Mar 13, 2012

Fixing What Isn't Broken - of Ex-Gays and Phony Science

Self-loathing and shame are a sad and unavoidable fact of the transitional times we live in. While the fight for equality seems to be gaining more and more momentum, it is far from over, and many members of the community feel nothing but utmost terror at the thought of being associated with it. Though I have no official statistics, my observation is that two out of every three gay men suffer from one form of internalized homophobia or another. Even those who seemingly don't, so often can't escape the mold of heteronormative morality and dogma.

But there is one small group of homosexuals that I think has earned a special place in Hell, and it is probably the only part of the gay community that I allow myself to actively despise - the ex-gays.

First of all, let's be real here (halleloo!) - no self-respecting LGBT person of sound mind believes that being gay is a mental disorder, and one that could be treated. Nobody who has ever been out could say this feeling of utter completeness, of the world being set right, of a weight that has left your shoulders forever, could be somehow wrong. But that's the core of the problem - ex-gays have never been out. Their horror of who they are is so overwhelming that they follow the first crazy person that promises them Dr. Straightenschlong's Magical Potion of Straightness. This is not thinking. This is not looking at yourself and your own feelings. This is self-loathing on an Olympian scale. And self-loathing is exceptionally unattractive.

Second, and much more important, those desperate souls are extremely damaging to the cause of the fight for equality. Hatemongers can just point at them and say "See? There's your proof that it can be cured!" I am not even going to try and guess at the level of self-repression and aggressive denial that is required to maintain this pathetic lie, but in the end, my sympathy for the torture those people live in is really dampened by how much of it is self-inflicted and how appalling an example it sets for other equally scared people.

However, as repulsive as I find ex-gays, they are victims too. Victims of crazy aggressive psychopaths with the power and money to say "yes, what you are IS a disease, an aberration, unnatural and wrong wrong, so very wrong, BUT I HAVE A CURE!" Which leads me to NARTH - the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. An old and seriously influential organization of phony psychiatrists who have split from the American Psychiatric Association because they can't - they just CAN'T - accept that gays are not evil and won't actually destroy society. Their "work", presented as scientific research and "fact", has been laughed at and disproved on absolutely every conceivable level, but they are the only claim to "argumentation" that the crazy religious Right has, and so they are being cited again and again by huge groups like the American Family Association or the Family Research Council, while normal people try to suppress disgusted twitches and the desire to vomit.

I recently read a Report on NARTH by the Southern Poverty Law Center. It is very compelling and I urge you to read it, because one simply HAS to know exactly how unbased the entire argument against homosexuality is on the scientific level. Here are some quotes from it:

Billing itself as the counterweight to the two most prominent mental health authorities — the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association — NARTH pushes the idea, with the zeal of a religious movement, that no one is born gay and that a person’s sexual orientation can be changed through what is known as “reparative” or “conversion” therapy, also commonly called “ex-gay” therapy. At the heart of this argument is the belief that homosexuality is an unnatural deviation from normal sexual development, a form of mental disorder.

With these views, NARTH has emerged as the preeminent source of what many regard as “junk science” for the religious right — psychology that underpins the anti-gay movement’s fervent opposition to equal rights and stigmatizes LGBT people as mentally sick.


In fact, every major American medical authority has concluded that there is no scientific support for NARTH’s view, and many have expressed concern that reparative therapy can cause harm. Most strikingly, in 2006, the American Psychological Association (APA) stated: “There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed.” The APA added, “Our further concern is that the positions espoused by NARTH and Focus on the Family create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish.”

And flourish it has.

That such an organization can still exist in 2012, and be willfully ignorant of facts is scary to say the least, but as NARTH is being marginalized further and further, and "reparative" therapy is laughed at by sane people, those of us who are struggling with who they are, see a false hope, one that isn't just based on lies, but also one that they should not be looking for at all. As long as hatred like this is given a public tribune, homosexuals will not be completely free of this self-loathing that infects us so deeply. Until those who cannot stand us for the ways that we are different from them lose their voice completely, our community will not be free of its own desire to try and "repair" what should be celebrated instead.

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