NARTH 2010: Schoenewolf returns

About this time four years ago, I was debating about whether to attend the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) conference. I was scheduled to talk about the Sexual Identity Therapy framework. However, I decided not to go (and Scientific Advisory Board member, David Blakeslee, resigned from NARTH) after a controversy broke out over an article on the NARTH website by Gerald Schoenewolf, titled Gay Rights and Political Correctness: A Brief History.  

In essence, Schoenewolf argued that civil rights movements simplified complex issues, one of which was slavery. He wrote:

With all due respect, there is another way, or other ways, to look at the race issue in America. It could be pointed out, for example, that Africa at the time of slavery was still primarily a jungle, as yet uncivilized or industrialized. Life there was savage, as savage as the jungle for most people, and that it was the Africans themselves who first enslaved their own people. They sold their own people to other countries, and those brought to Europe, South America, America, and other countries, were in many ways better off than they had been in Africa. But if one even begins to say these things one is quickly shouted down as though one were a complete madman.

Schoenewolf attributed the civil rights movement to Marxism and then made a leap to the modern feminist and gay civil rights movements. NARTH was pretty slow to react and then defensive when they did. Schoenewolf’s article was eventually removed, without a significant rationale or apology from NARTH. The LA Times and other outlets covered the events and fallout. 

This year, Gerald Schoenewolf returns to the NARTH schedule with a talk sure to delight the home crowd – The Suppression of Psychoanalysis in the Treatment of Homosexuality. This sounds like a lament that psychoanalysts  are now discouraged from considering homosexuality to be a treatable condition. Ironically, the first suppressor of psychoanalysis in the treatment of homosexuality was Freud. In 1935, Freud corresponded with the mother of a homosexual man who had written him looking for psychoanalytic help for her gay son. While he said a few things to hearten the Reparatives, he was not ebullient about the prospects for analysis (Click link for a scan of the letter).

Dear Mrs. X (April 9, 1935)

I gather from your letter that your son is a homosexual. I am most impressed by the fact that you do not mention this term yourself in your information about him. May I question you, why do you avoid it? Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation, it cannot be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function produced by certain arrest of sexual development. Many highly respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexuals, several of the greatest among them (Plato, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, etc.). It is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime, and cruelty too. If you do not believe me, read the books of Havelock Ellis.

By asking me if I can help, you mean, I suppose, if I can abolish homosexuality and make normal heterosexuality take its place. The answer is, in a general way, we cannot promise to achieve it. In a certain number of cases we succeed in developing the blighted germs of heterosexual tendencies which are present in every homosexual, in the majority of cases it is no more possible. It is a question of the quality and the age of the individual. The result of the treatment cannot be predicted.

What analysis can do for your son runs in a different line. If he is unhappy, neurotic, torn by conflicts, inhibited in his social life, analysis may bring him harmony, peace of mind, full efficiency, whether he remains a homosexual or gets changed. If you make up your mind that he should have analysis with me (I don’t expect you will!!) he has to come over to Vienna. I have no intention of leaving here. However, don’t neglect to give me your answer.

Sincerely yours with kind wishes,


P.S. I did not find it difficult to read your handwriting. Hope you will not find my writing and my English a harder task.


Freud, Sigmund, “Letter to an American mother”, American Journal of Psychiatry, 107 (1951): p. 787.

Sounds like he was suppressing her expectations for psychoanalysis. While we might quarrel with points of Freud’s statements here, his words are not a ringing endorsement for the treatment of homosexuality in the manner proposed by reparative therapists.

Rationalization, thy name is Andrew Shirvell

Quibbling over campaign tactics?

Watch this if you can stomach it. It’s extraordinary. Cooper nailed the guy with the definition of cyberbullying. If you look at Chris Armstrong Watch, a creepy website Shirvell runs, you might agree with Cooper on his analysis of the state of Michigan definition of cyberbullying. With all the caps and hyperbole, it kind of reminds me of another website. Um, it has slipped my mind, oh wait, I had it… Oh I lost it. Could it be? Oh well, I just can’t remember it right now…

Christian citizen?! Please help us…

Shirvell, who is an Assistant Attorney General with the State of Michigan, was critiqued by his boss, Mike Cox, on AC360 tonight. If cyberbullying isn’t in play here, how about harassment?

UPDATE: This is not the first time Mr. Shirvell has gotten bothered over gay. Here is a 2005 article in the University of Michigan paper where he is interviewed due to his outrage over a rainbow flag sticker at a pizza shop.

This 2008 piece in the Michigan Messenger claims that Shirvell was Mike Cox’s campaign manager during the 2006 election as Attorney General. That might help explain why AG Cox is reluctant to investigate Shirvell’s activities outside of Chris Armstrong’s dorm and college activities.

