In part one, Yvette Cantu Schneider shared some thoughts about her progression from a longtime activist with the "ex-gay" movement to her current state as a supporter of LGBT worth and equality. In this followup, we get into some of the nitty gritty of Yvette's work, her feelings toward the movement, and what she has to say to those who she might have hurt.
**This Q & A conducted was via email and social media throughout the summer of 2014. Portions have been edited for clarity.**
JEREMY HOOPER, GLAAD SPECIAL PROJECTS CONSULTANT: Thanks for doing this, Yvette. And thanks for reaching out to GLAAD for what is essentially your official "coming out" of the so-called "ex-gay" movement. As someone who followed your work, I know you were involved with that work for many years. All told, how long did you work as part of the "ex-gay" movement?
YVETTE SCHNEIDER, LONGTIME "EX-GAY" ACTIVIST: About fourteen years altogether. I started working for FRC in 1998. After my first daughter was born and I couldn’t work full time anymore, I worked as a consultant for Concerned Women for America. When my husband, daughter, and I moved from the DC area to the mid-west, I continued to speak at churches and to work with other interdenominational para-church ministries like Athletes in Action--an affiliate of Cru (formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ)--and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I wrote a booklet for them called Bridging the Gap: Reaching Lesbian-Identified Women with the Love of Christ. I was director of women’s ministry for Exodus from 2008-2010, after which I stopped working with the ex-gay and pro-family movements.
Yvette in 1998 report from PBS' Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly
HOOPER: You first came into national prominence when you became a full-time staff member at the notoriously anti-gay Family Research Council. Tell us how that came about. What made you decide to enter into the public policy arena?
SCHNEIDER: I had worked in college campus ministry in California, and had spoken here and there about my lesbian past, mostly in small groups. It certainly wasn’t where I focused most of my time or something I cared to talk about. Before I became a Christian, I was open and proud about my sexuality. I never hid my partners from my work colleagues or from my mom and sister. When my girlfriend and I exchanged rings and my mom asked us to take them off when my sister brought her boyfriend home from the east coast to visit, I refused. “She’s living with this guy without a commitment and I’m living with my girlfriend with a commitment. Why should I be the one to hide?” But once I became a Christian and was told that my sexuality was deviant and sinful, I felt ashamed about it. This may sound bizarre to some people—how I so quickly went from pride to shame—but when you’ve had a spiritual experience and seek to understand it by finding pastoral help, it’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing them as the experts, and believing their interpretation of certain Biblical passages without taking the larger picture into consideration. And without knowing that their interpretation is not the only interpretation.
A friend, who regularly appeared on Bill Maher’s TV show Politically Incorrect, asked if I’d be willing to tape a segment on a local Christian cable TV show about homosexuality along with Joe Dallas, whom I had met a few years before. The producer of the show recommended me as a speaker for a Christian outreach event a few months later. It was there that I met a few prominent behind-the-scenes figures in the pro-family movement. After hearing me speak, they asked me to make a video that they could show to Gary Bauer at FRC, and to Focus on the Family. FRC flew me to DC for an interview, and I started a month later.
The local church, and the church movement, I was a member of placed great value in public policy work. We had women’s meetings where we would discuss policy issues and write letters to our state and national representatives. I had been involved in these efforts since I began attending church, so it seemed natural for me to take my political bent to a larger stage.
HOOPER: I know you were at FRC before Tony Perkins took over as head, but who were some of your colleagues whose names GLAAD readers would know?
SCHNEIDER: Gary Bauer was the president of FRC when I started. He’s the one who saw a video of me speaking and asked his staff to interview me for a position there.When Gary Bauer took a leave of absence to run for the Republican nomination for president, Janet Parshall, of the national radio show Janet Parshall’s America (now In The Market with Janet Parshall), stood in for him as acting president. My direct boss at FRC was Bob Knight. He was also my contact at Concerned Women for American when I consulted with them. One of my co-workers in the Cultural Studies department at FRC was Peter LaBarbera. He divided his time between FRC and Americans for Truth About Homosexuality.
HOOPER: Tell us about the day-to-day at an organization like FRC. Would you say that what's said behind-the-scenes is even worse than what they say about us in public? Are people sitting around scheming ways to stick it to "the gays" all day, or is in many ways like working at any other company?
