Discussion has been lively…
Yours truly is quoted in this article by Ed Fletcher on a Sacramento area Exodus ministry. Alan Chambers is also quoted as is Greg Herek. Chambers reflects on his experience:
Chambers said he grew up in the church, but as an adolescent discovered he was attracted to men. As a young adult he had relations with men. He said he found a church that would accept him and led him to the Exodus ministry.
He said for him temptation still exists, but he no longer wants to act on those feelings, has been happily and faithfully married for 11 years, and has two children.
“That is success for me. Not heterosexuality, so to speak,” Chambers said, “but a life that is congruent with my faith.”
Of course, the last sentence is music to my sexual-identity-therapy ears – at least coming from one (Mr. Chambers) who embraces Evangelical Christianity. I should take care to say that sexual identity therapy recognizes that the value direction of sexual identity work comes from the client. For Alan, given his core commitment to Christianity, this was the option that fit him best.
Others of course, do not find the same outcome.
Jacques Whitfield, a Sacramento attorney, said he tried for years to squelch his homosexual feelings and attended meetings with the group at Sunrise Community Church in Fair Oaks. Finally, he decided he couldn’t change.
“I was in the program because I wanted to do what is right. I wanted to preserve my family,” said Whitfield, who is the new board chairman of the Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Center. “And if this was a choice, I could choose not to be gay.”
Whitfield was married for 11 years and spent much of that time trying, with the help of the church, to resist his attraction to men.
“The people who run the program are well-meaning,” he said. “They love God and they want to do the right thing.”
“I don’t believe that sexual orientation is a choice,” Whitfield said. “I think you can abstain, but that doesn’t make you straight.”
The Mr. Fletcher brings in the professors.
Psychologists disagree that you can change sexual orientation.
“It’s maybe among the most controversial subjects you could bring up,” said Dr. Warren Throckmorton, an associate professor of psychology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania.
While some studies suggest people have happily changed, others chronicle harmful psychological effects of trying to change sexual orientation.
Throckmorton, who blogs about sexual identity at wthrockmorton. com, said he allows clients to set their own course. Throckmorton said research that relies on self-reported data isn’t conclusive.
Some people will report changing their sexual orientation through some form of counseling or therapy, but that doesn’t mean it actually worked or that trying it is worth the effort, said Gregory Herek, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis.
“Being gay is a perfectly normal sexual orientation,” Herek said.
Reading the comments section of this article, I am re-instructed in the role of observer bias. Several commenters take Mr. Fletcher to task for being too hard on religion, and then in the same thread, several others say he is too easy on archaic religious views.
I am looking forward to the May 5th symposium in Washington DC, hosted by the APA at their annual conference involving Bishop Gene Robinson, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President, Al Mohler, Past-President of the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists, David Scasta, Harvard psychiatrist John Peteet and me. Here is a rebuttal to a critical article from Wayne Besen about the symposium and brief coverage of the event by Citizenlink.
Since it was so much fun last year, I decided to compile a top ten list of stories of the year on the blog. Since I am the only voter, the list is subjective and regular readers might arrange them differently or think I should have included another story over one of these. The stories are arranged in the order of the interest they seemed to create here on the blog and elsewhere.
1. APA Task Force on sexual orientation – I first reported here that the APA had convened a task force to review APA policy regarding therapeutic responses to sexual orientation. Initial information released from the APA noted that gay advocacy groups sought assistance from the APA in order to negatively evaluate efforts to change sexual orientation. The charge also involves therapeutic responses to individuals who wish to alter behavioral expression of their sexuality. The issue was the subject of a CNN segment involving yours truly, an Associated Press article and was the subject of several posts on the blog. A large coalition of religious groups and interested individuals wrote the APA regarding the religious aspects of the committee’s charge. Efforts to further regulate orientation change efforts spilled over to other professions, notably, the American Academy of Physician Assistants. The APA Task Force will likely be featured as a top story again since the report is expected to be released sometime in 2008.
2. The sexual identity therapy framework – The SIT framework was the subject of national news stories and identified by Stephanie Simon of the LA Times as an important component of changes in therapy for those in conflict over sexual identity. I did numerous posts on the framework in an attempt to distinguish it from other approaches. Mark Yarhouse and I presented aspects of the framework at the American Psychological Association convention, the American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference and other local conferences. A revision of the framework and several high level presentations are slated for 2008.
3. The release of the Exodus outcomes study by Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse – After months of speculation, Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse released the results of their longitudinal study of Exodus International participants at the AACC conference in September. Although the study garnered little national media attention, many blogs, (including this one), and the gay and religiously based news services thoroughly covered the study. With additional data to be collected and reported, this story will most likely reappear in 2008.
4. Donnie Davies – For a short time in January and February, blogosphere was captivated by the “Rev. Davies” and the “The Bible Says” music video. In a kind of “Where’s Waldo” cyber hunt, numerous bloggers were eager to crack the case and learn find out who Donnie Davies was, where was he hiding, and to learn if his act for real. I did 11 posts on the subject and became acquaited via email with Joey Oglesby, the actor behind the spoof. We even wondered if Mr. Oglesby and Rev. Davies were twins separated at birth because of their uncanny resemblance. Will Donnie do an anniversary reunion tour in January? Stay tuned.
