Ex-Gay on NPR. Wrong question & Things unmentioned

I wish I could write a long blog post about the NPR Morning Edition piece I was featured on this past Monday. You can see the link to the segment here The piece ran for under nine minutes, so lots got left unsaid from the 80 minute interview I had with Alix Spiegel.

Lots of people have written about the piece and NPR’s failure to mention key details and more importantly how NPR failed in the way they structured the segment. Some useful pieces to read are Rev. Irene Monroe’s Op-Ed for Bay Windows, Zack Ford’s blog post for Think Progress, an excellent piece piece written by Cary Gibson, the piece by candace Chellew Hodge for Religion Dispatches, and an Op-Ed by Wayne Besen for The Advocate.

I too found flaws with the piece. In particular Alix Spiegel summarized something I said and reported that I felt that reparative therapy can help a handful of people. No, absolutely not. Over at Beyond Ex-Gay we recognize that some say they have been helped by ex-gay treatment. For our part the treatments did not work and usually caused us damage. From meeting over 1,500 ex-gay survivors and seeing up close the lives of many ex-gays and from understanding the positive outcomes from working with ethical trained professionals compared, I believe ex-gay treatment is unnecessary, ineffectual, and most often damaging.

20110804-160128.jpgThe piece also stated that Richard Wiley, an ex-gay (and an ex-gay leader although this was not mentioned) chose his faith over his sexuality. By leaving out any statement about my faith, the piece inferred that I chose my gay orientation over my faith. Not true. Faith is very important to me. The many things that Richard Wyler feared he would lose if he fully accepted that he was gay, including his faith, did not happen to me or most of the gay Christians I know. We have found homes and in some cases new family. I tried to please the churches I attended for years knowing that they would not change and would chuck me out the moment I accepted myself. Fortunately today I can go to many many venues to pursue my faith with other believers. For me I have found a home with the Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers.

It seems ex-gay proponents have a new talking point. I heard Stephen Bennet of the Stephen Bennett Global Ministries utter it on CNN last week and then again Richard Wiley in the NPR piece. They both asked, “If transgender people can get APA approved treatment for transition, why is it unethical to offer reparative therapy to gays and lesbians?” Yeah, that is some inverted logic that I don’t have time to unpack right now, but I hope someone will very soon.

Finally, Alix Spiegel and the editorial staff of NPR asked the wrong question. They asked, “Can Therapy Help Change Sexual Orientation?” The answer is “NO.” Orientation does not change. Even most ex-gay leaders agree on this point today and definitely every major medical association agrees. Rather for a health segment it would have been far more essential and meaningful to ask, “Why do these treatments persist? Why do people pursue change?” Then it would be fair to have a current ex-gay and a former ex-gay speaking about their motivations and the outcomes. I explore these questions in my article and video about Why I Went Ex-Gay

Last week Zack Ford of Think Progress and my podcast partner over at Queer and Queerer interviewed Dr. Christine Robinson, professor of Justice Studies at James Madison University. She along with her colleague Sue Spivey, are some of the foremost scholars about the Ex-Gay Movement. Take a listen to the powerful interview we conducted to understand just how insidious and dangerous the movement is to many LGBTQ people who have nothing directly to do with it.

This post has 6 Comments

  1. Monika Eggers on August 4, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    Regarding that new talking point: The equivalent to conversion / reparative therapy for gays = something to convince gay people they are straight is obviously reparative therapy for trans women | men = something to convince trans women | men that they are in fact men | women and do not require changes to their bodies, appearances or legal genders. As you say, inverted logic at its best.

  2. LostSoul on August 4, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    I don’t think it would take much to unpack the “If transgender people can get APA approved treatment for transition, why is it unethical to offer reparative therapy to gays and lesbians?” argument. For me its simple, the treatment for the transgendered helps one come to terms with and accept themselves for who they are. Therapy should be a tool to accept yourself, not a battering ram used to push a part of you into the dark recesses of your psyche so that you can feel worthy to sit in a church pew on Sunday morning.

  3. charolem on August 5, 2011 at 1:46 am

    Much live ky friend.

  4. lizopp on August 5, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Thanks to folks for helping *me* unpack that new talking point.

    And Peterson, I feel like I missed an important opportunity to listen in when the program aired. Glad you wrote this piece; glad I came upon Zack’s too. And glad for Twitter, which first pointed me to Zack!


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