My Ex-Gay Friend

Published: June 16, 2011

One Saturday afternoon last winter, I drove north on Route 85 through the rolling rangeland of southeastern Wyoming. I was headed to a small town north of Cheyenne to see an old friend and colleague named Michael Glatze. We worked together 12 years ago at XY, a San Francisco-based national magazine for young gay men, back when we were young gay men ourselves.

Though only a year removed from Dartmouth when he arrived at XY, Michael had seemingly read every gay book ever written. While I was busy trying to secure a boyfriend, he was busy contemplating queer theory, marching in gay rights rallies and urging young people to celebrate (not just accept) their same-sex attractions. Michael was devoted to helping gay youth, and he was particularly affected by the letters the magazine received regularly from teenagers who were rejected by their religious families. “Christian fundamentalists should burn in hell!” he told me once, slamming his fist on his desk. I had never met anyone so sure of himself.

Many young gay men looked up to him. He and his boyfriend at the time, Ben, who also worked at the magazine, made a handsome pair — but their appeal went deeper. On weekends we would go to raves together, and I would watch as gay boys gravitated toward the couple. Michael and Ben seemed unburdened (by shame, by self-doubt) and unapologetically pursued what the writer Paul Monette called the uniquely gay experience of “flagrant joy.” But unlike some of our friends who rode the flagrant joy train all the way to rehab, Michael and Ben rarely seemed out of control. There was a balance — a wisdom — to their quest for intense, authentic experience. Together they seemed to have figured out how to be young, gay and happy.

I thought about those times as I pulled my rental car into the Wyoming town where Michael now lives. A lot had happened in the decade since we last saw each other: he and Ben started a new gay magazine (Young Gay America, or Y.G.A.); they traveled the country for a documentary about gay teenagers; and Michael was fast becoming the leading voice for gay youth until the day, in July 2007, when he announced that he was no longer gay.

“Homosexuality came easy to me, because I was already weak,” he wrote in the opening line of an article for the far-right Web site, WorldNetDaily.com. He went on to renounce his work at XY and Y.G.A. “Homosexuality, delivered to young minds, is by its very nature pornographic,” he claimed. In a second WorldNetDaily article a week later, he said that he was “repulsed to think about homosexuality” and that he was “going to do what I can to fight it.”

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