It’s Okay, Some Of The Bachmann’s Best Friends Are Ex-Gay

Remember when Sarah Palin produced a mysterious and still-unnamed (although allegedly confirmed?) gay friend out of nowhere to contest accusations of being a homophobe? (Which led to what is still my favorite Dan Savage campaign ever?)  Palin ended up being written off more as a ditz or a kook than a bigot, but the anecdote stuck. And now, in this year’s presidential election, the newest Controversial Female Republican Candidate can make a similar claim — only for Michele Bachmann, it’s an ex-gay friend – Janet Boynes, “ex-lesbian”  and founder of Janet Boynes Ministries, which provides ‘ex-gay’ counseling to those who seek it.

The extent of Boynes’ personal friendship with the Bachmanns is unclear. Most of their references to each other seem to be professional – in her memoir, Called Out: A Former Lesbian’s Discovery of Freedom, she thanks both of the Bachmanns for the fact that “[they] never left my side when things got tough.” In Marcus Bachmann’s allegedly-not-a-provider-or-supporter-of-ex-gay-therapy therapy clinic, there’s a whole display of said memoir, along with a description that says, “Janet is a friend. I recommend this book as she speaks to the heart of the matter and gives practical insights of truth to set people free.”

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By all appearances, the relationship between Boynes and the Bachmanns seems centered entirely around ex-gay therapy. Boynes has appeared with Michele Bachmann at conferences, speaking to the point that gay people choose to be gay. It’s unclear how they met or how Boynes originally became the ‘sidekick’ that she is now being referred to in media coverage. Bachmann blurbed Boynes’ 2008 memoir with:

Janet’s life is a powerful testimony of the changes that Christ can bring through His healing power from the bondage of sin. To see Janet is to see the face of joy, freedom and peace. I wish everyone could meet this dynamic, young, Christ-filled woman who has dedicated her life to spreading the joy that she has found in a deep relationship of forgiveness from the Father. I hope everyone listens closely to Janet’s compelling testimony.

So it seems safe to assume that whatever relationship Boynes has with the Bachmanns existed three years ago when Bachmann was still a senator. But where did it begin, and what’s the basis behind it? Does Boynes drop by for informal barbecues and church socials at the Bachmann’s on weekends, or is this a more pragmatic arrangement? It’s clear what Boynes would get out of Bachmann’s endorsement of her book, and a continued association with a rising politician with a fervent following. What would the Bachmanns get out of an association with Boynes?

BACHMANN AND BOYNES AT 2006 GOP CONVENTION - PHOTO CREDIT MICHAEL M

Although they’ve backed off from it in light of the election, the Bachmanns used to take an even harder line on homosexuality than they do now, with gems like referring to it as “personal bondage” and references to Satan. While they may have given up the overt agenda — for now — of relegating homosexuality back to the status of a treatable disorder, and protecting innocent people from its ravages, there was a time before presidential candidacy when it was an explicit goal of theirs. Back in 2008, Boynes’ story was hugely valuable to them – considering that the vast majority of ‘ex-gays’ are male, and often their ex-gay statuses don’t stick when they return to living openly as gay men. But Janet Boyle has been an “ex-lesbian” for 13 years now, and her rhetoric matches up perfectly with the Bachmann’s.

“I was not born homosexual,” Boynes writes in her memoir. “I made a decision.” In her telling, a slew of environmental factors tempted her to make that decision, the way a weakened immune system might make the body prone to infection. Boynes writes that she was born into poverty in Norristown, Pa., one of seven half-siblings by multiple fathers. Her mother was abusive and unloving. Her father was absent. A stepfather molested her. She was tough and tomboyish and liked sports, and people teased her that she might be gay. “Then you start thinking, ‘Well, maybe I am gay,’ ” Boynes told me. She grew up attracted to both men and women, she writes, and in her 20s left her fiancé for a woman, beginning 14 years of lesbianism.

But now it’s an election year, and times are changing – while she can’t and hasn’t tried to take back any of her previous statements about gays, Slate reports that her current response to reporters when asked about the topic is “I am running for the presidency of the United States. I am not running to be anyone’s judge.” If that’s the case, then ties to Boynes might be less beneficial than they once were. What does that mean for Boynes? If Sarah Palin’s “gay friend” was trotted out for the spotlight in honor of the 2008 election, does that mean that Janet Boynes is going to be shoved back behind the curtain – an ex ex-gay friend?

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Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over books and news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy."

Rachel has written 771 articles for us.

