High-level official LeClair suppressed her sexuality for decades. Now that she's out, she's speaking up.
- Michelle LeClair survived rape, violence, and surveillance, and is now speaking out against the Church of Scientology.
- In her new memoir, Perfectly Clear, she details her harrowing story.
- The church promotes a culture of submission and fear, she says, and is seeking new avenues to retain members.
Michelle LeClair with her partner, Tena Clark.<p>Only, not really. LeClair was nearly ostracized a few years later when admitting to her lesbianism. The "very slow brainwashing and indoctrination" had taken hold. Her mother had paid for her first few sessions, including her 19th birthday present, but now she was all-in — the total she'd donate to the church in the coming decades was $5 million. Their response to her sexuality seems more voyeuristic than theological:</p><blockquote>They wanted every detail, every detail of my thoughts, every detail of my fantasies and had I ever acted on them. So I said I had exchanged kind of a sweet little kiss with one of my best friends in high school and they wanted to know the details of that. </blockquote><p>The Scientology Ethics Department had Hubbard's writings on homosexuality at the ready. Lesbianism, he writes in <em>Dianetics</em>,<em> </em>is responsible for the downfall of society — in the same category as sexual perversion and bestiality. In Hubbard's imagined emotional scale — the "charter of human evaluation" — homosexuality places you among the sickly and criminals.</p><p>How long to focus on this biography? How long does anyone remain controlled by fear and persuasion, falsities and threats? </p><p>A lifetime, for some. But not LeClair. She was in upper management at her price point, a business partner with Kirstie Alley, a spokesperson for Tom and Katie. To hide her sexuality she married a man who turned out to be abusive. A son was born. Then LeClair adopted an African-American daughter, Savannah, which sent him into a rage. Her twin boys were the result of him raping her, for which she was told the rape was her fault. </p><p>The backdrop for our interview: a president mocking a woman for not coming forward after her own story of abuse, her own origin mythology. A <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/10/02/us/politics/donald-trump-tax-schemes-fred-trump.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage" target="_blank">millionaire by 8</a>, this president has never confronted such a story; he's accused of creating his own. He'll never be told everything is his fault, or believe it if he is. LeClair was built of more compassionate material.</p><blockquote>This spiral of everything that's happening to me is my fault. It's my fault and it takes you right back to that moment of looking at those charts and reading quotes and thinking, 'I'm a bad person. Okay, I'm going to be a better wife. I'm going to try this time.' You get to a point where you close off and think — and any victim can tell you this — there is a side of you that in order to survive, you have to close that off.</blockquote>
Bennett Singer explains why coming out matters—for the LGBTQ community and the straight community alike, and especially for those who are not in a safe position to do so.
Not everyone is in a position where it is wise or safe to come out as gay, lesbian, trans, or bisexual—but for those who can, it is a heroic and revolutionary act. We've known that since Harvey Milk campaigned for gay people to make themselves visible to their families and general public: the more stereotypes are met as actual people, the less we fear what is different. There has been an incredible shift in acceptance over the last 30 years and Bennett Singer, co-author of LGBTQ Stats: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer People by the Numbers, puts it down to two primary things: media visibility and data collecting. Mainstream TV has steadily increased its positive portrayals of LGBTQ people, and prominent personalities like Ellen Degeneres are given prime time spots. Progress can also be measured by statistics, which increasingly reflect those people who have the courage to come out, and their families and friends who can now answer surveys more honestly. "Back in 1985 it was 24 percent of Americans who said they knew an open gay or lesbian person," says Singer. "By last year that had shifted up to 88 percent." Conducting these surveys is only half the power of them however, the rest is in the reporting of those stats. Acceptance works through a cycle of reminders and awareness, says Singer: "Growing awareness and growing reporting of this awareness leads to greater acceptance." Bennett Singer's most recent book is co-authored with his husband, David Deschamps: LGBTQ Stats: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer People by the Numbers.
If you want to know the state of equality in the US, statistics are a good place to start.
How many young Americans identify as 100% heterosexual? Where do LGBTQ people live? In what countries is same-sex activity punishable by prison or death? These are all things the stats can tell you, and Bennett Singer has spent the last few years collating the most recent research to paint a data portrait of LGBTQ life in the US. Creating the book was as eye-opening for Bennett as it will be for readers, from how many same-sex couples are raising children in Mississippi, to the stigma against bisexual people and the knock-on effects that has in health risks. The truth is in the numbers, and understanding what the lives of LGBTQ people are like is the path towards better policy decision and individual interactions. Bennett Singer's most recent book is co-authored with his husband, David Deschamps: LGBTQ Stats: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer People by the Numbers.