Rick Perry: Ooops. I Did It Again.
June 20th, 2014
Rick Perry’s comments last week comparing gays and lesbians to alcoholics has elicited quite a few headslaps and groans across the political spectrum. Sane people see it as just another example of Texas-style ignorance and insanity, and even some Texas Republicans are wishing that he hadn’t opened his big mouth. And few are trying to step away from the recently-approved Texas GOP platform endorsing sexual orientation change therapy. All of this has threatened to derail that re-boot of the Republican Brand ahead of the 2014 and 2016 elections. Texas GOP chairman Steve Munisteri, in particular, sees the danger:
But he did address the inclusion of reparative therapy in the platform, saying he doesn’t believe you can convert a LGBT individual to a heterosexual by simply talking to them.
“And I just make the point for anybody that thinks that may be the possibility: Do they think they can take a straight person to a psychiatrist and turn them gay?” Munisteri said.
Munisteri said he’s not the only one who opposes this plank in the party’s platform.
“My emails and phone calls to the office are running overwhelmingly opposed to that plank in the platform,” Munisteri said.
Ministeri describes the parliamentary maneuver that allowed the platform to be approved with the conversion therapy plank in place and says that there is no way to tell if a majority of Republicans statewide actually support the conversion therapy plank.
Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Perry’s handlers in his totally-not-running-for-Presidential campaign have apparently had a sit-down with him and have gotten him to see that his remarks weren’t going to win him any votes:
I got asked about an issue, and instead of saying, ‘You know what, we need to be a really respectful and tolerant country, and get back to talking about, whether you’re gay or straight you need to be having a job, and those are the focuses I want to be involved with,’ instead of getting — which I did, I readily admit, I stepped right in it,” he said.
Meet the Guy Who Convinced the Texas GOP To Endorse Ex-Gay Therapy
June 12th, 2014
That’s Jeremy Joel, who Cathie Adams credits for the idea. Adams is President of the Texas Eagle Forum who spearheaded the effort to get the state Republican Party to endorse ex-gay therapy in its 2016 platform. Joel founded an ex-gay group called Joel 2:25 International, and Lone Star Q provides a roundup of his story:
In another post that includes the packet he sent to GOP delegates proposing the platform amendment, Joel discusses how he became an activist against bans on reparative therapy for minors like those that have passed California and New Jersey.
“Reparative Therapy and this type of ministry work played a significant role in saving my life and I have been blessed to help many others over the past four years,” Joel writes. “Recently though, this ministry work has been under attack across the country and in some states Republican legislators and Governors have been silent or complicit in passing these laws.”
According to an interview posted on YouTube, Joel lived an active gay life for about six years. He had two long-term relationships and attended a gay church but remained religiously conflicted and dissatisfied. In 2009, he sought treatment from California psychologist Joseph Nicolosi, a founder and former president of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH).
Nicolisi referred Joel to an ex-gay retreat called Journey Into Manhood, which he says reduced his same-sex attraction by 50 percent in one weekend.
Joel claims that his group has 400 members in 37 countries thanks to Skype. He also told the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram that he thinks his idea has been overly hyped by both sides. Nevertheless, he’s happy with the platform plank as it stands:
Jeremy said the Republican platform amendment was much like the original version he took to Cathie Adams, president of Texas Eagle Forum.
The final version characterizes the therapy as “reparative” for patients “seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle. No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access.”
Jeremy said he is also glad that Republicans deleted other old platform language claiming that homosexuality “tears at the fabric of society” and blaming gays and lesbians for a “breakdown of the family.”
“We should never portray a hostile message about dividing people,” he said.
Iowa Man Describes the Horrors of Home-Grown Ex-Gay Therapy
October 7th, 2011
Samuel Brinton, a student at Kansas State University, describes growing up under his Southern Baptist missionary father, who beat him, burned him and shocked him with electricity to try to change him from being gay after Samuel came out at the age of twelve. The video is compelling.
Update (10/10): Wayen Besen at Truth Wins Out posted this comment yesterday on Towleroad:
Truth Wins Out has tried verify this story for more than a month. Our phone calls have gone unanswered. We hope that the full range of facts can come to light. For example, who was the specific therapist who performed these abusive actions?
We are always pleased when “ex-gay” survivors are brave enough to come foward and share their experiences. We look forward to Samuel providing further information in the very near future.
Ecuador Closes 30 Ex-Gay Clinics
September 12th, 2011
Ecuadorean authorities have so far this year closed at least thirty ex-gay clinics which claimed to “cure” homosexuality following allegations of torture and abuse by former patients. One of those former clients, 28-year-old Paula Ziritt, said she was held for two years at one such facility in Guayaqui, which included three months in handcuffs while guards threw urine and ice water on her. “It was degrading, humiliating and horrible,” she said. Another former client was nineteen years old when he was forcibly taken by his father to a different clinic, where he was beaten, deprived of food, and also had buckets of cold water thrown on him. Authorities say that six clinics which were closed in Guayaquil were linked to evangelical movements.
