Chad W. Thompson is a rising individual in the ex-gay movement.
Formerly a media specialist for the Iowa Family Policy Center, Thompson is the founder of Inqueery.com, an ex-gay advocacy project targeting public schools. His vision for ex-gay inclusion in public-school curricula is a bit unusual: He seeks mutual respect for gays and ex-gays, and supports antibullying policies… with some constraints.
In an April 27, 2004, op-ed in the Des Moines Register (PDF copy), Thompson assumes a middle ground between efforts to stop antigay bullying and promote acceptance of gays in an Iowa school district, and opponents who argue that antigay harassment is either nonexistent or desirable.
In proposing ex-gay advocacy in education, Thompson’s web site — inqueery.com — also differs from some other ex-gay activists on matters of science: He acknowledges that sexual orientation is both biological and environmental in origin.
most researchers have come to the conclusion that sexual orientation is likely determined by a complex interaction between a person’s genetic make-up and their environment.
Thompson’s analysis is unfortunately weakened somewhat by political biases, and out-of-context and unsourced references. For example, while asserting that the majority of psychiatrists who are gay-tolerant have acted with outrage and political bias, Thompson does not document that rage or bias; he relies on hearsay:
a recent radio documentary on the subject of homosexuality revealed that the President-elect of the APA in 1973, Dr. John P. Speigel, was a “closeted homosexual with a very particular agenda.”
While failing to document rage or political bias among gay-tolerant psychiatrists, Thompson overlooks the possibility of outrage or political and religious bias on the antigay side. Then he overreaches in his conclusion:
Whatever the case, we know from the personal testimonies of thousands that homosexuality is a changeable condition. Stanton Jones, who is Chair of Psychology at Wheaton College states: “Every secular study of change has shown some success rate…”
Claiming that homosexuality is always changeable, when the most optimistic activists claim a success rate of less than 30 percent, is less than forthright. Furthermore, Thompson does not cite the location of these thousands of testimonies; over the years, XGW has informally encountered fewer than 100 individuals who offer online testimonies claiming a long-term ex-gay identity, and only a few dozen of these individuals claim to no longer experience same-sex attraction.
A related page on Dr. Robert Spitzer’s 2001 study asks why ex-gays can’t express public pride like gays. Well, they can (and do), actually — but ex-gay pride is not helped when Thompson’s pride page erroneously implies that Spitzer’s study suggests anyone can change. (Spitzer was adamant that change is not possible for everyone.)
Nor is ex-gay pride advanced when Thompson substitutes strawman arguments for both the actual scientific criticisms of the study, and the media reaction to the study. Neither the critics nor the media seem to have said what Thompson says they said. Thompson’s argument would have benefited from quotations of Spitzer on the small likelihood of change, quotations of Spitzer’s critics, and diverse quotations from actual newspaper and TV articles.
While his analyses of science and the media are a bit weak, Thompson’s understanding of homophobia appears to be strong. His Homophobia Stops Here page quotes freely from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and from the groundbreaking (1988) gay-affirming religious guide “Bridges of Respect” by Katherine Whitlock of the American Friends Service Committee (a.k.a. the Quakers). Thompson is not gay-affirming, but he agrees with these groups’ advice for promoting respect and stopping antigay violence.
The Inqueery web site includes Thompson’s personal testimony. In this profile, he thoughtfully acknowledges that sexuality cannot be defined by one simple theory, such as the distant-father-overbearing-mother myth — even though he feels that theory does apply to his own life. Fair enough.
Unfortunately, Thompson’s testimony strays from valid and constructive “I” statements about his own life, into quotations of unnamed ex-gays obtained from NARTH propaganda. The comments borrowed from NARTH stereotype homosexuality as a lifestyle of barflies and meaningless sexual flings. In quoting NARTH, Thompson seems to be endorsing the common ex-gay political tactic of fleeing responsibility for one’s past bad behavioral choices by blaming sexual orientation rather than one’s own decisionmaking for resulting unhappiness.
The science and autobiography provide a background against which to understand Inqueery. But the project’s mission is focused squarely on the classroom, and there Inqueery’s position resembles PFOX’s stated mission of promoting youths’ right to “choice.”
Informed choice is, of course, a worthy goal. While PFOX opposes free choice informed by gay-tolerant perspectives, Thompson is more balanced: He believes youth should hear all sides of an argument. But in order to justify the position that youth should be allowed to “just think” for themselves, Thompson’s classroom page seems, to me, to greatly overstate the pressure by gay-tolerant education advocates for students to identify as gay, as opposed to bisexual or predominantly heterosexual. Thompson’s only evidence of such pressure comes not from any quotations by pro-tolerance advocates, but rather from one unidentified antigay parent quoted by NARTH.
Ex-Gay Watch has ordered a copy of Inqueery’s booklet on “the ex-gay perspective in public schools” as well as Thompson’s forthcoming book, Loving Homosexuals as Jesus Would: A Fresh Christian Approach. We will comment on both in the future.
(Thanks to Ted Olsen at Christianity Today for initially asking me what I knew or thought about Chad Thompson. I had not heard of Thompson until then.)
Addendum, June 18, 2004: The religious-right political service Agape Press promotes Thompson’s school booklet.