California teen bullycide victim dies

Yesterday, KGET reported the death of Seth Walsh, a 13 year old boy, out as gay, who was bullied constantly. In this report, confirmation of the situation comes from his tormentors.

Tehachapi police investigators interviewed some of the young people who taunted Seth the day he hanged himself and determined despite the tragic outcome of their ridicule, their actions do not constitute a crime.

“Several of the kids that we talked to broke down into tears,” Jeff Kermode, Tehachapi Police Chief, said. “They had never expected an outcome such as this.”

He said the students told investigators they wish they had put a stop to the bullying and not participated in it.

Friends said Seth was picked on for years because he was gay. 

School administrators said they have an anti-bullying program in place, but schoolmates said staff at Jacobsen Middle School in Tehachapi offered Seth no protection or guidance.

Broken record, broken system, broken kids. Once again, I call on those who cast suspicion on anti-bullying programs to just stop the culture war long enough to address the real needs of real children.

Be sure to watch the follow up video…it follows immediately after the news report on Seth Walsh.


The silence from Las Vegas continues…

No huge news here, just been thinking about why the Las Vegas press has not written one word about the connection of Canyon Ridge Christian Church to the international story of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Today, I was contacted by a Finnish writer and yesterday alerted that the BBC is investigating the matter yet again and may be in touch. Most American and many European news organizations have covered the story extensively. NPR and Salon have addressed the Canyon Ridge connection but only one story has emerged in Vegas from an alternative paper, and that one messed up the facts of the bill.

I am aware from those close to the situation that reporters from all the papers and the networks have been made aware of the situation. NPR-Nevada devoted a segment to the matter but I am pretty sure that is all. The church was dropped by the largest health and AIDS groups in town, the church supports a bill mentioned by the President and Secretary of State during the National Prayer Breakfast and the local press overlooks it.

And so the misrepresentation continues. CRCC leaders told their congregants that the bill has been misrepresented in the press and the Las Vegas press has not done anything to investigate that charge. Even one local GLB group has been silent. Yesterday, Michael Bussee asked the Human Rights Campaign – Las Vegas on their Facebook page why they have not spoken out. Good question. As yet, no reply has been offered.

In any event, the foreign press continue to be intrigued by the varying responses of Las Vegas evangelicals to the Ugandan bill, even if Las Vegas news organizations are not.

Asher Brown – Another bullycide

I can’t think of how to start this so I will just post the link and grieve.

Parents believe bullies drove son to take his life

The eighth-grader killed himself last week. He shot himself in the head after enduring what his mother and stepfather say was constant harassment from four other students at Hamilton Middle School in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District.

Brown, his family said, was “bullied to death” — picked on for his small size, his religion and because he did not wear designer clothes and shoes. Kids also accused him of being gay, some of them performing mock gay acts on him in his physical education class, his mother and stepfather said.

The 13-year-old’s parents said they had complained about the bullying to Hamilton Middle School officials during the past 18 months, but claimed their concerns fell on deaf ears.

Please, no debating about why he was bullied, or which characteristic was most responsible. Just action.

Broken arm, unbroken spirit; Ohio boy wants to keep cheering despite bullying

An Ohio boy who loves gymnastics joined a cheerleading squad. Some other, older boys broke his arm over it. Roll the tape:

An Ohio mom is disappointed that her son’s school didn’t do more to stop at least two boys who allegedly picked on her 11-year-old cheerleader son until the bullies beat him so bad they broke his arm.

An 11-year-old says classmates attacked him for cheerleading.

She says the beating didn’t break his spirit however. Tyler Wilson has vowed to continue cheering with hopes it helps him get into college some day.

“I’m going to keep going. I’m going to make a lifestyle out of it,” Tyler told ABC News affiliate WTVG.

According to the mother, the incident where Tyler’s arm was broken was the culmination of previous assaults.

“When I went to the school, about two days after it happened to discuss Tyler’s story, the principal said there was an incident Monday and the Friday before, that the boy who started the fight had jumped on Tyler’s back and tried to start a fight,” she said.

Kristy Wilson said if she had known that Tyler was being physically targeted said she would have certainly stepped in to stop the situation, going as far as removing him from the school.

“I really wish the school would have let me know a lot sooner, so I could have dealt with it sooner,” she said.

I bet now the school folks wish they would have dealt with it sooner.

Ann Coulter sorta hearts gays, Bryan Fischer strangely hearts Ann Coulter

Bryan Fischer really wants to love Ann Coulter, even though she took a speaking engagement with the dreaded GOProud. He is even willing to forgive, now that it is over.

