Ex-Gay Activism

Menstuff® has compiled the following information on Ex-Gay Activism. Portions of an article from the exgay watch web site appear below.

Ex-Gay Support Hotline Parody
NGLTF Press Release on the Report
Ex-Gay Therapy Concept Rejected by AMA, APA and Many Other Sanctioning Organiations
Related Issue: Reparative Therapy

Youth in the Crosshairs: The Third Wave of Ex-Gay Activism


The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has released a report entitled "Youth in the Crosshairs: The Third Wave of Ex-Gay Activism". The full report can be downloaded here

A key finding of the report shows that, in this third wave of ex-gay activism, ex-gay programs and their evangelical Christian right allies are focusing less on "curing" adults of homosexuality and more on preventing its development by targeting parents, children and adolescents. Whether through ex-gay teen programs or traveling ex-gay conferences like Focus on the Family's Love Won Out ex-gay programs are recommending that parents commit their children to treatment of "prehomosexuality" even if it is against their children's wishes. Heterosexual youth are also being recruited in schools and churches to spread the message that homosexuality is a treatable mental illness.

Falsely Attributing Quotes

Throughout the report I found a number of times when the writers of the report put words in the mouths of ex-gay ministries and others. For example, on page 10 they claim that those who came out of reorientation therapy had poor relationships with their parents because their therapist "told them to blame their parents". Later they say their therapists "told them God was ashamed of them". Neither quote is footnoted and both seem highly suspect.

A Basic Misunderstanding and Stereotyping of Ex-Gay Ministries

The authors repeat several times that ex-gay groups claim that homosexuality is a mental illness. On page 32, the authors claim “the overall social and political agenda of the ex-gay organizations remains the same: to turn the clock back to a time when homosexuality was considered a disease and to oppose any and all legal protections for LGBT people.” Yet I haven’t heard language from ex-gay groups claiming that homosexuality is a mental illness. The claim isn’t supported yet the authors rail time after time against this straw man.

They claim that ex-gay leaders use ex-gays as "evidence that sexual orientation is a choice". Yet most ex-gay ministries do not claim that same sex attraction is a choice. While they do say that living a "homosexual lifestyle" is a choice, that is a significant distinction, and one that NGLTF does not make.

The report also says that it is a "common message of ex-gay programs" that "homosexuals either have HIV or will become infected in the future". Having not attended an ex-gay program, I can't speak about what is said within the program. However, I would certainly hesitate to say that was a common external message of ex-gay programs.

Additionally, they convolute ex-gay and anti-gay. While often times the players are the same, sometimes they are not. The Day of Truth program created and pushed by the Alliance Defense Fund is given as an example of direct action in schools employed by the ex-gay movement. While Day of Truth uses ex-gay propaganda, neither it nor ADF could be legitimately used as an example of the ex-gay movement.

Reactionary Language

I probably should not be surprised at reactionary language from NGLTF. Nonetheless, it does diminish the credibility of the report when you use sentences like "What are these ex-gay teen programs and why would parents take the drastic step of forcing their children to attend one?"

Infringement on Privacy

The authors make extensive usage of Zach Stark's story, including quoting from his online journal. Not only is this inconsiderate and intrusive (assuming that Zach did not authorize it) but it is also foolish. We have not heard from Zach as to whether he hated or loved his time a Love In Action. This could come back to bite them.

Unsupported Conclusions

On page 24 the authors use the following sentence: "The relationship between FOF and NARTH, and the important role it plays..., cannot be understated." But they don't explain the relationship other then when Dobson praises a book by Nicolosi. If it can't be understated, then state it.

Also at 50 pages in – when I gave up – there still had been only minimal evidence that the ex-gay movement has changed its focus from reorienting gay people to preventing prehomosexuality. It seems that it is clear that the ex-gay movement has at least broadened its scope, but for the primary conclusion of the report, NGLTF had not yet presented any significant evidence. Perhaps in the last half, the conclusions are given some support.

Some Praise

This report does compile in one place some of the history of the ex-gay movement. Also it may help focus more attention on the lies, failures, and questionable motives of many ex-gay ministries.

Also, the report from the Love Won Out conference was informative.

However, NGLTF had a chance to produce a useful comprehensive report. Instead they used stereotypes and demonization. And that’s unfortunate.

