Does the Ex-Gay Movement Equal Genocide?
May 7th, 2010
That’s the provocative question raised by a new paper by Sue E. Spivey and Christine M. Robinson in the April edition of the journal Genocide Studies and Prevention called “Genocidal Intentions: Social Death and the Ex-Gay Movement.” I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Robinson last fall at the Anti-Heterosexism Conference in West Palm Beach, where she gave a talk based on her then-forthcoming article. Let’s just say I was extremely skeptical of her premise that the ex-gay movement has within it several characteristics consistent with the U.N.’s four-part definition contained within the 1948 Untied Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, articles II(b)-(e), which includes definitions which are not limited to mass murder.
I heard her out, and came away with the understanding of where she is coming from. It’s not so much that the ex-gay movement wants to round us up and kill us (although some have been complicit in such proposals which have been denounced as genocidal), but when you get to the heart of what the ex-gay movement wants to do, they truly envision a world in which there are no gay people. I still contend that using the word “genocide” is a most unhelpful hyperbole, but I can’t deny that at the same time it presents an illuminating metaphor — as long as you keep a level head and remain cognizant of the many limitations of the connections. And I think we do have to recognize that some won’t do that. That said, I don’t think we should shy away from the comparisons either. Heading these comparisons will be very important, especially as the American ex-gay and anti-gay movements move to extend their reach overseas.
Ex-gay survivor, therapist and author Jallen Rix looked at Spivey & Robinson and was particularly impressed with two elements of the paper which dealt with two characteristics of genocide as defined by the UN’s 1948 Convention:
For example, here are just two points: (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; and (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. Sound familiar?
…To further connect the dots, Spivey and Robinson have used the work of James Waller, who “synthesized a large body of social and psychological scholarship, organized as a general model, to explain how ordinary people commit extraordinary acts of brutality.” Some of the processes are “Us Verses Them Thinking,” “Moral Disengagement,” and “Blaming the Victim.” For example, “Ex-gay leaders socially distance themselves from their victims … they do this by defining homosexuality as behaviors, attractions, identities, or more insidiously, as a sinful ‘lifestyle,’ a mental illness, or a menacing social ‘agenda,’ thus denying the personhood, indeed the existence — and the victimization of gay and lesbian people.” As Joseph Nicolosi, one of the most outspoken reparative therapists (he coined the label), has said about a gay teen who had the courage to come out of the closet, “He is designed for a woman. … He is heterosexual but he may have a homosexual problem.” [Hyperlink added]
Rix is the author of the recently published Ex-Gay No Way: Survival and Recovery from Religious Abuse. He was raised in a conservative Southern Baptist household and was sent off to ex-gay therapy at a young age. In the book, he describes the serious mental harm he experienced as a result, and compares what he observed in the ex-gay world with the phenomenon known as Religious Abuse. Much of his therapeutic work involves helping former ex-gay clients recover from their experiences in the ex-gay movement.