A Virginia-based organization that hosts weekend retreats aimed at helping gay men reduce unwanted same-sex attractions published a survey this month touting the effectiveness of its program in "changing" sexual orientation.
But critics dismissed the survey as absurd and scientifically naive and even some in the "ex-gay" movement question the group's claims.
The report, published by the group People Can Change on Feb. 5, surveyed individuals who participated in the organization's weekend retreats, which are called "Journey Into Manhood" and are available only to gay men. People Can Change argues that its program is effective in changing sexual orientation despite criticism from psychologists and other skeptics.
First, I want to thank the American Counseling Association for supporting ethical standards in its work with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. Your organization has helped many people and allowed them to live openly and honestly with dignity and respect. The ACA has been a model for proper treatment and I applaud you for your commitment to assuring a superb standard of care for all people.
Unfortunately, it has come to my attention that a group of politically motivated right wing counselors are working to undermine the ACA's effective guidelines for dealing with GLBT clients. This group recently filed a formal complaint falsely claming that the ACA has violated its own polices. It's real goal, however, is to bully the ACA into allowing unscrupulous practitioners to harm clients, while shielding its damage in the cloak of religious liberty.
As the leader of an organization that represents victims of ex-gay therapy, I urge you to soundly reject this stealth attempt to inject bad policies and biased practices into ACA guidelines. My organization, TruthWinsOut.org, offers its support and would gladly supply you with testimonials - video or in person - of people who have been severely damaged as a result of so-called ex-gay therapy. These survivors represent the psychological carnage that often accompanies attempts to either change or repress one's natural sexual orientation.
Dr. Warren Throckmorton, the shamelessly self-promoting "ex-gay" therapist, has stepped up his holy war against gay people. This week, he organized a pack of fundamentalist quacks to file a formal written complaint with the American Counseling Association. Throckmorton's crew is upset because they believe the ACA is inhibiting their ability to destroy the mental health of gay and lesbian people in the name of religion. They also believe that they have the special right as fundamentalists to use bizarre techniques and ignore normal therapy guidelines.
What is so morally distasteful and ethically disgraceful about Throckmorton is that he is taking this measure without offering a shred of evidence that his shame-based therapy model works. What Chutzpah! How can he credibly complain to the ACA without offering multiple "success" stories by people other than those who get paid to say they have gone from gay to straight?
Indeed, the ACA should launch a full-scale investigation against the good doctor. He works at little Grove City College, a fundamentalist school in a rural Western Pennsylvania town of merely 8000 people. The truth is, you probably could not find 250 farmers, no less gay people in need of ex-gay therapy in this neck of the woods. To no ones surprise, this brain-twisting blowhard has yet to produce on-record accounts out of his large pool of supposed clients. Clearly, he is either exaggerating the number of clients or his therapy is a monumental failure.
With such a paltry and embarrassing record, why is Throckmorton attacking the ACA? The reason is simple: Throckmorton and his cohorts act more like ministers than mental health professionals. Instead of ethical counselors who just happen to be Christian, they are politically motivated fundamentalists who can't separate church and couch. This is the same type of backwards, "intelligent design" promoting crowd that wears lab coats, yet disdains science and stealthily tries to slip their oddball theories into the mainstream.
Predictably, the signers of the letter are disingenuously claiming religious discrimination. They don't seem to realize that their professional rejection stems from the objective reasoning that their theories are illegitimate garbage.
Most of these counselors still believe that a distant same-sex parent causes homosexuality. Their "cure" is making platonic friendships with same-sex friends and playing sports. Such nonsense might have seemed credible 35 years ago - when few gay people were out of the closet. In 2008, however, we now know that this simplistic cause and effect is false. Any counselor who suggests otherwise is incompetent, has an agenda or is too lazy to talk to real gay people.
Other counselors, such as Throckmorton, believe in what I call "Larry Craig Therapy." These practitioners actually promote the peculiar notion that one can effectively separate sexual identity from attraction. The idea that one can spend an entire lifetime in such obvious denial is untenable and a recipe for inner-turmoil.
Still, Throckmorton cruelly peddles the mental health mirage of the happy celibate gay person living according to his or her values. In ten years of going to ex-gay conferences, the people I have met who are living in this state of love-limbo are hopelessly despondent and constantly on the verge of tears. How is this good for mental health and why should the ACA acquiesce to this damaging pseudoscience?
These right wing therapists are central to the problem, not the solution. They do absolutely nothing to make clients heterosexual or reconcile faith and sexuality. All these therapists accomplish is enticing vulnerable clients to pay dearly for the identical shame and repression they previously received for free.
Conspicuously absent in the letter to the ACA are examples of how these "therapists" supposedly help their clients. They are coy about their reliance on controversial and unconventional methods. Ex-gay therapists or ministers routinely endorse exorcisms and tell clients that they may have demons in their bodies. They sometimes instruct clients to wear rubber bands on their wrists and snap them whenever they find a person physically attractive. Other times, "touch therapy" is employed, where the counselor caresses (sometimes abusively) a client sitting on his or her lap.
Finally, those who wrote the letter arrogantly suggested that they represent Christianity. They are but a few misguided sects of the religion - and ones that give the faith a bad name. These therapists would be infinitely more helpful if they would explain to suffering clients that many theologians disagree with their rigid worldview.
Attorneys from the right wing Alliance Defense Fund also sent a letter to the ACA, in an attempt to bully the organization. But, all the high-priced lobbying and lawyering in the world can't hide the growing army of ex-gay counseling victims. The ACA would do well to listen to these survivors and then throw the right wing letter in the trash - where it can be reunited with the outlandish theories and screwy techniques that constitute so-called "ex-gay" therapy.
John Smid runs Love in Action. Jim Burroway was kind enough to compile a few of his wacky quotes. Obviously, Smid is a man who should be in intense therapy - not making a living "helping" vulnerable people. Enjoy the insanity of Smid discussing why men should not masturbate:
"I'm sorry, but my wife's vagina is enough. I'm going to be honest. It's enough. It is enough for me. If it is not enough for me, then that's my problem. You know, I really have to be honest about that. God created her for my fit, he created that and I need to honor and respect my wife. I need to respect that."
"What is it that stirs that up? And we have to look at things like how am I talking? What's my verbiage? Who am I relating to? What kind of clothes am I wearing? Where am I going? Am I visually allowing myself to go into places that stimulate my sexuality? If I'm going to try to deal with masturbation and sexually acting out, I better turn down the flame."
"If I could be so bold -- what kind of underwear do I wear that no one else sees? When I put that underwear on, am I feeling sexual? Is it stimulating my sense of sexual power? Is it making me feel more erotic? Do I feel more sexual around other people because of the way that I feel wearing that underwear?"