Episodes — 23 May 2011
Episode 8: Too Gay for the USA



1. Do you feel the Zooglio journalists framed the capture and “treatment” of Ken Asaba as a human rights issue? Why or why not?

2. Why do you think that some people harbor bias and negative views against LGBTQI communities?

3. What are some forms of discrimination and stereotypes that the LGBTQI community faces in our society?

4. How do negative attitudes and hate speech encourage violence against a population?

5. How might we be able to challenge negative attitudes and stereotypes about the LGBTQI community?

Additional Tips for Educators: Prior to the 1960s, public support for LGBTQI rights was not widespread in the United States. LGBTQI rights first began around the issues of same-sex relationships, which were framed primarily as “homosexual.” Homosexuality was widely understood as a form of mental illness and deviant social behavior that is voluntary, and was included as a mental disorder in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. As you learned in this unit, psychiatrists have attempted to cure gays and lesbians through the 1950s and 1960s using inhumane and cruel forms of treatment, such as castration, electroshock therapy, and lobotomies.

Homosexuality was also seen as a crime against “moral welfare“ in the U.S. Same-sex relationships were punishable under state “sodomy laws.” Prior to 1962, sodomy was a punishable felony in every U.S. state. In 1961, Illinois became the first state to strike its sodomy laws from its legal code. LGBTQI activists began openly organizing civil rights protests and campaigning for protection under the law after the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City. In 1977, Harvey Milk became the first openly gay politician elected to public office in San Francisco. States increasingly decriminalized homosexuality by repealing sodomy laws throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

A high-water mark for LGBTQI rights came in the 2000s, as five states and the District of Columbia legalized same-sex civil unions. Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court case of Lawrence v. Texas overturned all remaining sodomy laws in the U.S. in 2003. Following the election of 2016, the federal government stopped its enforcement of civil rights, resulting in a resurgence of anti-LGBTQI legislation at the state level, including new sodomy laws and anti-homosexual conduct laws.


In this unit you have seen that programs claiming to “cure homosexuality” often rest on wrongful claims that heterosexuality is the only “normal” way for people to have intimate or meaningful relations, or that homosexuality is a choice. This assumption has justified the inhumane treatment and social exclusion of many men and women simply because they did not conform to dominant understandings of gender, intimacy, and identity. Now, help educate those in your local community about these events, and about the problematic attempts to “cure” homosexuality.

Pamphleteering is a time-tested way to generate attention for a social or political issue. During colonial times just before the American Revolution, Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” was a short, portable argument against British rule of the colonies. You will make a small flyer containing facts about the history of LGBTQI rights and activism. You should include information (from the educator’s tips section) that highlights the struggles and victories that the LGBTQI community has faced in the United States.

What you will need:
• Information about the LGBTQI community in the United States; a useful starting point is the Safe Schools Coalition’s Living LGBT timeline
• Computer
• Printer
• Scissors
• Photocopier

(Alternately, for a non-digital flyer:)

• Pens, Markers, pencils
• Paper
• Scissors
• Photocopy machine

What To Do:

• Select some facts from the LBGT timeline that you feel will be informative to the general public.
• Include these in your flyer.
• Make sure you do not over clutter your flyer with too much information.
• Give your flyer a creative title that will grab attention, like “Being Neutral is not Enough.” Or, to riff off of Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense,” you can call your pamphlet “Curing Homosexuality? Common Non-Sense.”
• Consider printing 4 flyers per standard sheet of paper to make a total of 50 flyers.
• Cut flyers for distribution.


You have created these flyers for the public with important information and facts about LGBTQI history in the United States. Now, you will distribute them at a satirical public event that you will stage to generate interest and awareness around this issue!

Together with your friends, you will create a “therapy zone” in which you will “cure” members of the public. You may also select some of your group as your first patients. The therapy zone is where you will administer your “treatments,” and should be clearly marked off, with chalk or with a small folding table with a small banner or sign advertising your services. Alternately, you might want to place some folding chairs for your passing “patients” (the public, or other members of your group who pose as members of the public).

You will distribute the flyers you designed to passersby as part of the event. The flyer will alert passersby to the fact that the therapy zone is satire, and that you are calling into question the idea that non-heterosexuality is a choice, a wrong lifestyle, or is something that must be cured.

Steps to Stage the Event:

1. Identify some friends our classmates who can help you and will be willing to flyer, recruit participants or administer “treatments.”

2. To hold this event, you will need to find a place in your local community with heavy foot traffic to pass out your flyers and recruit participants for your therapy. A public park or busy sidewalk might be good starting points.

3. Before you start, divide the tasks. Decide who will recruit, who will administer “treatments,” and who will pass out flyers.

4. Those who have the flyers can pass out them out to passersby before they reach the designated “therapy zone.”

5. Those of you in the “therapy zone” can announce to passersby that you are giving free treatments to “cure” them or prevent them from choosing a homosexual lifestyle.

6. If you have enough people to act exclusively as recruiters, they can use slogans to recruit participant. The slogans you use to recruit participants should be fun and clever, but not crude or offensive. The idea is to highlight the absurdity of efforts to “cure” the LGBTQI community, not  to recreate the bias we are seeking to problematize and eliminate.

Some examples you can use are:
• “We’re hugging for the cure!”
• “Don’t be gay–eat chocolate and hug it out!”
• “High-fiving for heterosexuality!”

7. Feel free to be playful in thinking up “treatments”; the “therapy” you are administering should illustrate the absurdity of the claims to “cure homosexuality.” These treatments can include giving your participants free hugs, Hershey’s kisses, or high fives.

8. You might want to start your therapy with friends you have planted in the audience, to ensure you get off on the right track. This way the viewing public will have a sense that it is street theater.

9. If anyone asks what you are doing, tell them that you are raising awareness of the forms of discrimination and mistreatment of the LGBTQI community through humor and public outreach. You are calling into question the idea that non-heterosexuality is a choice, a “wrong lifestyle,” or is something that must be cured.

10. Be sure to have a digital camera or video camera on hand to take some footage or photos from the day, and upload them to the America2049 Facebook page. Include a caption or comment for each photo that expresses your thoughts and public reaction to your street theater.

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