A coalition of organisations monitoring groups claiming to convert gay people back to heterosexuality, have criticised the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuals (NARTH) after a member advocated teasing transgender children to “re-establish that necessary boundary.”
NARTH Scientific Advisory Committee member Joseph Berger said on a blog in reaction to a San Francisco Chronicle article on gender identity issues, “I suggest, indeed, letting children who wish go to school in clothes of the opposite sex – but not counselling other children to not tease them or hurt their feelings.
“On the contrary, don’t interfere, and let the other children ridicule the child who has lost that clear boundary between play-acting at home and the reality needs of the outside world.
“Maybe, in this way, the child will re-establish that necessary boundary.”
I actually kind of have to thank NARTH, because they’ve answered a question that’s long bothered me, even though I think I’ve known the answer all along.
About a year ago, I posted about a christian group that objected to anti-bullying programs that include protecting gay students from harassment and bullying. Before launching in to an account of my own experience with bullying (as a skinny, effeminate, nonathletic, bookish, bespectacled, black gay boy growing up in Georgia during the Reagan era), I tossed off this snarky summation of why this group and others like it would object to anti-bullying initiatives that protect gay students.
I can just see the flyers now: “Safe Schools for Sodomites is Sin!” After all, a good beating might be just what movtivates them to give up their abominable lives and turn to Christ. Just make sure you bash out of love.
Now, NARTH has pretty much taken my snark and turned into something closer to truth. By their definition, a little bullying might have been just what a sissy boy like me — who preferred dolls to dodge-ball, reading to recess, and folding paper fans to catching forward passes — in order to scare me straight, or at least back into the perceived “necessary boundary” of what a boy was supposed to be, want, and become. And considering how early kids learn homophobia, the teasing and taunting NARTH recommends can’t start early enough. Because it’s never too early for a skinny sissy boy like me to learn a healthy sense of self-hatred and respect for that “necessary boundary.”
After all, what’s a bloody nose or a bruised psyche if it saves a soul? If administering an extended beating to a random queer can be justified as an attempt to scare him straight, surely a few playground taunts and shoves are just a more benign way of extending a helping hand to a gender atypical kid whose identity or orientation threatens that fragile “necessary boundary.” To that end, maybe schools should give teachers a copy of James Dobson’s tips on spotting a queer, which includes “a susceptibility to be bullied by other boys, who may tease them unmercifully and call them ‘queer,’ ‘fag’ and ‘gay.'” For that matter, maybe all students should be schooled on how to spot, and target, their queer classmates, and make it a group effort to smear the queer in order to steer the queer back on the beaten path.
Seriously, it’s never too young to start.
I’ve always suspected that the conservative objection to protecting gays from discrimination and harassment stemmed from an unspoken understanding that discrimination and harassment were both part of the punishment for existing outside of the “necessary boundary.” By extension, to prohibit discrimination and harassment would have the same effect as, say, contraception in the arena of sex: getting in the in the way of divine punishment.
But NARTH has shown me how wrong I was. Now I understand why they object when legislatures pass bills like the one in California, to prevent anti-gay harassment and discrimination in schools. When conservatives harass us or discriminate against us, they’re only doing it for our own good.
Basically, the masked slipped, but this time they actually realized it.