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“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for April, 2012

Gabriel Arana On His “So-Called Ex-Gay Life”

Jim Burroway

April 11th, 2012

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Gabriel Arana. His gig as web editor at The American Prospect has kept him pretty busy. Also keeping him busy lately is the work that he’s done in this remarkably personal account of his experience in ex-gay therapy as a patient of Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, a co-founder of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). While a freshman in high school, Gabe’s parents discovered the he had a crush on another boy at school after snooping through his emails, they signed him up for Nicolosi’s therapy:

After our initial meeting, I spoke with Nicolosi weekly by phone for more than three years, from the time I was 14 until
I graduated high school. Like a rabbi instructing his student in understanding the Torah, Nicolosi encouraged me to interpret my daily life through the lens of his theories. …I came to believe that my attraction to men was the result of the failure to connect with my father. Whenever I felt slighted by my male friends —- for failing to call when they said they would, for neglecting to invite me to a party —- I was re-experiencing a seminal rejection from my father.

…My parents were surprised at how the therapy blamed them for my condition. Initially, Nicolosi had told them they were one of the cases that did not fit the mold of the “triadic relationship” —- in other words, that my sexual orientation was not their fault. Once it became clear that Nicolosi held them responsible, they disengaged. They continued paying for therapy but no longer checked in with Nicolosi regularly or asked what he and I talked about. I was happy to defy my parents. Whether the grievance was that my curfew wasn’t late enough or that my parents didn’t give me enough money, I had a trusted authority figure validating every perceived injustice. Any complaint became evidence of how my parents had failed me.

As I progressed in therapy, I felt that I was gaining insight into the source and causes of my sexual attractions. The problem was, they didn’t go away…

Gabe started therapy in 1998, the same year that the ex-gay industry began its major public relations offensive with a full-page ad in the New York Times and other major newspapers featuring ex-lesbian Anne Paulk, a major cover story in Newsweek featuring Paulk and her ex-gay husband (and Focus on the Family employee/Exodus International board chairman) John Paulk, and television commercials featuring Michael Johnston. John Paulk and Johnston would later fall to scandal, Paulk when he was photographed by Wayne Besen in a gay bar in Washington, D.C., Johnston when it was revealed that, despite being HIV-positive, engaged in unprotected sex in orgies with men he met on the internet. But in those heady days in 1998, the ex-gay movement made significant inroads into America’s consciousness, not only to the detriment of gay people, but to their families as well for bearing the blame for their children’s sexuality. But mainly to the detriment of the clients, which is where Gabe’s account becomes harrowing. It all came to a head a few years after counseling while Gabe was off to college:

Realizing how close I was to impulsively deciding to kill myself, I went to the college dean’s office and said I was suicidal. He walked me over to the Department of Undergraduate Health, and I was admitted to the Yale Psychiatric Hospital. During the intake interview, I had a panic attack and handed the counselor a handwritten note that said, “Whatever happens, please don’t take me away from here.” I had signed my full name and dated it. More than anything, I feared going home.

It was gray and cold my first night at the hospital. I remember looking out the window of the room I was sharing with a schizophrenic. Snow covered the ground in the enclosed courtyard below. Restless, I gathered a stack of magazines from the common area and flipped through the pages, noticing the men in the fashion advertisements. I tore out the ads and put them in a clear plastic file folder. I lay down in bed and held the folder against my chest. “It’s OK, it’s OK, it’s OK,” I murmured.

In this article, Gabe talks with two other former patients of Nicolosi’s: BTB’s Daniel Gonzales and Ryan Kendall, who testified at the Prop 8 trial about the harm he experienced in ex-gay therapy. In the sometimes very small world of the ex-gay movement, Ryan and Gabe were paired up as therapy partners. Ryan lived in Colorado, Gabe in Arizona, and they would talk on the phone a few times a week to form “genuine nonsexual bonds.” Seriously, you really need to read the whole thing all the way to the end when Gabe catches up with Nicolosi a decade later.

NARTH’s Joseph Nicolosi on Rekers’s “Pioneering Research”

Jim Burroway

June 10th, 2011

In last night’s installment of “The Sissy Boy Experiment,” CNN’s Randi Kaye reports on how George Rekers’s research is still being used to “treat” gay kids and teens. Here, she interviews Joseph Nicolosi, the founder of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, said “George Rekers has done pioneering work in this for many, many years.”

