Only the gay die young? Part 9 – The Camerons disturbing views

I thought I was done talking about the Camerons. I was wrong. Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin has a post of interest both at his blog and at Exgaywatch about an article in the Family Research Institute’s (the Camerons’ non-profit) newsletter from 1999. Although old, it is a very disturbing article and due to Paul Cameron’s recent letter to me, relevant to the recent series of posts on the Camerons research.

The Cameron article from the March 1999 issue of his newsletter is titled “Gays in Nazi Germany” and leads off with this question:

How did the Nazis deal with homosexuals? This question is partially answered by Rudolf Hoss — who was in charge of some of these decisions — in a recently translated German book…so the real issue for Hoss and his Nazi collaborators was how to “control” those addicted to homosexuality. Since the Nazi regime could get away with just about anything it wanted shy of execution to suppress homosexual activity, its experience provides some insight about the “containability” of homosexuality, at least under a dictatorship.

For those who do not know who Rudulph Hoss was, you can see this Wikipedia entry. You will need a strong stomach to read even the brief excerpt of his approach to killing millions as the Commandant at Auschwitz. As incredible as it may seem, Cameron actually appears to be deriving lessons about the causes and “cures” of homosexuality from the memoirs of Rudolph Hoss. In fact, he says:

These experiences put the lie to the whole “born that way” claim or the notion that one’s sexuality is fixed after puberty. Clearly, homosexuals could and did “convert” at least some of those with whom they were housed and at a sufficient level for Hoss to consider it an “epidemic.”

I suppose I could be “cured” of a lot of things if I thought “my problem” would get me tortured or killed. Cameron quoted Hoss about the Nazi vision of “rehabilitation.”

On the subject of “curing” homosexuals, Hoss relates that some “were put to work in the clay pit of the… brick factory, separated from the other prisoners. This was hard work and everyone had to produce a certain quota… regardless of the weather… [this had] visible results with… the male prostitutes who wanted to earn their living in an easy way and absolutely avoid even the lightest work…. The strict camp life and the hard work quickly reeducated this type. Most of them worked very hard and took great care not to get into trouble so that they could be released as soon as possible. They also avoided associating with those afflicted with this depravity and wanted to make it known that they had nothing to do with homosexuals. In this way countless rehabilitated young men could be released without having a relapse…. Some men were homosexual because they became weary of women through overindulgence or because they looked for new highs in their parasitic life. These men could also be reeducated and turned away from their vice. But those who… had become addicted to their vice could not be reeducated…. they were slaves to their vice…. Since they would not or could not give up their vice, they knew that they would never be free again. This most effective mental pressure accelerated the physical decay in these sensitive characters.” (my emphasis)

As I read this article, I kept thinking there has got to be some disclaimer here, some expression of regret for the treatment these poor souls, but I did not find any. Note Hoss’ use of the term “parasitic life” to describe homosexuality. Cameron reprised this term in his response to my criticisms of his recent report when he said:

A larger question goes begging in this discussion. Our methods and credentials are being impugned primarily because we have come to believe — on the basis of empirical research — that homosexual practice is injurious to society. Further, that we as a culture will pay a stiff penalty for elevating homosexual expression to the status of a powerful ‘right.’ So I ask the following question: Is it fair to give those who live parasitic lives ‘Super Rights?’(my emphasis)

When I first read “parasitic lives,” I thought what an oddly disparaging term to describe ideological opponents. Is his recent use of the term a coincidence, or did he learn something from Commandant Hoss? The article concludes with this warning.

We can certainly feel sorry for those who are so trapped by their vice that they cannot get free. On the other hand, if society were forced to accommodate the behavior of hardcore homosexuals, how many other lives would be damaged, perhaps irreparably? True compassion dictates that we not only attempt to keep those who are bent on self-destruction from reaching their demise, but more importantly, that we protect others who might get caught in the same wake of misfortune.