Ecuador’s Health Ministry said they are working with the Interior Ministry to weed out the unlicensed clinics which are operating outside of Ecuadorean law. Some of these clinics are suspected as posing as alcohol and drug rehabilitation centers. Authorities estimate that as many as 200 such clinics may be operating in the country, and are asking members of the gay community to come forward with any information they may have. One provincial health director, Eva Cevallos, warns, “Obviously you can not cure homosexuality. These therapies involve malpractice and are unauthorized. They cause depressive disorders, self-destructive behavior, anxiety and may lead to committing suicide.”
Love In Action Suspends Residential Ex-Gay Program
September 2nd, 2011
Memphis-based Love In Action has announced that they have “suspended indefinitely” their residential ex-gay program:
Love In Action’s Residential program has been suspended indefinitely. Simply put, there is a significant need to bring all of LIA under one location for it to be more cost effective. We continue to counsel and grow through our 4-Day Intensives, Hourly Counseling, Conferences, Support Groups, and Church Assistance Program.
LIA refers web visitors to Woodstock, Georgia-based HopeQuest for those interested in an ex-gay residential program.
Love In Action became the focus of international attention in June 2005, when sixteen-year-old Zach Stark announced on his MySpace blog that his parents were sending him away to an ex-gay non-residential youth program after he came out to them. He also posted the program’s rules that he would be forced to live under while locked away in the “therapy” program. Advocates protested for several days outside the main offices of Love In Action. That incident has become the basis for a new documentary film, This is What Love In Action Looks Like.
Love In Action’s residential program maintained group homes throughout Memphis in residential neighborhoods for their charges. Clients were placed three to a bedroom, and shared household duties as part of their treatment program. The program itself was horrendously abusive. As former clients related to me, one important element of their treatment program involved undergoing an exhausted “personal inventory” in which they recount in explicit detail each and every sexual “sin” they have ever committed — whether it was detailed descriptions of sexual acts, or if they had been celibate then detailed descriptions of their sexual fantasies. Over the course of weeks and months, they revisit their personal inventory and add to it anything else that they may remember.
Then during the “Friends and Family Weekend,” friends and family members were invited to come to the Love In Action campus to visit with their “struggling” loved one. They were ushered into a room and are seated on one side, but not before undergoing a counseling session before hand. The clients are then brought into the room and made to stand before their families and friends. They are then ordered to read aloud from their personal inventory — with complete details over their most humiliating sexual act or fantasy. This, they read aloud in front of their parents, friends, siblings — whoever happens to be there for the weekend.
In that counselling session before seeing their loved ones, visitors were advised ahead of time that they will likely hear something very disturbing from their loved one, and that a key component of this “therapy” is that they were not to offer any approval for their client. They couldn’t say, “we love you anyway”, they couldn’t say “we forgive you,” they couldn’t say anything positive. Instead, they were instructed to condemn their loved one, to tell them how disappointed they were, how disgusted they were, and so forth. The effects of this encounter was often devastating to clients and family members alike.
Peterson Toscano, a former LIA client and current ex-gay survivor and gender advocate reacts to today’s news:
I am thrilled that the sun has finally set on this part of the program–one that housed and harassed many of us these past 30 years. While they will continue to offer some limited services, it appears that they have begun to dismantle operations.
What better way to celebrate than you see the new documentary by LIA protester and filmmaker Morgan Jon Fox. This is What Love in Action Looks Like chronicles what happened when a 16 year old boy was forced to attend Love in Action and how his friends responded and ultimately help shut down the youth program back in 2007. Or pop in your DVD of Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway Housse, now a HISTORICAL satire of the Love in Action program.
Where Did The Ex-Gay One-Third “Success Rate” Come From?
July 18th, 2011
E. Daniel Blatt, otherwise known as GayPatriotWest, responded to the Marcus Bachmann exposé with his thoughts on ex-gay therapy. He didn’t exactly defend ex-gay therapy per se, defending instead the right of Christian groups to “set up such companies, provided they do not coerce anyone to enter treatment.” He doesn’t go into what constitutes coercion in conservative Christian culture, but that’s not the debate he was entering. He adds “that critics of such outfits continue to have the freedom to question the methods of said companies and should continue to exercise that freedom,” but he doesn’t enter into a debate of their methods either. He merely posits those two statements as a prelude to the debate he does enter, the so-called success rates of ex-gay therapy. Blatt concluded that the reported success rates are likely highly self-selecting and consisting of those whose sexuality is more fluid that those who don’t seek to change.Very reasonable assumptions, both, strongly backed by the evidence itself. But then he says this:
The only objective studies I have read of such programs show they have a “success” rate (as defined by them) no greater than 33% (and even that number is likely inflated). And that, let me stress, is not 33% of all gay people, but 33% of those who seek counseling in such facilities.