Ryan Kendall, one of Joseph Nicolosi’s former patients, explains the rationale that leads many parents to take their children in for treatment: that being gay is sinful, that it’s a choice, and that it can be fixed. His experience also illustrates how ex-gay therapy tears families apart.

I had hoped that I would be able to present to you a final epilogue to our original investigation, “What Are Little Boys Made Of?“, discussing the connections between Rekers’s so-called “pioneering research” and the ex-gay movement today. But as you can imagine, this has been an extraordinarily busy week. So I’m afraid that piece will have to wait until Monday.

But in the meantime, I would encourage you to read this epilogue, The Doctor’s Word, where we discuss the dangers of accepting at face value, well, the doctor’s word. And you can also review our newest epilogue, Blind Man’s Bluff, in which we discover the influence on the particular brand of treatment that Kirk experienced known as Behavioral Therapy, along with its obvious limitations.

And tune in again tonight to Anderson Cooper 360 for a wrap-up of this week’s series, “The Sissy Boy Experiments.” AC360 begins at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 Pacific.

Perry v. Schwarzenegger: day seven summary

Timothy Kincaid

January 20th, 2010

Thanks to Courage Campaign and FireDogLake

Today the ex-gay movement was on trial. This may seem like it is a long way from the question of marriage, but in reality it sits at the heart of whether anti-gay discrimination is legal.

Olson and Boies are trying to convince the court that gays and lesbians are a “suspect class”. If so, then any laws that distinguish by orientation and discriminate against gays and lesbians would be subject to strict scrutiny (ie the presumption is that such laws are illegal).

The considerations that generally go into whether a group of people are a “suspect class” are:

  • Is the group a “discrete” or “insular” minority?
  • Do they possess an immutable trait (except in the case of religion)?
  • Is there a history of discrimination?
  • Are they powerless to protect themselves via the political process?

For this reason we have heard the defense try and argue that, unlike race, sexual orientation is hard to define (so is race, actually). They’ve attempted to show that gay people are politically powerful and that discrimination against gay people is all a thing of the past.

But the plaintiffs’ testimony has been pretty solid in confirming that gays and lesbians are a discrete minority with a history of discrimination and they lack the ability to achieve equality and protection though the political process. Today their focus was to show that sexual orientation is an immutable trait.

The day started with the defense (the Prop 8 guys) adding four witnesses to their list:

David Boies started with a taped deposition of Dr. Paul Nathanson and Katherine Young, two Prop 8 witnesses that dropped out.

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On tape Boies got Nathanson to admit that the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Church use terms such as sinful, evil, a perversion, abomination, deviant behavior, manifestation of a depraved nature in talking about homosexuality. Dr. Nathanson said that half of the Prop 8 voters may have supported the initiative due to religion.

This guy comes off sounding like a witness for the plaintiffs. And, indeed, there is word that he may be gay and supports marriage even though he was called as a witness for the proponents.

Boies: Do you believe that the teaching of certain religions that homosexuality is a sin and abomination leads to gay bashing?

Nicholson: Yes.

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Next was taped deposition of Katherine Young. She gave a long list of cultures in which same-sex relationship comparable to marriage were tolerated: Hidras in India, Berdache in a number of American Indian tribes, cultures in West Africa and China, Romans during the Emperors. In addition there were many cultures that tolerated non-marriage same-sex relationships.

She also testified about the link between anti-gay religious teaching and hate crimes, that marriage would be beneficial to gay couples and their children, and that religion had been used as a basis for discrimination and bigotry against women and blacks.

(I can see why they “dropped out”)

Next to the stand was Ryan Kendall, a man who unsuccessfully went through ex-gay therapy. The Prop 8 proponents sought to keep him off the bench, but the Judge pointed out that they introduced reorientation to the case.

Kendall was raised in a very religious family. When they found out at age 13 that he was gay (his journal), they sent him to a counselor to make him heterosexual. Focus on the Family recommended that he be sent to NARTH and his parents began systematic emotional abuse. After a few years of this, at 16, he couldn’t take it any more and asked the Department of Human Services to help him become emancipated.

He went through a rough patch, jobs, school, drugs for about four years until he pulled himself together. He’s been working for the police department now for about two years.

(In yet another demonstration that this is a bi-partisan trial and not the ‘conservatives v. liberal radical homosexuals’, it turns out that Kendall is a member of Log Cabin Republicans.)

