Exodus and “Self-Determination”

Jim Burroway

June 6th, 2012

In response to yesterday’s post about Exodus International’s statement on Reparative Therapy in response to California’s proposed curbs on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) by licensed professionals, Exodus president Alan Chambers sent me a message clarifying a point about the line referring to “an individual’s right to self determination”:

To clarify the “right to self determination”, we took that from the APA not NARTH.

The line about “an individual’s right to self-determine” is from Principle E (under General Principles) of the American Psychological Association’s Code of Ethics. This inclusion in the APA’s code of ethics hearkens back to past history when it was much more common for patients to be coerced or forced into various forms of psychological treatment against their will. The code now calls for special safeguards “to protect the rights and welfare of persons or communities whose vulnerabilities impair autonomous decision making.”  The code goes on:

Psychologists are aware of and respect cultural, individual and role differences, including those based on age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language and socioeconomic status and consider these factors when working with members of such groups. Psychologists try to eliminate the effect on their work of biases based on those factors, and they do not knowingly participate in or condone activities of others based upon such prejudices.

NARTH, of course, ignores that portion of the Code of Ethics which places this right in critical context when discussing the rights of self-determination. NARTH uses the statement to justify ex-gay therapy. But as I noted in yesterday’s post, Exodus departs from NARTH by juxtaposing the language from the APA’s code of ethics with the statement, “As an organization, we do not subscribe to therapies that make changing sexual orientation a main focus or goal.” While it’s not clear that Exodus embraces the fullness of Principle E, this does appear to place Exodus on a line that is at least somewhat closer to the APA’s position than NARTH’s.


June 6th, 2012

But self-determination must be considered in the context of coercion and/or fraulent representations…

If I wanted to offer cancer patients a treatment consisting of eating large quantities of cotton candy, that’s not okay. It’s fraud.

Worse, if someone is left-handed but I convince them that left-handedness is a cancer AND I offer them a treatment consisting of cotton candy (for a fee)… That’s fraud two-fold – both in the diagnosis, and in the putative cure. It’s also coersive, because by convincing them that their condition is pathological when it is not, or by failing to disabuse them of the idea they may already have when they walk in, I’m operating in an arena of “fictitious need” — that is, I’m abusing so-called free will.

Worst: if someone is left-handed, but I convince them that left-handedness is a cancer, and the solution is to cut off their left hand, feel chronic pain and guilt over their inability to overcome their lefthandedness, and apply blame to their closest family members (thereby depriving them of critical support mechanisms) for their lefthandedness… Now I’m squarely in the realm of causing direct harm (violation of the hippocratic oath) in addition to the coercive and fraudulent behaviors.

Anyone conducting this form of therapy should be sued for every last dime and be left for homeless, frankly. I’d recommend prison, but I’m not interested in taxpayer dollars going to support them.

In short, just because you can convince someone of something doesn’t make it efficacious, morally defensible, or, for that matter, legal. It’s time to put these hate mongering abusive charlatans out of business once and for all.


June 6th, 2012

Sorry, was that a bit over the top?

If Chambers’ feeling were hurt, let him know I have the name of some great therapists. I’m sure they can help him get over it.

Priya Lynn

June 6th, 2012

“Sorry, was that a bit over the top?”

No, I thought it was bang on. I never thought of those things before.


June 6th, 2012

Even if you don’t influence people and someone comes to you and wants a therapy or surgery that you know could harm them, you’re ethically obligated to at least try to talk them out of it.

Regan DuCasse

June 7th, 2012

Andrew, I’ll lend you my own analogies that I’ve mentioned before in what the ex gay fraud looks to my observation.

We have socio/political realities in which other people have been influenced by systemic prejudice and defamation of their NORMAL characteristics.
But characteristics that have been rejected and indirectly punished by discrimination right before our eyes.

Curvy and even normal weight girls who have developed anorexia because very thin women are glamorized and highly successful.
Asians who have the fold of their eyes surgically altered in favor of “Occidental eyes”, and blacks who have also endured painful burns to straighten their hair to meet an unrealistic aesthetic. Or light skinned blacks, who passed as white to be relieved of the harsh system of Jim Crow.
And Jews, who endured disconnection such as Jews living in the former Soviet Union.
Passing for something or altering one’s characteristics to avoid prejudice or meet unrealistic and UNNECESSARY ideals, is always being done.
It’s been done to the point of physical, emotional and financial damage to fit in.