SCHNEIDER: When I worked at FRC, the only people actively dealing with the “gay issue” were the five of us who worked in the cultural studies department. We didn’t only cover gay issues, we dealt with entertainment (movies, TV shows, music) and other issues affecting the culture. For instance, I wrote and participated in briefings on Capitol Hill for such things as HPV—the human papillomavirus--and not only issues related to homosexuality. Any pow-wow sort of meetings were between leaders from several pro-family organizations on how to confront gay issues (marriage, hate crime laws, ENDA).
On several occasions, I heard conversations about how the culture would be better off if homosexuality were re-stigmatized on the playground. If boys would go back to calling other boys “f*ggot,” the cultural tide would shift against the acceptance of homosexuality as a normal orientation. Never were there conversations about the deviancy of lesbians, only gay men, and the “bathos” of the [transgender community].
Most of the people I worked with on a regular basis, within FRC and within the pro-family movement as a whole, had a principled approach to homosexuality. They stood against various gay rights because the dogma of their particular branch of Christianity taught that homosexuality was sinful, and they were determined to work for the glory of God. Some exhibited real compassion and concern for those involved in homosexuality. Others exhibited a clear repugnance for homosexuality, aside from religious beliefs, but wouldn’t blatantly express their views because Jesus calls us to love all people. I don’t know what conversations took place when I wasn’t in the room; I assume some people were sensitive to the fact that I had been in several lesbian relationships and were hesitant to say something that might offend me.
Where hatred for gays and lesbians was most pronounced, in my experience, was in some of the churches from my early years as a Christian. I remember one pastor in particular mocking effeminate gay men from the pulpit. It was shocking. I complained about it later to my mentor/discipler (the person directly above me in the church hierarchy, who counseled me and oversaw my spiritual growth). She agreed it was wrong, but nothing changed. I said, “How am I supposed to invite gay friends to church if something like this might happen when they’re here?” A different pastor later said, “Sure we love the sinner and hate the sin. But those aren’t the type of people we want here anyway.”
When my mentor forced me to tell my church friends and roommates about my homosexual relationships, no one reacted with revulsion. My mentor was surprised by this, lamenting that we as a culture had become inured to sin.
HOOPER: Many other anti-LGBT groups recruited you into their projects. You were featured in a notorious DVD called "It's Not Gay," which the American Family Association still sells on its website to this very day, despite controversy regarding some of the participants. What can you tell me about that experience?
SCHNEIDER: I remember being recruited for this project at the last minute. I believe I was speaking at the Southern Baptist Convention, or a similar event, and was asked by someone with AFA if they could interview me for a video they were making. A few minutes later, I was sitting in front of a camera answering questions. That’s all there was to it. I can’t remember the exact questions or who was asking them. It took about thirty minutes, and I was back to doing whatever I was in town for. It’s hard to remember the specifics of something that, for me, was impromptu.
I participated in a National Coming Out of Homosexuality Day event in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park that was sponsored by AFA. Jerry Falwell spoke via satellite, and Michael Johnston was the other “ex-gay” speaker. This was an event I didn’t feel comfortable with from the start. Going into an urban gay mecca such as San Francisco on National Coming Out Day seemed designed to provoke and that’s what it did. A young man in attendance threw a blueberry pie in Michael’s face when he finished speaking, which instantly made our tiny event the lead story on the local evening news. This event didn’t draw anyone who hated being gay or anyone looking for help or inspiration. The only people there were a handful of supporters recruited to attend, and a smattering of pissed off spectators. But I guess it accomplished its purpose, which was to draw media attention to people who say they’re no longer gay.
HOOPER: You also were a consultant with Concerned Women For America and did some work with Focus on the Family and its "Love Won Out" project. You've managed to hit up all the biggies! Did these groups tend to recruit you because they thought you were a hot commodity? Was that simply the kind of work you were passionate about at the time and you sought out these opportunities? Or something else?
SCHNEIDER: Bob Knight, who had been my boss at FRC (and who has always been my favorite person in the conservative Christian movement), started working for Concerned Women for America and asked if I would consider working with him as a consultant. I met with him, Sandy Rios and Lee LaHaye to seal the deal.
No one from the other organizations said why they asked me to join their projects. I can only guess it was because I was well-spoken and believable, and committed to—if not passionate about—the cause. I felt it was my duty as a Christian to champion Christian causes, and while I didn’t seek out opportunities, I rarely turned them away. I see it as similar to someone who is a gifted singer feeling obligated to sing in the church choir. They may love it (or not), but it is also a duty.
