There may be a new meaning to the term ex-ex-gay soon. In the comments section of the post just prior to this one, Michael Bussee quoted Alan Chambers, Ex. Dir. of Exodus speaking about the term ex-gay as follows: “We need to do away with the term entirely and make sure it’s never used again.” Mr. Chambers confirmed this quote in an email.

And then later in the comments section, Mr. Bussee says: “I am pleased to announce that Alan Chambers has asked me to join him for a joint press conference to officially RETIRE the misleading term “Ex-gay.”‘ No word as yet if or when this might occur but from my vantage point, this would be a fine development. I have used the term “post-gay” before in discussing what change means, but I am not sure that it is an improvement. Probably some people who like the term ex-gay as a designation of identity might be bothered by this. I suspect Mr. Bussee and Mr. Chambers dislike the term ex-gay for different reasons. How ironic. My understanding is that Mr. Bussee originally favored the term ex-gay. Now 30 years later, he may be aided by the current Exodus leader in order to discourage its use.

I wonder if exgaywatch will also retire?

Michael Bussee speaks out about Exodus

Recently Michael Bussee and I have been getting acquainted over emails. He recently read my article regarding the founding of Exodus and took exception to my reporting. As I indicated to Mr. Bussee, I interviewed all of the other formerly gay members of the original board and reported what they told me. Mr. Bussee concedes that he was not one of two co-founders of Exodus but that there were others. However, as noted below, he does consider Mr. Cooper a co-founder as defined by the general word, found. The emails are pretty lengthy so I will only reproduce parts of them that Mr. Bussee permitted me to post. I feel it is fair to provide him with an opportunity to air his perspective.

On Gary Cooper as Founder of Exodus
Michael Bussee: “I just looked up “found” in the American Heritage College Thesaurus, since your wrote in you original posting that Gary “could not be considered a founder in any reasonable sense of the word.” The thesaurus offers these equivalents: establish, institute, ORGANIZE, SETUP, and start. A founder is “one who founds, creates or starts up.” I did NOT use the word incorrectly or deceptively as you assert when I described Gary’s role. He helped do ALL of these things. It says nothing of being an “official” or member of any “board.” If he was, I would have said that. I suppose I could have said “organizer” or”coordinator” — but even THAT would have been attacked by those who deceptively use the term “ex-gay” to lure in new clients.”

My comment: I don’t see the term ex-gay as deceptive but not as descriptive as many would like it to be. The term gay is a socially constructed term that has no meaning about sexuality other than what the culture gives it. Given that gay is a socio-political label, then to say I once was gay and am not now, say more about your former identity than your inner life. Michael expands more on this below.

On the term ex-gay
“Ex-gay” was literally “voted in” at the first conference — and it caused dissention even then among the conference attendees. (Ask some of the other “founders” and they may remember the debate.) Some thought”ex-gay was misleading. I agree. They suggested “celibate homosexual Christians”. Some suggested “recovering Gay Christians). I forget some of the other more creative labels suggested.The majority of conference attendees SETTLED on “ex-gay” to represent the FAITH that one COULD (with God’s help) change over TIME. This was in keeping with the “name-it-and-claim-it” school of thought that was so prominent during the neo-Pentecostal movement of the time. It wasn’t what we WERE — it was what we WANTED to BECOME. Currently, I use the word gay as synonymous with “homosexual.” For others, it conjures up an image of a particular “lifestyle” (usually one of no personal restraint or moral value). Others use the term “gay” to denote belonging to a subculture. I suggest we do AWAY with the “ex-gay” term ENTIRELY since MOST in the general public would (rightly) assume that is means “no longer attracted to the same sex” — which even your side admits is NOT true for the vast majority who seek “help.”

My comment: Who knows if the vast majority lose their SSA or not? We really are talking about degrees here. Some do and some don’t. Until controlled follow-up research is published it is kind of an open question.

What Gary Cooper did for Exodus
He and I were TWO of the original co-founders. I have NEVER claimed that we were the ONLY ones. You are INCORRECT when you assert that Gary Cooper cannot be considered in any way to be a co-founder of EXODUS! Were you there? I WAS there — and I KNOW how hard Gary worked to create EXODUS. Did you come up with the idea of getting the various ministries together in the first place? Gary, another co-worker and I DID. Did YOU spend hours and HOURS (and many late nights) setting up the conference? Gary did. Did you help compile the extensive mailing list that resulted from that first conference? Gary did. Did you help devise the workshops and printed materials for that first conference? Gary did. Did you answer the phones, mail out articles and information packets during those first years of EXODUS when Melodyland was the EXODUS headquarters? Did you print and mail the newsletter? Gary did. Did you provide hours of phone and in-person counseling at EXODUS during those early years? Gary did. Did you go on many speaking engagements promoting EXODUS programs and services? Gary did.