In cross-examination, James Campbell for Prop 8 asked him if he’d ever met anyone who had been successful. Kendall said, “publicly yes”. In redirect, Boies had him clarify:

Q: Have you met anyone who succeeded in conversion therapy?

A: Yes, Nicolosi trotted out his perfect patient, named Kelly, who (when the doctor left the room) told me that he was going to a gay bar that night and was pretending success in conversion for his family.

Next up was Dr. Gary Segura, a political science prof at Stanford, president of the midwest political science association, and head of the Stanford Center for Democracy, which studies American elections.

He looks at how the public influences decision makers. His focus is minorities, particularly Latino and gay. One of his article dealt with self-identification of those minorities who can ‘pass’ as others. He was there to speak about the powerlessness of gays and lesbians in American politics.

Segura had three opinions:

1. Gays and lesbians are not able to protect their interests because they do not possess meaningful political power.

2. They are not subject to political exclusion and suffer political disabilities greater than other groups that have received suspect class protection.

3. The opinions of the Proponents expert Dr. Kenneth Miller are fundamentally flawed and incorrect.

Segura explained how a favorable outcome may still lack political power. For example, Houston just elected a lesbian as mayor but had also just voted against allowing partners of city employees to get benefits, so the new mayor cannot provide benefits to her partner of 19 years.

He pointed out that in those few states where there are protections, generally these are not designed to advance the interests of gays and lesbians but rather to correct harsh discrimination against them. “You have laws against discrimination because there IS discrimination.” Segura testified that no group has been the target of punitive or discriminatory initiatives more than gay people.

Segura talks about under-representation and how that impacts the discussions about people who are not present. “Some public officials have compared gay marriage to marrying a box turtle.” (you go, Segura!!)

Segura testified that the incidences and the intensity of hate crimes against other groups has decreased, but not for gays. He ties a recent surge in hate crimes to Proposition 8.

He testified that government censorship of sex ed classes, HIV prevention efforts, and even bans on funding for gay-themed art all add to the disempowerment of gays. He said the “mommy, I heard in school that I can marry a princess” ad was part of the continued theme of seeking to censor out gay people.

Segura dismissed the idea that gays have powerful allies. He pointed out the failure of the Democratic Party to do anything meaningful and listed the many instances in which Our Fierce Advocate has filed briefs and defied courts in order to keep anti-gay positions in place and has done little to nothing to address our needs.

He said that if two groups were about the same size, the one with no opponents has a real significant advantage. He then was asked about the Mormon involvement in the campaign. He laid out the organization and power of the supporters of Proposition 8, especially the involvement of Jim Garlow, pastor of Skyline Church.

(An attorney for Jim Garlow and Miles McPherson sought to keep their sermons, speeches, and statements from being presented as evidence. The pastors want on one hand to be political but they want that political activism to have the protections of religious speech. The decision goes to Magistrate Judge Spiro.)

Boies put up a redacted correspondence from the Catholic Conference of Bishops:

The Catholic Conference has played a substantial role in inviting Catholic faithful to put their faith in action by volunteering and donating. Led by the Knights of Columbus national donation of $1.5 million, other million dollar donors, and the countless major donor and with a significant percentage of the 90,000 online donors, the Catholic community has stepped up. Of course this campaign owes an enormous debt to the LDS Church. I will comment specifically at a later time (under separate cover) about their financial, organizational and management contributions to the success of this effort.

Segura reviews other documents noting that the campaign was very early focused on religion, was national in scope, and contained unusual coalitions of churches who seldom align.

Andy Pugno for Prop 8 then fought tooth and toenail (unsuccessfully) to keep out documents that would demonstrate the intense involvement of the Mormon Church. Documents were entered which showed that the LDS Church was very active in the campaign, especially in funding and grassroots organizing but sought to keep plausible deniability about their involvement. Documents showed that the church actively sought to have its members individually donate to the campaign and used the church structure to do so.

Segura discussed the deposition of Dr. Miller, a witness of the proponents who dropped out. Miller lacked knowledge of gay history, social work, and anything outside of California laws. He knew nothing about the lack of protections in most states.

In cross-examination, Thompson lists a bunch of accomplishments that gay people have been able to achieve in terms of legislation. He uses New Hampshire as an example, but Segura notes that there are currently efforts to reverse marriage in that state.

Expert is asked about certain politicians (eg Nancy Pelosi is an ally but not one who moves legislation forward on gay issues), union support, ACLU, high tech companies, etc.

The case will continue until tomorrow or perhaps Friday.