Tuesday, March 25, 2008
by Wayne Besen
-- The symposium will be at 2:00 p.m. on Monday afternoon (5/5/08) in lecture halls 159 A & B in the Washington DC Convention Center --
Since 1973, the once dreaded American Psychiatric Association has become an ally of gay and lesbian equality. They have consistently withstood outside pressure from right wing organizations and instead chose to do what was in the best interest of GLBT mental health. Most notably, they endorsed same-sex civil marriage in a groundbreaking 2005 position paper.
In 1997, the APA first addressed ex-gay (or reparative) therapy by stating, "The potential risks of 'reparative therapy' are great and include depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior...Further, APA calls on these organizations and individuals to do all that is possible to decrease the stigma related to homosexuality wherever and whenever it may occur."
In 2000, the APA issued an even stronger statement and recommended "that ethical practitioners refrain from attempts to change individuals sexual orientation, keeping in mind the medical dictum, to 'first do no harm.'"
Unfortunately, a terribly misguided gay psychiatrist, Dr. David L. Scasta, is violating the spirit -- if not the letter -- of APA policy statements. In May, he will be part of a controversial symposium (Scasta calls it historic) he organized. It includes ex-gay therapist, Dr. Warren Throckmorton, who is the Sultan of Stigma and a leading purveyor of religion-based shame therapy.
Writing in the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists' newsletter, Scasta claims this forum will seek, "common ground" on "both sides of the religious divide." He also urges that participants keep the symposium, "scientifically and rationally based" and hopes those on stage are committed to, "avoiding rhetoric." Near the end of his article, Scasta claims his goal is to "ratchet down the forces of polarization."
If the seminar's mission is to let cooler heads prevail, inviting Throckmorton is a curious choice. An unlicensed psychologist who teaches at fundamentalist Grove City College, Throckmorton wrote an inflammatory paper for a right wing website titled, "Is Sexual Re-orientation Possible?", that compared leaving homosexuality to quitting smoking.
"Most people who stop smoking report cravings but don't give into them," Throckmorton wrote in his paper. "Does this minimize their status as former smokers?"
In the same paper, Throckmorton claimed that he "healed" a gay client after teaching him "self-understanding and assertiveness." Even more bizarre, Throckmorton suggested taking anti-anxiety drugs might "cure" homosexuality.
Throckmorton also produced a defamatory ex-gay video entitled, "I Do Exist." The movie's opening scene was a wide shot of New York pornography shops that supposedly represent gay life. His film featured Joanne Highley, a known exorcist.
Scasta's having an extremist like Throckmorton talk about reconciliation between religion and the science is like inviting Louis Farrakhan to a seminar to discuss Mid East peace between the Jews and the Palestinians.
Asked what he thought about the symposium, Dr. Jack Drescher, former Chair of APA's Committee on GLB Issues said, "In our AGLP newsletter, Dr. Scasta described this panel as 'Letting the Wolves into the Hen House.' I can only speak for myself, but I'm pretty sure no one at the APA will be eaten. But I am concerned that when a respected colleague lies down with wolves, he may catch something more than he bargained for."
While Scasta may be well intentioned, he seems woefully ignorant of his guest's dubious credentials. Scasta justifies offering Throckmorton a platform because the doctor has rebuked the infamous Dr. Paul Cameron (who claimed gay people die by the age of 40). Big deal. Cameron had become so radioactive that even Focus on the Family admonished him as early as 1996 saying they do not "adhere to Cameron's statistics."
Scasta also points out that Throckmorton called bizarre ex-gay therapist Richard Cohen a "menace." What he fails to say is that Throckmorton wholeheartedly supported Cohen up until the moment Cohen humiliated himself on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
Similarly, in a desperate attempt at self-preservation, Throckmorton took "I Do Exist" off the shelf the very week one of his "changed" subjects seemed to back away from supporting ex-gay ministries. The good doctor appears to have a habit of altering the facts by omission.
Throckmorton tries to appear enlightened because he rejects traditional "reparative therapy" which blames parents for causing homosexuality. This has more to do, however, with his ongoing campaign to undermine his chief rival, reparative therapist, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi.