The caveat is taken, but even with that caveat, the numbers are definitely inflated. And it’s the first sentence that gave me pause: “The only objective studies I have read…” Which studies would those be?
Blatt probably did what many people do in the blogosphere. Most who say they looked into studies almost never actually read the studies. Blatt wrote about the “objective studies I have read,” but he likely should have written about the “objective studies I have read of” — the key point being that he probably relied on others whom he trusted to describe those studies on the assumption that they read them — or that they read of them from others who they trusted, who read them or who read of them from others who they trusted, and so on.
You see where this is going. I suspect that about as many people have actually read studies on efforts to change sexual orientation, whether they support ex-gay therapy or oppose it, as those who have actually read Kinsey’s 1948 Sexual Behavior In the Human Male. Everyone quotes from them and are absolutely certain that their quotes are accurate, but almost nobody has actually read the sources that they claim their quotes came from. (The same argument can be made for other important books like, say, the Bible.) And so I’ve learned a long time ago not to rely on other people’s characterizations of whatever they say they’ve read — or what they said they read of someone else who read it, or who read someone else who read it, etc. I actually have those books and studies in my collection (visitors to my home find my library “interesting,” to say the least) and I have not only read them, but I refer to them more often than I care to.
The 33% statistic, in fact, is not based any any systematic objective studies, but is rather an artifact of lore (much like Kinsey’s 10%) which has a ring of credibility for those who believe it (much like Kinsey’s 10%) but which doesn’t have much of a rigorous statistical basis behind it (much like Kinsey’s 10%). Further, the 33% statistic often appeared more as a rule of thumb than as a reliable statistic. Back when homosexuality was still considered a mental disorder, it was generally believed among mental health professions that about a third could be “cured” and induced to enter heterosexual marriages, a third could become either celibate or bisexual, and a third were more or less hopeless. The one-third/one-third/one-third lore — specifics of the lore varied — became more or less accepted fact despite the absence of evidence to support it.
Exodus no longer touts the 33% statistic on their revamped web site, but before that remodel Exodus claimed (via archive.org) that a success rate of between 30% and 50% was “not unusual.” A similar range of success was repeated by NARTH, the National Association for Research and Treatment of Homosexuality, while a 1997 unpublished, non-peer-reviewed NARTH study conveniently arrived at the the 33% figure right on the nose. In 2009, NARTH appeared to have traced the 33% statistic to Edmund Bergler’s 1956 book, Homosexuality: Disease or Way of Life? I’ll let NARTH describe Bergler’s finding from their “journal.” It’s not online, but I have a copy. On page 20, NARTH writes:
Bergler (1956) reported that in his 30 years of practice, he had successfully used psychoanalysis to help approximately 100 homosexuals change their orientation, and that a real shift toward genuine heterosexuality had indeed occurred. Using psychoanalysis, Bergler and his associates reported a 33 percent cure rate-that is, following treatment these patients were able to function as heterosexuals, whereas before treatment they were exclusively homosexual.
I have combed through Homosexuality: Disease or Way of Life? but cannot find the 33% statistic. On page 188, Bergler does write, “In nearly thirty years, I have successfully concluded analysis of one hundred homosexuals (thirty other analyses were interrupted either by myself or by the patient’s leaving)” That’s about as close as I can get to finding a statistical citation. I haven’t found NARTH’s claim for a “33 percent cure rate.” Instead, Bergler actually implies that all of those 100 cases were “successfully concluded” and on the next page he triumphantly states, “The theoretical and therapeutic obstacles to curing homosexuals has been surmounted” — all with nary a statistic or measurement in sight. I’m willing to concede that the statistic may be hidden somewhere else in the 302-page volume. But if it’s in there, Bergler himself doesn’t make much of it, and neither do his contemporary book reviewers.
But while I have Bergler’s books off the shelf and on my desk, an examination of his views are illuminating. Bergler wrote some of the most damning books and essays on homosexuality ever published. In 1959′s 1000 Homosexuals, (again, no mention of cure rates that I can find) Bergler describes gay men as “psychic mascochsts,” as he explains in the very first chapter:
Imagine a man who for some mysterious reasons unconsciously wants to be mistreated by a woman, though consciously unaware of this wish. Imagine, further, that this person inwardly fears his own wish, but instead of giving up the wish itself give sup its alleged or imagined central figure, woman. Since there are only two sexes, this leaves him only one alternative in his frantic flight: man.