Posted at March 2, 2006 06:41 PM

Responses

Hi Daniel,

I actually wrote a review of the report. You actually should get to reading the whole report, because the best content is in the last 50 pages. Much of the social research supporting some of their assertions (particularly about people's experiences with reorientation therapy) is contained here. The first 50 pages is basically just a broad description of "ex-gay" groups. Being a broad description, it will leave out a lot of the citations that you wanted to see.

I didn't see your objections as a big deal because while "ex-gay" groups may not explicitly say something, there are always implications. For instance, they may not say that homosexuality is a mental disorder (NARTH actually does say this), it is implied in the rhetoric that homosexuality is pathological. And I personally have heard "ex-gay" people inflate the dangers of HIV.

I also think the relationship between FOF and NARTH is self-evident from the report. Nicolosi speaks at LWO conferences and Dobson did, in fact, cite Nicolosi in one of his articles--even adopting Nicolosi's idea of "prehomosexuality." This shows a common viewpoint.

As far as your objection that the ADF is not the be equated with "ex-gays," the ADF is connected with the "ex-gay" targeting of youth because "ex-gay" discourse is USED in their so-called "Day of Truth."

I have my own criticisms of the report, which can be read at http://www.queertoday.com.

Solidarity,

Posted by: Brian Rainey at March 3, 2006 12:45 AM

 

Timothy, I have not read the report and I'm not here to defend it. But I think you need to temper some of your criticism or provide some more evidence. Failure to specifically identify a source does not constitute "falsely attributing quotes," just failure to attribute sources. And if you haven't heard an ex-gay group calling homosexuality a disease that can be cured then you aren't paying much attention to the ex-gay groups. Exodus, as an easy example, refers to "homosexual tendencies" as a "disorder." Not homosexual behavior, but homosexual tendencies--which can then be "healed" through their brand of Christ. And then there is NARTH, which is all about treating homosexuality as a mental illness.

Ex-gay and anti-gay nearly always go hand in hand. I don't think it is at all unreasonable for a gay rights organization to paint the ex-gay industry with a broad brush. It's not as if it were a tiny fraction of the ex-gay industry which also actively works against gay rights legislation.

I agree that it is unwise to bring Zach Stark into the report. Until Zach is old enough to be completely free of his parents, no one--not even Zach--will understand the full ramifications of his visit to hetero-reeducation camp. However I don't think it's an invasion of privacy--his dad pretty much took his privacy away when he went on the 700 club.

And I agree that FOF's role needs to be played up as much as possible. FOF is a wolf in sheep's clothing. As long as they are allowed to maintain their slightly-less-extreme image, they will continue to carry weight with the uninformed while their well-funded surrogates carry out the dirty work for them.

Posted by: Michael Ditto at March 3, 2006 01:01 AM

 

Timothy, I disagree regarding "Misunderstanding and Stereotyping of Ex-Gay Ministries". I'll explain :)

you just swapped from "ministries" to "groups", you realise? And that's where I'm not following you. As far as I'm concerned, any group providing any exgay "service" is an exgay group. The ADF is -- it funds and organises an exgay day. FOTF is -- it funds and organises Love Won Out. You don't need to be providing counselling or ministry. And it need not be your only business activity

when all that Exodus refer to for support of their medical claims are groups that do call homosexuality a mental illness... Exodus is taking a side. Their literature is chock full of "pathology" and "healing" and "childhood disturbance" etc. They claim time and time again, specifically, that homosexuality was removed from the DSM as a mental illness for no scientific reason. Excuse me for mistaking that meant homosexuality is not a mental illness. The effect of what Exodus says, and the way they say it, is what matters. And people are left in no doubt, wink wink, that homosexuality is still a mental illness regardless of what gay activists groups like the APA say.

If you claim that anyone gay can become straight -- or lead others to think that - then you are claiming not nly homosexual behaviour but homosexual attraction is a choice. Afterall, you could change into heterosexual but you chose not to. So it's a choice, no? Please don't mistake that dynamic with Exodus saying that initial homosexual attractions are "not often chosen".

Conflate exgay with anti-gay??? Well, yes -- for good reason. I'm willing to stand corrected, but is there anyone you can nominate that would show that assumption to be wrong? I have yet to encounter anyone associated with even the remotest corner of the exgay movement that is not ultimately anti-gay. Appealing to anti-gay religious beliefs is, of course, also anti-gay.

