The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has released a report entitled
Youth in the Crosshairs: The Third Wave of Ex-Gay Activism
A key finding of the report shows that, in this third wave of ex-gay activism, ex-gay programs and their evangelical Christian right allies are focusing less on “curing” adults of homosexuality and more on preventing its development by targeting parents, children and adolescents. Whether through ex-gay teen programs or traveling ex-gay conferences like Focus on the Family’s Love Won Out ex-gay programs are recommending that parents commit their children to treatment of “prehomosexuality” even if it is against their children’s wishes. Heterosexual youth are also being recruited in schools and churches to spread the message that homosexuality is a treatable mental illness.
I’ve not yet reviewed the full report and will addend to give my observations when I have.
The full report can be downloaded here.
ADDENDUM AFTER THE JUMP
I’ve still not completed the report but find it, at first observation, to be poorly written. A few of my objections are
Falsely Attributing Quotes
Throughout the report I found a number of times when the writers of the report put words in the mouths of ex-gay ministries and others. For example, on page 10 they claim that those who came out of reorientation therapy had poor relationships with their parents because their therapist “told them to blame their parents”. Later they say their therapists “told them God was ashamed of them”. Neither quote is footnoted and both seem highly suspect.
A Basic Misunderstanding and Stereotyping of Ex-Gay Ministries
The authors repeat several times that ex-gay groups claim that homosexuality is a mental illness. On page 32, the authors claim “the overall social and political agenda of the ex-gay organizations remains the same: to turn the clock back to a time when homosexuality was considered a disease and to oppose any and all legal protections for LGBT people.” Yet I haven’t heard language from ex-gay groups claiming that homosexuality is a mental illness. The claim isn’t supported yet the authors rail time after time against this straw man.
They claim that ex-gay leaders use ex-gays as “evidence that sexual orientation is a choice”. Yet most ex-gay ministries do not claim that same sex attraction is a choice. While they do say that living a “homosexual lifestyle” is a choice, that is a significant distinction, and one that NGLTF does not make.
The report also says that it is a “common message of ex-gay programs” that “homosexuals either have HIV or will become infected in the future”. Having not attended an ex-gay program, I can’t speak about what is said within the program. However, I would certainly hesitate to say that was a common external message of ex-gay programs.
Additionally, they convolute ex-gay and anti-gay. While often times the players are the same, sometimes they are not. The Day of Truth program created and pushed by the Alliance Defense Fund is given as an example of direct action in schools employed by the ex-gay movement. While Day of Truth uses ex-gay propaganda, neither it nor ADF could be legitimately used as an example of the ex-gay movement.
I probably should not be surprised at reactionary language from NGLTF. Nonetheless, it does diminish the credibility of the report when you use sentences like “What are these ex-gay teen programs and why would parents take the drastic step of forcing their children to attend one?”
Infringement on Privacy
The authors make extensive usage of Zach Stark’s story, including quoting from his online journal. Not only is this inconsiderate and intrusive (assuming that Zach did not authorize it) but it is also foolish. We have not heard from Zach as to whether he hated or loved his time a Love In Action. This could come back to bite them.
On page 24 the authors use the following sentence: “The relationship between FOF and NARTH, and the important role it plays…, cannot be understated.” But they don’t explain the relationship other then when Dobson praises a book by Nicolosi. If it can’t be understated, then state it.
Also at 50 pages in – when I gave up – there still had been only minimal evidence that the ex-gay movement has changed its focus from reorienting gay people to preventing prehomosexuality. It seems that it is clear that the ex-gay movement has at least broadened its scope, but for the primary conclusion of the report, NGLTF had not yet presented any significant evidence. Perhaps in the last half, the conclusions are given some support.
This report does compile in one place some of the history of the ex-gay movement. Also it may help focus more attention on the lies, failures, and questionable motives of many ex-gay ministries.
Also, the report from the Love Won Out conference was informative.
However, NGLTF had a chance to produce a useful comprehensive report. Instead they used stereotypes and demonization. And that’s unfortunate.