So what are we to learn, Dr. Cameron? We do not live in a dictatorship but are we to learn that homosexuals are “containable?” Jim Burroway’s post draws out past statements of Cameron that are shockingly in sync with this 1999 article. This article by Ward Harkavy is also good for more background. Suffice to say that Dr. Cameron is not simply ideologically opposed to homosexuality, he is fixated on “solutions” that I find abhorrent. I call on fellow social conservatives who still refer to the Camerons’ work to take a hard look at these posts and reflect on whether someone with such extreme animosity could possibly approach social science data with sufficient objectivity to be trusted.

One side fits all, Part 2 – Evangelicals in the classroom

Yesterday, I posted about what I view as a one-sided article in the American Counseling Association newsletter about sexual identity and religion. I came across this article, now a couple of days old, on a related topic, specifically perceived viewpoint discrimination in social work schools.

I have heard similar things from some of our alums in grad school. They have described a subtle but real pressure to simply avoid discussions of religious and value conflicts in counseling.

Counseling Today article about sexual identity and religion. One side fits all?

The official newsletter of the American Counseling Association is called Counseling Today. Unfortunately, only members can get it online so I cannot provide links to the article I want to discuss. In the April, 2007 issue, a pastoral psychotherapist from DC, Stacy Notaras Murphy published an article titled “Strange Bedfellows: Religion and sexual identity in the counseling office.” I have asked Counseling Today for permission to reprint and will link to a copy of it if I hear a positive response. For now, I will have to include excerpts.

The article purports to be an examination of how people deal with religious identity and sexual identity. From early in the piece:

Most counselors agree that sexual identity is a major aspect of personality development. While more in the field are recognizing that spiritual identity informs personality development as well, the intersection of the two hasn’t received much attention. But the connections may seem more natural when both are considered under the umbrella of multicultural competency.

I certainly agree that training programs outside of religious institutions are rarely helping counselors understand the role of religious identity in integrating a sexual identity. In fact, one of the counselors quoted, Michael Kocet, agreed when he said:

“I would like to see AGLBIC [Association for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Issues in Counseling] and ASERVIC [Association for Spritual, Ethical, Religious and Value Issues in Counseling] partnering more on how to integrate their two competency models into effective practice with GLBT clients,” he says. “Right now, I think they’re very much treated separately, most likely unintentionally. I think more research should be done on that; it’s an untapped area within the GLBT community.”

I don’t think it is untapped, but I do think counselors are often confused about how to work ethically and helpfully with clients for whom sexuality and religious faith are important and/or in conflict. The AGLBIC competencies do not mention religion. There is no guidance from that group on how to handle religious conflicts. The ASERVIC competencies on the other hand do provide relevant guidance, especially the following ones:

Competency 5 – The professional counselor can demonstrate sensitivity and acceptance of a variety of religious and/or spiritual expressions in client communication.

Competency 6 – The professional counselor can identify limits of her/his understanding of a client’s religious or spiritual expression, and demonstrate appropriate referral skills and generate possible referral sources.

Competency 7 – The professional counselor can assess the relevance of the religious and/or spiritual domains in the client’s therapeutic issues.

Competency 8 – The professional counselor is sensitive to and receptive of religious and/or spiritual themes in the counseling process as befits the expressed preference of each client.

Competency 9 – The professional counselor uses a clients’ religious and/or spiritual beliefs in the pursuit of the clients’ therapeutic goals as befits the clients’ expressed preference.

Note especially competencies 7-9. Religious beliefs are relevant to clients’ therapeutic goals and should reflect clients’ expressed preference.

Now back to the article and I will cut to the chase. The article conspicuously avoided any mention of religious beliefs that view homosexual behavior in a negative manner. The only alternative presented was to adopt a religious identity that is gay affirming. Note the organization presented to counselors as “Sprituality-based Resources” to such clients:

Counseling Today, April, 2007

Courage is the only group listed that promotes a traditional sexual ethic. The ASERVIC competency does not call on counselors to endorse or impose a brand of religiousity on clients, rather to use “a clients’ religious and/or spiritual beliefs in the pursuit of the clients’ therapeutic goals as befits the clients’ expressed preference.” What if a client’s expressed preference is for a religious view that is not represented by any group on that list? Then what?