In Homosexuality: Disease or Way of Life?, Bergler described gay men as acting on utter hatred of women:
The homosexual takes flight to man as an antidote for the woman he fears; the antidote is only secondarily elevated to the status of an attraction. This attraction is mingled with contempt; the hatred and scorn for women shown by the most vilent heterosexual misogynist appears to be benevolence when compared with the contempt shown by the typical homosexual for his sexual partners. This attitude is so marked that frequently the whole personality of the “lover” is obliterated: many homosexual contacts take place in comfort stations, in the obscurity of a park, in Turisk baths, where the sex object is not even seen. This fully impersonal means of achieve “contact” makes even a visit to a heterosexual whorehouse see, like an emotional experience.
In his 1953 book Fashion and the Unconscious, Bergler gave an example of how this so-called hatred of women played out:
It may be surprising but the existence of constrictive and “uncomfortable” fashions can be traced to the paradoxical fact that women are dressed by their bitterest enemies. Male homosexuals, who are inwardly terrified of women, are predominant in designing women’s clothes. Whatever their rationalizations, they hate women, as a defense.
So now that you you know where he’s coming from, let’s leave this digression and get back to the rule of the thirds. If Bergler wasn’t the source, then the next probably source might be Irving Bieber’s 1962 Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study. He touted a 77% “cure” rate, which is at least in the one-third ballpark. More significantly, Bieber’s tome was wildly influential throughout the mental health profession. Anyone who was even mildly interested in trying to cure homosexuality was aware of Bieber’s book. It cared a weight in the psychological world similar to that which Kinsey’s books caried in popular culture. There were other studies which claimed a 33% success rate, but none of them came close to approaching the reach that Bieber’s 358-page book had. If Bieber wasn’t the source of the 33% statistic, he most certainly was the inspiration for the one-third/one-third/one-third lore. His numbers make a good approximation. After treatment, 27% of his sample of 106 gay and bisexual men became “exclusively heterosexual”, 32% became bisexual or inactive, and 41% remained uncured. And thus, the very rough one-third/one-third/one-third rule of thumb was born.
(It’s interesting to note the role that the 30 bisexuals played in this composite statistic: of them, 50% became “exclusively heterosexual”, while 43% of them remained bisexual and two became “inactive”. Meanwhile, only 19% of “exclusive homosexuals” before the study became “exclusively heterosexual” afterwards. Fifty-seven percent of the “exclusively homosexuals” remained stubbornly “exclusively homosexual” after treatment, with the rest reportedly becoming bisexual.)
Bieber’s anti-gay rhetoric was considerably more restrained than Bergler’s but his views of gay people were nevertheless similar. During the 1973 debate over the APA’s removal of homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, Bieber told a reporter, “a homosexual is a person whose heterosexual function is crippled, like the legs of a polio victim.” Bieber died in 1991, but his wife Toby Bieber, who was one of the book’s nine other co-authors, continued her husband’s legacy and helped to create NARTH, where today she sits on their so-called Scientific Advisory Committee. She also backed Paul Cameron’s abandoned online “journal.”
So what about the ex-gay success rate? Well, the more I look personally at the studies, including Bieber’s and Bergler’s, the less I find that any of them are objective. The few that are, are burdened with poor methodologies, missing or inconsistent definitions of what “success” means, and minimal or absent long-term follow-up — also like Bieber’s and Bergler’s. And it’s not just me saying so. The American Psychological Association agrees. An APA task force in 2009 concluded (PDF: 816KB/138 pages) that “enduring change to an individual’s sexual orientation is uncommon,” and that “there was some evidence to indicate that individuals experienced harm” from such therapies.
Oh, and it’s not just the APA saying change is extremely rare and much, much lower than 33%. It’s ex-gay proponents themselves, when you take the time to dig into their data and ignore their press releases. In 2007, Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse, two proponents of ex-gay ministries, published their study in a book titled, Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation. (An important caveat to note is that this book was not peer-reviewed. It was also funded and supported by Exodus International.) As I noted then, one of the diffuculties of that study was that, despite Exodus’s boast that they have helped “hundreds of thousands” find “freedom” from homosexuality, Jones and Yarhouse had a very difficult time finding people to study:
The sample size was disappointingly small, too small for an effective retrospective study. They told a reporter from Christianity Today that they had hoped to recruit some three hundred participants, but they found “many Exodus ministries mysteriously uncooperative.” They only wound up with 98 at the beginning of the study (72 men and 26 women), a population they describe as “respectably large.”
