Homosexuality 101 has some space

My Space, that is. Dr. Julie Harren, NARTH president-elect has launched a MySpace page extolling her Homosexuality 101 video. The description reads:

Committed to educating the church and the world on the origins of homosexuality, we believe that freedom is possible! Although the two largest schools of thought on the issue today are that individuals are either (1)born gay or (2)choose to be so, we advocate that both views are incorrect. Based on scientific and psychological research along with hundreds of testimonies from ex-gays and supporting therapists, we support a developmental origin. Please see below for further information, including a video presentation on our perspective and other available research and resources from the following sites:

NARTH, her Homosexuality 101 site and Exodus are then listed. I take issue with the assertion that “the two largest schools of thought on the issue today are that individuals are either (1)born gay or (2)choose to be so…” There are many researchers who believe prenatal forces are at work to a greater or lesser degree in sexual orientation, but I cannot think of one researcher of any stripe who believes people choose to be same-sex attracted.  Instead, Harren offers reparative drive theory as a developmental alternative; one which is based “on scientific and psychological research.”

Regular readers will not be surprised to read that I do not think research provides basis for confidence in any theory as settled truth about the causes of same-sex attraction. Simply asserting that the theory makes sense to some is not new and, by itself, might not prompt a post. What is troubling to me about this site is the use of John 8:32 (“Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free…”) underneath the video clip of Dr. Harren’s Homosexuality 101. Using (misusing) this Scripture sets just the kind of tone I believe continues to be a problem in the Evangelical world regarding homosexuality – unsupported theory set forth as fact.  The presentation of the video and the Scripture, not so subtly, suggest that since the teacher is Christian, then the teaching about homosexuality on this video is “truth” which will, when heard or believed, set one free. I am persuaded via my conversations with ex-gays and ex-ex-gays that the promise of freedom from homosexual attraction figures prominently in the frustration many same-sex attracted Christians experience in current sexual identity ministry.

UPDATE: A reader alerted me that Dr. Harren has removed the reference to John 8:32 as a caption to her video on the MySpace page.

Should HIV status ever be disclosed?

This is a question often debated among therapists in situations where an identifiable potential partner can be identified. For instance, here is a case where a husband’s sexual activities will be made a part of an action by an ex-wife where the husband may have (alleged by the ex-wife) infected her with the virus.

If you were a friend of this couple and you knew one of them had HIV, would you tell the other? If you were their marriage counselor? Recently, on the BoxTurtleBulletin blog, Daniel Gonzales said that HIV status should never be disclosed. His advice was in contrast to advice given on a gay dating website (although I don’t fully agree with the advice columnist either) Essentially, the question posed by the scenario was this: If a friend knows the HIV+ status of someone who might be a dating or sex partner, should the knowing friend warn the unsuspecting friend? The gay dating website published advice suggesting that the friend should be warned. Daniel said the unknowing friend should not have been told.

I disagree with Daniel. I would probably inform a friend about much less, if I knew it. And certainly in this case, I believe that such disclosures should be made where there is a clearly identified partner. I sometimes link to Box Turtle Bulletin when Jim and the gang discuss research since he often provides thoughtful commentary and analysis of research on gay related issues. However, I strongly disagree here. While I do not think that HIV status should always be disclosed, and I am sensitive to the issue of stigma, but, in a case like this, I cannot understand why privacy should trump safety. I do not believe it does.

UPDATE: Jim Burroway posted a lengthy response to the dust-up over the advice on his blog regarding HIV+ disclosure. I still disagree and left a comment about it there:

Bottom line, if I knew two friends who might hook up and I knew one of them had a disease that could be spread via intimate contact, I would tell my unsuspecting friend as well as the friend who had the condition that I was going to do so. Sure, I might have to deal with fall out; but I believe I might have to deal with a different kind of fall out if I say nothing.

Christian Post covers MRSA controversy

Today’s Christian Post has an article by Lillian Kwon regarding recent responses to the Annals of Internal Medicine article regarding MRSA among gay men. Yours truly is quoted:

While Throckmorton believes it’s good to give warning to groups at greater risk of infection, he said the latest study to him is “just a warning about sexual purity” in general.

Referencing a comment made on his blog, Throckmorton said, “When you single out one group, the unintended consequence is people in other groups would say ‘it’s not a health hazard for me’ when it’s the behavior that’s the issue, not the social group identified with.”

The discussion on this issue has been vigorous and I hope helpful to inform an accurate picture of the situation.

Ex-gay ministry may have been casualty of political endorsement

First, the Donnie McClurkin kerfuffle and now the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell endorsement. That is not a sentence, but I’ll bet a few Barack Obama supporters muttered that and more after it was recently learned that Rev. Caldwell’s church promoted Metanoia (ex-gay) Ministry on it’s church website. In a Politico.com article, Rev. Caldwell said this about the ministry:

By Monday, Caldwell’s church, Windsor Village United Methodist in Houston, scrubbed its Web site of any reference to the gay conversion program, Metanoia Ministry.

