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    Let’s go ahead, don’t turn around

    I don’t plan to make ex-gays a running theme here–Ex-Gay Watch, whose contributors all know a lot more about various programs and theories than I ever will, usually have that stuff covered just fine. Still, the topic is obviously of more than mere passing interest to me, and in the vein of yesterday’s post about MSNBC’s blandified article about Love in Action, here is an interview with an ex-ex-gay in Bay Windows (via Gay News).

    Naturally, my sympathies are going to lie with Wade Richards, but I can’t judge how accurately he’s actually portraying people and events. One thing that he says that jibes with everything else I’ve heard and read about de-gay-ifying programs drew my attention anew, though:

    I took a break from the press stuff and was hanging out in Los Angeles and my boss’s sister was in an open relationship for 12 years with her girlfriend. We would visit her, and when my boss wasn’t around I’d ask her sister Jenny questions. She had really been in a relationship for 12 years? What? You don’t do drugs, you don’t drink, you work for a youth organization? You volunteer your time most of the time? How weird? And then I’d be in her house and see scripture verses taped up to her mirror and little inspirational things, and I was like, ‘What’s going on? I thought this doesn’t happen. Gay people aren’t in monogamous relationships.’

    Reparative (or however they style themselves) programs don’t have any ethical responsibility to give equal time to the opposition. If you’re trying to bring people out of homosexuality, of course, you’re not going to be dwelling on the fact that there are gays in stable, long-term, sustaining relationships.

    But just because people are confused and depressed doesn’t mean they’re dum-dums. If you drum into their heads that all gays are dysfunctional, the immediate effect will doubtless be to spook them away from homosexual behavior. But it simply isn’t true that we all end up in the gutter (such a dusty place, you know, and not the sort of backdrop that flatters the skin tone). Unless kept under virtual house arrest, they’re eventually going to run into some of us gays in regular old couples and start to wonder what other facts you were playing fast and loose with. Irrespective of whose goals you support, bad strategy is bad strategy. Not to mention that, in this case, it’s dishonest.

    4 Responses to “Let’s go ahead, don’t turn around”

    1. John says:

      “Reparative (or however they style themselves) programs don’t have any ethical responsibility to give equal time to the opposition.”

      Yes they do, yes they do. Not a legal one, but an ehtical one. In any debate where religion enters the public sphere, both sides have a moral obligation t explain what is testable and what is belief. Real life organizations are not high school debate teams out to score points. Intellectual honesty counts. I happen to believe in ID, but it’s not a testable theory as it is right now. That means that neither ID nor Creationism is science, and I’ll fight tooth an nail any plan in my state to put them in the biology curriculum, despite my belief in one of them. Science is powerful because it adheres to the rules of testability, it doesn’t throw up its hands when it comes to an intractable problem and invoke Divine intervention.

      Creationists do have an ethical responsibility to explain this, except that 95% of them are too stupid to understand how science works, and the other 5% are too disingenuous. I used to work on self-assembling systems that might shed some light on a possible spontaneous origin for life, and I fully understand the philosophical implications for my belief system. There is no system anywhere without internal inconsistencies. Not in science and not in religion. A rational thinker weighs the evidence on each side and comes to a conclusion, but evidence is never excluded. That’s why scientists hate lawyers.

    2. I think the analogy with creationism works when you’re talking about creating a program that promises to be efficacious, or about justifying such a program to a properly skeptical general audience. I was more referring to what enrollees are told while they’re actually undergoing therapy. If people have, of their own free will, signed up for a program to reconstruct their sexuality, it’s not illegitimate for those running it to help keep them focused by not talking about healthy homosexual relationships all the time.

      Talking as if all gays were non-functional is another matter. It amazes me that it never seems to occur to ex-gays and their advocates that maybe their problem was basic immaturity–an inability to handle life that was only tangentially related to their sexuality. After all, there are straight drug addicts, sex fiends, and friendship abusers. What is presumed to be their excuse?

    3. John says:

      I think I still disagree, Sean. If religious folks want to play in the mental health arena with the rest of us, they have an ethical if not legal obligation to hold their methods to the same scrutiny and disclose the true results. Drug makers are required to give equal time to side effects as they do to benefits in Direct to Consumer commercials.

      If religious therapists choose not to do controlled studies, then that must be stated up front. New psychiatric techniques have to report failure rates as well as success rates to their patients while they are undergoing treatment. What giving one side of the story does is guilt people into believing that they are a freak when they are in fact a perfectly normal treatment failure. I still see this as a failure of ethics, and one really not becoming of fellow Christians.

    4. Okay, point taken, John.

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