Fewer than a hundred is a tiny sample on which to assess the efforts of an entire movement, but let’s press on. In 2009, Stanton and Jones issued a follow-up with updated figures for that study. So overall, here’s what happened:
- Success: Conversion – 14 (14%)
- Success: Chastity – 18 (18%)
- Non-Success – 29 (30%)
- Drop-Outs – 37 (38%)
And what was “Success: conversion?” Stanton and Jones defined it in their book as — and this has to be my favorite definition of all time — “satisfactory, if not uncomplicated, heterosexual adjustment.” Let’s just pause here and let that sink in. It’s not heterosexuality. It’s a close-enough-for-hand-grenades adjustment to heterosexual behavior, with complications. I’ll bet, because when looking at average changes in Kinsey scores during the study, the prospective sample (a critical subset of the overall study — they were the only ones measured from the beginning of their entry into ex-gay therapy and were thus less self-selecting) reported, on average, virtually no change in attractions and a small increase in homosexual behavior. That’s probably why Jones and Yarhouse gave this caution:
[W]hile we found that part of our research population experienced success to the degree that it might be called (as we have here) “conversion,” our evidence does not indicate that these changes are categorical, resulting in uncomplicated, dichotomous and unequivocal reversal of sexual orientation from utterly homosexual to utterly heterosexual. Most of the individuals who reported that they were heterosexual at T6 did not report themselves to be without experience of homosexual arousal, and they did not report their heterosexual orientation to be unequivocal and uncomplicated.
Somehow, that doesn’t sound like anything close to being a “cure” to me. And as for defining chastity as “success,” well, I’ll let you decide if a lifetime of loneliness is acceptable to you.
Anti-Gay Forces Pull “Ex-Gay” Card in NY Marriage Battle
June 22nd, 2011
It’s predictable, isn’t it? At some point in virtually every discussion involving gay people, anti-gay activists point to the so-called “ex-gay” movement to say that if some people can change (or pretend to change) then everyone ought to change and all laws granting even a smidgen of dignity to gay people (let alone anything remotely approaching equality) is unnecessary. We saw this argument before on hate crimes legislation, suicide prevention efforts, and even the current “It Gets Better” anti-bullying campaign. Their answer for everything: change, or at least pretend to change.
And so now we learn that Anthony Falzarano is now in the New York Capital lobbying against marriage equality, claiming that God “healed” him of his homosexuality. But if there’s anything we’ve learned this past month from Kirk Murphy’s family, “healing” carries a terrible price tag. That’s why every major professional organization argues against ex-gay therapy, citing both the lack of evidence that it works as well as the reports of grave harm that it produces.
Falzarano, who co-founded Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) won’t disclose any of that to his lobbying targets though. Instead, he sees death as a sign from God that homosexuals should change (or at least pretend to change). In fact, that could be the ex-gay movement’s mantra: Change or die.
It Gets Better: From Perry, IA
October 20th, 2010
If you’ve never seen the web site I’m From Driftwood, you really owe yourself a heart-warming visit. The site is made up of stories submitted by people from all over. Each story’s title says where they come from — “I’m from Sheboygan Falls“, “I’m From Lake Charles“, you get the picture — and they talk about what it was like growing up there, before they were out and as they were coming out. In many ways, it could be seen as a forerunner to Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project, which was begun in response to the rash of LGBT suicides we saw in September.
In a few of the I’m From Driftwood posts, you can see considerable overlap between the two projects. This one, “I’m From Perry, IA”, begins with Samuel describing his harrowing experience with a brutal and punitive ex-gay conversion therapy experience. Watch it:
Samuel’s experience is not altogether rare. If his story ended there — conditional love as long as he pretended to be straight — we would see the perfect setup for a life of torment. But there’s another ingredient involved that, for now, is making the story’s ending different from where it could have gone. That ingredient is Sam’s fortitude. Things still aren’t any better with his parents — they still insist that he “change” before they allow him back into the home. But now that he’s in college at Kansas State, things have somehow started to get better for him. But in a very different way and on his terms:
…But, I do recognize that I will give them that chance. What my parents did was part of what they believed. They thought they were losing their child and they wanted to help him, so I have to forgive them, I have to move forward. But I think the reason why I was so excited to be able tell the story was that if there’s other people who have gone through conversion therapy, who are having those feelings of, “I’m the only one alone”, you need to know that there are people who have made it through and, you can’t change what I never chose.
The sad tragedy to all of this is that Sam’s story is both unique and not uncommon. There’s hardly a month that goes by that I don’t get an email from someone asking for advice. Either they are trying to recover from an ex-gay experience or, more commonly, a friend or relative asks what they should do when someone they know enters some kind of “treatment” program. These are hard stories to deal with, but one good resource is Beyond Ex-Gay, a network of ex-gay survivors. It’s not only for survivors themselves, but also their families and friends. I know that they have provided valuable support to those who are coming out of the ex-gay experience.