I did say that Ann might surprise us all and take the homosexuals straight on, but guessed that a desire not to upset her hosts, who surely paid a princessly sum to entice her into speaking and appearing on all their promotional posters, would likely prevent her from getting up in their business.

Well, I was wrong.

Ann took them straight on and gave them some straight talk I doubt they were ready for. There is no amount of sugar that will help this medicine go down.

Fischer read this write up of the event in Politico and got all misty:

And Ann, all is forgiven. Humble pie has never tasted so sweet. You are no longer the “Joan of Arc of homosexuality,” as I described you last month, you are now Daniella of the Lion’s Den. Good on ya, lass.

Not sure what he was eating in that humble pie. Coulter never met a group she couldn’t insult so her comments seem in character and her take on it seemed different than Fischer’s.

As for Coulter, she told POLITICO the embrace of gays on the right could only be reciprocated.

“Right wingers have always liked gays. Look at all of Ronald Reagan’s gay friends,” she said, proceeding to cite an unverified rumor dating back half a century: “Look at my personal hero Joe McCarthy and his” – airquotes – “special assistant.”

Some right wingers like gays so much they take them on trips to lift their luggage, although I am not sure that is what Coulter meant. Mr. Fischer on the other hand might need a new column to deal with Daniella of the Lions Den’s fondness for gays. 

UPDATE: Well perhaps Ann didn’t heart the GOProud crowd quite as much as Politico made it seem. Here is another view via RightWingWatch, from another attendee.

UPDATE: Or maybe she did a little more than the attendee above experienced. Read this conservative gay man’s take on the situation. The gay marriage argument was a very un-Fischer type argument, according to Alex Knepper at Frum Forum:

You conservative gays don’t actually care about this activist crap like marriage, or serving in the military. Ultimately, what you really want is some sort of assurance that Americans are accepting of gays, not marriage itself. Gay marriage initiatives don’t fail because Americans hate gay people; they fail because marriage is fundamentally about rearing children. Most Americans love gay people; they just don’t want that institution extended.

I’ll let conservative gays respond to that but it is probably not enough to let Ann keep her Warrior Princess badge.

U.N to appoint ambassador to Outer Space

When the aliens arrive, they will need to make reservations with Mazlan Othman, the head of the United Nation’s Office of Outer Space Affairs.

I am glad to see this as it is long over due. The UN will be dismantling the Men in Black unit (MIBU) in preparation for formal relations with the Diplomatic Inter-Planetary Society (DIPS).

I am taking courses in diplomacy in preparation for a possible appointment to the Office of Nautical Nonsense and an ambassadorship to Bikini Bottom.

Was Ronald Reagan anti-gay?

Context: Tea party successes make the movement attractive to GOP politicians because of the energy of the members in opposition to the sitting President. To define the movement, conservatives are fussing over whether or not social issues (read: abortion, gay marriage, sex education) should be a part of the agenda. Some say yes (e.g., Bryan Fischer and the Values Voters group) and others say not so much (e.g., Dick Armey).

Tomorrow night, Ann Coulter is speaking to GOProud, a gay GOP group and this has caused some social conservatives to blast her decision as selling out. On Wednesday, she wrote a column (a pre-GOProud shout out?) contrasting Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater on abortion and homosexuality and urged readers to follow Reagan and not Goldwater. Goldwater wanted government to stay out of personal choices and, according to Coulter, Reagan believed government should resist giving legitimacy to gays. Then yesterday, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, chimed in with his revisions and extentions.

About gay issues, Coulter provided an unsourced quote attributed to Reagan:  

“Society has always regarded marital love as a sacred expression of the bond between a man and a woman. It is the means by which families are created and society itself is extended into the future. … We will resist the efforts of some to obtain government endorsement of homosexuality.”

Looking for a source, all references to the quote I can find point to a 1984 edition of Presidential Biblical Scorecard, a publication from the Biblical News Service. I can’t find any current website for this publication, but have contacted some people for leads about the accuracy of the quote. It may be that the quote is a paraphrase of Reagan’s perceived position.

One reason I wonder if the quote reflects what Reagan’s views were at the time is because he was instrumental in helping to defeat a California anti-gay ballot measure in 1978. Proposition 6, also called the Briggs Initiative after GOP state Senator John Briggs, would have forbidden schools from hiring gay teachers and allowed schools to dismiss teachers who promoted homosexuality.