They have been called, IMO, correctly about throwing out inflated and false claims about how gay men (in particular) and lesbians live. Some bang on about HIV and early death. Others domestic violence, drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, faked love in relationships or whatever. Again, I am willing to stand corrected but is there any group you can nominate that says "living as gay is fine and dandy, but we don't want to"?

Without picking the paper apart any further (see below...) I will agree the language, wording etc is rather bleauh. Perhaps a matter of taste. I wouldn't write it all the way the NGLTF did, but then again I didn't write it (!)

I also see a rather thin thread running throughout a report supposedly about targeting gay youth. Much of the paper is about nothing to do with that subject. It seems like it's two papers cobbled together. I would had categorically left any reference to "Z" out of the paper. See, I just showed them how they should have done it :)

That's it for now. Hon's home and we've got friends about to turn up and I've got to iron a frock. And it's a pleasant 91degF tonight -- perfect weather for the Flying Duck and it's beer garden I think...

Posted by: grantdale at March 3, 2006 02:28 AM

 

Timothy, I would concur with the suggestion that you should read the entire report before making judgments.

After going throught the NGLTF report twice, I would agree that the writing quality could be improved and that using Zach Stark's blog snippets was unwise. While much attention is being focused on getting to queer, questioning, and GLBT-supportive kids and on this concept of "prehomosexuality," I don't see any reduced call for adults to "change," and yes, many in the exgay world - though not all - DO say that homosexuality is chosen and blame those who "fail" to change. If that doesn't connote that a person had a choice in the matter, I don't know what does.

To these eyes, which belong to a person who has researched the issue for a decade and has experienced the exgay world from the inside, the research and anecdotal evidence provided appear for the most part solid - and yes, the best stuff comes later in the document. Frankly, despite its flaws, I find the report an important and necessary counterpoint to the ex-gay propaganda that assaults us with increasing frequency and fury.

Posted by: Natalie Davis at March 3, 2006 12:25 PM

 

Timothy,I think your review this time could have been better balanced. In particular you said "...they claim that those who came out of reorientation therapy had poor relationships with their parents because their therapist "told them to blame their parents". Later they say their therapists "told them God was ashamed of them". Neither quote is footnoted and both seem highly suspect."

I don't know how you see that as highly suspect, it sounds exactly like the sort of thing I've heard from ex-exgays posting at XGW and certainly is my summarized impression of exactly the sort of thing Exodus says.

You said they made the reactionary statement "What are these ex-gay teen programs and why would parents take the drastic step of forcing their children to attend one?" which diminishes the report's credibility. I'm mystified as to why you think that, sounds like a perfectly reasonable question to me.

Finally, this comment troubled me:

"They claim that ex-gay leaders use ex-gays as "evidence that sexual orientation is a choice". Yet most ex-gay ministries do not claim that same sex attraction is a choice. While they do say that living a "homosexual lifestyle" is a choice, that is a significant distinction, and one that NGLTF does not make."

This is similar to my beef with Exodus saying "complete change is completely possible". You may see a significant distinction but I seriously doubt anyone not well familiar with Exodus's word games would - that means most of the public. When most people hear "living a homosexual lifestyle is a choice" they are going to think that means you don't have to choose to be same sex attracted. If they had said "one can choose whether or not to act on same sex attractions" that would be acceptable. Saying "living a homosexual lifestyle is a choice" may not technically be a lie but it certainly is for all practicle purposes.

Timothy, I think in striving to be fair and balanced to the "exgays" you've overcompensated this time.

Posted by: Randi Schimnosky at March 3, 2006 12:59 PM

 

Whew... I stirred up some ire, didn't I. :)

Let me address a few things:

First, my primary objection was that the report was poorly written - and I still stand by that assertion. Perhaps some will not agree with me on a particular or two. And that's OK.

I was perhaps a bit harsh because I was initially happy to see the report and hoped for something focused, thoughtful, well written, and useful. What I saw instead was a whine written to those who share the authors' initial assumptions. This is not at all a useful tool to approach the ex-gay movement, or even to approach those in the middle or undecided.

I'll mention two themes of those who disagree with me here and why I hold to my guns on this.

It is of no value whatsoever to set up straw men. If someone hasn't said "homosexuality is a mental illness" or "homosexuality is a choice", then we win nothing by claiming they have and trying to justify it by saying "well, but that's what can be extrapolated from what else you've said". We don't win those arguments and it takes away from our real message. Let's not put words in the mouths of our opponents, they say plenty that we can point to without this distraction.

