Abomination: Homosexuality and the Ex-gay Movement

Abomination I just finished watching the new DVD, Abomination: Homosexuality and the Ex-gay Movement, created by the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists. The DVD features three ex-ex-gay people and a mother of a young woman who committed suicide, with the implication that the suicide was directly due to her ex-gay involvement. The video intermingled footage from the ex-ex-gays with interviews with Wayne Besen, Jack Drescher, David Scasta, Robert Spitzer and other professional commentators. In many ways, it is structured much like I Do Exist in format.

The stories from the non-professionals were very poignant and compelling. I thought they were quite articulate and believable. The ex-gay ministries they attended used many of the gender re-arranging techniques that often is singled out for ridicule (e.g., lessons for guys in how to cross and uncross their legs, make up sessions for girls). Richard Cohen is singled out by name for his tennis raquet beating, and client cuddling. As I have noted in past blog entries, there are things done in the name of reorientation that are bizarre and potentially quite damaging. In my opinion, if social conservatives were more self-correcting, then these excesses and strange practices would not be considered part of the mainstream. I can understand how critics would find the most bizarre stuff and attempt to paint an entire world view with the brush of the strange. I would expect that from an advocacy group. I don’t expect it from the psychiatrists who made this video.

Ariel Shidlo said on camera that almost anything has been used in ex-gay therapy and then listed many modalities of treatment and methods of intervention. However, no research has been able to point out what on that list leads to the harm described by the people on this video. We should try to find out what leads to poor outcomes and what leads to the positive outcomes that others report.

There were distortions on this video. Shidlo and Schroeder’s study was presented as a study of how ineffective change was, citing 13% positive outcomes. It was not mentioned that the study was designed to understand those who were harmed and did not directly appeal to those who felt benefit from therapy until the study was nearly completed. The study was not a representative study and in that sense is a counterpart to the study of those who said reorientation was helpful conducted by Robert Spitzer. David Scasta said that the professions considered “the data” in arriving at their consensus against reorientation therapy. He did not mention that: one, the professions had issued negative advisories in advance of data and two, that there are no representative studies of reorientation therapy. Wayne Besen again said all founders had gone back to gay, distorting the actual LIA and Exodus histories. In fairness, I suspect his part was filmed before Michael Bussee came forward and acknowledged that he and Cooper were not the only founders of Exodus.

In all, as with most videos of this genre (mine included), the strongest aspect of the film was the stories of real people. I would never try to argue with their experiences and found myself wanting to talk to them to find out more about what they had experienced and what could be learned. However, due to the limitations I noted, I suspect the video will mostly preach to the choir.