Jay's got hope

Stuff’s changing in the sexual identity world. Early in 2008, Wendy Gritter talks up some new directions and all along the way College Jay has been waxing eloquent about his journey. He has a post that I am linking to because it illustrates a fresh, clear Evangelical perspective on sexual identity development.
Here is a bit to get you started:

I like Wendy Gritter, and I like New Direction. She’s a sweet and Christ-focused woman and I think New Direction is one of the most Christ-centered ministries for people that deal with same-sex attraction. I was upset when I read her recent blog post about a colleague that has been claiming New Direction “doesn’t offer hope anymore.”
Now, I’m not going to refute that statement here. Ms. Gritter has already done extremely well with that in the linked post, and I highly suggest you read it. I will offer my own personal story, though. I’ve never been involved with New Direction (sadly, I’m not Canadian), and the only contact I’ve had with Ms. Gritter is through comments on her blog. However, I think out of all these types of ministries, New Direction’s philosopy most closely resembles my own, and even I have been accused, in a round-about way, of not having enough hope.
Usually when someone makes that kind of snarky remark about hope, what they mean to say is that I’m not falling over myself in an effort to be straight. I’m comfortable and happy as I am. I’m not comfortable with my sins or my temptations, mind you, but at the same time I’m not stressed about how I dress, or how I talk, or how I express my emotions, or whether or not a pretty young woman turns my head. The way some of the ex-gay ministries talk, you’d think that a “normal” heterosexual existence with a dog, yard, and three kids was a Biblical mandate.

Now go read the rest and send some love toward Mr. Jay.

Reports of adverse reactions to abortion: How should mental health professional groups respond?

In addition to my work in sexual identity issues, I am quite interested in policy relating to the psychological reactions of women who have had abortions.
I have observed over the past several years that women who associate their abortion with mental health distress have approached the American Psychological Association with their concerns and stories. I blogged about an effort like this in 2007. Briefly, the letter sent by advocacy group, Silent No More, offered to put APA researchers in touch with women who had adverse reactions and asked for a meeting with the APA to discuss means of helping women with post-abortion problems. Georgette informed me that 600 women signed the letter. However, Georgette’s group received no response from the APA.
Another group, Lumina: Hope and Healing After Abortion, led by Theresa Bonopartis, sent a letter to each member of the Mental Health and Abortion Task Force requesting the opportunity to provide information about post-abortion reactions. She also received no response.
Contrast the reaction of the APA to women who believe abortion has triggered harm with the APA reaction to clients who report harm as a result of participation in reparative therapy and/or ex-gay ministries. The APAs (both the psychiatric and psychological groups) have been quite responsive to them, crafting advisories and almost banning reparative therapy in advance of publications systematically demonstrating harm. The major study of adverse reactions by Ariel Shidlo and Michael Shroeder took 5 years to solicit nearly 200 reports of various types of harm. In addition to this study, groups representing glbt people have met with and requested assistance from the APA to oppose reparative therapies.
Before I go on, I need to say that I am in favor of the APA taking seriously client concerns regarding reparative therapy and ex-gay ministries. I have been a persistent critic of reparative approaches as a general response to same-sex attraction. Further, I have consistently acknowledged that harm has been done by various methods to attempt sexual reorientation. The APA should vigorously pursue concerns about client welfare which are presented by clients and their advocates. Due respect should be shown to those who seek such services and ministries, but nonetheless, reports of adverse reactions should be addressed and investigated.
Having noted the appropriateness of the professional groups to attend to reports of adverse psychological reactions, I ask why the APA has not responded to the reports of adverse psychological reactions to abortion? These reports are common and compelling. Many more studies have found adverse reactions associated with abortion than have found such negative reactions to reparative therapy. I recognize that abortion is a much more common procedure than is reparative therapy but this fact should prompt an energetic response. In this context and speaking about APA conclusions about abortion and adverse reactions, I want to quote again a provocative question (see letter #2) from Bill Samuel, President of Consistent Life to APA president Alan Kazdin:

Is there any other phenomenon where the conclusion is based on those who do not have problems rather than on the therapeutic needs of those who do?

I might be misinformed, and in fact have an email in to the APA to check this, but I can find no indication that the APA has met with or responded directly to groups representing women who experienced adverse psychological reactions they attribute to abortion.
Now for some discussion. Am I missing something here? Is there something so different about these adverse reactions that could explain the differential response? At this point, I am thinking out loud…

I think ACA violated its policies so I complained

On Wednesday, I sent a letter of complaint to the American Counseling Association along with over 400 of my closest colleagues (getting close to 500 by now, in part thanks to the American Association of Christian Counselors). In brief, I believe the ACA violated Policy 301.7 when the ACA Ethics Committee said

There are treatments endorsed by the Association for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Issues in Counseling (see http://www.aglbic.org/resources/competencies.html), a division of the American Counseling Association and the American Psychological Association (see http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbc/guidelines.html) that have been successful in helping clients with their sexual orientation. These treatments are gay affirmative and help a client reconcile his/her same-sex attractions with religious beliefs.

