Monday, September 08, 2008

Vice Presidental Contender & the Ex-Gay Treatment

It's been on the blogs all weekend, and now the Associated Press also reports that Sarah Palin, the Republican vice president nominee, attends a church that promotes ex-gay ministries, namely Focus on the Family's Love Won Out day-long conference that tries to convince parents and pastors that God can "transform the lives of those impacted by homosexuality." What they don't mention is the kind of transformation that will take place.

Those of us who are former consumers of Focus on the Family/Exodus/NARTH ex-gay theories and practices can attest to the transformations that we experienced as a result of our time in ex-gay programs. The vast majority of people who attempted to sublimate their sexuality did not find a cure, instead we experienced a curse that affected us psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, developmentally, physically and relationally. In the article Ex-Gay Harm Let Me Count the Ways I highlight some of these and also offer testimony of those who have experienced these things.

Sadly many of the ex-gay theories and treatments also negatively affected our relationships with our parents. I don't doubt that many parents and even pastors go to a Love Won Out event looking for answers as they fear for the welfare of the young people under their care. These adults still live with misconceptions of what it means to be lesbian, gay or bisexual. Instead of getting honest answers though, the speakers at Love Won Out dish out more misinformation. You can hear a first-hand account of what happens at Love Won Out from Jim Burroway who sat through the conference and thoughtfully shares his experience. In the article, Can My Gay Child Change? I raise some of the questions and fears that parents may have as I outline the negative effects that often occur when forcing a child to attend an ex-gay program.

In February ex-gay survivors, those of us who endured these theories and treatments and have worked past the damage to reclaim our lives, traveled to Memphis and stood outside of Love Won Out as a witness to the potential harm that can come from these misguided teachings. We even gave Focus on the Family staff member Melissa Fryrear framed collages of our experiences so that she could hear the other side of the story and consider the majority of people who end up on the other side of they happy clappy ex-gay experience they project on the big screens at Love Won Out.

Perhaps Sarah Palin is woefully ignorant of the potential damage that comes from ex-gay theories and treatments. Maybe it is just because of partisan politics that she comes out against LGBT rights (no matter how the McCain spin wagon tries to paint her as sympathetic), but people are more important than politics. Religious leaders need to reject the propaganda of James Dobson and instead provide intelligent and informed pastoral care. In regards to ex-gay theories and treatments, we see a growing body of evidence that they cause much more harm than good. For those people who clamor for national security, consider the security and welfare of the LGBT youth of this country and oppose ex-gay theories and treatment.

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At 6:37 PM , Blogger Joel said...

One thing bothers me about this coverage: people assume that Palin believes everything her church supports, and that her church is actively supporting LWO. She is her own person (whom I find personally and politically suspect enough) and may not even know what LWO is, as she probably hasn't been to her church in some weeks. Additionally, her church may just be ignorantly disseminating information they were sent. Can we give the benefit of the doubt and focus on her known and self-affirmed policies that make her unfit instead of jumping on every possible distasteful aspect of her life or assumed beliefs?

At 7:20 PM , Blogger Peterson Toscano said...

Joel, if that is true, than it is up to Palin to set the record straight and make a clear statement about what she believes in regards to these therapies that her church is advertising. The purpose of this blog entry is to highlight the harm of these theories and treatments.

At 8:45 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad you brought this up, Peterson. It deserves an open hearing. If she doesn't believe what her church holds to about an issue VERY relevant for our community, then let her say so. She can always "distance" herself as other candidates have done (McCain with the "support" by a fundamentalist minister, Obama with his former minister, and Biden regarding abortion - he supports the continued legal use of the medical procedure - and the RC). It's pretty simple to do, really.

I am very suspect of anyone who attends a church that believes what it does given what these folks REGULARLY trumpet about the horrors, dangers, sinfulness, unnaturalness (shall I continue?) of lesbians, gay men, trans folk, and bisexuals.

Why should anyone who attends such a church be given the benefit of the doubt given the continuous history and pattern of offensive and damning sermons and political actions by similar organizations?

The burden of reaching across the divide is hers as far as I'm concerned.


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