Sunday, May 06, 2018

The Continued Fraud of "Ex-Gay Conversion Therapy"

UPDATED:  As LGBTQ Nation reports, the  Christofascist backed "Freedom March" in Washington, DC, for those who "escaped the gay lifestyle" by praying away the gay, drew a whopping total of 36 participants.   To say that the turn out has humiliating is far too kind for these frauds.

In my view, "conservative" religious traditions cause the world at large great harm, especially in light of the divisiveness of their message that relies on fear of a horrible, vengeful god, and hatred towards those who are different or who reject their toxic dogma.   Few groups have borne the hate and wrath "conservative Christians" and patriarchal religious institutions over the last thousand years more than LGBT individuals.  Why such hatred?  In my view, it boils down to the fact that we challenge their Bronze Age beliefs on sexuality.  Sadly, the Roman Catholic Church remains stuck in a 12th century understanding of sex and sexuality (37 years of my life were damaged by this institutional ignorance).  Other traditions cling to a few cherry picked passages in the Bible that are taken out of historical context and weaponized against those deemed others.  While these "conservatives" can no longer burn gays at the stake - the origin of the derogatory term "faggot"  - they nonetheless continue to do their utmost to make lives of LGBT individuals a living hell.  In this quest, they use the myth that gays can "change" as part of their propaganda campaign against recognition of LGBT civil rights, and marriage in particular.  So-called "conversion therapy" is nothing short of child abuse when inflicted on minors.  No legitimate medical or mental health association supports its use.  Fortunately, eleven states now ban licensed professionals from subjecting minors to the fraudulent practice.  39 states, however, allow it and worse yet, no state bans religious "ministries from inflicting incalculable harm on minors and adults.  A column in the New York Times looks at the myth still being peddled and the damage that it does.  The practice needs to be banned everywhere and there should be no religious exemption from the ban.  Here are column highlights: 
On Saturday, a group of Christians will gather in Washington for the Freedom March, an event that organizers describe as “a celebration of freedom from homosexuality and transgenderism.” . . . . In the national conversation about conversion therapy, people often focus attention on the 10 states (plus Washington) that have banned the practice for minors. But these laws, and this conversation, address conversion therapy only as it’s practiced by mental health professionals with minors. That’s not where most conversion therapy is happening, though. I know, because I spent the better part of my 20s involved in it.
Most conversion therapy occurs not with mental health professionals but in conservative Christian communities. Numbers are hard to come by, because the communities usually don’t come out and say they’re doing conversion therapy; in fact, they’re often skeptical of therapy in general. Groups that help people “leave homosexuality” are usually nonprofit ministries, and the counseling is facilitated by pastors and lay leaders who are not trained professionals. These groups are protected by religious freedom laws, so laws banning conversion therapy for minors do not apply to them.
The numbers of minors exposed to some form of conversion therapy is already staggering: In January, the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law released a report that estimates that 57,000 youths between 13 and 17 will receive conversion therapy from religious advisers before the age of 18 and 20,000 will receive conversion therapy from a licensed mental health professional before the age of 18 in the 40 states that still allow it.
These communities will urge countless more adults to take a similar path. And while adults have the power to leave or remain in those communities, my heart still goes out to them. They face intense pressure to rid themselves of desires that research has shown will never go away.
I was taken to an “ex-gay” organization when I came out at the age of 17, and I spent almost 10 years involved in a member ministry of Exodus International, an umbrella organization that promoted conversion therapy and that shut down in 2013. From that experience, here are a few things to consider as we think about the future of conversion therapy in Christian communities.
First, it’s important to know that the people in conversion therapy don’t actually become straight. If you listen to their testimonies, they say they decided to “find their identity in Christ” rather than in their sexuality. . . . . They try not to engage in sex with people of the same gender, and some even date and marry people of the opposite sex. But very few in the videos say their attractions changed.
I attended several of my gay friends’ weddings to people of the opposite sex, and I sat across from them years later when they grieved over the end of their marriage. They might have changed the way they identified, but they felt a longing for intimacy with someone of the same sex that simply could not be met by their spouses. Some white-knuckled their way through the rest of their lives in these marriages, often with secret hookups that left them deeply ashamed, sometimes suicidal. Others eventually ended their marriages, and they despaired over the pain they caused their spouses and children.
These stories never show up in the short videos on ex-gay ministries’ websites.  Ex-gay organizations create emotional short films with earnest young people who talk about hope and redemption, and then they quietly remove the videos when these very same people come out years later with the truth about themselves that they tried to suppress. In fact, that’s what happened to me.
While many conservative Christians actively work against the flourishing of L.G.B.T.Q. people, they don’t represent all Christians.
I feel compassion for the people who will attend the Freedom March on Saturday. The videos on their Facebook page feature young people who say they left a lifestyle of anonymous sex, drug addiction and despair. But I have a lot of L.G.B.T.Q. friends, and I don’t know any who would describe their lives in that way.
I can’t help wondering whether the young people in the videos found themselves in destructive cycles because of the shame they carried from the teaching they heard growing up. It’s hard for me to believe they would seek to rid themselves of their God-given desire to love someone of the same sex if it weren’t for the leaders in their communities who fail to consider the possibility that they’re wrong about the value and dignity of L.G.B.T.Q. people made in the image of God.
As several Christian leaders have already said: If the gospel someone preaches is not good news for the marginalized — for people of color, those with disabilities, immigrants and L.G.B.T.Q. people — then it’s not good news for anyone. The message the organizers of the Freedom March preach is certainly not good news for people like me.
The author "hit the nail on the head" when she notes that so many featured in the ex-gay programs cite destructive behavior that I believe comes from the poisonous religious dogma that they try to escape through drugs and alcohol.  It has nothing to do with their sexual orientation in and of itself.  Remove the toxic religious dogma and I believe most would have had no reason to try to escape from themselves. It took several years of legitimate therapy by licensed professionals to undo the damage done to me by my Catholic upbringing.  If any type of therapy should be promoted, it is they type that aided me, not a fraudulent practice largely practiced by quacks and charlatans.

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