Rewrite, April 17: When I started this entry last week, I said simply that I was busy putting out a technical wildfire at another site, and I invited folks to talk in my absence.
In response, Chuck Anziulewicz launched a provocative discussion about antigay and antiabortion activist Randall Terry, whose adopted son Jamiel identifies as gay in this month’s Out magazine.
While Jamiel talks mainly about his own experiences while respecting his father, Randall responds by attacking Jamiel’s character, portraying him as a demented and financially irresponsible individual.
Years ago, some exgay advocacy groups would have counseled Randall in methods of demonstrating love, respect, and concern for truth to a gay family member. But now the movement leadership aspires to leadership of a political culture war that divides families. Their actions thus far in the Terry family’s struggle have been sadly predictable.
Randall sought out the exgay live-in therapy group Love in Action, which appears to have misinformed Randall — telling him that homosexuality is not only a root cause of his son’s depression and financial problems, but also a clinical condition that can be cured through an expensive three-month “inpatient” sabbatical followed by years of prayer and politically biased peer counseling. Instead of treating Jamiel’s depression, LIA sought to play God with Jamiel’s sexuality — which Randall admits was preprogrammed from a very early age.
Balanced, humane, faith-based responses by the ex-gay movement could still lessen the Terry family’s pain and its division. But to achieve that, exgay advocates would need to alter their present course of political wars and ineffective live-in retreats. To play a constructive role in the lives of Randall and Jamiel Terry, exgay advocates would need to renew their public commitment to interpersonal peacemaking, political nonpartisanship, and sexual honesty — meaning celibacy, not heterosexuality, for most ex-gay clients. And exgay advocates would also need to stop misinforming parents like Randall that their children will get sick and die at an early age.
In his interview with BeliefNet, Randall repeats the exgay propaganda that he has digested. He asserts that same-gender sexual attraction is an “addiction” and that all homosexuals live a “horrifying, degrading lifestyle.” He also says:
I’ve heard that 90 percent of lesbians were assaulted in their youth. It’s not quite as high for males. But I believe that a traumatic event happened for most of them in their youth, whether it involved sexual molestation or abuse or viewing pornography, an absent father, or a sexual contact in the pubescent years. God did not design the human being to have these things happen and then to function as if everything was fine.
Randall does not substantiate his assertions with specific examples from Jamiel’s childhood.
Let’s face it: Randall makes a weak case in his own behalf. His public image was already tattered by his harassment of troubled pregnant women and by his adultery. Now his reputation is reduced another notch, and he — not Jamiel — is responsible for that.
While showing greater integrity in discussing his father, Jamiel is not a hero. He has emphasized his disinvitation from the home of Randall and his second wife, but in the fine print one discovers that Jamiel’s partner does not want to meet Randall. So it appears that Randall is also, in effect, disinvited from Jamiel’s home.
Furthermore, as XGW readers Rick and Dan note in the comments, Jamiel wrote an article in 2000 that ridiculed Vermont gay couples seeking civil unions and described these couples as diseased sex addicts who die by age 41. Jamiel’s “facts” about these couples appear to have been copied from exgay brochures; they are based on discredited surveys by Paul Cameron and on undated and misidentified reports from the early 1980s.
Perhaps it is inevitable that the culture war will cause the greatest damage to the families of culture warriors. They are, almost by definition, unwilling to resolve conflicts in their lives peacefully. They are determined not to see the obvious: Faggots don’t destroy families, culture wars do.
Randall has not learned this lesson yet. Nor has Love In Action. How will other exgay advocates respond? That remains to be seen.
More online discussions about Randall and Jamiel Terry:
Aaron Brown interviews Randall Terry
Grove City College Blog: The Third Rail:
“Living In Hiding” (conservative Christian)
The Village Gate: Candace Chellew
“It Happens to the Best of Families”