22 Comments

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    The thing that gets me about so-called “ex-gays”… if you can easily switch to being happily heterosexual and if you admit that being gay was a choice for you, then in my opinion, you were probably never REALLY gay to begin with. So, you know, good for you, I guess… but that doesn’t mean that’s what going on with the rest of us. I mean, plenty of people out there “try out” homosexuality or choose to be in a same-sex relationship for a plethora of reasons… if they choose to go back to heterosexual relationships or choose to swear off same-sex relationships, sorry but that does not make them into an ex-gay. Sheeesh.

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      Well, and if you read some of the articles that give more quotes from her and her book, it seems pretty clear that she isn’t a str8 girl who played at being gay, but that she was gay, and still is gay. Really, to me she’s just trying to deny who she is b/c of fundamentalist Christian indoctrination. It’s very sad to me, I feel sorry for her. On the other hand, I am not too happy with her projecting her internalized homophobia onto the rest of us. :(

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        That is the opposite side of that ex-gay coin, I suppose… I am not going to lie: not overly familiar with this particular woman and therefore just generalizing about the “ex-gay” thing in general… What you said is very sad. I can’t imagine living like that.

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        To me this quote from the article- “she grew up attracted to both men and women, she writes, and in her 20s left her fiancé for a woman, beginning 14 years of lesbianism” makes it seem like she’s bi but was in a long term relationship with a woman.
        So more like she’s bi and choosing to ignore/avoid the other half of her orientation. Which in my opinion is still tragic and unhealthy, but a little easier than if she were a lesbian and ex-gay.

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          I don’t know, I haven’t read her book (god forbid), but from the articles I have read, she doesn’t seem to really much be into men. Maybe the authors are just picking quotes to support the point they want to make, but she seems to obsess a lot about her attraction to women, and not really say much about men. In fact, she doesn’t really seem to have been with any men since she kicked out her GF (and her GF’s daughter!).

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      If someone had to fight to be an ex-gay, I don’t think they were never gay. I don’t know if you’re reading the situation correctly. I think the reason ex-gays are so sad is that they aren’t ex-gays. They can’t be. They are still gay. They are just in denial, delusional or something. I can’t imagine knowing you’re gay, admitting it and then thinking you can reverse it. But I sure do know in my early teens what it’s like to be in denial about your feelings and covering them up with other feelings (for me it was gay-hating! Yay!). I assume ex-gayness must be something like that, only more fucked up.

      $100 says in a few years, this woman flees the country to live in a remote hut with some other ex-gay lady.

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      Right, she says, “Boynes told me. She grew up attracted to both men and women, she writes, and in her 20s left her fiancé for a woman, beginning 14 years of lesbianism.”

      It is clear that she is bisexual and always was and still is and always will be. Bisexual people can choose to be faithful to one partner, I am. Being bisexual doesn’t make someone promiscuous.

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    I never know what to say when I hear about people who are convinced they are no longer gay. Apparently their hearts and minds aren’t open to the idea of the sexuality pendulum, or the spectrum, which both theories leave room for people whose sexuality isn’t black and white. Mine isn’t. I identify as lesbian and so does my partner, but we’ve both had relationships with men, and we’re not ashamed of those relationships. This ex-gay woman is ashamed of what she used to have with someone…is convinced it wasn’t real love. That sounds like a whole lotta hurt, to me.

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    I swear to god every time I hear about Michelle Bachmann she’s committing a fucking hate crime. Every time. I live in Minnesota, and all I wanna do is meet her, shake her hand, *then* tell her I’m gay and see how fast she runs for the hand sanitizer. She makes me want to hit something, cause every time she insults queer folks it’s like she’s personally slapping me in the face. This woman will *never* be president.

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    I don’t get what – I wasn’t born gay, I made that decision – sentiment has anything to do with gay being right or wrong? Decisions = free will and that is what is being blocked as far as the marriage issue goes.

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      Because people are far more empathic and sympathetic to people in situations they didn’t choose vs. ones they did. Does choice vs. birth change whether it’s right or wrong? I don’t really think so, but it does change the idea of whether gay people deserved to be treated like they are right or wrong. i.e. Poor person who lost all their money investing in risky stocks vs. poor person who lost all their money being defrauded. Someone in front of you in the hall who walks really slow because they are just an airhead vs. someone in front of you in the hall who walks really slow because they were hit by a car.

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    Anyone who has to keep their eyes on the ground at the gym to avoid checking out other women is def at least bi. It’s so sad to see someone who looked like a confident queer woman conform to homophobia and society’s view of what a woman should look like.

    Hopefully Bachmann will turn herself into a national joke, Sarah Palin style.

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