PFLAG wants discussion on reparative therapy?

PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) released a statement yesterday saying they want a discussion about “reparative therapy.” Well, that is interesting news since they have already decided they don’t like it. I wonder what they want to discuss.Here is the statement with commentary from yours truly.

Statement on Tennessee Teen’s Release from “Ex-Gay Camp”

July 26, 2005 – Washington, D.C. – As Zach Stark, the Tennessee teen who recently gained national attention after blogging his fears of being sent to Love in Action, is released from the program this week, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) calls for an ongoing and substantive discussion about the effects of “reparative therapy” on young people and their families. “As families who have faced these very issues in our own lives, we must give Zach and his family the space and privacy they need to deal with this situation,” said Jody Huckaby, PFLAG’s executive director. “We also must insist, as allies and advocates for our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) loved ones, that ‘reparative therapy’ programs are not allowed to prosper unchallenged at the expense of our family members and friends.”

=”Our families and friends?” I thought this was about giving Zach and his family space. They say they want discussion but they really don’t want to discuss, they want to pass judgment. In Columbus, at the PTA convention, we wanted to discuss what reorientation counseling is about but they did not support the presence of Parents and Friends of Ex-gays and Gays. If two sides to an issue are not present then it is not an “ongoing and substantial discussion.”

The “reparative therapy” industry uses disproved medical theories to “cure”GLBT persons and preys upon those in pain and confusion about matters of sexualorientation.

=There is no “reparative therapy industry.” If there are therapists who prey on people then they should be out of business. No one I know who believes in change as an option believes in preying on anybody. I don’t know what theories are referred to here but change in sexual orientation has not been disproven. This news release comes from the PR firm of “Hyperbole R Us.”

Their claims and methods have been roundly denounced by the American MedicalAssociation (AMA), American Psychiatric Association (APA) and other medical professionals.

=Who are “they?” Have my claims been denounced? Spitzer’s? Nicolosi’s? Repeat: There is no reparative therapy industry. Those who believe change occurs are a pretty diverse bunch. A real discussion which I welcome would reveal that. But revealing accurate information is not what PFLAG has in mind here.

PFLAG applauds greater scrutiny of “reparative therapy”, “conversion therapy” or “ex-gay” programs.

=So do I.

Because of the attention surrounding Zach’s story, the Tennessee Departmentof Health began an investigation and notified the unlicensed Love in Action thatit was functioning illegally by claiming to offer therapy and could faceprosecution by the district attorney.

= Read the Memphis Commercial Appeal on this story. I spoke to John Smid at the Exodus conference and they are cooperating with the state. Further, as the result of an earlier conversation he and I had, LIA has clarified that they are a ministry and not a treatment or therapy program. Given the level of cooperation and the fact that they are a ministry program, it is extremely unlikely that they will face any legal difficulties.

Immediately before entering the program, Zach wrote, “I’ve been through hell. I’ve been emotionally torn apart for three days” and “Honestly how couldyou support a program like this? If I do come out straight I’ll be so mentally unstable and depressed it won’t matter.” Zach’s fears were well-founded. According to the AMA and APA, “reparative therapy” does not work. But the dangers of these programs are real. At a minimum, those in “reparative therapy” must cope with the emotional damage of being relentlessly badgered with fear tactics and being told to change who they are. At worst they are at risk for self-destructive behavior including suicide. Mary Lou Wallner and her husband Bob know the damage of “reparative therapy” all too well. Speaking at a recent PFLAG conference in Bothell, Washington, Mary Lou told the audience that herreaction when her daughter came out was based on the teachings of Dr. James Dobson, a leading “reparative therapy” proponent. “I raised my kids on Dobson. I read his books and listened to his radio broadcasts for years. ” In December of1988, when she was about 21 years old, my daughter wrote us a letter and told usthat she was a lesbian. I flipped out and the next nine years were pretty stormy. Then in February of 1997, at age 29, she committed suicide.” “Lookingback, I think a lot of it had to do with the way I taught her about homosexuality. I have since come to understand that almost anybody gets depressed if they can’t be who they really are.”

=I think this may be the most destructive and distorted part of the press release. No one knows how this boy feels now. I read his blog, he sounded like he needed counseling independent of any issues with same sex attraction. PFLAG never even considers the evidence about suicide and mental disorders. The Wallners did not say that their daughter said she was depressed because of her parents beliefs but they now think part of it was their beliefs. I feel so bad for people who have children who are troubled. I have first hand knowledge of these things and to use the suffering of people to sensationalize the matter is irresponsible. No ethical therapist would ignore depression and suicidal ideation in clients.

Like the Wallners, Zach’s parents and other parents considering “reparative therapy” only want the best for their children. However, PFLAG families and ourallies must re-double our efforts to educate about the dangers and alternatives to this soundly discredited “treatment.” “Ultimately we want Zach to be who he is and we accept whatever decision he makes,” said Dr. Arnold Drake, president of PFLAG Memphis. “We also want Zach and his family to know that we’ve been through this before and we are ready and able to support them.”

=This statement of acceptance doesn’t sound very genuine but it will be interesting to see what the reaction will be if Zach says he is ok with the program now.

Next up – I am fixing to watch the CNN Paula Zahn program on the LIA program.