HOOPER: I've always felt that these political groups on the religious right see the "ex-gay" movement as their "ace in the hole"—a way for them to justify a "love the sinner, hate the sin" approach. That way they can spin their resistance to LGBT rights, protections, and accommodations as something other than discrimination, since they are supposedly working against a person's "chosen behavior" rather than the person as a human being. As someone who has been on the inside of so many of these organizations, would you say that is accurate?
SCHNEIDER: Yep. You summed it up perfectly. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
The way some Christians justify their efforts to deny LGBT rights is by saying, “It’s for your own good. You shouldn’t be living that way anyway.” When they can also say, “Look at this person who used to be like you and isn’t anymore,” it adds that much more power to the message. But there’s nothing in scripture that says discriminating against certain people in terms of rights and protections is okay. If you believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible—a collection of books a council of bishops originally voted on and ratified as the inspired word of God in the third century, 1300 years before the Protestants voted on their version of the Bible—there is still no precedent for forcing people to live by your religious values.
HOOPER: Did you often feel exploited?
SCHNEIDER: In the beginning, I didn’t feel exploited. I knew the people who asked me to speak, and I respected them. What I felt more than anything was relief that I would never again be under the thumb of the controlling and manipulative church I came from, because my new endeavors didn’t involve them. Why didn’t I leave? Everyone wants to know that. I didn’t leave because everyone I knew was in that church movement. There was nowhere for me to go. If I left, I would be leaving my “family”. That’s what we were taught to believe.
Near the end, especially with Prop. 8, I felt that I was stripped of my individuality. If it hadn’t been me at an event, it would have been someone else. When a speaking engagement conflicted with my schedule, someone else was found to be the “ex-gay” voice. There was nothing I could add or contribute that was different from what anyone else could contribute. I had never met the people I worked with, nor did they care to know me. There weren’t any meet and greets or private conversations. It was all about showing up and delivering my lines. I hated that.
HOOPER: Another thing I find ridiculous about the anti-LGBT/"ex-gay" movement is the robotic way the spokespeople use the same workshopped words and phrases over and over again, often quoting each other verbatim while pretending their thoughts are original. Having read your book, I know that you are a bright and articulate woman quite capable of independent thought. Two-part question: (1) Was the language as carefully coordinated as I think it is? (2) Did you find that stifling?
SCHNEIDER: Everyone reads everyone else’s articles and listens to everyone else’s talks, then says the same things they said. It’s easier that way. But it isn’t only about unoriginal thinking, it’s about being on the same page. There are only a few ways to express the conservative viewpoint when you’re talking about policy issues. There isn’t room for deviation. Why are you against same-sex marriage? Why are you opposed to hate crime legislation? What’s wrong with employment non-discrimination? Why shouldn’t same-sex couples be allowed to adopt? Policy questions like that are difficult to deal with when the basis of your answer will always go back to your religious beliefs about homosexuality, and even conservative interpretations of scripture and church doctrine don’t offer unequivocal support for all conservative positions. So how do you answer those questions? You see how policy experts answer them and repeat their answers.
I think you’re seeing the result of how stifled I felt. According to the dogma of conservative Christian churches, we have to believe that homosexuality is sinful and wrong. Period. The problem for me was that I had to turn away from what I witnessed and experienced in my day-to-day life; I couldn’t allow myself to acknowledge what was glaringly obvious, which was that I saw an abundance of healthy homosexual relationships. My uncle has been with his partner for nearly 30 years. My ex-girlfriend from years ago recently married her partner in California after having been in a committed relationship with her for close to 20 years. They’re normal people, living normal lives. They have jobs, and hobbies, and families. There isn’t anything perverse or abhorrent about how they live.
A favorite tactic of certain sectors of the pro-family movement is to highlight the sexual behaviors of gay men. You never hear anyone talk about the sexual practices of lesbians. Women are rarely mentioned unless you’re talking about smoking or excessive alcohol consumption. The assumption is that the general public is disturbed by sexual situations in bathrooms, parks, or other public places, or by men acting flamboyantly during pride parades and celebrations. News of these types of situations could be used as fodder to demonstrate the supposed inherent depravity of homosexual men, implying that all gay men have it within their nature to lurk in bushes waiting to hook up with someone.
One outspoken conservative rabbi said to me, “I think male homosexuality is far worse than female homosexuality. But I’d never say that in public.”
I overheard two of my male colleagues talking one day about how women shouldn’t be allowed to vote because they (we) place their votes according to their emotions not according to reason. If women see images of happy gay couples, they’ll tend to think homosexuality is okay. But if they were to be exposed to what gay men do sexually, women would be more likely to vote against any gay-friendly initiatives. Men, on the other hand, are rational voters who can be trusted to see that homosexuality is wrong. I should have resigned that minute.