Policy 301.7 states:

Policy 301.7

Policy and Role on Non-Consensus Social Issues of Conscience

Having respect for the individual’s values and integrity in no way restricts us as individuals from finding legitimate avenues to express and support our views to others, who decide and make policy around these issues.  To this end, it will be ACA Governing Council policy to encourage its members to find and use every legitimate means to examine, discuss, and share their views on such matters within the Association.  We also endorse the member’s right to support social, political, religious, and professional actions groups whose values and positions on such issues are congruent with their own.  Through such affiliations, every member has an opportunity to participate in shaping of government policies which guide public action.

To truly celebrate our diversity, we must be united in our respect for the differences in our membership.  To this end, the role of the Association in such matters is to support the rights of members to hold contrary points of views, to provide forums for developing understanding and consensus building, and to maintain equal status and respect for all members and groups within the organization. Following this philosophy, the Governing Council considers it inappropriate for this body to officially take sides on issues which transcend professional identity and membership affiliation, and which substantially divide our membership, at least until such time that there can be a visible consensus produced among the membership.

Approved: 7/15/90

Now read this full Ethics Committee opinion and see if you think 301.7 is violated. I suspect my readers will break along ideological lines but, in my mind, this is just one of several issues where ACA has taken positions in absence of consensus.

The Alliance Defense Fund is also supporting my view of the situation with this letter. President Brian Canfield contacted me to say that the issue will be brought before the ACA Governing Council at the March meeting. Just to be clear, I am not taking issue with the responsibility of the ACA to identify questionable treatments but I am disturbed by their assertion that one religious view should be preferred over another by counselors.

The ADF just put out a press release on this matter.

NOTE TO READERS REFERRED FROM OTHER BLOGS: The insinuation that this complaint has any relevance to the Winnepeg “counselor” who used “holding therapy” to initiate sexual assault is false. In fact, I wish the ACA would explicitly prohibit holding therapy and have written frequently on that subject here. However, the ACA should not favor one religious resolution over another on matters where research consensus does not exist. We asked the ACA back in July for some discussion and clarification on this and we had no official response. I will have more to say about that in a future post. However, to suggest that what my complaint asks for is freedom to do “holding therapy” is absolutely false and misleading and should be corrected.

New Direction for Exodus?

The title is a bit of a word play in that I call attention to a keynote address (caution: large mp3 file) by Wendy Gritter at the 2008 Exodus Leadership Conference. Introduced by Exodus President, Alan Chambers, Mrs. Gritter is leader of the New Direction ministries in Canada. The mission of New Direction is “creating a safe place for same-gender-attracted people to journey towards wholeness in Christ.” The focus of New Direction appears to be much more focused on Christian ministry to same-sex attracted people as opposed to mediating change of sexual orientation.

The address is about an hour long and should be heard completely to get the message but I pulled out a couple of quotes to portray the tone:

What would it mean to stop seeing the gay affirming church as our enemy?

…when we look at those who now have their stories on the Beyond Ex-gay website…we also ought not to be patronizing?   There can be this subtle sense that ‘you just didn’t try hard enough….but see we did.’ How can we engage relationally with those who have come to different theological understanding than we have?

I think we need to relinquish a defensive posture that would focus on what we are against instead of what we are for.

What the culture sees is that you guys are about reorientation.

We shoot ourselves in the foot when we put second things first.

There is much more and you can get a sense of the direction from the Power Point as well. The general tone is that Exodus would be wise to avoid political entanglements that prevent optimal Christian ministry. Ministry should be the main (sole?) focus. In addition, she takes on the messaging of Exodus that change is possible and causation is not inherent. She believes those issues should be secondary to actual Christian formation and living. With reorientation as the focus, Christian ministry can take a backseat. In other words, Exodus should not be a “poster child for straightness” as the main message.

There is much to unpack here so let’s talk…

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.

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.

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…

Sexual Identity Therapy Framework to Be Reviewed

I posted this to the SIT Blog and I hope other bloggers post this on their blogs.  

News Release 

Sexual Identity Therapy Framework to Be Reviewed

The Sexual Identity Therapy Framework, authored by Warren Throckmorton and Mark Yarhouse, will be reviewed in 2008 for possible revision. Proposed as a means to help counselors work with clients who experience value conflict surrounding homosexual attractions, the Framework is endorsed by Nicholas Cummings, the father of managed behavioral healthcare and Robert Spitzer, the architect of modern psychiatric diagnosis. The framework respects diversity of sexual orientation and religious practice and anticipates a planned review of sexual orientation counseling which will be reported by the American Psychological Association in 2008.

“We believe this area of counseling practice is changing rapidly and we want to be sensitive to how therapists and consumers of sexual identity therapy feel the framework helps or hinder excellent outcomes. We want to hear from professionals and consumers alike,” said Dr. Throckmorton.

The authors are asking for public and professional comment on the Framework though the end of February, 2008.

