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Reparative Therapy

 

Op-ed by Patrick McAlveyPatrick McAlvey


As a survivor of "ex-gay" therapy, I was mortified to learn that Exodus International is shifting its focus in 2011 to children and teens. These are the people most vulnerable and defenseless to Exodus' attacks on healthy development and psychological well-being.


As I first became aware of my sexual orientation at the age of 12, I was drawn into the web of Mike Jones, one of Exodus International's unlicensed, unqualified, untrained, unregulated, and unsupervised counselors.  For the next 10 years, a man who had no business counseling anyone, and who certainly should not have had access to children, set the tone for how I viewed my orientation and myself as a person.


Jones passed on to me the "facts" that my attractions were sinful, that no gay person was happy, and that every gay person was addicted to drugs, alcohol and random sexual encounters.  I lived in a homogeneous religious world, didn't know any LGBT people and had no reason to believe otherwise. I fully believed Mike Jones for years. He assured me that my sexual orientation could and should change, leading me to suffer through years of shame and self-hatred when no such change occurred.


Later, when I was 19, he subjected me to prolonged hugs and even "holding therapy", where I was instructed to lay in his arms for a solid hour to "feel the strength of another man".  He asked me inappropriate questions about my genitals and suggested I use handyman tools to become more masculine.


Last year, Jones was largely discredited - his board of directors dissolved, many local churches ceased supporting his work, and he was removed as an "approved outreach group" with the Michigan Department of Corrections.  But the entire time he was victimizing me, Exodus International supported Jones' work and continued to refer people to his "ex-gay" operation.


This week, Exodus International unveiled its plan to put targets on the backs of thousands of innocent children around the country, many who already sit in pews each Sunday feeling scared and alone.  The "ex-gay" group plans to utilize social media, YouTube videos, booklets, an IPhone App, and a re-branding to make sure every one of these kids hates a part of themselves and believes their orientation is perverse and an abomination.


The reality is their orientation is a natural and beautiful part of who they are.  Exodus International has proven they are content to sacrifice children's identities, happiness, self-confidence and mental health, to further their lies and messages of intolerance.


I know because I experienced the Exodus International nightmare firsthand.

What is particularly insidious about Exodus' ministry is that it hides behind the fallacy that it desires helping only those who face what they cynically call "unwanted same-sex attraction".


The reality is the "ex-gay" industry works day and night to create cultures in families, churches, communities and governments when possible, where folks who are not heterosexual are left ostracized, alone, judged and condemned.  When the lies spread by Exodus International and the "ex-gay" industry lead people to believe change is possible and necessary for God, their church or their family to love them, naturally their attractions become "unwanted".


Thankfully, there is a happy ending to my story.  I escaped the destructive lies of the "ex-gay" industry and with time, good friends, and therapy, came to love and accept myself the way I am.  I have been an out and proud gay man for almost 5 years and have found healing through sharing my story and connecting with other survivors of the "ex-gay" industry.


But my heart breaks imagining other children naively falling for the same lies that ruled my life all those years.  Children deserve to be loved and supported for who they are. Their young, fragile self-esteems deserve to be protected and their identities nurtured.


It is my sincere hope that more and more families and churches will see the real danger Exodus International represents and choose to distance themselves and their children from Exodus' materials, counselors and programs.


Before the organization does enormous harm, it should abandon its disturbing plan to target children and teenagers in 2011.

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"Ex-Gay" Ministries and “Reparative Therapy” 

Ex-gay ministries use out-of-date and scientifically disproved medical theories to justify trying to “cure” lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) peoples' natural sexual orientation or gender identity.

Originally, these ministries were a small group of religious people who were virtually unknown. However, because of high-profile ad campaigns and conferences sponsored by the religious right these ministries have become a political tool in the ongoing fight to deny LGBT civil rights.

Ex-gay ministries believe three main things:

 

       *  They are called to love LGBT people who are "struggling with sexual orientation and gender identity"
  • Homosexual orientation and transgender identity are chosen or are the result of bad childhood experiences
  • They cannot condone this "sinful" behavior and are therefore called on to change the sexual orientation of LGBT people.


PFLAG’s Position On "Reparative Therapy"

Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) opposes and deplores efforts by professional and religious groups that propose to change or repair anyone's sexual orientation. We believe such attempts originate from cultural bias based on myth, misperception and misunderstanding. We encourage all professional, educational and religious organizations to work towards changing cultural biases rather than embarking on futile and damaging efforts to change sexual orientation.


Facts Regarding "Reparative Therapy"

The record shows that “reparative therapy” has no support from the major medical and mental health professional organizations.  

         In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed the term "homosexuality" from the list of
         mental and emotional disorders.  Sexual orientation is not a disorder; therefore, it does not need to be cured.
         In 1990, the American Psychological Association stated that scientific evidence shows that reparative therapy does not work and that it can do more harm than good.  

          In 1998, the American Psychiatric Association stated it was opposed to reparative therapy, stating              "psychiatric literature strongly demonstrates that treatment attempts to change sexual orientation are ineffective. However, the potential risks are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive [suicidal] behavior..." 


           The American Medical Association, states in its policy number H-160.991, that it “opposes, the use of ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy that is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation”.

            In 2001, The U.S. Surgeon General's Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior asserted that homosexuality is not "a reversible lifestyle choice”.


            Richard Cohen, one of the main reparative therapists, is permanently excluded from the American Counseling Association (ACA)


            “Reparative therapy” is unethical. It does not work and it is dangerous and destructive. The damage that can be done by this practice is real. It can destroy someone's self esteem and faith and may lead to self-destructive and suicidal behavior.