Many people I knew suspected all along that change—true change where all same-sex attractions disappear or become rare and incidental, and heterosexual attractions take their place—never happened. I can say I’ve never met an “ex-gay” man I thought was not still attracted to men and would not go back to gay relationships under the right circumstances. One of my colleagues tried to fix me up with an “ex-gay” man when I was still single. I said, “No way. I have no interest in dating an ex-gay man. I don’t trust that they’re actually ex-gay.” My colleague said, “The Bible says people can change—‘and such were some of you’—so you have to believe it’s true. It’s incredibly defamatory of you to believe otherwise.” The particular “ex-gay” man who was to be my date was caught having sex with a man about a year later.
That gay men could be considered “ex-gay” was questioned many times during my tenure at FRC.
HOOPER: It seems that every professional "ex-gay" spokesman has a very specific set of experiences that they share when they go public. Typically, they say were very involved with LGBT rights, they usually abused drugs and alcohol, they often talk about violence and other woes that they and/or their friends supposedly suffered, and so on. Reading over some of your past writing, I see you shared similar stories. I'm curious if anyone within the movement ever encouraged you to embellish your experience with the LGBT community in order to make "change" seem both more dramatic and more necessary?
SCHNEIDER: In the evangelical Christian world, a person needs to make a conscious choice to surrender to Jesus as their lord and savior. It’s also common for church leaders to call upon members to give their testimonies of salvation, to tell others how Jesus changed their lives. There is a clear, well-delineated pattern to salvation stories and testimonies. You start by explaining the problem, how you used to be a wretch (just like the song lyrics from Amazing Grace) and how through a series of events or internal experiences you now see the “truth”. The most famous conversion story is that of Saul of Tarsus who became the apostle Paul of the Bible, the author of the well-worn New Testament verses calling homosexuality a sin. He persecuted Christians until one day he was struck blind, fell off his horse, heard the voice of God and converted to Christianity. His pattern of wretchedness followed by conversion is the same one that everyone follows when telling their stories. No one ever encouraged me to say anything about my own story that wasn’t true, nor did they offer comments; I knew the expected pattern from the years I spent in the church prior to my public policy work. I don’t know if others embellished their stories or if they were encouraged to pad them to make them more convincing, either explicitly or implicitly. I do think we have goals when we speak to certain audiences, and fashion our stories to meet those goals, excluding some pieces of information and highlighting others.
HOOPER: I can't help but notice that your FRC bio from back then includes this passage:
"Her involvement with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) sharpens FRC’s policy analysis with an insiders perspective on the homosexual agenda. Her involvement with GLAAD, along with her personal testimony, make her a particularly effective spokesperson on a variety of issues affecting the family."
Following up on the above question: Is this GLAAD reference something that was more crafted than it was accurate? Or were you really that involved with GLAAD in the early '90s?
SCHNEIDER: I actually was involved with GLAAD in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s. I came out in 1987 when I was 21 years old. A year or two later, my girlfriend at the time found a flier for a GLAAD meeting at a small church off Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach. Two attorneys spoke, a man and a woman. They talked to us about the vision of GLAAD and handed out black and white, stapled together photocopied newsletters thanking those in the media who had positively portrayed gay and lesbians and exposing negative portrayals. They encouraged us to report anything we saw involving gays and lesbians in TV or in the movies. We were young and energetic, and eager to be involved in anything that would help improve the lives of people like us.
HOOPER: Let's talk about to the the Prop 8 campaign, which was sort of your next political journey. You spoke at "The Call" at Qualcomm Stadium, which was one of the marquee events on the pro-discrimination side. Here's a clip of that:
Tony Perkins, James Dobson, and a number of other prominent social conservatives were on hand. Any good backstage stories?
SCHNEIDER: I was told to be upbeat and to speak from my heart, as was everyone else in our pre-event meeting. For hours I sat on stage waiting for my turn, not knowing if I’d even have a turn, even though I had been flown in for this occasion. I spoke in the same group as James Dobson, about an hour or so after he addressed the audience and left. Miles McPherson chatted with me for minute. But it was loud and hot onstage and there wasn’t much to do but wait in silence for our turns. It wasn’t a very exciting event from a backstage perspective. The point of “The Call” was to rally people together to pray, and to create a sense of camaradere and commitment to action among the attendees. Lou Engle is a passionate leader and is very skilled at filling people with a sense of purpose. This event and the Fine Line event were key in urging people to vote for Prop. 8.