In a Politico interview Tuesday, Caldwell said his 14,000-member church – one of the largest United Methodist congregations in the country – is not affiliated with Metanoia.

“I got to tell you, this is going to sound real stupid, but I didn’t know it was on our website,” Caldwell said. “I was surprised and embarrassed by it. I’m embarrassed from the standpoint that I should have known. We have 120 ministries at the church. You can’t be on top of everything.”

When asked if he opposed such programs, Caldwell said: “It’s not a ministry of the church. It is not supported financially by the church. It is not located at the church. That is pretty much where I am with it.”

The Google cache of that website is here. I have written Barbara Hicks to find out if she still is affiliated with Metanoia and how the ministry functioned. Rev. Caldwell’s statements are curious in light of the Metanoia webpage. The webpage looks and sounds like the reader is to get the impression the ministry is a part of the church.

UPDATE: The cache has been removed but here is a saved web capture and a pdf file of the Metanoia Ministry and the Windsor Avenue church.

New York Times covers the MRSA controversy: Open Forum

After the San Francisco Chronicle printed an article linking MRSA with homosexual zip codes in San Francisco and Boston, the Unversity professors behind the original study are in the New York Times clarifying the intent and meaning of their remarks. See this article and let’s continue the discussion…

McCain wins South Carolina; Romney and Clinton win Nevada

No, this is not a political blog but I will get into the race more as 2008 moves along. I watched lots of coverage of the South Carolina race, where the AP called the state for McCain about 10 minutes ago. McCain has to feel pretty good about his showing; he carried independents, split conservatives and was respectable among Evangelicals. Where is Huckabee’s next victory, outside of Arkansas? I don’t see a place where he would do better than South Carolina, a state where he had some natural advantages.

How about a McCain-Huckabee ticket?  

What Might Have Been – The Man Who Could Have Reversed Roe v. Wade, Part two

In December, I posted an interview with Grove City College colleague, Paul Kengor titled, What Might Have Been – The Man Who Could Have Reversed Roe v. Wade. In that interview based on his research for his book on Reagan’s closest advisor, Judge William Clark, Dr. Kengor discussed how Judge Clark probably would have voted to overturn Roe vs. Wade if he had taken the appointment to the Supreme Court offered him by Ronald Reagan. In this follow up interview, Paul provides additional detail about Judge Clark’s views, and how President Ronald Reagan sought to leave a legacy of life.

Throckmorton: I wonder if Bill Clark perhaps refused the Supreme Court because he felt sure Reagan would appoint another person with a high regard for unborn life. Did he ever express his opinion of the O’Connor appointment?

Kengor: Clark seemed a little embarrassed when we discussed this. Once O’Connor was the frontrunner, Reagan asked Clark to interview her. They spoke for an hour-and-a-half. He reported back to Reagan that O’Connor seemed fine: “qualified, competent, capable.” The president made notes on his yellow legal pad. A grinning Reagan said, “Well, Bill, what did you talk about with her?” Clark smiled, “Well, we talked about horses and dogs and cows and kids and life.” Reagan chuckled, “That’s what I figured.”

Clark knew that Attorney General William French Smith was screening O’Connor, and assumed that Smith would cover key social-legal issues such as abortion and capital punishment. Did he? I can’t answer that. Either way, Sandra Day O’Connor was sworn in a few weeks later.

By the way, she was largely a moderate, but her pivotal swing vote for the pro-choice side ensured there would be no limits placed on America’s runaway abortion policies.

Throckmorton: Did Judge Clark write publicly on abortion? Are there quotes which capture his views? 

Kengor: Judges, even former judges, are very cautious in discussing past opinions. Sticking to the issue at hand, however, I can tell you his principal moral objection to Casey v. Planned Parenthood. He was appalled that O’Connor and Kennedy effectively took the position that Roe v. Wade had become a way of life, engraved in the culture, and therefore ought to be left alone. Such distorted moral reasoning, he said, was done by defenders of slavery in the 19th century. Had this reasoning been applied after the infamous Dred Scot case, black Americans would never have been considered full-fledged human beings—just as innocent unborn babies go unrecognized and thus unprotected in the decisions of many contemporary justices.

Throckmorton: What are some key exemplars of Reagan’s pro-life legacy?

Kengor: One of Clark’s ongoing missions is to stress this pro-life legacy. Reagan was not as successful on abortion legislatively and judicially as he wanted. He began changing the court system by seeking to install pro-life judges, though he made some bad calls. Yet, he constantly spoke in support of human life. Do not underestimate that importance of the presidential bully pulpit, and Reagan used it constantly to denounce abortion in the strongest terms, including very high-profile occasions like State of the Union Addresses, where he said that abortion was a wound on the American conscience, and that “America will never be whole as long as the right to life granted by our Creator is denied to the unborn.”