California no longer looking for “causes and cures of homosexuality”
August 25th, 2010
After decades of gerrymandering, California’s legislature consists pretty much only of the far left and the far right. So it is not often that you get agreement on much of anything; and it’s very rare indeed that you get agreement on a gay related issue.
But Republicans and Democrats came together on an issue that, while obsolete and amusing, does tell us one important thing. I’ll get to that in a moment.
In 1950, the legislature passed the following law:
8050. The State Department of Mental Health, acting through the superintendent of the Langley Porter Clinic, shall plan, conduct, and cause to be conducted scientific research into the causes and cures of sexual deviation, including deviations conducive to sex crimes against children, and the causes and cures of homosexuality, and into methods of identifying potential sex offenders.
And as of this week, the legislature has changed that language to
8050. The State Department of Mental Health shall plan, conduct, and cause to be conducted scientific research into sex crimes against children and into methods of identifying those who commit sexual offenses.
Now there is no reason to believe that California, either through the Langley Porter Clinic or anything else, has at any point in the past several decades attempted to conduct any scientific research into the causes and cures of homosexuality. But it’s nice to know that they officially have given up.
But more importantly, this bill passed unanimously in the Senate (where it was sponsored by the newly reformed Roy Ashburn) and nearly unanimously in the State Assembly (except for this guy). And that is big news.
In general, California’s Republican legislators just vote “no” on anything that gay folks want. No real reason, often, just a desire to say “no”. So it’s kind of surprising that they said “yes” this time and, for me, it’s interesting and important that the issue on which they finally said “yeah, that’s too wacky even for us” is ex-gay therapy.
Exodus Co-Founder: “There Were No Real Standards For Training Or Methodology”
A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.
June 29th, 2010
Even today Exodus ministries are somewhat of a free-for-all. Operating under the guise of “pastoral counseling” lay ministry leaders at Exodus programs are free to engage in pseudo-therapy as well as a slew of religious exercises from distributing testimonials at gay bars to exorcisms.
In today’s video Exodus International co-founder Michael Bussee explains that at the time of Exodus’ founding he had the most formal mental health training of anyone in the organization… he was in a masters program. Bussee admits his program at Exodus was successful at creating a safe, confidential, therapeutic environment but he never successfully found the secret to making people straight.
Lastly, Bussee details what he believed went on at Exodus’ various other member ministries across the country.
[full transcript after the jump]
Exodus Co-Founder: We Were Both Fascinated And Scared By Gay Activists
A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.
May 24th, 2010
Yesterday Michael talked about how he perceived what it meant to be gay, which was based largely on his own experiences with being closeted.
Today Michael talks about Exodus’ early interaction with gay activists who not long after the group’s founding became a concern. Surprisingly at the speaking event where Michael announced he was leaving Exodus there happened to be a group of gay activists in the back of the audience. I’ll let Michael take it from here and tell the rest of the story.
On Monday we’ll look at what happened in Michael’s life when he finally renounced his attempts to change and came out as a gay man to his family, friends and fellow ministry leaders.
(transcript after the jump)
“Michael Bussee, You Have Blood On Your Hands”
A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.
May 21st, 2010
I expected my interview series with Michael to generate a lot of emotion, but in recent days the reader comments have taken a dramatic shift to questioning why Michael did not come out publicly against or make amends for his involvement in Exodus sooner. One expression that’s particularly common in YouTube comments is that Michael somehow has “blood on his hands,” hence the title for this post.
In today’s video Michael explains his delay in speaking out against Exodus. Of all the things Michael wanted to address on the day I interviewed him, this was foremost on his mind.
But before we get to the video let me personally address all the work I believe Michael has done for the ex-gay survivor community:
- Whenever the activist community has called upon Michael, he has been happy to volunteer himself. This includes a Love Won Out counter protest in Palm Springs (near his home) and the public apology of former Exodus leaders organized by Beyond Ex-Gay in 2007.
- As one of the most visible ex-gay survivors myself, I am constantly contacted by media and documentary filmmakers. When appropriate, I refer these people to Michael who is happy to speak with them. One Nation Under God, filmed prior to Gary’s death (Michael’s partner), only marked the beginning of his speaking out. Since the film’s release in 1993 Michael has continued to fight the ex-gay myth for 17 years now.
- How many other former leaders from the early days of Exodus have since dropped out and said nothing? Remember, Michael was just a co-founder, there are plenty of other lapsed Exodus leaders out there.
- If you believe Michael needs to do more to speak out or atone for his past transgressions then why don’t you contact him about a project he can take part in. That’s exactly what I did. I was home in LA for a week and picked up the phone to see if Michael wanted to spend a day in front of the camera. Michael answered every single question I put to him, even when things got painful, as you’ve seen in previous videos in this series.