Let us not lump everyone together and generalize. Anti-gay groups use ex-gay claims, but they would not consider themselves an ex-gay ministry. It probably is fair to call the ex-gay groups "anti-gay", or at least the national ones, but the reverse isn't true. ADF's Day of Truth is not an ex-gay effort. They spout some of the claims of the ex-gay groups, but they make no pretense at being an ex-gay ministry.

Here at XGW, we hold those who criticize us to a standard of honesty. I think that to have any integrity we have to hold those who agree with us to the same standard.

This report makes claims that are not true. This report stereotypes and lumps people and groups together. This report relies on limited information and extrapolates broad interpretation. This would infuriate us if it were anti-gay activists doing it, so I'm not willing to give pro-gay activists a pass.

(but I do appreciate the feedback and it is a good point that I probably should have completed the report before critiquing it)

Posted by: Timothy Kincaid at March 3, 2006 03:32 PM

 

Timothy -- I hope we didn't come across as unappreciative either. We're also mighty glad to see the NGLTF pull this 100 pages together: it's very useful, and long overdue.

But I disagree that exgay groups are not projecting homosexuality as a mental illness. They are, whether they call it a "developmental condition" or "mental illness" specifically. Same. Same. Our brains have gone awry, hence our homosexuality.

But... it is also true that the language has been deliberately altered in the last 3-5 years (under, I suspect, the direction of FOTF). Piecing together the dialog over that time, I can see it went something like this (pls excuse gross liberties taken for brevity)

exgay groups call homosexuality a mental illness

realise this sounds harsh and realise such behaviour is being rejected by Joe Public, and is at odds with the clear declarations of every authorative mental health body that "homosexuality is not a mental illness"

find other terminology. But leave everyone in no doubt that gay men and women have a "mental problem". So, they have "a gender identity deficit". Or they are "confused about sexuality". Ditto the use of "cure" -- now these people "can move into healing".

I am in the middle of trying to piece together the way the rhetoric has changed over the years, and link it to specific events on a timeline. (Yeah, I should never have started that... the rate it's coming along they will have changed everything again before I finish!)

What hasn't changed is the impression about gay men and women that the rhetoric-d'jour is attempting to influence -- let alone the underlying negativity, which has not changed at all.

You do have to go back a few years to see a bald statement like this:

"What do we know about this disorder? Well first, it is a disorder, despite the denials of the American Psychiatric Association." James Dobson, 2002

If we do not except the exgay semantics-dance around "change", I don't see why we should deny it around "mental illness" or "cure".

And hope I also didn't confuse on exgay v. anti-gay. I realise exgay groups are anti-gay, and that anti-gay groups are instead using exgay groups (rather than being wholly exgay; although some are in part: ie FOTF and LWO). But given the attitudes of exgays, the working relationships, the financial support and the reliance of each on each other to support their positions; it's impossible not to conflate the two at present.

A very different story to gay and "the activist liberal left". Log Cabins, 26% voting Repub... and yourself... show such a similar conflation to be unwise and inaccurate :) On specific isues they can both agree, but that makes no case for them being dependent on each other.

I see no real reason for someone exgay to be anti-gay if they were genuinely only concerned with wishing to live their life as they wanted to. Hence, I see no reason for exgay groups to be anti-gay; if all they are doing is supporting individual members. The fact that they consistently are illustrates an important point.

Well, I think it does.

Posted by: grantdale at March 3, 2006 10:25 PM

 

Focus, Exodus Respond to 'Gay Task Force' Criticism of Reparative Therapies

Article excerpt: Both Focus on the Family and Exodus International are responding to the report and to the criticism being launched their direction. The two ministries affirm that change is possible for anyone, including teens, struggling with homosexual desires -- and that the fashion in which they present their information is both "compassionate and appropriate." ... Maier, psychologist-in-residence for the Colorado-based ministry, continues. "Though the road to change can be difficult, the research is clear that many gay men and women who have sought reorientation therapy have been able to achieve fulfilling, long-term heterosexual relationships," he says. "Tragically, the NGLTF ignores this research -- and the evidence of changed lives -- in pursuit of its duplicitous social agenda."

By Jody Brown, AgapePress, March 3, 2006

Source: By Timothy Kincaid, timothydkinla@yahoo.com, www.exgaywatch.com/blog/archives/2006/03/youth_in_the_ex_1.html

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