Today’s State of Play in Ex-Gay

150459_549544875065639_600109220_nEx-Gay “reparative therapy” rests on the mistaken belief that people’s sexual attraction and behavior toward their sexual object can be changed. That sexual attraction is not immutable and can be prayed-away, or perhaps it can be put somewhere in a person’s psyche where it is not in charge of their sexual life.

This is bullshit, of course. Try it, I’ll wait.

Great, you’re back. Are you super-gay now, if you were straight before?

Or, for my LGBT readers, are you now super-hetero? Was your sexual orientation changed? Would you like to try years of “therapy” that’s actually abuse, torture, and harmful but silly role-playing?

No one should be subjected to this pseudo-scientific “reparative therapy.” We stopped trying to make children not-left-handed decades ago. Many other inborn traits are now accepted, while the “therapy” to modify them is condemned, and rightly so.

Some states have undertaken the excellent step to ban this practice. It’s not medically recognized, it warps people, it can ruin true sexual attraction if undertaken for long periods. Its own adherents are examples of how it goes terribly wrong, and it destroys families. From an ex-gay survivors’ group:

Some of us received positive help through our ex-gay experiences. We grew to understand our sexuality better and in some cases even overcame life-controlling problems. But for most of us, these experiences brought us inner turmoil, confusion, and shame. We are still in a process of recovery from the damage. Through sharing our stories with each other, we find wholeness and healing.

Ex-gay “reparative therapy” has been banned in California (for minors) although that ban has been challenged in federal court:

he Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today will hear the challenge to California’s law that bans “ex-gay therapy” for minors.

Senate Bill 1172 was signed into law last fall by Gov. Jerry Brown, who praised the measure for protecting LGBT young people from dangerous practices called conversion therapy and reparative therapy. The therapy uses shame, verbal abuse and same-sex aversion techniques, and the success rate is considered nil.

“This bill bans non-scientific ‘therapies’ that have driven young people to depression and suicide. These practices have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery,” Gov. Brown said.

There’s even surprising confirmation of the illegitimacy of “reparative therapy” from deep within the religious right-wing:

Revelations that Marcus Bachmann’s clinics administer ex-gay therapy have thrust the “controversial” treatment into the media spotlight. There is no controversy among scientists, however, who continue to agree that the therapy is not effective and should not be recommended because it can be harmful. A new study from a surprising source confirms this reality; researchers at Pat Robertson’s Regent University found that “ex-gays” in opposite-sex marriages continued to have a same-sex orientation.

Exodus, of course, has ended the ministry around its long-time efforts to legitimize ex-gay (or “reparative”) therapy. Exodus President Alan Chambers apologized for the damage done over the years:

“I am sorry I didn’t stand up to people publicly ‘on my side’ who called you names,” Chambers said in an open letter addressed to the “LGBT community.” “I am sorry I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.” The statement announced the Exodus board’s unanimous decision to close its doors.

The move is certainly significant, and is no doubt intended to have a powerful symbolic effect. But the announcement is only the capstone of the rapid disappearance of the “ex-gay movement,” a constellation of evangelical ministries (and a few Jewish and Mormon offshoots) that embraced pseudoscientific therapies to change the sexual orientation of gay believers. The life was sucked out of Exodus by both the momentum of the gay-rights movement and the constant defections of people previously associated with the movement. But perhaps more than anything, it was Chambers himself who had had enough.

And in New Jersey, the Southern Poverty Law Center has trained its eye on JONAH:

A month after the nation’s leading Christian “ex-gay” group apologized and announced plans to close, a similar Jewish group is facing a first-of-its-kind lawsuit for consumer fraud.

On Friday the New Jersey Superior Court will hear arguments in the lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center against the group Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH).

The complaint says the Jersey City-based JONAH’s practices violate the state’s Consumer Fraud Act by falsely promising that it can help clients change their sexuality from gay to straight.

“JONAH profits off of shameful and dangerous attempts to fix something that isn’t broken,” Christine P. Sun, deputy legal director for the SPLC, said when the lawsuit was filed last November.

But there are still highly visible advocates for ex-gay “reparative” therapy with vast audiences and immense platforms:

After backing an “ex-gay” group, Maggie Gallagher, a co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), claims she’s not qualified to express an opinion on “ex-gay” therapy.

Last week, the 52-year-old Gallagher praised lawyer Chuck Limandri as “brave” for defending JONAH, a New Jersey-based Jewish “ex-gay” group, in a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

“Chuck Limandri, my old friend from the Carrie Prejean, Prop 8 fights, is a heckuva a lawyer and one brave man,” Gallagher wrote. “He’s taking on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s massive legal machine to defend the right of Jewish gay people to seek help.”

