May 01

Conversion Therapy Must Be Banned Nationwide–Here’s How

 Reparative therapy may be a lie, but the lie begins not with the idea that we can change from gay to straight, but with the belief that we are who the culture tells us we are…And no one, no matter what age, is safe from that. Peter Gajdics, The Inheritance of Shame: A Memoir (2017), about conversion therapy

Conversion therapy has to go—and I mean nationwide. Representative Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) agrees. Both Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Corey Booker (D-NJ), moreover, have joined Lieu in introducing the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act of 2017, aimed at having the Federal Trade Commission call conversion therapy what it is: a fraudulent practice.

States Lieu (Washington Post) regarding the Act: “It says it is fraud if you treat someone for a condition that doesn’t exist and there’s no medical condition known as being gay. LGBTQ people were born perfect; there is nothing to treat them for. And by calling this what it should be, which is fraud, it would effectively shut down most of the organizations.”

For a comprehensive list, by the way, of anti-conversion-therapy position statements issued over the years by mental health and medical professional associations, see this Human Rights Campaign (HRC) link.

It should be noted that some states already ban conversion therapy and its practitioners: California, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, and New Mexico. Also the District of Columbia—and kinda New York in that they have something in place that serves the same purpose.

Several recent memoirs have chronicled the dire effects of being forced into conversion therapy in one’s youth. (See my post “Three Memoirs About Surviving Conversion Therapy.”) But as Steven Susoyev, a reviewer for LambdaLiterary.org, points out, it’s not always about outright coercion or being a minor:

Less common in the popular imagination is the story of a young gay person who voluntarily submits to psychological mutilation. In The Inheritance of Shame, Peter Gajdics, now in his early fifties, takes us into the heart and mind of his 24-year-old self, a desperate young man who believed everything his family and church told him about who he was, and who resolved to become an entirely different person, at any cost.

The Inheritance of Shame will be published in a couple weeks. An early review from author Daniel Zomparelli: “In Peter Gajdics’ memoir, we’re taken into a real-life horror film of malpractice and corrupt psychotherapy, hoping at every turn of the page that our narrator escapes. A shocking, crystal-clear, unsettling book. The Inheritance of Shame is both a necessary and devastating memoir about the trauma of conversion therapy and the homophobia that persists to this day.”

Guess who else recently tried to educate his audience about the weirdness of therapy to change someone’s sexual orientation? Bill Nye the Science Guy. As seen on his Netflix series Bill Nye Saves the World, he uses different flavors of ice cream to parallel various sexual orientations:

Jun 18

The Horrors of Reparative Therapy

I’ve heard that in the most recent season of TV’s American Horror StorySarah Paulson played a lesbian reporter who wound up being tortured by Sister Jude (Jessica Lange), the unscrupulous manager of a mental institution. Among the crimes committed against Paulson’s character was reparative therapy using aversive techniques.

Unfortunately, in real life some who seek help for inner turmoil about their sexual orientation are subjected to this type of reparative, or conversion, therapy—a real horror show indeed. This remains an ongoing menace, despite the fact that most if not all reputable professional organizations in the field of mental health denounce it.

One of the long-time leaders in the “ex-gay” movement is the organization called Exodus International, led by its current president Alan Chambers. As Lisa Ling will report this coming Thursday on Our America with Lisa Ling (OWN), he now actually apologizes for his role in trying to convert gays and lesbians. Furthermore, he’ll be shown participating in a meeting in which he addresses a group of disgruntled survivors of such therapies.

More, from a Huffington Post article, about the survivors appearing on this show (“Special Report: God & Gays”):

Among them is Jerry, a former pastor who came out of the closet after a 26-year marriage; Sean, a Navy veteran who served three tours of combat before coming out in support of repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell;’ and Christian, who Ling first met three years earlier when he was desperately trying to become straight.

With his wife Leslie at his side throughout, Chambers will face his critics and a pointed dialogue will emerge which brings the future of Exodus into question.

Dec 13

Conversion Therapy Is Wrong: What Can Be Done

The following is not an isolated incident: A 17-year-old male in California finds himself some therapy to deal with being gay and is told he has a mental disorder. He’s then subjected to conversion therapy, a practice that is also known sometimes as reparative therapy and/or ex-gay therapy.

Five sessions later—sessions that involve disturbing things done in the name of therapy—he quits.

Now there’s a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) on behalf of this ex-client and others like him. The SPLC website states: “People who have undergone conversion therapy have reported increased anxiety, depression, and in some cases, suicidal ideation. The devastating consequences of conversion therapy are why the Southern Poverty Law Center is dedicated to ending this practice and defending the rights of individuals harmed by it.”