Throckmorton's goal is to supplant Nicolosi's reparative therapy model with his own ex-gay therapy regimen, known as Sexual Identity Therapy (SIT). Instead of blaming parents, SIT urges clients to suffer in deep, closeted denial in order to please God. Although Throckmorton says he has counseled 250 patients, he is unable to bring any of his successful cases forward.
Finally, Throckmorton habitually downplays the harm done by ex-gay therapy, despite the increasing number of survivors who have come forward to discuss their negative experiences. Why aren't any ex-gay therapy victims represented on this panel?
It is a mystery why Scasta would want to legitimize a fringe professor from a small anti-gay fundamentalist college. Instead of furthering understanding, Scasta is eroding his own standing and possibly that of the American Psychiatric Association. Scasta is placing science on the same plane as right wing sophistry - all at the expense of the mental health of GLBT people.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
by Wayne Besen
It had been a devastating week for Barack Obama. The rationale for his entire campaign was hope and reconciliation. Yet, for days, his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, was shown on television delivering rabid and racially insensitive sermons denouncing America. Rightfully sensing his candidacy may be history if he did not respond, Obama answered with a spine-tingling, tear-evoking historical speech that was so remarkable, it drew comparisons to addresses made by Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.
It was visionary, daring, and bold - evoking a flood of praise and the showering of lofty "M-words." Magnificent - moving - majestic - magical - mesmerizing - mellifluous - monumental.
Above all, it was a sincere and honest discussion that avoided all the "P-words" that have defined political discourse on race since the Civil War.Patronizing - pandering - politically correct - polarizing
Indeed, it was so inspiring that Obama supplanted Oprah as the "Big O" on his campaign. The speech was as timeless as it was timely and will be talked about for generations. In essence, Obama brilliantly gave people - of all races - permission to justify their grievances and grudges - while taking them by the hand and showing them an enlightened way forward.
He also deftly handled the ranting reverend problem with a strategy of distancing without disowning. In doing so, Obama was credited for showing the two were not ideological Siamese twins, while scoring points for personal loyalty. It was a feat so astonishing that the only other politician who could have pulled it off - maybe - was Bill Clinton in his prime.
The address was also politically astute.
For example, Obama reassured Jewish voters concerned with Rev. Wright's comments by saying that, Israel was a "stalwart" ally and the problems in the Middle East emanated from, "the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam."
When he said that Rev. Wright, "helped introduce me to my Christian faith," Obama was trenchantly using the example as an opportunity to tell voters - yet, again - that he was not a Muslim, as right wing opponents have repeatedly suggested.
Obama also boosted his candidacy by hitting patriotic themes - such as when he said, "In no other country on earth is my story even possible." He referred to the "decency and generosity of the American people," and said his convictions were rooted in "faith in God and my faith in the American people."
Perhaps most clever, was the way Obama forthrightly explained his connection and affection for Rev. Wright by comparing him to an old uncle and using the phrase, "For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation." Clearly, Wright was a substitute for John McCain and the message was clear: McCain is stuck in the past and Obama represents the voice of a new generation that wants to move beyond yesterdayâ€™s sins."
All politicians - even Obama - need bogeymen, real or imagined. Brilliantly, Obama joined people of all races together in the fight against the "real culprits of the middle class squeeze - corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by special interests economic policies that favor the few over the many."
This speech was particularly tantalizing for gay and lesbian people because if a president wants to pass pro-gay legislation, he or she will have to effectively articulate why it is a moral imperative. This speech allowed us to envision President Obama assuaging Christian conservatives by telling them that their work to protect families is honest and sincere. However, their attempts to use discrimination as a tool to strengthen traditional families are harmful and misguided. By forthrightly addressing an explosive issue, such as race, it was a guide to how Obama might build support for GLBT issues.
While Obama did not solve the racial divide in America or the problem of his long association with Rev. Wright in one speech, he did a better job than anyone else could have under the circumstances. One can't help but marvel at the skills of this political Houdini, who turned a crisis into a crowning achievement. It is too soon to plaster his face on Mt. Rushmore, but this performance guarantees more people will rush to Obama's revived campaign.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
by Wayne Besen
- Kooky Kern, Left -
Republicans, it seems, account for the majority of sleazy sex scandals, but the Democrats do the illicit affair with theatrical flare. Who will ever forget presidential hopeful Gary Hart on the yacht "Monkey Business" with Donna Rice sitting in his lap or Bill Clinton taking it too far with the cigar?
