Frank Worthen is a grandfather of the exgay movement. He is profiled (and criticized) at length by former ex-gays in Wayne Besen’s book, Anything But Straight.
In his web site essay What Is Homosexuality, Worthen acknowledges, "In helping people overcome homosexuality, we’ve found that many are in confusion about what homosexuality actually is." But as we’ll see, some of that confusion is generated by exgay activists. As Worthen notes, "There is no agreement among either the scientific community, religious groups or homosexual people themselves as to the definition of homosexuality." But then Worthen proceeds with a long list of unfounded, one-sided and judgmental assertions about sexual orientation.
As if to prove his own wobbly argument merely by demonstrating that opposing arguments are almost as wobbly, Worthen says "there is no solid scientific evidence that people are born homosexual. The overwhelming majority of gay people are completely normal genetically. They are fully male or female." However, there is no solid evidence that homosexuality is entirely learned, as Worthen subsequently argues. His points about genetics are irrelevant.
Questioning the belief of some same-sex-attracted people that they are "born gay," Worthen swiftly distorts that belief, falsely asserting that the "born gay" belief relates to genetics and then accusing gay people in general of being irresponsible: "This belief," Worthen says, "often supplies them with comfort, relieving them of any responsibility to change." Worthen ignores the majority of exgays who have unsuccessfully sought to change, as well as the majority of gay people who, in response to AIDS and the growing viability of monogamy, "changed" from unsafe and unhealthy expression of their orientation to safer and healthier living. Worthen offers neither data nor anecdotes to support this accusation of irresponsibility, nor does he define "change."
Is homosexuality partly hormonal or organic and partly learned? Possibly — but Worthen does not allow for that. He argues that homosexuality is entirely the result of innumerable negative "root causes" in a person’s life — "a disrupted family life in early years, a lack of unconditional love on the part of either parent, and a failure to identify with the same-sex parent. … Fears of the opposite sex, incest, or molestation, dominant mothers and weak fathers, demonic oppression…." Worthen says it is simplistic thinking to lay the blame on any single area; but in fact, it is ridiculous to suggest that any of a thousand different, unrelated influences (all negative) can potentially make someone attracted to the same gender.
Like many exgay activists, Worthen plays a brief game of moral and cultural relativism with the Bible. He cites verses that he claims apply to homosexuality per se (rather than certain expressions of it). He declines to acknowledge any diversity of opinion about the meaning and relevance of the verses. He overlooks prejudices contained in these verses. And, in a concession to Western decadence, he ignores one verse’s plain and simple demand that sexual sinners be put to death. In short, he freely disregards the meanings of verses when they are inconsistent with his predetermined argument.
Having stated early in his essay that homosexuality is a complicated affair that confounds easy definition, Worthen proceeds to distort and oversimplify the subject matter, reducing it to "The Four Components of Homosexuality."
He makes the unfounded assumption that "Those caught up in this sin usually have entered the homosexual lifestyle to some degree." Neglecting to analyze heterosexual sinners in the same manner, Worthen divides homosexuality into four components: "behavior, psychic response, identity and lifestyle."
Behavior: Worthen honestly states that not all gay people are sexually active, and that "not all people who engage in homosexual acts are homosexual." Unfortunately, Worthen vastly overgeneralizes about how different people experience sexual attraction, relying on pop psychology myths rather than scientific study.
In these cases, the child’s involvement in the act is viewed as a "trade-off" for the non-sexual needs he is obtaining.
Worthen asserts, without justification, that just because some heterosexual children experiment with same-sex acts and discover their own disinterest, all children must share that disinterest.
Psychic Response (Sexual Orientation): Worthen overgeneralizes, once again with no substantiation, that "there is a progression in a person’s life that leads to a homosexual psychic response." In fact, different children experience different progressions, few of which resemble the cannibalistic journeys described by Worthen.
Admiration, which is normal, may turn to envy. Envy leads to the desire to possess others and finally, to consume others.
Identity: Worthen moves to redefine "gay" as something drastically different than one’s sexual orientation.
Some people enter into homosexuality through "identity". These are people who may not have experienced sexual attraction for the same sex or have had any homosexual encounters.
This does not describe homosexuality or gayness at all; but it does describe the efforts of some exgays to confuse themselves and the public by describing their journey as gay, when they were never experienced primary sexual attraction to the same gender in the first place.
Lifestyle: Again, Worthen confuses the subject. He fails to define sexual "identity"; he repeats his accusation that "every homosexual person must bear the responsibility for his or her choice to enter the homosexual lifestyle" — and then muddles the very meaning of "lifestyle."
People enter this lifestyle to varying degrees. Some live in the heterosexual world for the most part, seeking out only sporadic, impersonal sexual encounters. Others immerse themselves in the total "gay subculture," a setting in which a person works, lives and socializes in a totally gay environment. There are all the varying degrees in between these two extremes but the gay lifestyle, for many people, is the first place where they have experienced any form of acceptance on a deeper level. In spite of the acceptance that is available, however, the homosexual lifestyle often proves to be a painful and unrewarding way of life, particularly for older gays who are no longer desirable sexually.
Worthen has made the definition of "lifestyle" so broad as to be meaningless — and he is unrelenting in his contempt for whatever that lifestyle is.
Having redefined homosexuality to mean just about anything from frequent and enthusiastic same-sex activity, to compulsive experimental acts that are in no way enjoyed, to the mere belief that one is different or in need of same-gender friendship, Worthen then concludes confidently "there are thousands who have left homosexuality behind and have become ‘new creations in Christ.’"
Still to come
What Worthen’s ex-exgay critics say. And a breakdown of Worthen’s activism according to the following criteria:
Does he accurately portray the views of others?
Does he distort established facts?
Does he practice full disclosure, or limit his presentation of facts to those that support his ideology?
Does he permit or advocate discrimination and harassment against same-sex-attracted people?