HOOPER: You mentioned Miles McPherson, one of the big preachers on the wrong side of the Prop 8 issue. As someone closely following that campaign, I vividly remember you appearing at McPherson's "Fine Line" event in the fall of 2008. The part I remember most is you equating marriage between two men or women with marriage that could theoretically take place between a man and a horse, a pedophile and his underage victim, and so on. Here's the clip:
I suspect that you regret using that language now, but was it language that you questioned using even at the time?
SCHNEIDER: There are very few statements I’ve made that felt as gut-twisting as this one. I’d have to say that moments like this, delivering lines like this, felt wrong. It’s better to have an “ex-gay” spokesperson say something as outrageous as this; it’s more believable. A male pastor would seem hateful saying such a thing. A woman who used to be gay is the perfect person to equate gay marriage with all sorts of possible marriage combinations, and, of course, the point is to scare people into thinking these scenarios could happen.
HOOPER: You say "delivering lines"—as in scripted? Were most of the Prop 8 events scripted like this one?
SCHNEIDER: “The Call” and the “Fine Line” events are the only two Prop. 8 events I participated in.
HOOPER: But you were handed actual scripts to memorize? Can we see them?
The truly deceptive part of the event was the people were encouraged to text and phone in questions, and the questions were displayed as if people had texted and phoned them in—but they were all prepared in advance. By whom, I don't know. That had nothing to do with me.
HOOPER: Enlightening! So Proposition 8 was ultimately invalidated after a lengthy court battle that made its way all the way up to the US Supreme Court. I suspect you have regrets about the campaign for many reasons, but does the fact that the whole thing was essentially invalid from the get-go make that experience feel particularly wasteful?
SCHNEIDER: I don’t know if I would characterize my involvement with Prop. 8 as wasteful. I realized during those events that my enthusiasm for pro-family political work had not only faded, but that I no longer wanted to be involved in it. So I was relieved when Prop. 8 was invalidated. Before arguments were presented to the Supreme Court, I emailed the attorneys representing the opposition to Prop. 8 and recanted my remarks.
HOOPER: After moving away from policy work, you eventually found your way to the most prominent "ex-gay" organization in America, at the time, Exodus International, where you served as director of Women's Ministries. What led you to Exodus?
SCHNEIDER: Alan and I had been friends for years and he asked me if I would be interested in joining the team. For several years, I had been working in a more ministerial capacity. Young men who were gay came to the church in the city where my family lived in order to be mentored and counseled by us.
Through my connection with AIA and FCA, I also worked with young women who were involved in lesbian relationships, and ministers who wanted to learn how to reach out to lesbians. So by the time Alan approached me, I had already been working in ministry for several years.
HOOPER: How did you feel when Exodus president Alan Chambers announced in the summer of 2013 that he was shuttering the organization?
SCHNEIDER: I hadn’t worked for Exodus for two or three years when Alan and the board of directors shut it down. My youngest daughter was diagnosed with leukemia in April of 2009, and I took a leave of absence, then was laid off when funding was down. The writing was on the wall for at least a couple of years that Alan’s views of “change” and the nature of homosexuality were at odds with conservative Christian dogma, and that it would lead to either a restructuring or a shut down. I respected Alan for taking a stand against judging the salvation of gay people rather than bowing to pressure to keep things status quo. So, much like when the Supreme Court nullified Prop. 8, I felt relieved that Exodus would no longer operate. But I knew a new organization would form. There were too many people who still believed in the possibility of change, even if by “change” they meant trying to ignore same-sex attractions.
HOOPER: I'm sure you must have spent time with former poster couple John and Anne Paulk during your years in the "ex-gay" lifestyle. I'm curious if you've followed John's recent (re-)coming out, acceptance, and advocacy on behalf of his life as a proud gay man?
SCHNEIDER: I spent quite a bit of time with John in past years, but haven’t followed his journey. His re-coming out is not a surprise to me, though. In fact, there are very few “ex-gay” people I know who would surprise me by re-coming out. I appreciate his candor. It can be scary to face the inevitable disappointment of former colleagues and friends.
HOOPER: Conversely, have you followed Anne Paulk's new organization, Restored Hope Network, which is notable for being one of the more hostile "ex-gay" organizations in recent memory?
SCHNEIDER: I haven’t followed Restored Hope Network.