On Thursday, she backpedaled, saying that she was not backing such therapies.

“My last NRO post on Chuck Limandri and the case he will argue tomorrow in court in Jersey City has generated predictable headline in the gay/left press that I’m now backing ‘conversion therapy,’” she wrote. “I don’t back something called ‘conversion therapy.’ I don’t even really know what conversion therapy is, and I’m not qualified to express an opinion on a particular kind of therapy.”

Her backpedaling was not taken seriously by EqualityMatters’ Luke Brinker:

Gallagher is lying. In 2001, she wrote an article for explicitly calling for more federal funding for research into “ex-gay” therapy, calling homosexuality “a sexual dysfunction”:

Dr. Robert L. Spitzer is a brave man.

He was a brave man back in 1973 when, as a member of the American Psychiatric Association’s Task Force on Nomenclature, he met with gay activists. As a result of his intervention, the APA, while rejecting the argument that homosexuality is “a normal variant of human sexuality,” agreed it “does not necessarily constitute a disorder.”

He was an even braver man this week when he reported the results of a new study of 200 “ex-gays”: “(S)ome people can change from gay to straight, and we ought to acknowledge that,” as he told the Associated Press.


I believe there is rather powerful evidence that human beings are a two-sex species, designed for sexual rather than asexual reproduction. If this is true, then the absence of desire for the opposite sex represents, at a minimum, a sexual dysfunction much as impotence or infertility. Human beings seeking help in overcoming sexual dysfunctions deserve our respect and support (and may I mention, President Bush, more research dollars?). [emphasis added]

This isn’t the first time Gallagher has lied about her support for “ex-gay” therapy. In February 2012, she appeared on MSNBC’s Up with Chris Hayes, where she asserted that despite NOM’s frequent promotion of pro-conversion therapy articles, neither she nor the organization backed the practice.

Her organization has consistently trumpeted “ex-gay” therapy, including urging supporters to oppose a ban on the degrading practice.

Gallagher’s very well-documented previous support for practitioners of ex-gay “reparative” therapy won’t permit her to lie her way out of that support, even though it’s slightly less socially acceptable now to support ex-gay “reparative” therapy. She might want to undertake a more full-throated defense, in fact, like that practiced by a woman who testified against Massachusetts’ attempt to enact a law like California’s:

Known exorcist, Joanne Highley of Life Ministries in New York City, testified as a key witness on Tuesday in front of the Massachusetts legislature’s Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. She spoke out against a bill filed by Representative Carl Sciortino (D–Medford) that would ban any Massachusetts state-licensed medical, mental health, or human service professional from practicing so-called “conversion or reparative therapy” with minors.
Although she is not a reparative therapist, she liberally borrows from the pseudo-science of such quack therapy to explain to her clients how they became gay.

“It was unethical for Highley to conceal the alarming fact that she is an exorcist who tries to extract demons from the bodies of LGBT people,” said Truth Wins Out’s Executive Director Wayne Besen. “This is an extremist who is Exhibit A on why we need this bill to pass. We are grateful for Representative Sciortino’s leadership and critical work to stop child abuse masquerading as legitimate therapy.”

Here’s Joanne Highley speaking to PBS:

Think about that for a moment. In opposition to a bill in Massachusetts that would ban a practice universally denounced by medical professionals:

“Conversion therapy,” when applied to children who are exploring and coping with their sexual orientation or gender identity, includes not only traditional talk therapy (where a clinician leads a child to believe that being gay or transgender is wrong) but has in certain instances employed electroshock therapy, nausea-inducing drugs, and other bizarre methods that have had no scientific evidence of “curing” a child’s same-sex attraction or identification with the gender they were not born as. Conversion efforts instead traumatize and hurt children, leading to adverse mental problems and, in some cases, suicide. According to a survey done by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, thirty-percent to forty-percent of LGBT youth have attempted suicide. According to a study in the journal Pediatrics, LGBT teens and young adults have one of the highest rates of suicide attempts.

Ben Klein, Senior Attorney with Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders of Boston was a testifier at the hearing. “So-called ‘conversion therapy’ is a disgraceful chapter in our society’s mistreatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people,” said Klein during his testimony. “Passage of this bill will send an important message that sexual orientation and gender identity do not need changing.”

In Massachusetts.

An E*X*O*R*C*I*S*T was invited to speak, and did speak, at a legislative hearing about the demonic possession of LGBT citizens of that commonwealth.

In Massachusetts. Which, one will recall, has a rather storied history in the possession-by-demons department.