National Commentary

Anything but Straight: Drunk on Delusions

The Big Easy proved to be quite difficult for the so-called "ex-gay" industry earlier this month. At the American Psychological Association’s annual convention in New Orleans, anti-gay forces choreographed an expensive protest designed to pressure the APA into endorsing "ex-gay" therapy.

However, instead of succor, "conversion therapy" leaders got sucker punched with the APA forcefully reiterating that being gay is not a mental illness and efforts to "treat" homosexuality can be dangerous.

"The APA’s concern about the position’s espoused by the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality and so-called conversion therapy is that they are not supported by the science. There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Our further concern is that the positions espoused by NARTH and Focus on the Family create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish."

The statement was pretty unambiguous and all but said that the "ex-gay" hoax was the biggest lie to hit New Orleans since President Bush swooped in following Hurricane Katrina promising to rebuild the city. In addition to the punishing policy statement, Focus on the Family reported in its online magazine, CitizenLink, that the "ex-gay" contingent was denied a booth inside the convention hall and was refused ad space in The Monitor, an APA publication.

Trying to save face in light of this professional disgrace, "ex-gay" groups are now desperately trying to spin their New Orleans boondoggle as if it were actually a boon for their cause. Their historical revisionism starts with their failed petition asking the APA to endorse conversion therapy. NARTH gathered a paltry 75 signatures out of an APA membership of 155,000, with an embarrassing number of the signatories actually belonging to NARTH. This floundering flop had the side benefit of placing NARTH’s claim of 1000 members under deep suspicion, considering they were unable to round up even one-tenth of their membership to sign their ballyhooed document.

Nonetheless, in the typical serial-exaggerating and comically hyperbolic style that defines the ex-gay myth, Alan Chambers, the leader of Exodus International, celebrated this petition disaster and claimed that the vast majority of APA members were supportive of conversion therapy.

"What we found at the protest, is that 80 percent of the attendees – people that were coming off of the buses and walking into the convention center – were supportive of what we said," Chambers told CitizenLink.  

I’m not a rocket scientist, but 80 percent of 155,000 does not equal 75. It seems the only busload of people Chambers may have talked to, was one he rolled in on, filled with professional ex-gay lobbyists.

The real joke, however, is the cynical spinning of an off-the-cuff remark made by APA President Gerald P. Koocher at a Town Hall meeting only one day after the APA released its scathing statement blasting conversion therapy. After a NARTH member asked a question regarding patient autonomy, Koocher stated, "APA has no conflict with psychologists who help those distressed by unwanted homosexual attraction."

The ex-gay industry took this quote grotesquely out of context by hailing it as a groundbreaking policy shift. "This is a historic step for client autonomy and self-determination," quacked NARTH member Dr. Dean Byrd.

Well, actually it is neither historic nor is it new. It simply reaffirmed the APA’s long-standing principle that patients have the right to seek virtually any type of therapy they want, so long as the therapist explains the APA’s current position and warns the patient of the potentially harmful consequences such therapy may produce.

His words distorted and appropriated for propaganda, Koocher was forced to make a clarifying statement which may place NARTH members at risk for malpractice. The APA President stressed that it is "absolutely essential" that conversion therapists are in strict accordance with APA guidelines, including "informed consent" and the obligation to "carefully explore how patients arrive at the choices they make."

The evidence suggests that NARTH practitioners may be flagrantly violating these rules by downplaying the harm done by conversion therapy, while misstating the facts on homosexuality.

"I do not believe that any man can ever truly be at peace in living out a homosexual orientation," Nicolosi once wrote. Last week, he told the Australian Broadcasting Company that, "There is no such thing as a homosexual."  

These statements mock the APA’s guidelines and fail to adequately explore whether societal pressure is responsible for a patient seeking to "change."  These charlatans also appear to wink at "informed consent" by glibly glossing over the very real consequences of "conversion therapy" and inventing phony repercussions for coming out.    

If anything, by forcing Koocher to clarify himself, NARTH highlighted how its mind games have run amok of established APA guidelines and why the group should be thoroughly investigated. While "ex-gay" leaders pretend to be drunk on their supposed success in New Orleans, one wonders what they were drinking on Bourbon Street to reach conclusions so dramatically at odds with reality.