Apple should have kept the anti-gay app

Article by Lauren Rosewarne /
The Punch /
March 28, 2011 /

Link to original unavailable /

One of my favourite episodes of Will & Grace involves Jack stumbling across the “Welcome Back Home” conversion program. It’s hilarious for two reasons: one, because Jack cunningly chooses to think of the group as “Welcome Back Homo” and two, as the episode amusingly shows, washing that gay right out of your hair isn’t all that simple. Or successful.

My interest in conversion programs is two-fold. I find them stupidly hilarious as Will & Grace and But I’m a Cheerleader and Saved and Boston Legal and Big Love and plenty of other examples testify. As a sex researcher I am also thoroughly fascinated by them in all their fraudulent, exploitative and depressingly sad glory.

But offensive? No, they’re not offensive. At least no more offensive than creams designed to make dark skins light. Or curly hair straight. In fact, the gay cure app was perfectly in line with the subtext of most products sitting on store shelves: that we’re defective without them.

In response to the slew of protests about the gay cure app, Apple decided to pull the product.

A foolish and hypocritical decision in my opinion.

Don’t get me wrong, I completely understood popular disgust. It is, without doubt, horrendous that there are people who consider homosexuality a disease. But Apple’s decision to bow to the vocal theatrics of protestors is at most evidence of their inconsistent politics. And their complete disregard for choice.

Not that any of this is surprising, of course. Apple are masters at flip-flopping when it comes to homosexuality. Let’s cast our minds back to the launch of the iPad. The company quickly censored a graphic novel showing two men kissing. And then they uncensored it. First Apple hate the gays. Then they love the gays. Then they don’t know how they feel about the gays. Then they realise that the gays buy the computers too.

I am incredibly supportive of gay rights. Not solely because I believe in keeping my options open, but because of all the many things that people are be bigoted about, I don’t understand the ones to do with love and sex.

But as passionate as I might be about equality, I’m also passionate about choice. Whether you believe in biology or social construction it is always choice underpinning whether or not we act on our sexual desires. Perhaps we didn’t choose the thought, didn’t choose the tingling genitals, but acting on arousal is up to us.

And here’s the rub.

At this time in my life my sexual interests are legal and by and large popularly accepted. But this isn’t the case for everybody. I’ve been in relationships with men who’ve had all kinds of sexual interests that aren’t accepted by the masses. Interests which they themselves bitterly resent having.

Not everybody who is turned on by members of their own sex, or by sadomasochism, or by sex toys, or by erotic asphyxiation, actually accepts their fantasies. Not everybody wants to be turned on by this stuff and certainly not everybody wants to act on it.

Some people vehemently hate the places that their desires take them.

I truly despise that we live in a world where people feel that their legal sexual desires are unacceptable. I hate that there are people peddling these kinds of idiotic programs and I hate that there are customers for them. But stronger than my resentment for the products is my belief in supporting people’s sexual choices.

If I’m intent on championing everyone’s right to do whatever legal things they want to do under their doona, then I also need to advocate for their choice not to. If Apple are going to sell apps like Grindr then they also need to sell shonky, brainwashing apps designed by charlatans. It’s only fair.

That there are fascist organisations like the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality and Exodus International doing “research” and running vile conversion/aversion/punishment/deprogramming activities makes me sad, makes me outraged, makes me laugh. But if it’s okay for us to partake of gay sex and to download tacky hook-up apps, then it’s got to be okay for people to choose to think they can “reform” with the help of bogus technology.

© Lauren Rosewarne