06 March 2010

It's Just . . .

Today I attended the "Just Love" seminar at St. Paul's Cathedral in San Diego. Sponsored by Integrity, the Anglican LGBT advocacy organization, the seminar's focus was on so-called "ex-gay" organizations, who they are, what they do, and why they should be confronted and resisted. This would be outfits like NARTH, Love Won Out, Exodus International, and so forth.

Having never been through one of these organizations' programs and knowing only a few people who've actually flirted with so-called "change" therapy, I was eager to learn more about these groups, about whom I knew little but was already deeply skeptical. Why? Well, I've discovered that during the years I spent fighting my orientation on my own, I ended up adopting virtually every element of what they say will work to make a miserable gay boy happily straight.

There was only one problem. Doing all that made me a miserable pseudo-straight boy, while abandoning it made me happily authentic and gay. Just the opposite of what those ex-gay groups say should have happened. I've already given NARTH-affiliated Dr. Jeff Robinson a piece of my mind about that here.

This morning I heard from and afterward met & talked with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International who subsequently left it to marry his co-founder and is now an outspoken critic of the organization, Wayne Besen, founder of Truth Wins Out, a non-profit watchdog dedicated to exposing the misinformation spread by ex-gay groups, Jim Burroway, editor of Box Turtle Bulletin, a leading gay advocacy Web site, and Scott Long, Director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.

All confirmed my suspicions about all the ex-gay groups I've heard about. They distort research, misrepresent, spread fear and shame with myths like "gays aren't really 10% of the population, being gay is a choice and people aren't born that way, you can change your sexual orientation, and homosexuality is always abnormal." And then they charge you handsome fees for the privilege of trying to cure you of this thing they say is wrong. They leverage the insecurity of their customers into an income stream. They tell those customers they are possessed by demons, that they're damaged goods, "sexually broken," mentally ill, that they're not good enough for God. They lie continuously and they profit from their innocent, trusting clients' fears. Few things disgust me more than that. Naturally it's in their financial interest to continue spreading the fear that they can then charge people for trying to "cure." And several of these organizations have ties to LDS-affiliated people and groups like Evergreen International, Dean Byrd, and others. You can't sleep with the pigs without getting mucked up yourself, folks.

When confronted with their lack of success and constantly shifting, contradictory assertions, these groups refuse to engage in substantive debate. They back off claims that they offer "change" since "only God can change people." Further pressed, they concede that they can't promise changes in actual orientation, they can only teach coping skills. This is something I discovered on my own. It shouldn't be surprising that more than one prominent "ex-gay ministry" leader has ended up exposed for leading a secret life of gay promiscuity while publicly profiting from pretending to cure what he was secretly enjoying himself after hours.

Bottom line? I heard enough today to confirm what I'd suspected. These prominent ex-gay organizations are dangerous, dishonest frauds, perpetuating not only fear and insecurity, but also the popular perceptions that being gay is a changeable choice, that it's a perverse lifestyle. In so doing they also foster the kind of attitudes that lead to homophobic hate crimes against innocent people. So to any gay Mormon boy who's thinking of submitting himself to one of these organizations or any professional affiliated with them for "change therapy," I implore you to read the Web sites linked above first.

Dean Scott Richardson of St. Paul's Cathedral said two important things this morning. First, it's important for people of good faith to be against things from time to time, things like these "ex-gay ministries" that are pernicious and damaging. But it's just as important for those people to be for something positive, in this case, to be for the idea that we can and should do our part to turn the human race into the human family, for whom the promises of the pledge of allegiance really do come true: liberty and justice for all.

1 comment:

Evan said...

I want my $50 back from Focus on the Family... Love Won Out was a total waste and I left so frustrated.

The "ex-gay" (I wouldn't really call it that) support group I tend to recommend the most is North Star. Why?
1. It's free.
2. They have rules that make sense.
3. Although there are some "crazies" in the group, I've talked with some of what in my opinion are the most tolerant folks ever.
4. And if I don't like the advice someone gives, I just disregard their response... since all discussions are done over e-mail, I don't have to sit and listen through anything.

Yes, they do often refer to sources like Evergreen and other support groups like Journey Into Manhood. But at the same time, it's easy to just ignore.

Speaking of which, I need to take that Evergreen link off of my blog.