The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Beyond Repair, Reprised

Good as you has a great rant posted about the “ex-gay” fallacy, and I can’t resist getting in on it, mainly because the part about the “countless folks who have left” the “ex-gay” lifestyle reminded me of a previous post titled “Beyond Repair,” that got lost in a database crash (thats what I get for not backing up my database regularly). In that post I linked to a few more such stories, as well as some articles from “reparative therapy” groups that have themselves abandoned the idea that they can change anyone’s sexual orientation

For what it’s worth, I’ve rescued the code from the Google cache and posted it in full here, just so I don’t have to go looking for it again. And because it seems like too good of a rant to let disappear, especially if it can be added to another great rant.

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Note: The discussion of homosexuality in black communities at The Black Informant continued today with an entire post dedicated to the question of whether anyone is “Born Gay.” Basically, he eschews scientific studies or opinions, and presents “testimonies” of “ex-gays” while declaring them “factual” proof of his belief that gays can change their sexual orientation. My last couple of comments seem to have been swallowed up by the internet, so I thought I’d post one of them here and at least trackback there. If nothing else, perhaps some discussion will break out here as well.

During the discussions on that post and a previous one, I’ve noticed some strange responses to some of my comments, that were just so weird that they leave me thinking that for all the discussion, Duane — as well as some of the commenters — aren’t even speaking the same language. First, a remark I made in response to the near obsession with “reproduction” to the effect that, thanks to the mystery of modern science, being gay doesn’t mean I can’t reproduce. I meant artificial insemination/surrogacy. Duane thought I wanted to get pregnant.

Another commenter thought I wanted heterosexuals to wear t-shirts declaring their orienation. Completely missing the reality that heterosexuals declare their orientation in myriad ways, on a daily basis, without the need of a t-shirt. Meanwhile, Duane doesn’t get the distinction that by simply going about my life as openly as the average heterosexual I’m not announcing what I do in the bedroom any more than the average heterosexual guy does by simply going about his life. Somehow the standard is different, and my family and I are either supposed to hide out in a cave somewhere, or just accept the consequences of discrimination or hostility.

To say the least, it’s been an adventure. Educational at times, and mystifying at other times. But It seems pretty clear that some of the participants in the discussion are as immovable in their positions as I probably am in mine.

So, what follows is my last contribution. I figured it should see the light of day here if not there.

On the first point, I’m aware that I’m in the minority (again) when it comes to sexual orientation. However, I disagree that being openly gay equates advertising what I do in the bedroom. It makes it clear who I’m with in the bedroom, same as for heterosexuals. If you’re married, and you introduce me to your wife, I know you  share a bed. But that’s all I know. I don’t know who does what to whom in bed unless you specifically tell me.

If I introduce you to my partner, you know who I share a bed with, but not what we do in bed. I’m not sure why you can’t see or refuse to see the distinction since it applies both ways. The way you put it sounds like the best thing for me to do would be to go back into the closet and stay there. Sorry, been there, done that, hated it, not going back.

On the testimonies you mention in the post, if I don’t know any of those individuals, how can I prove them wrong? By the same token I can post similar testimonials from ex-“ex-gays” (they do exist) who say that it didn’t work for them; that all it did at the most was make them change their behavior without removing the desire, and thus setting up a impossible psychological conflict for them.

You mention Anne Paulk, but fail to mention her spouse John Paulk and his “slip” in a D.C. gay bar a while back, which got him spanked by Exodus Int’l. The Paulk’s may still be married, but he’s not the ex-gay poster boy he used to be.

And there are “testimonies” from ex-ex-gays too; people like Ron Poindexter, who was involved in “reparative therapy” from high school until the age of 31 and found it didn’t work for him.

There’s John Evans, a founder of an “ex-gay” therapy group who wrote a letter to the effect that it doesn’t work and that he’s seen “shattered lives, depression and even suicide” among some participants in those groups. 

There’s Jeremy Marks, founder of another “ex-gay” therapy group who says “we learned this ministry policy was ruinous to the lives of people we were there to help.”

There’s Janet Rix, whose observation of cult-like tendencies in her “ex-gay” group led her to distance herself from it.

Within the group – and within myself as a member of the group – I recognized the unhealthy signs of addiction. The group fostered conformity and dependency rather than personal maturity and responsibility. I’d set an unrealistic goal, then work toward it until I felt exhausted, then feel like a failure because there were no results. I’d feel guilty as if I wasn’t trying hard enough and then start the whole process over again.

Wade Richards was another “poster boy” who spoke at national “ex-gay” conferences and gave media interviews, but realized after going through the whole program he was still gay.

Peter Toscano is another “ex-gay survivor” who’s created a performance piece about his experience in the “ex-gay” movement (soon to be a book). Toscano spent  years in one of those programs and decribes a “mock funeral” for one participant and a suicide attempt by another during that time. He also maintains a blog.

And there are more stories like those out there. There’s even a booklet about some of them.

Just last year there was a series of articles in Salon.Com stating that the very therapy you recommend failed some people and even left them suicidal.

Duane, you seem to disdain scientific studies and instead rely on “testimonies” like the ones you presented, and declare them “factual” proof of your point. But there are also personal “testimonies” from the opposite view, from people for whom “reparative therapy” not only didn’t work, but did more harm than good. What to make of those “testimonies”?

The same principle you mentioned for your testimonies would seem to apply: you can’t prove they’re not true, so you’d have to take them at their word too, as you say you have with those of us who have commented here. The only difference is who gets the blame when it doesn’t work, and typically “reparative therapy” advocates blame the individual for “not trying” hard enough, not “praying hard enough” or “not having enough faith,” etc., even after spending years and years in these programs. 