Despite his desires to run for President on a conservative agenda, Reagan met with David Mixner and Peter Scott to discuss the merits of the initiative. Opposing the tidal wave of Anita Bryant inspired anti-gay legislation might have caused some conservatives to think twice. However, Reagan agreed to a secret meeting. In his book, Stranger Among Friends, Mixner describes the occasion:

Peter and I were escorted into a bright office with windows overlooking West Los Angeles. Reagan rose from his desk, gave us his famous smile, extended his hand, and said, “How nice of you boys to come over to chat with me about this issue.”

He made us feel more at home than most Democrats did. He directed us to chairs and offered us soda. It was hard to believe that this smiling gentle man was the same person who had sent in three thousand bayoneted National Guardsmen to ‘protect’ People’s Park in Berkeley.

He opened the discussion, “I understand you boys have a case you want to make to me,” he said.

Mixner and Scott made a libertarian case against Proposition 6 and Reagan agreed. Reagan made a public statement opposing the ballot initiative and then wrote an op-ed detailing his views. Writing in National Review, Deroy Murdock describes the op-ed and the outcome of the statewide vote:

Reagan used both a September 24, 1978, statement and a syndicated newspaper column to campaign against the initiative.

“Whatever else it is,” Reagan wrote, “homosexuality is not a contagious disease like the measles. Prevailing scientific opinion is that an individual’s sexuality is determined at a very early age and that a child’s teachers do not really influence this.” He also argued: “Since the measure does not restrict itself to the classroom, every aspect of a teacher’s personal life could presumably come under suspicion. What constitutes ‘advocacy’ of homosexuality? Would public opposition to Proposition 6 by a teacher — should it pass — be considered advocacy?”

That November 7, Proposition 6 lost, 41.6 percent in favor to 58.4 percent against. Reagan’s opposition is considered instrumental to its defeat.

As Aaron Goldstein noted in the American Spectator, Reagan had nothing to gain by intervening in the Prop 6 fight in 1978 and a lot to lose.

Reagan stood absolutely nothing to gain by getting involved in this fight. After all, he did want to take one more stab at becoming the GOP standard bearer for the White House in 1980. In opposing Proposition 6, Reagan ran the risk of alienating a conservative base that had been the bedrock of his support in two terms as Governor of California. This would be especially true in Orange County, the cradle of California conservatism. It was also the home base of State Senator Briggs, who had ambitions to follow in Reagan’s footsteps to Sacramento.

According to journalist Kenneth Walsh, Reagan’s attitude toward gays were more consistent with his Prop 6 stance than the quote attributed to him by Coulter.

“Despite the urging of some of his conservative supporters, he never made fighting homosexuality a cause,” wrote Kenneth T. Walsh, former U.S. News and World Report White House correspondent, in his 1997 biography, Ronald Reagan. “In the final analysis, Reagan felt that what people do in private is their own business, not the government’s.”

Coulter correctly cites Reagan’s consistent opposition to abortion in her article and about that, there can be no debate. Reagan’s 1984 book, Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation, provided a passionate defense of the pro-life position. There is nothing comparable from Reagan on gay issues.

Some might argue that Reagan demonstrated his views on homosexuality  via his AIDS policy. However, National Review’s Murdock makes a compelling case that Reagan’s record on AIDS has been seriously distorted, noting that AIDS funding increased substantially every year from 1982 to 1989.

In any event, those seeking the mantle of Reagan need to deal with all of what he did and said.

Jeff Sharlet talks about new book and visit with David Bahati

Last night, Rachel Maddow interviewed Jeff Sharlet about his new book: C-Street. I have not seen it yet but I am aware that his reporting on his visit to Uganda takes up a chapter and will provide much detail about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Roll the tape:

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Note the intent of Bahati for his legislation as described to Sharlet. He is not trying to close any gaps in law on child abuse. He believes the government there should put Leviticus into effect. Democracy requires that you get a law in place to do it.

Regarding the Fellowship and pressure to withdraw the bill. I am aware that American Felloship members have said to Ugandan members that the bill is a mistake and should be withdrawn. However, Bahati says he feel no pressure. 

Here is my view of the situation. Bahati does not feel any threat to his standing in the Fellowship as the result of differing with the Americans and other Fellowship groups around the world about the anti-gay effort. It is clear to me that the bill has caused division between the Ugandan and American members. However, as Sharlet reported, Bahati describes no consequences for his stance. He hears words of disapproval regarding his bill but business as usual continues on other matters (e.g., “like defense contracts”). No consequences mean no need for a shift in ideology or policy. 

Personally, I think the Fellowship is doing a lot of good in the world. I think much of their work in poor nations is a reflection of true religion. However, with the great reach comes great responsibility. If it is true that David Bahati continues to enjoy the brotherhood and benefits he describes, then I can understand why he would dismiss the public pressure.  It seems clear that the Fellowship has great reach. The question is what will they do with their great responsibility in this situation.