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.

View from this side of the pond: Albert Mohler on sexual orientation

This blog post articulates a view of research (and message to Evangelicals) from a theologian that is not far from my own. This is a significant statement from a very prominent Evangelical.

Dr. Mohler ends with this observation:

Christians must be very careful not to claim that science can never prove a biological basis for sexual orientation. We can and must insist that no scientific finding can change the basic sinfulness of all homosexual behavior. The general trend of the research points to at least some biological factors behind sexual attraction, gender identity, and sexual orientation. This does not alter God’s moral verdict on homosexual sin (or heterosexual sin, for that matter), but it does hold some promise that a deeper knowledge of homosexuality and its cause will allow for more effective ministries to those who struggle with this particular pattern of temptation. If such knowledge should ever be discovered, we should embrace it and use it for the greater good of humanity and for the greater glory of God.

I understand that some regular readers will take exception to his theological view of homoeroticism. My point here is to note that a major Evangelical leader has acknowledged the potential role of prenatal factors for some homosexuality which seems to be at odds with the prevailing view the U.S..

At least one influential Evangelical blogger has taken note as well. As has Andrew Sullivan.

View from the other side of the pond

Feedback from a Dutch writer, with permission. Do you think Wiskerke is correct?

Dear Warren Throckmorton,

I’ve read your article ‘Why Do I Have These Feelings’ on the internet. As an European Christian (Dutch), rather conservative, I can identify with your vision on the origins of homosexuality. I have written ‘as an European Christian’, because I’ve got the impression that American evangelicals in general emphasize over and over again that homosexuality is not a congenital orientation, as if they need that to defend that homosexual relations are wrong. In my observation (which is limited) American evangelicals are quite militant in this, with the Ted Haggard story as one of the results: he had (and has) to deny that he has an homosexual orientation, although that may be the case (but who am I to decide that), with the risk to create a virtual image of himself and the obligation to live by that image.

Am I right that your vision on the origins of homosexuality is rare amongst American evangelicals? In the Netherlands, even conservative Christians who don’t condone homosexual relationships are not afraid to see homosexuality as an orientation that has a complex origin, and probably has a congenital dimension. There are church members/elders/pastors who can say that they have a homosexual orientation, and that they expect to live with that their whole life, but they choose to abandon homosexual relationships. Is my conception right that this approach is not very known among American evangelicals?

With regards,

C. Wiskerke,