Put the two points of view together and it’s not a question of “It didn’t happen or work for ME, so they must be lying.” At best it’s a matter of “It may work for some people but not for others.” Human sexuality isn’t black and white, with everyone on one side of the line or another. It’s more of a continuum, with two extremes at either end and a lot of people at various points between. There are people who are somewhere between exclusive homosexuality (where I happen to be on the continuum) and exclusive heterosexuality, with stronger leanings in one direction than the other. Even then, attempting “reparative therapy” may not work for them.

Even christian organizations and publications have begun to make a shift towards that view, signaling a change in the conventional wisdom on the subject. The Catholic organization founded by Jeremy Marks, mentioned above, has stopped trying to change sexual orientation and shifted to encouraging those who come to them to simply “lead chaste lives”.

A 2000 article, “The Opening of the Evangelical Mind” notes what two Fuller Seminary Theological seminary sociologists a while back wrote:

We acknowledge that some gay Christians may choose to commit themselves to a lifelong, monogamous homosexual union, believing this is God’s best for them. They believe that this reflects an authentic sexuality that is congruent for them and their view of Scripture. Even though we hold to the model of a heterosexual, lifelong, monogamous union, our compassion brings us to support all persons as they move in the direction of God’s ideal for their lives.

Fuller’s culture of inclusion, though reluctant to endorse homosexuality, has no problem condemning homophobia. “It is important for Christians to understand the great pain many homosexuals have experienced and to be compassionate to them,” the Balswicks write, and many at Fuller agree. “Did God make gay people gay?” I was asked by Lewis Smedes, perhaps Fuller’s most famous theologian, who is now a professor emeritus. Obviously not, he said, for God created human sexuality to make children. But, he continued, God also did not ask mothers to give up their children — yet because they do, Smedes and his wife were able to adopt children of their own. “We have to do the best with what we have” is the lesson Smedes takes from his own life, and he sees no reason why gays and lesbians cannot be just as Christian as he is.

That same year, even Christianity Today wrote:

Too often our idea of such community begins and ends with referring people to a chapter of an “ex-gay” ministry like Exodus International and bidding them Godspeed. Evangelicals have much to learn from the Roman Catholic ministry known as Courage, which measures success more by chaste lives than by changed orientations. We affirm that God does heal wounded sexual identities, but we recognize that such healing often involves some of the most difficult psychological work imaginable. In a fallen world, insisting that all homosexual Christians must change their orientation is as reckless as the sexual Left’s stubborn denial that anybody can make such changes.

They’re all a long way from waving rainbow flags, but these statements suggest that even among people of christian faith, there’s at least some consideration on the subject of whether sexual orientation can be changed or not, and there doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus.

If nothing else, the jury is out. There isn’t any definitive prove that sexual orientation is or isn’t genetically determined, or that it can or can’t be changed; even you count personal “testimonies” as factual evidence. We don’t know what makes some people gay and some people not. We have beliefs, and personal stories on both sides of the question, but we don’t know concretely.

And at the end of the day, if you ask me, it doesn’t matter why I am or anyone else is gay. What matters is that we’re treated equally before the law and as human beings.

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Of course, that was from a discussion that went nowhere fast and probably shouldn’t have been joined in the first place. But it did offer a glimpse of the depth of delusion we’re dealing with. I mean, what I said as a reference to surrogacy was taken to mean that I wanted to get pregnant. And I’m not sure where the idea that I wanted heterosexuals to advertise their sexual orientations on daily basis (don’t they already?) came from.

There’s more evidence of that lately. Ex-Gay watch notes that an Exodus International spokesman recently said on the radio that gays don’t exist. Meanwhile, Queerty that the president of Exodus International says most gays don’t care about discrimination. But, wait. For most gays to not care about discrimination, and even there to be any discrimination for gays to not care about, gays would have to exist first. After all, a non-exisant group of people can’t be concerned about anything, because they don’t exist, and thus nothing could happen to them for them to be concerned about. Because they don’t exist.

These guys are in the same organization. Maybe next time they pass each other in the hall they can compare notes on this one, and get their stories, um. Straight?

One Comment

  1. In my experience…

    To most of the exgay crowd, we’re just damaged heterosexuals. Then there is the other exgay crowd that acknowledges their sexuality but view it as a life test of sorts, god made them gay to challenge them, to see if they’d become straight like god wanted. Which isn’t unlike the original sin arguments that I hear sometimes. God (allegedly) makes a human flawed by design just to see if they can make the right design themselves.

    Anyway, the insistence by some that homosexuals (or those with “homosexual delusions”) must necessarily lead a chaste life seems to me a rather dull, incomplete life. I view intimacy with my partner as natural and healthy, a gift to be enjoyed and not put up on a shelf or displayed in a sealed case like some museum curiosity.

    How deranged a creator must be to intentionally create flawed sentients just to see how they turn out, like some mad scientist in a lab. Dr Frankenstein and his monster come eerily to mind. Or how sick to create sentients with gifts you never intend for them to use.

    No, in my humble opinion I am free to enjoy what life has to offer me. If someone else chooses not to enjoy their life then that is up to them. I cannot interfere and more importantly I will not interfere.

    I wish more people would choose non-interference.

    Anyway, I think I strayed off the point… There were a few things on my mind that came up through my fingers :)

    To insist that we’re damaged or that we don’t exist or that we’re somehow “against god’s plan” are some of the most arrogant, hurtful things I have ever heard.

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