5. The Cameron Eastern Psychological Association presentation – In March, Paul and Kirk Cameron released a series of news spots claiming that data from Canada, Norway and Denmark supported their contention that gays die between 20-30 younger than straights. In reviewing their study, first presented as a poster session at the Eastern Psychological Association annual meeting, I disputed key assumptions underlying their claims. In addition, Danish epidemiologist, Morten Frisch reviewed the study here on the blog finding it inadequate. Paul and Kirk Cameron provided rebuttals to criticisms and a nine-part series resulted.
6. New Warriors Training Adventure and the Mankind Project – A post regarding the suicide of Michael Scinto in an October issue of the Houston Press led to a series of posts about the Mankind Project and New Warriors Training Adventure. I received numerous emails from men who attest to benefit and those who believe NWTA was harmful and coercive. One irony about NWTA is that public proponents of reparative therapy and gay affirmative therapy both recommend NWTA to clients to enhance masculinity. Reparative therapists believe NWTA may lead to reduced same-sex attraction and gay therapists believe NWTA can enhance security in a gay identity. I remain curious about the mechanisms inherent in NWTA and other such programs to effect either benefit or harm. With the Scinto trial schedule for later in 2008, this story will remain of interest through the next year.
7. Montel Williams show on reparative therapy – The Montel Williams show purporting to examine reparative therapy was a lightning rod for controversy. On the show, psychiatrist Alicia Salzar falsely claimed that science has shown that 96% of people attempting to change orientation cannot do so and experience harm. Her claim was based on a study, the authors of which acknowledged cannot be used to make such a claim. The unwillingness of the show to retract the statement led to a ethics complaint against Dr. Salzar, filed by Exodus International.
8. Pro-life/abortion related stories – The most viewed post on the blog consisted of an interview with Grove City College colleague and historian Paul Kengor regarding the religious beliefs of Hillary Clinton. Other such interviews have been immensely popular with readers as well. Another APA task force, this one on abortion and mental health issues, stimulated grassroots activism, reported here in November.
9. Emergence of the ex-ex-gay movement – At this year’s Exodus conference, a group of people once involved in ex-gay efforts had a parallel conference to discuss their efforts to recover from their experiences. Perhaps, the newest ex-ex-gay, James Stabile is a 19 year old young man from Dallas who encountered evangelists from the Heartland World Ministry Church in early September. Recorded on film and broadcast on the Christian Broadcasting Network, it appeared that Mr. Stabile was dramatically converted and even reported change in homosexuality. Later it was learned that Mr. Stabile had not changed and was back home with his parents after a stay at ex-gay residential program, Pure Life Ministry.
10. Richard Cohen – An early 2007 debacle on John Stewart’s Daily Show led Mr. Cohen to pledge on my blog that he would do no additional media appearances. He ended his email with a fundraising appeal. In response to this appearance, Exodus issued a statement distancing the organization from Cohen’s work, and NARTH and PFOX quietly removed references to Mr. Cohen from their websites. Cohen made something of a comeback however, with You Tube videos including his family, and a new edition of one of his books with Evangelical publisher, Intervarsity Press. Then, later, I looked into the Unification Church connections of Mr. Cohen’s assistant director and former board member, Hilde Wiemann. Both Cohen and Wiemann initially denied these connections but they were clear enough that cult expert, Steve Hassan, briefly placed the International Healing Foundation back on his list of Unification Church connected groups. Eventually, Mrs. Wiemann acknowledged, in contrast to the initial claims, that she had been involved in the church and had only recently left it. After her repudiation of Moon, Mr. Hassan then again removed the IHF from his list of Unification connected groups.
Well, that was quite a year. I suppose one could make a case for other stories, e.g., the Omaha websites advocating violence, the quick emergence and then retreat of Michael Glatze as an ex-gay spokesman, Ted Haggard’s three week therapy, the wide stance of Larry Craig, the Surgeon General nominee James Holsinger, Stephen Bennett’s public division with Exodus, Al Mohler’s comments on biology and homosexuality, the retirement of I Do Exist, and my musical comeback and resultant #1 Internet hit.
Now cast your opinion – What would your top ten list for this blog look like for 2007?
Godspeed to all and a Happy New Year!
UPDATE: I knew the post regarding Michael Brown and the Southern Poverty Law Center article would continue to generate comments but it has now become the post with the largest number of comments (218 as of this update on Dec. 30) and so I am going to update the list as we go.
Time to review 2007 and as I did last year, I will post a top ten list based on most comments now and one based on not much more than my opinion later.
Without further adieu and with full knowledge that posting the links may lead to more remarks, here are the top ten by number of comments as of December 27:
4. Our bodies tell us who we are – 168
5. Ex-ex-gays make public statements – 151
8. Same-sex parenting: What do we know? – 134
I like the APA post, so even though it was demoted from the top ten by the same-sex parenting post, I am leaving it on.
Compared to last year, the number of comments has increased substantially. I do appreciate the discussions, and real dialogue that has occured through the year. We are jointly writing several books here.