Jason Cianciotto, executive director of Wingspan and former research director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, was subjected by his parents and a “Christian lay counselor” to forced isolation, repression, and eventually abandonment when it became apparent that “change” wasn’t really possible.
Columnist Anne T. Denogean writes about Cianciotto’s difficult adolescence in an article in the Tucson Citizen:
His mother and stepfather are evangelical Christians whose attitudes on sexual orientation were honed in the pews of Southern Baptist churches.
“I was raised in the church . . . to believe that nothing else existed besides growing up and getting married to a woman and having kids,” Cianciotto said.
As he entered his pre-teen years, his friends became interested in girls. He didn’t share their excitement. When he was 13 and becoming sexually active with other boys, his parents sent him to therapy.
“My family found a Christian lay counselor, who . . . taught me I needed to go as deep in the back of the closet as I possibly could. And if I just said my prayers, went to church and told my parents what they wanted to hear, I could stop answering embarrassing questions.”
His concerned parents restricted his activities, hoping to prevent or reverse the development of a gay orientation. Cianciotto wasn’t allowed, for example, to perform in school plays or musicals.
“I could be in the marching band because I was a drummer, so maybe that was more masculine,” he said, adding, “I kind of got back at them by being a xylophone player.”
Despite dating girls for appearances, Cianciotto was gay and was sent back to counseling from age 16 to 19 by parents hoping for a conversion. At his lowest point, Cianciotto considered suicide.
“I really wanted to be what my family and what my religion told me I needed to be,” he said.
His parents threw him out, at age 19, after finding gay porn in his bedroom and learning he had attended a LGBT student support group.
“I was at work and came home and found all of my belongings in plastic bags on the front porch,” he said.
Albeit unintentionally, Cianciotto’s mother and counselor acted to crush him — his interests, his skills, his individuality — through extremist gender-role stereotypes, isolation from his peers, intentional ignorance, religious judgmentalism, and sheer bigotry. Far from redeeming Cianciotto from a destructive and suicidal lifestyle, they promoted precisely that sort of lifestyle.
Cianciotto was luckier than some GLBT throwaways; he had a tolerant father and stepmother, and was able to gain support and guidance from tolerant friends — the sort of institutional and peer support that ex-gay activists seek to deny to GLBT youths when they battle against gay-straight alliances, safe-space programs, and Days of Silence.