No one would call any counselors or surgeons or others who exploited the systemic prejudice to further damage the self esteem of who is victim of it as correct or righteous to do it.
With the anti Semitism that exists for Jews, and the history of attempts at genocide, would anyone suggest that conversion on condition of civil and political respect is acceptable? Mores the point, should be acceptable to Jews?

The ex gay industry has been most dishonest about that kind of exploitation.
They have been dishonest in asserting that it’s the characteristic that causes the pain, low self esteem or other life challenges, rather than the surrounding prejudice that does.

The ex gay industry has also been dishonest that it’s NECESSARY to alter one’s sexual orientation to be more successful, acceptable and morally sound.
It’s not NECESSARY to be thin to the point of starvation.
It’s not necessary that an Asian alter their eyes, or a black person their aesthetic either, but they do anyway to satisfy a surrounding cultural ideal, while being convinced they do these alterations for PERSONAL fulfillment.

And none of these other characteristics are altered as a means of RELIGIOUS and spiritual value either.

And those in the ex gay industry, as you know, engage in political action and work to influence the very policies that keep their coffers full.
They deal in all manner of STARVATION for gay people until that gay person is dead as such.
It’s either have hetero sex, or become ex sexual and have no sex at all, on condition of the surrounding community supporting your civil rights.

And for who is this all for and who benefits from it?
Certainly not gay people.
And actually neither to het people.

Because, as I say also: Jim Crow discrimination didn’t make white people more morally or intellectually superior.
Nor was it an example of a civilized and socially workable system of government.
And it’s the same way with discriminatory laws against gays.
It’s not going to make straights morally or socially superior.

It just indicates they are gorging themselves on the civil rights they refuse to share with those they want starved of them.

Michael Bussee

June 9th, 2012

Today on Dr. Throckmorton’s blog, Alan Chambers (President of Exodus International) posted the following statement — in response to accusations that Exodus has lied to the public about Orientation Change:

“…To lie would mean that we purposely deceived. We have not done that. Yet, what you and David [Roberts] say about acknowledging there has been an evolution in what we believe is critical and you will see that clearly as we continue making statements.

Randy [Thomas] is right that therapy and orientation change hasn’t ever been our focus or goal at the Exodus office, but the public sure wouldn’t know it. And, now that we all are getting a firm grasp on these things the burden is on us to prove it and make amends and changes.”


June 9th, 2012

Alan Chambers = “And, now that we all are getting a firm grasp on these things the burden is on us to prove it and make amends and changes.”

SGM = Good on you Alan, good on you :)
None of us should underestimate how difficult it is to publicly admit you were wrong. I know how hard it is for me to admit I was wrong, especially if I have dug my heels in. What is easiest is to simply move forward without ever admitting our error, in our new enlightenment. Inside of us we know we were wrong, but we don’t admit it to anyone we simply change our attitude or words and move forward being a better person.

That works for us individually. But it doesn’t work as an organization. This transformation must be very hard for Alan, personally, and as an organization.

He personally put himself and his wife out there as evidence of a gay man happily married to a straight woman, implying that this is the way to go and can work for everybody. Even IF it is working for Alan, and we don’t know that it is, or it isn’t, he has to know that this is a very unwise path for 99.99% of gay men. I fell for it when I saw his picture with his wife. Look at my comments in this discussion I didn’t know what Alan Chambers looked like but I talk about his message without even knowing I was looking at his picture.


Today again on Throckmorton’s blog near the end of the comments, Emily K shows me some of Alan’s testimony before Congress. I didn’t know this before reading Emily K’s comments. WOW! After reading Alan’s Testimony before Congress I can see how doubly or triply difficult it is for Alan to walk back from that.

This has got to be really really hard for him. Because I don’t have any skin in the game, being straight and not knowing anyone who ever wanted to change their sexual orientation, from an outsiders perspective I can really appreciate how extremely difficult this is for Alan Personally and for the Organization he leads.

As hard as it is to disavow positions we used to hold like Michael Bussee does, think how hard it is to disavow those positions while STILL leading the organization. What I am trying to say is, it is much easier to be an outsider and disavow that which we previously believed, than to do the same thing from the inside, while still leading the organization. I do not negate or dismiss the harm Alan and Exodus has done, but also I do not negate or dismiss how extremely difficult it is to publicly admit error personally and professionally while still being Captain of the Ship.

While it would be best to hear that One BIG all encompassing Apology, I can understand how difficult that is for anyone, and can see why someone would choose to publicly admit their errors in small incremental steps. So for each one of those small incremental steps that are revealed I say, “Yeah Good On You Alan,” this truly is probably the best he is capable of doing at any one time. Don’t forget how hard this is. It’s gotta be really really hard.

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