Hollywood trailers for the currently-screening I Am Michael movie declare it’s the true story of a gay activist who became an ex-gay evangelical pastor, but in real life the man the movie is based on said he is not ex-gay nor an evangelical pastor. He legally changed his last name and moved back to San Francisco, the gay capital where he used to publish sexy pre-twink teen magazines. 

Michael Glatze (played by James Franco) has rejected evangelicalism as fiercely as he once rejected his LGBTQ identity. On his recently defunct blog Glatze hid his identity from his audience by changing his last name to Elliott before he published harsh condemnations of evangelicals as “heretics” and mocked what he calls “the evangelical gospel.”

James Franco and Zachary Quinto star in the film "I Am Michael" directed by Justin Kelly

James Franco and Zachary Quinto star in the film “I Am Michael” directed by Justin Kelly

But the former twink-turned-pastor is not ready to publicly come out either as an ex-evangelical or as queer. He avoids labels, though he said he is comfortable being called bisexual. So far he remains in his (childless) marriage since the camera-friendly wedding in 2013. It’s hard to tell if the picturesque wedding helped sell Hollywood on making his movie, starring Franco and directed by Justin Kelly.

In the movie version of his life, Michael was living his happily ever after in God’s country, rural Wyoming in a single-wide trailer they called the church parsonage. Now he is in his very urban apartment near the intersection of Bush and Stockton streets where you can find a liquor store at the corner and gay bars just a hop, skip and a jump away, as his rural evangelical congregants might have expected in “Sin” Francisco.

He’s happy there, he says, and added he has many gay friends. Michael does not wish to talk about his sexuality. Gay  men who wed women rarely do.  Though few go so far as to legally change their name. But Michael (Glatze) Elliott, has never been one to follow the usual path. He became a born-again Christian in 2003, then a Buddhist a few years later, left the Buddhists, went back to the Buddhists, became a Mormon, then an evangelical, and now looking into possibly joining the Catholic church.  Time will tell.

As the New York Times review of I Am Michael said, “Michael’s repetitive spiritual flailings quickly become tiresome. His wishy-washy soul-searching isn’t nearly compelling enough for us to care whose bed — or church — he winds up in.” And I agree. He is not ready to deal directly with his issues, but this article is not about one man. It is about the message that the movie is sending out.

While the movie is actually multi-dimensional, conservative audiences are literally buying the narrative of a gay activist becoming a heterosexual. The main point of this article is that the ‘gay turned straight  message’ is not true.

James Franco stars as Michael Glatze in "I Am Michael," directed by Justin Kelly

James Franco stars as Michael Glatze in “I Am Michael,” directed by Justin Kelly

Every medical association has explained for years that sexual orientation is not a choice. And starting in 2011 many leaders of ex-gay ministries around the world admitted no Christian changed orientation to heterosexual. Ex-gays who stayed in heterosexual marriages happily were bisexual all along, but the divorce rates for so-called mixed-orientation marriages are so bad that it is a terrible idea to advise a straight person to wed a gay one. See the Straight Spouse Network to understand the damage that happens to the person often ignored in the debate: the straight spouse.

But what about the idea that coming to Jesus and repenting will make a gay person straight? Every major, decades-old ex-gay ministry from the US to Australia closed their doors forever after 40 years of change promises and claims that turned out to be misguided. (Google “Exodus international closes” and  “Exodus admits gays can’t change”)

And reparative gay conversion therapy, which is not a medical therapy and not recognized by any medical association as such, has been proven in court to be consumer fraud (JONAH case). The FTC is looking into other gay-curing groups such as Journey into Manhood, which claims to heal homosexuals in a weekend romp in country cabins by providing the men with “magic bean seeds” (I kid you not).

So, why did Franco make a movie promoting an ex-gay’s story? The 2011 article “My Ex-Gay Friend” from the New York Times Magazine about Michael was so compelling a twist on a gay theme they thought they had a living example of a gay who chose to leave homosexuality behind. Franco is not fully aware of the harm done by ex-gay claims.

I think by the time Franco and director Kelly realized that Michael is not what he claims in more ways than one, they were ‘in too deep’ (pun intended) and so they tried to find the heroic in their hero. But, as the New York Times review concluded, “Michael comes across as a thoroughly unlikable hypocrite, spouting hateful religious rhetoric one minute and ogling young men the next.”

Yet, the film will be used by evangelicals as ‘proof’ their local LGBTQ kids and adults can change their sexual orientation. Ask yourself if that is what you want to put your dollars into? Evangelical churches are planning screenings for the entire congregation unaware the subject of the movie rejects them with all the hellfire and brimstone that they use against LGBTQ people.

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