Skip to main content

I want to start by saying that this in NOT a Donnie McClurkin/ Barack Obama diary. Please respect my request not to turn it into one. Rather this is a diary wherein I try to explain to some members of the dkos community exactly why the ex-gay movement and reparative therapy is such a painful hot button issue for many in the gay community.

If you're looking for somewhere to continue to vent your spleen on Obama/McClurkin, look elsewhere. I hope that most of us can by now understand that principled people can fall on both sides of that disagreement, and that we've reached the point where continuing to hash it out is counter-productive.

Now: What is reparative therapy (also known as conversion therapy)? Good old wikipedia offers a very thorough entry on the subject for those who want a general overview more complete than I plan to offer here. The long and the short of it, however, is that reparative therapy is a set of methods used to attempt to "cure" gay men and lesbians of their homosexuality. To give a sense of the history of the movement, consider how such conversion was approached during the 1940's up until about 1973, when homosexuality was declassified as a mental illness: (from wikipedia)

Practitioners who view same-sex orientations as resulting from learned behavior may adopt behavioral modification techniques. These may include masturbatory reconditioning, visualization, and social skills training. The most radical involve aversion therapy such as electroconvulsive therapy. Documented cases include electric shocks being administered to patients' genitalia, "sometimes paired with disturbing images, including a bowl of feces and pictures of Kaposi's Sarcoma lesions." In another case plethysmography, which uses electric sensors attached to a person's genitals to measure sexual arousal, was used in conjunction with shock therapy to electrically shock the patient's penis when he became sexually aroused by same-sex images.

I think this history is important: these pratices ended less than 40 years ago. They occured at a time when homosexuality was classified as a mental illness and was consider a crime nearly everywhere in the country.

This is part of the connotation of "reparative therapy" in the gay community.

Happily, these barbaric practices are a thing of the past. But that doesn't really change much. Reparative therapy is, if anything, now a more insiduous kind of evil.

I first realized I was gay when I was 11. I knew almost immediately that I couldn't tell a fucking soul that I was gay. It was 1981. I spent 12 years desperately wishing I wasn't gay. It was abnormal. It was hated. "Fag" "Queer" "That's so gay!"

And I was lucky. My parents were and are lefty professors. My mother may not have a homophobic bone in her body, and my father has about as few as a straight white male born in Mississippi in 1940 could be expected to have.

And it was still torture for me. My peers, the messages I saw on television, everything around me told me that it was Wrong to be gay.

In that context, reparative therapy offers a false hope for anguished teens who choose to pursue it. It extends the self-loathing and puts off acceptance. It implicitly supports the notion that it's wrong to be gay, and that there's a need to cure homosexuality. It gives homophobic parents something to do rather than accept and unconditionally love their children. It gives self-loathing gay teens something to do rather than come to terms with who they are.

The problem isn't just that people are proffering a "cure" to homosexuality. That, alone, is frankly problematic enough. The problem is that

The medical and scientific consensus is that conversion therapy is potentially harmful and that there is no evidence that it is effective. No mainstream medical organization endorses conversion therapy and many have expressed concerns over some of the ethics and motivations surrounding its practice. A survey of the American Psychological Association rated conversion therapy as "certainly discredited", along with topics like "crystal healing" and "dolphin-assisted therapy".

The so-called "success stories"-- as if going back into the closet is success. It's a fucking regression. Of course we can pretend to be straight again. We did it for years, in some cases decades. And it surprises anyone we can learn to do it again??-- these "success stories" become poster children for anti-gay extremists. For those who think homosexuality has no place in the world. For those who think it is an "abomination."

The ex-gay advocate of reparative therapy is anathema to the gay community. He is poison in the air. A spreader of false "hope," a purveyor of self-hatred in the guise of (god's) love.

Originally posted to dedmonds on Wed Oct 24, 2007 at 09:17 AM PDT.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Michael D, Rebecca, Sequoia, Glenn in NYC, Sean Robertson, taylormattd, skyesNYC, vivacia, natasha, musing85, Lucky Ducky, TrueBlueMajority, Unstable Isotope, Powered Grace, tiponeill, sarac, Bob Love, psychprof, Lahdee, TechBob, Yoshimi, billlaurelMD, be inspired, eeff, tryptamine, NCrefugee, Duncan Idaho, DemDachshund, zic, exNYinTX, Caneel, silence, Smallbottle, kissfan, dadanation, pessullivan, petercjack, clarkent, DaleA, Morague, pdrap, RabidNation, PBnJ, khloemi, edie haskell, splashy, captainahab, TNdem, Janet Strange, jdmorg, snout, danthrax, oldjohnbrown, Chicago Lulu, Sycamore, grannyhelen, TiaRachel, johanus, exiledfromTN, cosette, homo neurotic, noveocanes, lizah, kaekee, lcrp, Dood Abides, Rxtr2, frostieb, DMiller, kujack, pdxRita, peterj911, DrReason, homogenius, vacantlook, bibble, Marc in KS, AUBoy2007, weelzup, julifolo, vcmvo2, Fabian, Recovering Southern Baptist, chumley, farleftcoast, Zorba the Greek, Tami B, keila, Gabriele Droz, Five of Diamonds, OpherGopher, PBen, andgarden, Militarytracy, sap, JoMo DemKim, JessicaDrewSW, DoGooderLawyer, craigkg, SoCalLiberal, dogemperor, stitchmd, YucatanMan, lorelynn, boofdah, LittlegNYC, Viceroy, SaraBeth, bobbycjr, spitemissile, jcitybone, Eric K, onanyes, Southside, Geekesque, Floja Roja, Joes Steven, sbdenmon, jm taylor, Detroit Mark, Ekaterin, roubs, Elmore, jiml, Shirl In Idaho, gwilson, PatsBard, BlueInARedState, emeraldmaiden, cookseytalbott, aggieric, VictorLaszlo, fiddler crabby, anastasia p, Flippant to the Last, tecampbell, wild hair, condoleaser, DSPS owl, plf515, ER Doc, MBNYC, Helpless, Texdude50, creekobear, ethanthej, nyc in exile, bstotts, Johnathan Ivan, mapman, Nulwee, Aaa T Tudeattack, AntKat, Joelarama, Tamar, ignatz uk, Arshad Hasan, davewolfusa, john07801, gwriter, anotherdemocrat, jessical, Quinton, dmh44, Dartagnan, jetskreemr, BruceMcF, EdSF, mdgarcia, Liberal Jim, The Werewolf Prophet, Daveinsf, david mizner, NCDem Amy, Rabid Lambert, sfbob, gatorbot, jayden, mauro7inf, jnhobbs, Sociology Please, MaskedKat, pioneer111, Rumarhazzit, Brahman Colorado, JML9999, rf7777, Predictor, LynneK, TomP, gizmo59, RisingTide, jgilhousen, AJ WI, 123man, MyBrainWorks, FolsomBlues, walja, wayoutinthestix, brklyngrl, califdem, karin x, RedJet, mamamedusa, bythesea, young montana voter, fancy chicken, okamichan13, North Country Dem, LucyMO, weddedgay, pamelabrown, Cassandra Waites, icebergslim, TokenLiberal, Missys Brother, MsWings, bryOR, noddem, ClapClapSnap, Chrispy67, J V Calin, kyril, temprano, jarhead5536, SpamNunn, xysea, Bartimaeus Blue, Sven at My Silver State, BlueGenes, Ellinorianne, protectspice, Anjana, ZhenRen, Chad Michaels, Zaq, two roads

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site