But enough of my opinion. Here’s Michael on the delay in speaking out against Exodus:
(transcript after the jump)
Exodus Co-Founder: We Didn’t Know There Was An Alternative For Gay Christians
May 20th, 2010
One of the most common reasons people go ex-gay is because they don’t believe a meaningful community exists in the gay world and fear losing their current church community. In today’s video I ask Michael how he viewed “the gay community” while he was still at Exodus.
Don’t miss the part where Michael talks about how Exodus viewed the Metropolitan Community Church. I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing when he surprised me with that during filming.
(transcript after the jump)
Exodus Co-Founder: I Regret Teaching If You Had Enough Faith You Would Be Changed
May 17th, 2010
My question to Michael, is there anything specific you regret teaching, produced an answer with two separate and distinct parts. (We’ll have a video up tomorrow of the other half of his answer.)
First we look at the idea that if you worked hard enough in an ex-gay program you would be changed. Michael now believes the only thing being a loyal Christian guarantees in life is sharing in Christ’s sufferings. To teach otherwise Michael says is heresy.
Yes, heresy, you don’t hear that word thrown around on this blog very often.
(transcript below jump)
Undercover in Lansing’s ex-gay ministry
May 14th, 2010
It hasn’t been a good year for Corduroy Stone, an ex-gay ministry in Lansing, MI, or for it’s director, Mike Jones. In September, 2009, Truth Wins Out interviewed Patrick McAlvey who exposed Jones’ methods (similar to those of discredited Richard Cohen) and his inappropriate behavior.
Following that exposé, Corduroy Stone was disaffiliated from Exodus International. And this week, they were dropped by the Michigan Department of Corrections from being allowed to conduct their ministry within the prison system.
Also this week, CityPulse magazine published an undercover report from a reporter who posed as a gay man wishing to rid himself of unwanted same-sex attractions.
Although the article mostly left me with pity for both the sad director and his unhappy clients, one of the sessions that Brandon Kirby described relates to and helps us understand the statements by Dr. George Rekers – and others – who deny being gay while clearly demonstrating behaviors that suggests otherwise:
“We’re working through accurate vocabulary that captures where we are,” he said. “And that’s very similar to what we do when we look at the word gay. The definition of gay in this culture is very fluid like the definition of Christianity. When someone uses those terms, I haven’t the slightest idea what they mean until I’ve pursued that. I don’t know what anybody is communicating. When your friend told you, ‘You’re just gay,’ I don’t know what she means because it’s a very fluid word.”
The other client, Ben (not his real name), described his experience coming out to a friend. Jones asked him to define “gay.”
“I always thought gay meant you were attracted to people of your same sex,” he said. “I’ve since then revised that definition, and I would say that gay is somebody who is actively involved in that lifestyle. So, I guess I’m not gay. I experience same-sex attraction.”
I asked Ben why, then, he told his friend he was gay.
“I told him many years ago when I didn’t really know what gay meant. I had a couple experiences when I was a teenager, but it was only until recently, last year or so, that I differentiated gay and same-sex attraction.”
It’s sad, the linguistic gymnastics required to continue putting faith in this failed system.
Exodus Co-Founder: When People Left Our Program They Just Disappeared
May 13th, 2010
As notable ex-gay survivor Peterson Toscano wrote in 2007, ex-gay programs and Exodus have absolutely no sort of after-care or follow-up when a participant leaves a program:
Never once has an ex-gay program I attended ever done any sort of follow-up. I mean I can’t buy a soy latte these days without having to fill out a survey about my coffee experience. Yet folks can spend tens of thousands of dollars on reparative therapy and nothing–no aftercare, no reflections on what worked and what didn’t work.
I’m admittedly curious about what goes through the mind of an ex-gay leader when a participant stops coming. Do they assume the person is cured? Have they gone back in the closet? Are they living the dreaded homosexual lifestyle?
It’s not an easy thing to confront as you can tell by Michael’s body language in this segment and that I had to ask the question three times before we got into the meat of the issue.
(transcript after the jump)
Exodus Co-Founder: I Never Saw One Of Our Members Become Heterosexual
April 27th, 2010
Today’s video is short and concise. I asked Michael point blank if he believed anyone in his program at Exodus ever changed.