Clark has within reach a 45-page single-spaced document of quotes from Reagan on abortion, printed from the official Presidential Papers, which is the product of a personal special request he made to the staff of the Reagan Library. He uses that document when he talks to the press, and distributes it when necessary. That’s also true for a small book on abortion that Reagan authored as president, titled Abortion and the Conscience of Nation, published in 1984 by the Human Life Foundation, with prefaces and afterwords by Clark, Malcolm Muggeridge, and Mother Teresa.

Throckmorton: Many current Republican candidates want the mantle of Reagan. Who among them could be expected to carry Reagan’s pro-life perspective forward?

Kengor: Though this is not an endorsement, I would have to say that Mike Huckabee is the strongest pro-lifer. That said, basically all the current Republican crop is pretty good when it comes to being pro-life, with Rudy Giuliani the obvious exception. Alas, it looks like Rudy’s position on life issues has been devastating to his candidacy, revealing, I believe, that a Republican presidential hopeful must be pro-life—the polar opposite situation of a Democratic presidential hopeful, who must be pro-choice.

Next week marks 35 years after Roe v.Wade with a gathering of thousands of pro-life supporters in Washington, DC. There will be much to report regarding abortion policy over this election year. Stakes are high given the likely chasm between the Republican and Democratic nominees. The APA’s Task Force on Abortion and Mental Health will likely report their findings amidst an election year conversation regarding Supreme Court justices and funding for abortion here and abroad.

Call for research participants: Gay, ex-gay, ex-ex-gay and married?

If you identify as gay ex-gay or ex-ex-gay and are heterosexually married or have ever been, please contact me via email at warrenthrockmorton@gmail.com.  Just put “research study” in the subject line. You do not need to identify yourself by name at this time, just simply email to indicate your possible interest and I will provide details.

Feel free to post elsewhere…

Is MRSA the new HIV? Open Forum

Lots of buzz the last few days about an Annals of Internal Medicine article noting the increase in MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus) among gay men. MRSA is treatement resistent and is often referred to as a flesh eating bacteria since it can lead to necrotising fasciitis. The San Francisco Chronicle did a story about it that focused on the prevalence among gay men and especially the Castro district. Peter LaBarbera has sounded an alarm which attempts to elevate the issue to the level of HIV/AIDS.

Now I think MRSA is a serious issue and anything that can be done to prevent the spread is important news. Sexual activity is apparently one way to spread the bacteria and so it seems smart to choose wisely when it comes to sex. Whether gay or straight, this seems to be good advice. Broader warnings seem prudent such as offered by Annals of Internal Medicine commenter Arlen J Peterson regarding the article:

First, let me thank the dedication and development of understanding MRSA clone (USA300) from the medical community to the public. I work for a sexual health centre, which includes providing extensive education and treatment of STI’s to sexually active individuals. I understand the relation between how the community of men who have sex with men increases the risk of MRSA infection (risky behaviors, more sexual partners, drugs, etc), Annals article highlights the risk is associated with skin-to-skin contact primarily by unprotected anal intercourse. My concern is the community of men who have sex with men are the only population emphasized in the article when anal intercourse is practiced fluently in men who have sex with women. Men who have anal intercourse with women do so for reasons mainly of pleasure and a form of birth control, usually unprotected for the latter. So, if an average person were to read a synopsized version in the news based on this article, particularly the young, they might get a message of: ‘It’s a risk for men who have sex with men, I am not of this population, therefore I am not affected.’ Can this article emphasize that it is the unprotected anal intercourse causing the risk of MRSA infection and that is not limited to men who have sex with men? I appreciate it and thank you for your time.

This is a volatile issue as indicated by the 600 plus comments the San Francisco Chronicle received on the news report. I am interested in comment here on the topic of MRSA among sexually active people. Is there something inherent in homosexuality that leads to this spread (I know what I think but I am interested in rational comment)? Or is this a matter of sexual practice only and not sexual attractions?

Bisexuality stable in women

Lisa Diamond is in the news again with an article in this month’s Developmental Psychology regarding her longitudinal work with women.

Here are a few quotes from the USA Today article: 

Being bisexual is a distinct orientation, not a temporary stage, says the study by Lisa Diamond, an associate professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah. It is being published next week in the January issue of Developmental Psychology, a journal of the American Psychological Association.

Diamond conducted face-to-face interviews around New York state in 1995, when the women (who identified themselves as lesbian, bisexual or unlabeled, but not heterosexual) were ages 18-25. She then spoke with them by phone every two years.

“These findings are therefore more consistent with the model of bisexuality as a stable identity than a transitional stage,” the study says.

Diamond suggests that most women “possess the capacity to experience sexual desires for both sexes, under the right circumstances.”

Regarding practical matters of relationships, the article said:

Diamond says heterosexual women may “experiment with same-sex desires and behaviors, but if they really are predominantly heterosexual, they may enjoy experimentation but may not change their sexuality.”

The study also debunks the stereotype that bisexual women aren’t able to commit to monogamous relationships because they’re always thinking about desire for the other gender.