Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ex-Gay Therapy Is Good and Necessary

Greg Quinlan, President of the ex-gay organization Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), recently wrote an article entitled "I Am A Man" in response to the controversy over Marcus Bachmanns counseling clinic. This article was picked up by the National Organization for Marriage - which claims that the article "comes to the defense of those who are not given a voice".  The article can be found here, but I will also address some of the major points found in the piece. 

According to Mr. Quinlan, the controversy over Marcus Bachmanns clinic, and the reaction of the LGBT community to the news is because, 
...even one ex-gay proves that homosexual behavior is not innate or immutable, the gay lobby’s fear of their former members results in false claims and attacks aimed at preventing homosexuals from exercising their right to self-determination. They cannot bear to have even one homosexual leave homosexuality, hence their outrage at Dr. Bachmann.
     First of all, I don't think that the LGBT community has any problem with anyone attempting to "leave homosexuality". Instead, we feel sorry for those individuals, because something that either society or their religion has said has caused them to want to "change" this fundamental part of their being. They have obviously internalized the homophobia that exists within the community, impacting their thinking and causing them to desire to change. But regardless, Mr. Quinlan slips up just a tad. He says that "one ex-gay proves that homosexual behavior is not innate or immutable". Of course it isn't, LGBT activists have never claimed that homosexual behavior is immutable. Behavior is a manifestation of ones sexual orientation; you can control your behavior, but not your orientation. Just because an individual with a homosexual orientation might engage in heterosexual behavior, does not change the fact that they have a homosexual orientation. Whether or not orientation can be changed, is the end goal of "reparative therapy". 
The ex-gay community includes thousands of former homosexuals like myself who benefited from counseling.  We did not choose our homosexual feelings, but we did exercise our right to seek help to change those feelings.  As a registered nurse, I saw hundreds of gay men die of AIDS before I finally left the gay lifestyle. 
     Though individuals such as Mr. Quinlan may have "benefited from counseling", according to organizations like the American Psychiatric Association, there is no scientific proof that such counseling changes those with a homosexual orientation. As they state on their website...
In the last four decades, "reparative" therapists have not produced any rigorous scientific research to substantiate their claims of cure.  Until there is such research available, APA recommends that ethical practitioners refrain from attempts to change individuals' sexual orientation, keeping in mind the medical dictum to First, do no harm.
     Though I cannot speak for Mr. Quinlan, as I do not know him, the first thing that must be asked when detailing why an individual would seek such therapy, is the atmosphere in which said individual lives. If he lives in an atmosphere that believes that homosexuality is evil and abnormal, it is ridiculous to assume that said individual is entering such a therapy with the correct motives. As I said above, that individual is internalizing the homophobia that exists within his community. This internalization causes him to think that he is worth less, and that something is wrong with him. LGBT activists are not attempting to restrict anyone's right to pursue whatever "therapy" they wish (though most medical associations say to not pursue such therapy), but instead we assert that we must understand WHY they wish to undergo such therapy in the first place. Mr. Quinlan goes on... 
Contrary to the myths being generated by outraged homosexuals, counseling for unwanted same-sex attractions is not prohibited by any medical association.  
     Actually Mr. Quinlan, many organizations disagree. Just one of them, the American Medical Association, clearly opposes the practice. They state on their website
Opposes, the use of "reparative" or "conversion" therapy that is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation. 
      Though this specifically says they oppose reparative therapy when it is based upon the assumption that homosexuality is a mental disorder and/or when there is the prior assumption that the patient should change their orientation, I would say that this classifies most - if not all forms of reparative therapy. Why? Because the therapy itself is based upon the premise that their is something "wrong" with homosexuality. Quinlan then goes on to say, 
Unhappy homosexuals are not children in need of parental permission and can freely choose their own therapeutic treatment just like anyone else.
     Mr. Quinlan fails to realize two things. First, that the individual seeking such therapy is not always doing it of his/her own free will - such as myself - but is instead being force by parental figures to undergo such treatments. Additionally, not only are minors subjected to this "therapy", but in many cases it cannot be said that an adult individual is truly making an autonomous decision in choosing to go through such therapy. Instead of being affirmed in their sexual orientation, they are subjected to social and religious stigma, which influences their decision making process. Any reputable counselor would recognize these societal influences, and - instead of putting the client through reparative therapy - would attempt to affirm him in his sexual orientation. 

     That is, in essence, the main thrust of Mr. Quinlan's article. He then goes on to complain about the "wealthy and politically powerful" gay community that is stripping away the civil rights of the heterosexuals. Oh Mr. Quinlan, complain about the persecution of the "ex-gays", when it is you who is wanting to deny LGBT people their rights. 

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