Long time readers will know that the sexual identity therapy framework works within the values and beliefs of the client so I am not advocating for one side here. In fact, what I am saying is that one side will not fit all, even if the exclusion is prefaced by claims of multicultural competence.

UPDATE: I now have permission to post the article. The staff at Counseling Today provided a legible version of the article — thanks to them for that.

Only the gay die young? Part 8 – Loose ends

I have read the Camerons replies to me in this ongoing discussion and have only a few more things to say.

Regarding Paul Cameron’s letter, I have very little to say. It does not appear to me that he really addressed any of my critiques. Instead, he convinced me that he has his mind made up about those who lead as he put it “parasitic lives.” He had a lot to say about his two quests in life, one being the public health consequences of second hand smoke and the other being the menace of what you could call second-hand-gay (we are all doomed because a small percentage of people are attracted to the same sex). If that doesn’t make sense, you’ll have to read his letter to me – but then again, that might not help either.

Kirk Cameron’s note was more substantial but I still need to see their data before I will comment more on the Denmark component of their study. Kirk Cameron says the paper is in peer review and so he cannot make the data available. When (if) the study is published, then I will review it further. He had various replies to Dr. Frisch’s critiques as well, none of which were especially convincing to me. As I read through the letter, it seemed like some fast dancing was going on. Here are examples:

As I will explain, you have apparently misread or misunderstood aspects of our methodology. Further, the ‘whole story’ about our research is not fully contained in the EPA paper, but rather in a series of separate, but related articles, each addressing a slightly different topic. Be that as it may, I do find it a bit of a double standard that you would implicitly criticize our use of the media and internet as a forum for dissemination of new information, when your blogsite is not, as far as I can tell, subject to any scholarly oversight (beside your own).

Ok, so I am supposed to read your mind? You have bits and pieces of justifications in other papers but since I don’t have them I can’t know what you intend. And Kirk compares a blog to a news release?

Yes, our estimates of homosexual longevity are preliminary and may change with additional data. But are they necessarily false or unreliable? No.

So when the news releases say dogmatically straights outlive gays by 20 years, this is “dissemination of new information?” So which is it? New information or preliminary data?

Kirk C. spends much time attempting to make an analogy (benchmark) between estimates of longevity for the general population and estimates for gays. However, one can take a representative sample of a known population, but using the same methods with an unknown population may not lead to the same results. I am not convinced that he has properly sampled homosexuals (or their deaths) in order to satisfy the assumptions needed to make the analogy reasonable.

And then there is this deflection:

Plus, there is the issue of nonrespondents. For the Canadian study this was relatively low — around 20% — but clearly still large enough to dramatically change the prevalence estimates were non-response correlated with a concealed homosexual orientation. This did not prevent Statistics Canada from asserting publicly that only 1.7% of the Canadian population was bisexual or homosexual. Were they professionally negligent in doing so? And what about the research teams from Great Britain, France, and the U.S. that have also reported low estimates of homosexual prevalence despite even larger refusal rates? Are you also criticizing them in the same vein, or is it only us in whom you have no confidence?

Statistics Canada nor have other researchers made something out of their numbers beyond the estimates of prevalence. The Camerons have read into what is essentially a black box and promoted their guesses in the press as facts. I personally don’t care what the facts turn out to be. However, I get the feeling that the Camerons do.

Unless something else comes up, this is probably part last.

APA appoints task force on abortion and mental health

First mentioned in passing in a January 21 New York Times article, the APA has appointed a task force to conduct an updated review of research on abortion and mental health outcomes. In contrast to the more public process used by the APA to appoint the task force on sexual orientation responses, the APA did not consult the membership for nominations. The APA reached back to partially reconfigure the 1989 task force that found minimal mental health risk in abortion. The members of the Task Force are:

Mark Appelbaum, PhD, University of California, San Diego

Linda Beckman, PhD, California School of Professional Psychology

Mary Ann Dutton, PhD, Georgetown University School of Medicine

Brenda Major, PhD, University of California-Santa Barbara

Nancy Felipe Russo, PhD, Arizona State University

Carolyn West, PhD, University of Washington, Tacoma

According to Rhea Farberman, PR Officer at APA,

A slate of potential members for this task force was determined based on a database search of research on abortion and related issues. That initial list was reviewed by the APA Committee on Women in Psychology which sent recommendations to the APA Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest which in turn sent recommendations to the APA Board of Directors. The Board of Directors made the final appointments to the task force.