If you are an ex-gay survivor or know someone, you can go to the SPLC site and share your story confidentially. So far, SPLC’s in-depth investigation of this practice has found almost 70 therapists in 20 U.S. states and the District of Columbia who claim to offer reparative therapy.

May 29

Gaydar and Conversion Therapy: How They Relate to Each Other

How is gaydar related to conversion therapy, a practice that is deemed ineffective and/or malpractice?

Recent News About Reparative or Conversion Therapy

I. Psychiatrist Robert Spitzer, often known as the “father of modern psychiatry,” and who has just turned 80, has apologized to the gay community for conclusions he drew over 10 years ago from a notably flawed study about reparative therapy.

As stated by David DiSalvo in Forbes: “Spitzer’s mission to clean the slate is commendable, but the effects of his work have been coursing through the homosexual community like acid since it made headlines a decade ago. His study was seized upon by anti-homosexual activists and therapists who held up Spitzer’s paper as proof that they could ‘cure’ patients of their sexual orientation.”

John M. Becker at Truth Wins Out, a group “fighting anti-gay lies and the ex-gay myth,” posted the following: “Dr. Spitzer’s apology to the victims of ‘pray away the gay’ therapy and the greater LGBT community marks a watershed moment in the fight against the ‘ex-gay’ myth. We commend him for it, because not only will it solidify his legacy as a respected doctor and significant historical figure, but it will help to greatly hasten the day when the scourge that is reparative therapy is eradicated forever and LGBT people can live openly, honestly, and true to themselves.”

II. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently released an official condemnation of reparative therapy practices.

III. A British Christian therapist, Lesley Pilkington, just lost her legal appeal regarding her use of conversion therapy to make a gay man straight. From the plaintiff, an undercover journalist:

History was made this week. For the first time, a therapist was found guilty of malpractice after trying to ‘treat’ a client for their homosexuality – to turn them straight…

This involved the sinister (suggesting I was sexually abused as a child, and praying to God to bring repressed memories to the surface) the dangerous (opining that God heals HIV, and homosexuality is a mental illness) and the ludicrous (advising me to take up rugby).

IV. The state of California is currently weighing in on a bill that could prevent therapists from trying to convert gay youth.

V. The Southern Poverty Law Center is taking on the case of a young Oregon man whose psychiatrist tried to make him not be gay. The Center “plans to take the same action in other states as part of a national campaign to stop therapists from trying to make gay people straight.”

The Only Reasonable Conclusion About the Connection Between Gaydar Science and Reparative Therapy

Although all of the above newsworthy events are exciting and big, the idea that reparative therapy is bogus should be old news by now. I mean, most of us could have told you a long time ago that reparative therapy hasn’t worked on those who’ve tried it—all it takes is a quick look at their post-conversion faces…or fingers…or hair whorls…or…or….or………

May 28

Gaydar: The Science As It Relates to Conversion Therapy

Studies in the Field of “Gaydar” 

Several years ago gay writer David France had an article in New York Magazine about the “science of gaydar,” noting that it has tackled “everything from handedness to finger length ratio, voice pitch, hair whorl, fingerprint & penis size.” It’s a lengthy piece that poses the question, If sexual orientation is biological, are the traits that make people seem gay innate, too?

At the same time, it doesn’t escape him, though, that too much focus on such matters may either contribute to the practice of pathologizing gayness or lead to the misuse of information, as when some go in the direction of wanting gayness to be prevented.

And, by the way, where are all the studies about spotting the straight people and figuring out how did they get that way anyway?

Nevertheless, France’s article is interesting and thought-provoking. Here he is in 2007, talking with Stephen Colbert about gaydar:

 

Beyond France’s Article: More Recent Gaydar Studies

A psychological study of “The Roles of Featural and Configural Face Processing in Snap Judgments of Sexual Orientation”—a prominent element of gaydar, though it’s unlikely you’ve been calling it that—concludes that a quick look at people’s faces draws accurate responses more than half the time.

So easy (with kind of iffy odds) even a monkey could do it.

Another college-based study examined facial symmetry and concluded: “Self-identified heterosexuals had facial features that were slightly more symmetrical than homosexuals. And the more likely raters perceived someone as heterosexual, the more symmetrical that person’s features were.”

Of course. Being straight equals symmetrical—everyone knows that.

Elsewhere I’ve seen both that women may be better at spotting gay men when ovulating and that most people may have a “scent-based ability to assess sexual orientation.”

Saves straight women so much heartache when choosing reproductive partners.

And very recently we’ve also had “research” by Jimmy Kimmel, who simply asked his audience to watch clips of random people on the street and quickly ascertain whether these people had ever had “a gay experience”. UPDATE, May 19, 2013: The video has been changed to “private” on YouTube.

Tomorrow, updates on conversion (reparative) therapy and how this all relates to gaydar science…