I don’t often get heated in media appearances, but when faced with the outrageous, one needs to express outrage. Last night I appeared as one of several guests on Wellness for the REAL World with Dr. Veronica Anderson, an Internet program on Blog Talk Radio. It aired live, and is available on demand here. The topic? When a Straight Couple finds out One is Gay. Here’s the show description:
Former Forbes Magazine writer Kiri Blakeley, author of Can’t Think Straight: A Memoir of Mixed-Up Love, drolly details the emotional fallout after her fiancée announced he was gay. Not wanting to deceive her any longer after a 10-year relationship, he tearfully admitted he’d been questioning his sexuality for the past two years. Dr. Veronica discusses the stages of her emotional journey, and other guests share their own stories when a straight couple discovers one partner is gay. Do they inevitably split? Or do some decide love really does conquer all, and they stay together despite a need for separate sex lives? Other guests include Bonnie Kaye, host of BTR’s Straight Wives, Peterson Toscano, who spent 17 years and $30,000 trying to become straight, and Arthur Goldberg, who runs a service that helps gays become straight.
Kiri Blakeley talked about her 10 year relationship with a man who ultimately came out gay. Bonnie Kaye, who discovered her husband was gay, has also written about that experience. On the show Bonnie spoke pointed out the unnecessary pain and suffering many couples face because of an unworkable marriage pressed on them by homophobia and the imbalanced value society places on heterosexual marriage. Similar to my own story, Joseph Knudson also shared about living as a gay man in a straight relationship.
Arthur Goldberg, co-director of JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality) and a supporter of other anti-gay* groups like People Can Change, also appeared. And this is when I felt outrage. Goldberg was a last minute addition to the program. The producer told me that they wanted to get all sides of the story. That may sound reasonable particularly if the topic is a political issue with opposing opinions, but in the case of gay-to-straight conversion, having guests who represent “both sides of the issue” creates a false dichotomy as if we are looking at two equal sides of an issues. In this case the sides are reason and madness—health and harm—sound medical practice versus quakery performed by unlicensed and untrained religiously motivated bigots.
Imagine this scenario. A local school has been rocked with an epidemic of drug abuse resulting in the hospitalization of students because of unknown dangerous chemicals added to the drugs. Parents suffer as their children live at risk of exposure to drug dealers selling a potentially life-threatening substance. A local TV chat program decides to air an episode to highlight the issue. They bring in parents, children directly affected, and a teacher. Then to show all sides of the issue–they also bring on one of the drug dealers to talk about how happy his customers are with his product and allude to studies that suggest that his drugs help people. I don’t think so. For the health and well being of the community and the listeners, a drug dealer selling dangerously laced drugs does not get a public platform to push his junk.
See this is not about “airing all sides.” It is about responsible and accurate reporting. Theories and treatments that suggest it is wrong to be gay and that some sort of “cure” is possible put people at risk of real harm. As the program last night highlighted, one of the risks comes to straight people, particularly women, who marry gay men trying to be straight. The harms to bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, and gender non-conforming individuals are great. For this reason the American Psychological Association and ever major medical association have denounced ex-gay treatments.
After hearing Kiri, Bonnie, and me speak about the real suffering we experienced, the devastating situations we endured, Arthur Goldberg made no reference to any of it. He simply launched into a string of misinformation about supposed studies that prove “thousands of people” have changed their sexual orientation. To add insult to injury, one of the co-hosts asked Goldberg to share in greater detail his faulty theories and practices. After which Arthur Goldberg disingenuously tried to convince the hosts (and perhaps himself) that he was not anti-gay, that he took a neutral stance on the issue all the while explaining that gays are gay because of emotional misshaping.
Exodus International, the large anti-gay organization just put out a video commercial advertising their Love One Out conference, an event that serves to reinforce the harmful notion to parents and pastors that it is wrong to be gay (or bi, lesbian, or trans) and that gay people can and should change. As Evan Hurst has pointed out, the Exodus ad offers up images of sad homosexuals looking forlorn and tragic. The message they attempt to portray is that being gay sucks. But juxtaposed to the sad queers they display images of happy homosexuals like Neil Patrick Harris with his partner and their children, and out and proud gay Christian singer Ray Boltz. Exodus undermines its own message. In fact, the message they are inadvertently communicating is that being ex-gay sucks. Trying to suppress your gay side, living to please others, engaging in an inauthentic life filled with self-loathing and violence towards one’s desires result in pain and suffering.
Like Arthur Goldberg in last night’s program, Exodus and its leader, Alan Chambers, have never directly addressed the suffering of the majority of their former clients who experienced harm at the hands of ex-gay ministers and reparative therapists. Even by Exodus’ own rosy estimation, at least 70% of people who go through the doors of their ministries come out gay. The treatment fails.
But what happens to these people? Does Exodus know? Do they care? They do know because we have communicated to them directly and on-line (see Beyond Ex-Gay) about the devastating results of their “care.” Former Exodus leaders have publicly renounced the work of Exodus and offered apologies.
Many of us have suffered for years needing expensive therapy to undo the faulty treatment we received at the hands of misinformed ministers and counselors. Wasted years, wasted dollars, lost opportunities. Most of us have worked through the pain and confusion and ultimately came out and reclaimed our lives. But it takes work and sadly there are also many casualties that experience the negative psychological, emotional, and spiritual affects of Chamber’s and Goldberg’s teaching for the rest of their lives. With work, proper care, and a willingness to embrace reality, we grow healthy, well-adjusted, and yes, happy–content in being authentic.
Dr. Veronica Anderson and her co-host, Russell Cook failed by bringing Arthur Goldberg onto a program ironically called, Wellness for the REAL World. Fortunately the other guest spoke with clarity, knowledge, and truth. I guess one might say that by hearing the madness of Arthur Goldberg, listeners will only get more convinced that ex-gay treatment is a bad idea. Perhaps, but Goldberg, like Chambers and other dishonest propagandists for the anti-gay religious movement, expertly weave in falsehoods into every sentence. They have been proven unreliable witnesses who do not deserve invitations to public platforms. They have their blogs and conferences to share their message to those with itching ears to hear it. I say leave the rest of us out of it.
- To learn more about the ex-gay experience and steps to recover, see Ex-Gay No Way–Survival and Recovery from Religious Abuse by Dr. Jallen Rix.
- To see more artwork by those who survived ex-gay treatment and reparative therapy, visit the Visual Arts page at Beyond Ex-Gay
- For a comic exposé of “gay rehab” check out Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House, now also available at Film Baby. See trailer here.
* “anti-gay” because ex-gay is a misnomer. Really groups like Exodus, JONAH, NARTH, Living Waters, etc seek to annihilate gayness in individuals and in some cases in society by supporting anti-gay legislation. As someone who lived 17 years in that “ex-gay” world and in religious groups that feared gay rights, I understand that the basis of much of the ex-gay theories and practices are really anti-gay.