My comment: By this account, Mr. Cooper did much to get Exodus going. I wanted to post this because I think some of the pain comes from the perception of a denial of Cooper’s investment in the early stages of ex-gay ministry. While I think it is misleading to call Mr. Cooper a co-founder in the formal, organizational sense, I apologize for creating any impression that he was not there or uninvolved. Apparently, Mr. Cooper preferred a more behind-the-scenes role which may be, according to Mr. Bussee, why few others knew his importance.

Who were the other founders?
Others served on the Board, ran their individual ministries and did their part in furthering EXODUS’s mission. The “original” group (we didn’t use the word “founders”) of 7 – 8 persons — including Frank Worthen, Robbi Kenney, Ed Hurst, Ron Dennis, Greg Reid, Jim Kaspar (I pray I have not forgotten someone) — all of us (I am sad to say) played important roles in EXODUS’s formation and growth.

My comment: Mr. Bussee has this to say about the movie and claims that they were the two co-founders of Exodus: “In spite of what any captions (which were added by the film-makers years AFTER Gary and I were interviewed) may seem to say, I NEVER said (and will NEVER claim) that we were the ONLY ones.” After reviewing the video, he is on target. He said that they were two of the original founders of Exodus. The captions made it appear that they were THE two founders.

Ok, so there were other founders. Everybody who was there now agrees. That may about all they would agree about but that much seems clear. Recently, Alan Chambers said in an Exodus newsletter that there were 62 founders in the sense that 62 people came together at the first conference which led to the current organization. What is clear is that this was more a movement in the beginning than an organization and as such it is misleading to say that any two people founded that movement.

Bearman and Bruckner: There is no fraternal birth order effect

Peter Bearman and Hannah Bruckner authored a paper in 2001 that was later published in the American Journal of Sociology, vol. 107, 1179-1205, 2002 which offers a major challenge to the recent fraternal birth order effect suggested by Anthony Bogaert. Bogaert’s research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the USA, suggests that having biological brothers, not non-biological ones (adopted, step-brothers) is the key to this effect, thus suggesting pre-natal factors, as yet undiscovered.

Those interested in this line of research should examine Bearman and Bruckner’s study which I believe to be very well done. They were also able to catch identical twin data and found low concordances for MZ, DZ and siblings. There were no significant differences between groups.

More on this paper later…

Hooker on parenting and homosexual orientation

You will have to click on this image to read the first page of this three page reaction By Evelyn Hooker to an article by Evans in the 1969, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Hooker of course did the studies on homosexual men that are credited with providing basis for the 1973 removal of homosexuality from the DSM series. I am doing a review of studies on causality along with GCC prof Gary Welton and ran into this reaction from Hooker.

Note the first sentence: “It can no longer be questioned that faulty, disturbed, or pathological parental relationships in
early childhood are more commonly reported by male homosexual patients than by a comparable group of male heterosexuals.”

Of course, cause and effect are issues to wrestle with but I was surprised to read Hooker’s perspective here.

Pruden v. LeVay in the Salt Lake Trib: My response

David Pruden, Executive Director of Evergreen International and Simon LeVay, writer and neuroscientist had parallel op-eds in the Salt Lake Tribune this month about the origins and mutability of sexual orientation (click the links to read them). I submitted the following response to the trib, which was considered but turned down today for sunday’s paper. No word if it will end up in a future edition but I am going to post it anyway.

Sexual orientation: An interactionist’s view

The Tribune recently printed articles by David Pruden and Simon LeVay regarding sexual orientation. I want to present an alternative view.

I am more tentative about cause than either Mr. Pruden or Dr. LeVay. I disagree with Mr. Pruden that all researchers have abandoned the born gay view. Many researchers enamored with biological determinism continue to look for anything besides environment that could determine our sexuality. Sometimes their enthusiasm reminds me of the optimist cleaning the horse stall – “there must be a pony in here somewhere!”

On the other hand, Dr. LeVay is correct that biological factors cannot be dismissed. Corroborating research is required to learn how these factors operate but research consistently demonstrates small and subtle biological influences.

An alternative proposition incorporating biological and environmental factors is offered by Daryl Bem at Cornell University. He suggests that erotic attractions are not directly coded in genes, or wired in the brain via pre-natal hormones. Rather, biology may influence sexual orientation through the expression of childhood temperament (levels of aggression, eye-hand coordination, etc.), which are influenced by pre-natal factors. The most durable finding in years of research regarding homosexuality is that adult homosexuals recall gender atypical preferences as children (e.g., feminine boys, tomboyish girls). For instance, boys feeling different from other boys during childhood due to culturally feminine preferences may see males as the opposite sex just as puberty ushers in hormones and the accompanying unfocused sexual feelings.