New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer provided the latest Democratic doozie after it was revealed that he was "Client Number 9" in a prostitution sting. Trying to slither out of his role in the "ho-ring" he dragged his forlorn wife by the wedding ring on-stage for his press conference. This exploitation of his family was hardly a way to win sympathy and only exacerbated public disgust with a man who was once viewed as "Mr. Clean."
It is clear that Spitzer must immediately resign. What bothers me most about the incident is the extreme hypocrisy. The New York Times
reports that as state attorney general, he prosecuted prostitution businesses with fervor. He grandstanded and raged that this industry was exploitative, involved in human trafficking, drug dealing and money laundering. On Staten Island, in 2004, Mr. Spitzer expressed particular indignation over 16 people arrested for upscale prostitution. There is simply no place in government for officials who badly abuse the public trust and apply a double standard to their own behavior.Jamaica Boycott:
Jamaica's anti-gay climate was "strongly condemned" this week by The International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA)
. However, they offered a toothless response and failed to call for a much-needed boycott.
"IGLTA is in complete solidarity with Jamaica's own LGBT leadership, J-FLAG. Therefore, like J-flag, it is not our intention to provoke reprisals or political condemnation in Jamaica by supporting a global tourism boycott
. We understand this step could be counter-productive to making true progress in that Caribbean nation, and instead we will focus on education, publicity and market competition to highlight and help curb these terrible abuses."
This was an abdication of leadership and the Jamaicans are likely laughing in their faces. If IGLTA hasn't noticed, reprisals are already happening on the island and political condemnation against homosexuality is frequent. Doing essentially nothing is rarely the answer. While cruising into the sunset may be good for business, it is no way to succeed at activism.
It is also disappointing that IGLTA is hiding behind J-FLAG - a Jamaican gay rights group. I do understand that JFLAG has an incredibly difficult job and I admire the courage of the group's leaders. But choosing to not place real outside pressure on Jamaican officials won't help the situation of gays on the island. Trading lasting change for the short-term illusion of peace has not traditionally worked and creates a mirage of progress.
From the civil rights movement to Stonewall to ACT-UP - conflict is often the best means of changing the social dynamics in society. I wonder if IGLTA would have scoffed at boycotting South Africa a few years ago because it would have created a tense situation?
To its credit, IGLTA announced it will "highlight the degrading situation in Jamaica, and call on all global hospitality industry leaders to unite in condemning this and any hostile and violent climate towards our community" at its upcoming 25th Anniversary Convention.
Unfortunately, this is not enough. The only way things will change in Jamaica is a full boycott that will hit Jamaica's elite in their pockets. IGLTA is basically endorsing the status quo because it is skittish about rolling up its sleeves, getting its hands dirty and engaging in real advocacy that will have a lasting impact.Outrageous In Oklahoma:
In an ominous sign for the GOP, Democrat Bill Foster won the reliably Republican seat that was previously occupied by House Speaker Dennis Hastert. The Democrats also now occupy former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's seat.
If you wonder why the GOP is collapsing, one just has to look at the bigoted comments made by Oklahoma House Rep. Sally Kern
. In a speech to 50 supporters - and one person with a concealed tape recorder - Kern portrayed homosexuality as the largest threat to this nation - even more dangerous than terrorism.
Like a crazed, self-important martyr, Kern stepped-forward to defend her views. Earnest in her ignorance and defiant in her arrogance, the wild-eyed legislator appeared backwards and brainwashed. On a day when a bomber killed five U.S. soldiers in Baghdad, a week dominated by fears of recession and a month with painfully high gas prices, Kern was obsessing about gay people. This made her - and the GOP - seem freakishly out of touch with the bread and butter issues facing American families.
No matter what America's real problems are -- all the religious right seems to do is yell "ABORTION" and "HOMOSEXUALITY." The nation, including some younger Evangelicals, has grown weary of these two-note nags. If they don't change their tired tune, America may finally tune them out. At this point -- the right may finally accomplish its dream as we all scream Amen and Hallelujah!