The task force was constituted with the following goals:

Include leading researchers who were members of the group that did the review 15 years ago, while not completely reconstituting the original group;

Include research and practice expertise in the following areas: social attitudes, sexual behaviors, violence/trauma/sexual assault, women’s mental health, and minority populations; and,

Include a methodologist, because so many of the most visible/critical questions are methodological in nature.

Concerning the final composition of the task force, three of the task force members have prior expertise directly related to issue of abortion and mental health; the other three have expertise in the related issues noted above.

Rhea added that any information germane to the charge of the Task Force is welcome – it doesn’t necessarily have to be from members — and can be sent to: Women’s Program Office, American Psychological Association, 750 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002.

The manner and members of the task force have raised some questions. One psychologist I interviewed, Dr. Rachel MacNair, wonders about the objectivity of this committee. Dr. MacNair is the author of Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress: The psychological consequences of killing. Dr. MacNair says she is a “pro-life feminist” who “sees all violence as connected and wrong, with abortion being one kind of violence.” She observed that half of the task force have been openly critical of pro-life views and have public positions negating any relationship between abortion and negative mental health consequences. Dr. MacNair also believes qualified people were overlooked by the APA’s selection process.

Would the committee’s credibility have been strengthened by including members with opposing perspectives? Dr. MacNair thinks so and told me, “Only if the report comes out with conclusions opposite to what one would expect with the ideological commitment of half of its members will it have credibility. If it comes out as predicted, the absence of balance on the task force will be a problem for its scientific credibility.”

You can read more of Dr. MacNair’s thoughts in a column I just posted on my website call Abortion and American Psychology.

UPDATE: 5/18/07 – The Washington Times carried the Abortion and American Psychology column today.

Ex-wife of ex-ex-gay speaks about reorientation therapy experiences

Pam Ferguson, also known to many as Willful Grace, describes her experiences with her ex-husband’s reparative therapy in a post at ExGayWatch.

Her descriptions of some of the things done in the name of sexual reorientation make me cringe. I continue to believe those who support a patient’s right to pursue sexual reorientation should be more zealous to root out such practices. I appreciate Pam’s decision to share and encourage others to do so here in response.

I think the entire post is worth reading but here is one excerpt:

The therapist, who was always in stocking feet, would often rub his foot on Tdub’s [her nickname for her ex-husband] leg (This occurred in couples session; I witnessed this.) I found this a bit awkward and, assuming it went on in his individual sessions, I asked Tdub about it. He admitted that it made him feel awkward at first but that he’d gotten used to it and it was just a part of the therapist’s “way”. He later went on to mention that the therapist sort of played the role of a father figure and was teaching them lessons about safe and affirming male touch.

Note to the movement: The whole therapist-as-a-father-figure thing has got to go, and the sooner the better.

Sexual identity therapy: Is neutrality a bad thing?

Last year, I wrote an article for my website called I Am Not a Reparative Therapist. In that article, I indicated that one of my problems with reparative therapy, as I understood it, was that the therapist promoted reparative drive theory to clients as the singular source of same-sex attractions.

It seems to me that if a therapist begins with this theory or any one-size-fits-all theory, confirmation bias will operate to find it in the histories of clients. It also seems to me that any theory of origins, whether it be developmental or pre-natal or a combination thereof, is bound to contain much speculation due to the inadequacy of current research and the biases inherent in the therapeutic uncovering process. However, such speculation and uncovering may be quite useful in setting a context for the pursuit of valued action and may indeed lead to powerful emotional catharsis and the formation of a new way of looking at one’s self. A new perspective can be powerful, even if it is incorrect on certain objective points. E.g., some people say they have been freed of emotional bondage by resolving issues of trauma in past lives (past life regression). I do not believe they are correct but I suspect they really do feel better. This is an extreme example, of course, but it serves to illustrate that one may be objectively incorrect about the meaning of historical events but still feel relief because one has a meaningful perspective to make sense of it all. A single pathway theory can make clients and therapists feel better because it enhances a sense of certainty but I remain skeptical that single pathway theories are correct.