While Dr. Bem’s theory awaits additional investigation, there is supporting research. One study found that neither genetic similarity nor a shared womb was associated with adult homosexual orientation unless childhood gender nonconformity was factored in. Even with this research, we must be tentative due to the observation that not all gays, especially lesbians, felt different from same-sex peers as children. The best we can say at present is that different factors, biological and environmental, may be relevant for different individuals. This would make sexuality akin to many human preferences, unchosen in the immediate sense, but acquired over time via an interaction of one’s nature and life’s nurture. Although difficult to fit into a headline, sexual orientation is more complex than “gay genes” versus “no gay gene.”

What ever “causes” sexual orientation, there is clear evidence that sexual orientation is somewhat flexible, at least for some. One recent study found that about one-third of participants reported spontaneous change in sexual orientation categories (e.g., gay to straight; bisexual to gay). Another one-third reported less dramatic change. These changes were naturalistic; no therapy was involved.

While Dr. LeVay is correct that sexual reorientation therapy does not lead to benefit for all clients, he is on shaky ground when he states: “By all accounts, the chances of “success” – if that is the right word – are far outweighed by the likelihood of experiencing lasting psychological trauma.” The results of research on change depend on what former clients are polled – some believe therapy helped and some do not. There is no research that can predict what percentage of people might benefit and what percentage might experience harm. We need more research not dogmatism.

However, no matter what causes various sexual desires, or how flexible they might be, humans are endowed with the capacity to reflect on their situations and direct their actions to live in alignment with their beliefs and chosen values. Scientific research on biological and social factors that are relevant to adult personality cannot be prescriptive. That is, science can tell us much about what is, but little about what we ought to believe. Many questions of public policy, or how we should relate to God are independent of what science might ever find out about our sexual proclivities.

Sourcing Sexuality – Webcast

Short notice but check out this webcast today (july 18 at 19:00pm in Britain) called Sourcing Sexuality, hosted by the Dana Centre. The program features discussion from Sven Bocklandt, geneticist, University of California, Los Angeles, Qazi Rahman, psychobiologist, University of East London and King’s College London and Jeffrey Weeks, Executive Dean of Arts and Human Sciences, London South Bank University. I am writing this as I wait for it to come on and the music playing is worth the visit.

UPDATE: Good program. The video will be available soon at the same link. When the Q & A came up, mine was the first question. It was:

Michael Bailey and colleagues in 2000 only found an 11% (for men) and 14% (for women) pairwise concordance homosexuality. These twins were reared together, shared the same womb and same genes.

Doesn’t this argue that chance is involved in sexual orientation outcomes? Different biological and environmental factors would be more dominant for different people. Thus, the search for the cause of sexual orientation is likely to always be frustrated by exceptions since there may be multiple pathways to sexual attractions.

I would hope that both social constructionist and biologically minded panelists could have a go at this question.

More later

UPDATE: I was going to say more about the program but it is supposed to be online within a couple of days. I think it was a valuable program for anyone interested in this issue so keep checking the website. Regarding my question, Sven Bocklandt said there are several twin studies, some with larger concordances but whatever they were, environment must play a role. The social constructionist, Jeffrey Weeks, indicated agreement with my statement.


A dog that moos?

The new advertising effort designed to convince Americans that gayness is determined pre-birth features a dog named Norman who moos like a cow. Don’t know any dogs that moo, do you? Sounds like a good start for a Dr. Suess book though.

I will say that it is a slick website. However, the borndifferent.com designers need a better science advisor.

Here is what they say about identical twins and homosexuality:

“If one twin is born gay, there is a higher chance (52%) that the other will be gay as well.”

“Since identical twins share DNA, this tells us that genetics plays a part in sexual orientation.”

“That means some people are born gay.”

Leaving aside the faulty logic, the website quotes a decade old study that has been widely criticized. A newer more representative study in the year 2000 found that 11% of male identical twins and 14% of female twins shared homosexual orientation.

This website also waddles out Julio and Fabio the new penguin pride icons. According to the website, these two penguins “mate exclusively with each other.” Have the borndifferent folks forgotten about Silo and Roy? Silo and Roy are chinstrap penguins who used to be in love but Silo is now “ex-gay.” Just last year after I wrote about Silo’s conversion, spokeswoman for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Roberta Sklar said in the New York Times: “There’s almost an obsession with questions such as, ‘Is sexual orientation a birthright or a choice?’ And looking at the behavior of two penguins in captivity is not a way to answer that question.”

Someone call the born different folks. They must have missed the memo.