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Posts for October, 2009

Time’s Running Out For Early Registration for 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference

Jim Burroway

October 2nd, 2009

Time is running out to save on early registration for the 2009 Anti-Heterosexism conference scheduled for Nov 20-22 in West Palm Beach, Florida. You can save $50 by registering by Monday, October 5th. On October 6th, conference fees go up from $145 to $195. This conference is sponsored by Soulforce, Beyond Ex-GayTruth Wins Out, Equality Florida, the National Black Justice Coalition, and Box Turtle Bulletin.

So what is this “heterosexism” we’ll be talking about? Jeff Lutes, Executive Director for Soulforce, describes the conference this way:

First off, it’s important to be clear that the title of the conference is the Anti-Heterosexism Conference, not anti-heterosexual. Heterosexism is the widespread assumption that heterosexual relationships are somehow superior to same-sex relationships, which leads to all kinds of abuse and discrimination against LGBT people. We want to highlight where heterosexism seeps into the social, cultural, religious and political fabric of society, and how we can begin to unravel its damaging consequences.

One way we see heterosexism come into play is in the attitudes which lead LGBT people to try to change their sexual orientation.These efforts are nearly always futile. The American Psychological Association recently issued a rigorous review of 83 studies on efforts to change sexual orientation conducted between 1960 and 2007, and they now advise psychologists to avoid telling their clients that therapy or other treatments can change them from gay to straight. With great effort, they may be able to modify their behavior, and they can always change their identity (“I’m not ‘gay’ anymore, even though I still like guys.”) But practitioners who offer ironclad promises to change sexual attractions are not only hiding the truth, but they are violating APA recommendations as well.

Mark Yarhouse, one half of the Jones and Yarhouse ex-gay study team whose work has been hailed by NARTH and Exodus as proof that “change is possible,” has conceded that the APA’s stance is correct.

“For me, in my own practice, I would not focus on change of orientation,” said Yarhouse, a psychologist and counselor who teaches at Regent, an evangelical Christian school.

…Yarhouse’sstudy focused on those who said their same-sex attractions collided with their religious beliefs. He said his research found that there was “modest” movement away from homosexuality among some Exodus participants, but categorical conversions to heterosexuality were rare.

Yarhouse recommended that counselors avoid uniformly steering struggling gays toward heterosexuality and focus instead on the best outcome for the individual.

That could include celibacy or exploring different faith groups with various attitudes toward gays and lesbians, he said.

NARTH completely rejects that finding, and are instead holding a conference in West Palm Beach to push their unscientific worldview. They are very skilled at getting media attention and putting on a professional face. And you can bet that they won’t exercise the kind of candor exhibited by Mark Yarhouse.

That’s why it’s extremely important for us to be there to present the facts behind efforts to change sexual orientation. Many of those in attendance will include those who tried to change but failed, including some who were former patients of NARTH co-founder, Joseph Nicolosi.

I hope you will join me and BTB contributors Gabriel Arana and Daniel Gonzales for three days of inspiring and informative workshops on the issues surrounding attempts to change sexual orientation and the heterosexist attitudes which underlie many of those attempts. Featured speakers are Dr. Sylvia Rhue, interim Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition, Dr. Jack Drescher, Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and Rev. Deborah L. Johnson of Inner Light Ministries. Through the weekend, the conference will equip attendees from all across the country on ways in which they can challenge heterosexist attitudes and practices, understand the harms of conversion therapy efforts and the unscientific principles which propel them, and become strong advocates for LGBT equality.

Let’s All Be “Anti” So No One Else Ever Has To Be “Ex”

Jeff Lutes

August 20th, 2009

Note from Jim Burroway: I am very excited to be a co-sponsor of an exciting conference scheduled for November 20-22, 2009 in West Palm Beach, Florida. I will be there, as will BTB contributors Daniel Gonzales and Gabriel Arana. I hope you will too. Here’s Soulforce Executive Director Jeff Lutes to tell you all about it.

Two weeks ago a task force from the American Psychological Association released a ground breaking report after a two year analysis of the research on sexual orientation change efforts. Based on a rigorous review of 83 studies conducted between 1960 and 2007, the APA advised psychologists to avoid telling their clients that therapy or other treatments can change them from gay to straight.

Not surprisingly, NARTH (National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality), Exodus International, and a slew of other religious groups immediately denounced the APA report. They claimed, as they so often do, that any research affirming the goodness and wholeness of queer people is bogus and only their twisted belief that we are sick, sinful, and second-class (and therefore in need of “change”) has any credibility.

In my view, the conversation about whether gays can change is a distraction from the much more important question; which is “Why do those in power encourage change in the first place?” The answer, of course, is the rampant heterosexism that infuses nearly every aspect of our culture.

Heterosexism is a system of attitudes, behaviors, and practices that subordinate queer people on the basis of their sexual orientation. In the same way that racism keeps whites in power over people of color and sexism keeps women subordinate to men, heterosexism keeps those who are straight dominant over those who are not. Heterosexism is the prejudice that only heterosexuality is normative, combined with the power to enforce that privilege across every spectrum of society. Heterosexism is advanced by nearly every tune on the radio, sitcom and commercial on television, print ad in the newspaper, film at the box office, and institutional policy within our government and work place. In innumerable ways each day, our society idealizes straightness and ignores or devalues the existence of any person or family who identifies otherwise.

When was the last time you heard a debate about whether therapy and prayer can change a straight person to gay?