HOOPER: Good for you. Restored Hope is uniquely fringe. A big "YIKES!" But of course that movement might face its ultimate blow if the legislation banning change therapy that's making its way from state to state takes hold, as it already has in New Jersey and California. I'm curious what you think of these kinds of bans.
SCHNEIDER: These types of bans need to progress throughout the nation as quickly as possible. Not only is the efficacy of change therapy dubious at best, but the type of therapy this legislation bans is specifically for minors. It’s damaging to take a child who is questioning his or her sexuality, or who may display qualities that are not in line with what our society considers normative for their gender, and communicate to the child (and parents) that there is something wrong with him, that in some way he or she is deficient. When their feelings fail to change, they’re left holding a big bag of shame instead of feeling empowered because they have embraced their authentic and multi-faceted self.
HOOPER: Okay, the biggie: How do you identify your sexual orientation now?
SCHNEIDER: I’ve always been drawn to intense emotional connections. I look for something about a person that excites me and makes me want to spend time with them and know more about them. Part of that, of course, is physical attraction. If the person happens to be a woman or a man is inconsequential to me. For most of my life I’ve been more attracted to women than to men, but my attractions also depend on personal qualities, not gender. Fifteen years ago when I met the man I would eventually marry, we had an instant connection. Anyone who knows us can see we’re soul mates. Could I have had an equally strong bond with a woman? Of course.
HOOPER: What is your message now to LGBT people, and specifically younger LGBT people, who might be struggling to accept who they are?
SCHNEIDER: My good friend’s teenaged son came out about 6 months ago. We knew he was gay the moment we met him when he was 9 years old, but we didn’t say anything until he chose to come out. He and I have had several discussions over the last several months; I told him, “Don’t let anyone define you. I let other people define me for years…decades. I let them, most of them pastors and ministers, tell me what was wrong with me, how I wasn’t good enough, how I needed to change. Don’t give anyone that kind of power over you. Be your own person.”
HOOPER: On that same note, what might you say to someone who tried one of the many "ex-gay" efforts with which you were involved, only to experience pain, hardship, or worse?
SCHNEIDER: The first time I attended a meeting for “ex-gays,” I had been a Christian for six years and was already working in public policy. A friend of mine, a gay man who was also a Christian, came to visit me, and we attended this meeting together. I had met the leader of this group, which is now defunct, a few days before, and he had invited me to drop in and check things out. The meeting started with everyone sitting in a circle. There were about thirty of us. The leader singled out my friend and asked him to tell the group why he was at the meeting. Instead of saying he was my guest and leaving it at that, my friend said he was there because he spent too much time watching porn online. The leader lit into him—told him he was dishonoring God, that he was a slave to his passions, that it was his choice to visit those sites and that he couldn’t stay away from them because he was weak, and he should feel embarrassed and unworthy of God’s mercy. It was difficult to listen to, especially in front of a room full of people. I should have done something or said something or realized that what I was witnessing was damaging, but I didn’t. Not only did I do nothing, I embraced this idea of “change,” which was really just manipulation and control, and, in instances like this, humiliation and disparagement. And for that I am truly sorry.
HOOPER: Finally, the entire enterprise to which you dedicated a decade or more of your life, from the ministries to the policy groups to the political campaigns, like to identify their cause as "pro-family." I sense you might feel otherwise, both in terms of the work and how some in the movement have been toward you personally. Yes?
SCHNEIDER: When my daughter was diagnosed with leukemia (I talk about this and many other experiences in my book), very few people offered their support for the long haul. Sure there was an outpouring of condolences in the first few weeks, which encouraged my family and made us feel loved. But that didn’t last. When things got tough and my anxiety went from inconvenient to debilitating, very few people stuck around to help, and the church—the one we tithed to—did nothing, even after my husband told them what a hard time we were having. All the talk of family and community was just talk.
Some friends of mine are a gay couple who have been together for thirty years, since high school. They are successful entrepreneurs who financially supported the endeavor to defeat Prop. 8 in California when it was on the ballot. Two years ago they told me they would have loved to have adopted a child, but felt that society was too unwelcoming of them and that they wouldn’t want to expose a child that kind of lack of acceptance. I was sad for them and for the child they would have had. I couldn’t help wondering where she ended up. She may have been adopted by a wonderful family or she may have been placed in foster care or in a group home. These men could have offered a child a comfortable, loving home. That’s what it means to be pro-family.
Thank you for your time, Yvette!
**Be sure to check out Yvette's powerful new book, Never Not Broken: A Journey of Unbridled Transformation! Yvette is donating 10% of the profits from her book sales to GLAAD.