Monday, March 03, 2008
by Wayne Besen
When openly gay Gene Robinson was elected Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, the Nigerian Archbishop, Peter J. Akinola, called the event "Satanic." However, after reading the latest issue of Atlantic Magazine
, it appears that Akinola is the one whose behavior is modeled on the devil.
According to the article, Muslim fanatics attacked Christian worshippers in the Nigerian town of Yelwa in February 2004. They set fire to a church and murdered anyone who tried to escape - leaving 78 people dead. In retaliation, members of the Christian Association of Nigeria, led, at the time, by Akinola
, surrounded the town. The vigilantes murdered 660 Muslims - while torching twelve mosques and 300 houses.
In a state that lacks law and order, it is somewhat understandable that the Christians might take matters into their own hands - as they certainly have a right to defend themselves. What is unconscionable, however, is the gratuitous cruelty and downright evil that occurred on Akinola's watch. Far from Christian, one might equate the ghastly reprisals in Yelwa with a tyrant like Saddam Hussein - not an Anglican Bishop.
Were Akinola's "Christian" warriors exemplifying the love of Jesus while raping pregnant Muslim women in the village? Were these thugs asking, "What would Jesus do" when they forced Muslims to eat pork and dog meat, while washing it down with forbidden alcohol? Was it somehow "spiritual" to burn corpses in the street? And, how "holy" was it to hack to death children as young as nine with machetes; then put the bloody pieces in a rubber tire and set fire to it? This was not simply retaliation, but terrorism. It was demonic behavior in the name of religion that had nothing to do with self-defense.
According to Human Rights Watch, there is no "smoking gun" definitively showing that the Archbishop ordered the massacre. However, he was clearly in charge of the group implicated and could barely hide his glee in the Atlantic article. When asked point-blank about the incident, Akinola said, "No comment," while he grinned. He went on to add, "No Christian would pray for violence, but it would be utterly naive to sweep this issue of Islam under the carpet. I'm not out to combat anybody. I'm only doing what the Holy Spirit tells me to do. I'm living my faith, practicing and preaching that Jesus Christ is the one and only way to God...I've said before: let no Muslim think they have the monopoly on violence."
Clearly, Akinola is unrepentant and sounds more like a warlord than a leader of worship. As a result of the slaughter, the Archbishop lost his bid to continue heading the Christian Association of Nigeria. However, he is still the primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria - and a powerful voice in condemning homosexuality across the globe.
Indeed, while Akinola is soft on his preferred sin of murder, he never turns the other cheek on gay rights. He has provocatively called Europe "a spiritual desert" and chastised the Church of England for failing to oppose civil partnership laws, which, he said, give, "the appearance of evil". I suppose, once one masters genuine evil, the mere appearance is no longer satisfying.
In 2006, Akinola supported a proposed Draconian law in Nigeria that would have effectively banned the "promotion" of homosexuality - punishing violators with up to five years imprisonment. Tragically, while the Archbishop is fixated on gay people, Nigeria remains one of the poorest and most corrupted nations on earth (minus the elite who profit from oil). According Human Rights Watch, up to $8 billion is embezzled annually, while nearly half the population lives on less than $1 a day. You would think these issues might interest a Christian leader, but Akinola ignores them in favor of jet setting anti-gay junkets
to America and Europe.
With such a contemptible record, one would expect Anglican Church leaders to marginalize Akinola. It seems, however, the church would rather coddle this butcher, because they care more about membership than morality. Most appalling are the American churches that have left the Episcopal Church to align themselves with the Church of Nigeria. It doesn't seem to bother them that they are this madman's enablers. As such, these "conservatives" should be held accountable for any future atrocities committed by Akinola.
If Rowan Williams
, the Archbishop of Canterbury, had any guts, he'd use every tool at his disposal to make Akinola an international pariah. All Bishops with a conscience should also refuse to take Holy Communion with Akinola - and he should be prohibited from attending major conferences.
In the last Democratic debate - Hillary Clinton said that Barack Obama should not just denounce, but reject the Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan. (Obama wisely did both). Likewise, Anglican leaders must denounce and reject Akinola if they want to regain their moral authority. The only appropriate place for Akinola on the International stage is The Hague - where he should be tried for crimes against humanity.