled questions when it suits them, we still don’t have to sit through a flat-earther report after the weather. Nor, for that matter, are RTE programmes interrupted several times a day to call anyone but Catholics to prayer. Or to non-prayerful secular reflection, as the case may be.

      It’s an interestingly specific idea of “balance” that they have.

  4. Worth noting as well that as this is an RTE production, we are paying for it through our tv license fees. (yes even though it’s on radio). Is it any wonder that so many people refuse to pay them?

    • You mean the licence fee that they’re planning on making mandatory whether or not you actually have a TV? Out of touch doesn’t begin to describe it.

  5. Did anyone actually listen to the program? Was it left to the listeners to make up their own minds or did it reach the conclusion that there is no cure for being gay?
    Did they highlight the problem that there are still psychiatrists practicing in Dublin who try to cure gay teenagers?

  6. My tv license bill arrived today. Of all the bills and taxes I pay, that’s the one that galls the most.

    RTE, I want out !

  7. Pingback: The Terms of Their Surrender. | Roll to Disbelieve

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