Having expressed skepticism about the meaning of historical events, I also believe that clients and therapists are sometimes correct in their inferences and finding the truth may or may not have real impact in the present. However, being correct in our inferences some of the time does not mean we are correct all of the time, nor does the events that ring so true for one client mean that the next client with similar issues has the same history or makes the same meaning of a similar history.

My reactions to reparative therapy as a means of addressing conflicted people are based in part on the belief that therapists should be prepared to flex from their theoretical and cognitive mindsets to address individual clients – the facts on the ground, so to speak. Perhaps, however, this is my bias showing about how therapy should be conducted. Perhaps, on the other hand, it is defensible to offer a form of therapy (e.g., cognitive-behavioral, client-centered, or gestalt) and say to the client, “Here is how I think about problems and how I work with them. If my way of working does not seem right for you then you are free to move on to another therapist.” Taking the analogy further, client-centered therapists refrain from giving advice, or making interpretations and view problems as arising due to discrepancies between a person’s real self and their idealized self. A client who wanted an active, directive therapist might be frustrated by a non-directive therapist. However, a non-directive therapist might be so wed to his viewpoint that he would need to refer clients who wanted a differing theoretical and technical perspective.

Germane to this discussion of therapy approaches, Dr. Nicolosi recently published an article on the NARTH website titled “Why I Am Not a Neutral Therapist.” This article lays out his rationale for advancing a specific theory of homosexuality and resultant therapy for those who do not feel congruent with their beliefs.

The developmental model we suggest must deeply resonate with the men we work with, or they will (rightfully) leave our office and pursue a different therapeutic approach. We explain that our position differs from the American Psychological Association, which sees homosexuality and heterosexuality as equivalent, and along the way, we encourage them to clarify and re-clarify the direction of their identity commitment. Gay-affirmative therapy should, of course, be available for any such client.

A few gay-identified clients do decide to stay with us. Out of respect for diversity and autonomy, I affirm them in their right to define themselves as they wish, and I accept them in their gay self-label.

This article addresses some of the concerns I cited in my article about reparative therapy. On one hand, it does appear that Dr. Nicolosi offers a singular explanation for homosexual attractions that clients encounter early in reparative therapy. On the other hand, Dr. Nicolosi tells clients the theory must ring true for them to proceed. And he apparently affirms some small group of gay clients. This is probably surprising news for many observers.

I continue to believe the reparative developmental model is probably not operative for all people who are same-sex attracted. And my bias is to hold all such theories loosely and indeed to think that there are many factors, both pre-natal and environmental, that lead to different outcomes for different people. I do wonder what people do if they do not believe reparative drive theory fits them. Does the insistence on the theory drive some people toward a more deterministic “born gay” view since they do not agree with the singular developmental theory of origins? Inasmuch as evangelical faith is often bound to an environmental explanation, can such determinism create more conflict with faith? These are of course open questions but I have written about this before.

From the article about therapist neutrality, it appears that Dr. Nicolosi envisions an environment where gay affirming therapists can assert their beliefs to clients and reparative therapists can likewise assert their beliefs and then let clients choose which approach they like. In contrast, the sexual identity therapy framework calls for therapists to refrain from offering preconceived ideas about causation and change but to focus instead on the realization of objectives which align with the individual values and beliefs of clients. In practice, I suspect there are times when therapists using any of three mindsets would look very similar.

I am hopeful that our framework provides therapists of all ideologies with a map to help clients determine their path. I believe our framework can be valuable in helping clients clarify which broad way may be most suitable for their individual situation.

Only the gay die young? Part 7 – Paul and Kirk Cameron reply

As expected, Drs Cameron have replied to my critique of their study of gay life expectancy. They have made it neat and tidy by separately replying so click each name below to read their letters.

Paul Cameron

Kirk Cameron

Paul Cameron’s letter came with my critique included so I have left this in the document (it is getting long) — Cameron’s thoughts begin on page 7.