Interested persons can download and review the Framework at http://www.sexualidentity.blogspot.com. One may leave comment there or send extended comments to Warren Throckmorton at ewthrockmorton@gcc.edu and/or Mark Yarhouse at markyar@regent.edu. Therapists interested in a registry of therapists who adhere to the Framework should visit, http://www.sexualidentityinstitute.org.

Selected endorsements:

I have reviewed the sexual identity framework written by Warren Throckmorton and Mark Yarhouse. This framework provides a very necessary outline to help therapists address the important concerns of clients who are in conflict over their homosexual attractions. The work of Drs. Throckmorton and Yarhouse transcend polarized debates about whether gays can change their sexual orientation. Rather, this framework helps therapists work with clients to craft solutions tailored to their individual situations and personal beliefs and values. I support this framework and hope it is widely implemented.

Robert L. Spitzer, M.D., is Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York City, NY. Dr. Spitzer was Chairman of the committee that developed the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental and Emotional Disorders, 3rd Edition and 3rd Edition (Revised).

Drs. Throckmorton and Yarhouse have brilliantly resolved contention in psychotherapy by providing the field with unbiased guidelines that are responsive to scientific evidence, are sensitive to professional practice, and which restore patient determination in choosing his/her goals in psychotherapy.

Dr. Nicholas Cummings, PhD, ScD is Distinguished Chair in Psychology, University of Nevada, Reno. Dr. Cummings is the President of the Foundation for Behavioral Health and Chairman of the Nicholas & Dorothy Cummings Foundation, Inc. He was the founding CEO of American Biodyne (now Magellan Behavioral Care). He is also the former President of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Cummings was the founder of the four campuses of the California School of Professional Psychology, the National Academies of Practice, and the American Managed Behavioral Healthcare Association. He was the former Executive Director of the Mental Research Institute. Dr. Cummings is the co-editor with Rogers Wright of Destructive Trends in Mental Health.

One point I am considering is to discourage referral to NWTA and I-groups as a means of changing orientation. While no outcome studies have been done on this point, it seems clear that such referrals do nothing on average to change orientation. We welcome feedback and suggestions.

Upcoming ex-gay documentary stirs up controversy

An upcoming documentary (Spring, 2008) regarding the ex-gay movement has created hard feelings months before release. I received this release from filmmakers Bill and Mishara Hussung responding to an email from Joanne Highley of Life Ministries in New York City. Watch the trailer on You Tube.

For Immediate Release

Contact: Bill Hussung/ Mishara Canino-Hussung

Coqui Zen Entertainment

bill@coquizen.com

mishara@coquizen.com

Ex-Gay Ministry criticizes upcoming documentary.

A New York City ministry claiming to cure homosexuals with exorcisms isn’t pleased with an upcoming documentary by filmmakers Bill Hussung and Mishara Canino-Hussung. Joanne Highly, who runs LIFE Ministry, is responding to a Youtube trailer for the upcoming documentary in a recent mailing to ministry supporters. Highley says the filmmakers are, “using our footage to make us look bad,” and she adds, “We have been made fun of before.”

A trailer for the upcoming documentary features members of LIFE Ministry singing and dancing at the groups’ annual Christmas party. The trailer also includes a sound bite from Highley saying she came to New York to minister to “homosexuals and Jews.”

Co-director Bill Hussung says he’s surprised Highley views the clips of her annual Christmas party as an effort to make the ministry look bad. “The clips show people enjoying themselves and celebrating the work of the ministry, there’s no spin or slant involved in how those clips were edited,” Hussung says.

A trailer for the film, Chasing the Devil: Inside the Ex-Gay Movement, can be found at the following website:

http://www.coquizen.com/Site/trailer.html

Bill Hussung followed up the news release with this statement in an email about the challenges of making a documentary about those who believe they have altered sexual orientation.

More than four years ago we set out to document the journeys of people belonging to the most politically incorrect subculture in America. The result is Chasing the Devil: Inside the Ex-Gay Movement, a documentary film. Spending time with those who claim to have changed their sexual orientation from gay to straight can be a bit of a paradigm rattling experience. We accept that identity is largely self-defined and acknowledge that sexuality can be fluid. Mick Jagger switches back and forth between men and women for much of the 1970s and defines jet setting chic. Self-defined identity and fluid sexuality are both left of center beliefs long associated with urban elites and secular progressives. Folks like most of those in the documentary film business. But there’s a disconnect when this paradigm butts up against the ex-gay movement. If we really believe identity is self-defined and sexuality fluid, then there’s nothing surprising, or offensive, about the ex-gay ministries and reparative therapists claiming to “heal” homosexuals of their unwanted desires. But we are surprised. And often offended. The central underpinning of gay identity is the belief that people are born gay and can’t change. The ex-gays challenge these beliefs. Their claims of having changed from gay to straight challenge our understanding of identity and tolerance. But are they living a lie?

We made this film to answer that question.

Bill Hussung & Mishara Canino-Hussung

Co-directors, Coqui Zen Entertainment

Looking forward to it.