(transcript after the jump)
EDGE Boston Examines Reparative Therapy
July 25th, 2007
EDGE Boston has published David Foucher’s third part of his four part series on the ex-gay movement. I’m very impressed with this series — he really did his homework. In this especially well-written installment, Foucher examines the pseudo-Freudian theories underlying the ex-gay movement in general and reparative therapy in particular — theories which Robert-Jay Green of the Rockway Institute points out aren’t very well proven. Although Warren Throckmorton doesn’t agree with Dr. Green that these theories have been “disproven” (in Dr. Green’s words), he does broadly agree that these theories aren’t compelling in the way the ex-gay movement uses them:
“When I read the research, what appears to me to be the best rendering of it is that different factors operate differently for different people,” he explains. “In an environment like that, when you don’t know the answer to what causes sexual orientation, it’s really not proper in my opinion to inform clients of anything different than that. The reparative therapists inform clients that their attractions are due to childhood dynamics. The gay-affirming therapists may go the other way and say that sexual orientation is an intrinsic aspect of who you are, it’s because of your genetics or it’s prenatal, and that it would be harmful to try to alter it in some way. I don’t think the research would allow either dogmatic conclusion.”
Fourcher also uncovers what ends up being the very essence of what it means to be ex-gay: the naming and labeling of homosexuality. Jack Drescher is quoted this way:
“You can switch identities, they’re not fixed. But sexual orientation is not as flexible as identities. A person can come out, say they’re gay, change their mind, say they’re not gay, change their mind again, say they’re gay again. It has nothing to do with their perceptual feelings – because people who call themselves gay don’t have all the same sexual feelings, and people who call themselves ex-gay don’t have all the same sexual feelings either. These are just labels.”
But towards the end of the article, where Fourcher discusses the APA’s task force to examine conversion therapies, he gets this whopper from NARTH president Joseph Nicolosi:
“We do not want to diminish the rights or civil liberties of gays or lesbians — they have a right to pursue their lives, their happiness, their dreams; those rights should not be limited in any way,” (Nicolosi) counters. “But for those who are unhappy for any reason, for those who want a conventional sexuality, a conventional marriage, we want to help them achieve that.”
That stated position may not be completely supportable; as of this writing the top article on NARTH’s homepage is titled, “Marriage as Culture: The Case Against ’Same-Sex Marriage’” – a clear indication that NARTH is embroiled, at least philosophically, in more politically-charged issues surrounding gay and lesbian rights.
“People such as Joseph Nicolosi might today claim that they do not take a pathologizing perspective on homosexuality,” (Clinton W. Anderson, Director of the APA’s Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns Office) agrees. “But if you look at the history of their careers and what they have advocated, that’s just not a credible position. They do seem to bring a prejudiced attitude towards homosexuality to the table.”
This is turning out to be one of the best articles I’ve seen on conversion therapies in a long time.
American Psychological Association Announced Committee To Review Position On Ex-Gay Therapy
May 22nd, 2007
Given how Focus on the Family bungled initially “reporting” on the APA’s announcement of the nomination process I can’t wait to see “coverage” of how committee members were finally selected. Here’s how committee members were actually selected:
Task Force members were selected after an open nominations process. All nominations were reviewed by the APA Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns (CLGBTC) which forwarded the complete list of nominations and a suggested slate of nominees to the APA Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest (BAPPI) for review. The CLGBTC and BAPPI recommendations as well as the full list of nominations were then sent to the APA President who made the final appointments to the task force in consultation with the APA Board of Directors.
Here’s the list of committee members, all of whom appear to be gay-affirming:
Judith M. Glassgold, PsyD – Dr. Glassgold is a clinician, researcher and visiting faculty at the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, Rutgers University. She sits on the editorial boards of Pragmatic Case Studies in Psychotherapy, Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy and PsycCritiques. Much of her work focuses on ethical issues in psychotherapy including the interplay of psychology and religion. Dr. Glassgold will serve as the Task Force Chairperson.
Lee Beckstead, PhD – Dr. Beckstead is a counseling psychologist who has focused his research and clinical work on helping gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people with strong religious affiliations. He works full-time in private practice and is a staff associate in the University of Utah’s Counseling Center.
Jack Drescher, MD – Dr. Drescher is a psychiatrist in clinical practice. His academic appointments include that of Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor in the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis and Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at New York Medical College. He also serves as the editor of the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy.
Beverly Greene, PhD – Dr. Greene is a Professor of Psychology at St. John’s University and a practicing clinical psychologist. She has published extensively in the psychological literature on multi-minority identities and the interplay between multiple identity status, coping with social marginalization and psychotherapy. She was a founding co-editor of the APA Division 44 series Psychological Perspectives on Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Issues.
Robin Lin Miller, PhD – Dr. Miller is a community psychologist and an associate professor at Michigan State University. She is currently the editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Evaluation. She was appointed to the Task Force to provide specific expertise in research and evaluation methods.
Roger L. Worthington, PhD – Dr. Worthington is the interim Chief Diversity Officer at the University of Missouri-Columbia and an Associate Professor in the university’s Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology. Dr. Worthington is on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education and on the editorial board of the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education. His research interests include multicultural counseling, heterosexual identity, sexual prejudice, and lesbian, gay and bisexual issues.
I can’t wait to see Focus get it’s panties in a bind over this.