I believe “change”, “repair”, and “conversion” are indeed possible. Millions of people have changed their minds and now believe that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens deserve full equality under the law. A growing number of churches have repaired their previously broken theology and now welcome and affirm everyone in their congregations. Slowly, the religious denominations that create and enforce church doctrine are undergoing a conversion in their understanding of LGBTQ people (let’s hope the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America undergoes such a conversion this week).

But the only way things change is if you and I are willing to be “anti” so that no one ever again has to be “ex.” Focusing on the work of anti-heterosexism (undoing the notion that straightness is superior and preferable) undermines the toxic belief system that encourages so many to waste thousands of dollars and precious years trying to become “ex-gay” in therapies and programs that end up doing more harm than good.

So, I’m proud of Soulforce, Beyond Ex-Gay, Box Turtle Bulletin, Truth Wins Out, Equality Florida, and the National Black Justice Coalition for coming together to sponsor the 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference in West Palm Beach, Florida (November 20-22, 2009) during the same weekend and in the same city where NARTH will hold its annual conference. Early registration begins today at www.anti-heterosexismconference.org and the conference features powerful keynotes by Dr. Sylvia Rhue, Dr. Jack Drescher, and Rev. Deborah Johnson, plus an exciting line-up of concurrent workshops that will be announced in September.

It’s our moral obligation to be “anti” and resist, oppose, and prevent the systems of power that oppress and discriminate. Join us this November in West Palm Beach as together we learn effective tools for undoing heterosexism in communities across the globe.

Warning: At this conference, you will most likely change . . . into your bathing suit!

Hope to see you there.

2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference Called to Counter NARTH Annual Conference

Jim Burroway

August 1st, 2009

The National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) will hold its annual conference in West Palm Beach, Florida, in November, where they will push their claim among themselves and in the media that people can and ought to “change” their sexual orientation. In pushing their message, they have already pointed to examples from the 1950s through the 1980s when gays and lesbians underwent torturous electric shock aversion therapy. Is this what NARTH would have for our future?

We believe there is a better way. That’s why we are pleased to announce:

On Friday, November 20, Beyond Ex-Gay will hold a pre-conference institute for ex-gay survivors and allies. The conference itself will begin Friday evening and continue through Sunday morning. A full day of speakers and workshops are being planned, with topics touching on:

  • Understanding the Harm Caused By Heterosexism
  • Best Practices for Undoing Heterosexism
  • The Dangers of Reparative Therapy, Ex-Gay Ministries, and Efforts to Change Sexual Orientation
  • History & Practices of Reparative Therapy and Ex-Gay Ministries
  • Therapeutic Models for Helping LGBT People in Health and Mental Health Care
  • The Connection Between Religion, Heterosexism, and Reparative Therapy
  • Intersections Between Heterosexism, Racism, Sexism, Capitalism, etc.
  • The Healthy Reconciliation of Sexuality and Spirituality
  • Reflections on the Ex-Gay Experience
  • Impacting the Media: Strategies for Sharing Your Story with Confidence
  • Building Healthy Relationships After an Ex-Gay Experience
  • Ethical Dilemmas Associated with Reparative Therapy & Ex-Gay Ministries
  • Social Science Research on Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity
  • LGBT Families and Parenting
  • Nonviolent Activism and Advocacy Strategies
  • Becoming a Powerful Ally

If you are interested in conducting a workshop, you can find an application with instructions at the Soulforce web site. Deadline for applications for workshops is August 29. Information on registration will be available in a couple of weeks. I hope to see you there.

More Groups Send Their Regrets To DNC Fundraiser

Jim Burroway

June 22nd, 2009

There haven’t been any more individuals announce their refusal to attend this week’s DNC fundraiser since Mary Bonauto made her announcement last week. But two more groups have said that they will not participate. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis issued this statement on the SLDN web site:

SLDN will be outside boycotting the Democratic National Committee (DNC) LGBT event in Washington this Thursday. SLDN will be calling upon the President to end his silence on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” We will be wearing and handing out buttons with the number 265, representing the number of service members who will have been discharged this week since President Obama was sworn in. We do not, nor would we want to, dictate how members of our board or our Military Advisory Council make their political views known. However, I understand that two board members are attending the DNC event. I also understand they will be making their own spirited and creative statements once inside the room.

And On Top magazine has learned that none of the board members of the National Black Justice Coalition will attend, although that doesn’t appear to be the result of an official NBJC decision:

A leaked email of GLBT dignitaries confirmed for the DNC event includes the name of Alexander Robinson, the NBJC’s former executive director who stepped down on June 1. Barlett, who is also a Connecticut state representative, confirmed no NBJC board member would attend the controversial event, but added that was not a formal endorsement of a DNC boycott.

“I don’t know of any board members that are intending on going,” Barlett said.

Stonewall Democrats announced last week that they would drop their support for the DNC fundraiser. That’s in addition to eleven prominent LGBT activists who have also said they won’t attend. Those activists are Civil Rights Project Director of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) Mary Bonauto, San Diego City Commissioner and former co-chair of the Obama LGBT Leadership Council Stampp Corbin, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Rea Carey, Utah businessman Bruce Bastion, Vermont Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, political strategist David Mixer, blogger Andy Towle, Executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda Alan Van Capelle, former Clinton administration aide Richard Socarides, HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse, and Wall Street realtor Corey Johnson.