Here on the Ex-Gay Watch I know I frequently point out logical fallacies in logical (or perhaps better said illogical) arguments, and my peers here do the same thing. My peers and I have noted ex-gay and ex-gay affirming organizations — such as NARTH and Exodus International — often use Statements Of Conversion to make their points, vice referencing statistically sound research or widely recognized subject matter experts.
Backing up a little, a Statement Of Conversion is where a person asserts that he or she used to believe one way, but now has a rejected that previous belief, and now because he or she has personally experienced belief in both sides of a particular argument that he or she is now a topic authority. This is a version of Argument From Authority — where the speaker is claiming to be, or has been asserted to be an expert, and it’s implied that because the person is an expert he or she should be trusted.
Americans For Truth‘s President Peter LaBarbera has recently used a Statement Of Conversion in his recent article Great News: IL Student ‘Trans’-formed by the Christ of Christmas! to argue for donations, and argue “change is possible”.
Long story short, suburban Chicago high school student John identified last year as transgender student Joanna, but now has converted back to John. From Peter LaBarbera’s telling of the story:
God intervened and John was “born again” through faith in Jesus Christ, he told his student newspaper.
Now “transgender” Joanna is no more and John is reestablishing his true, God-given male nature at his high school. His newfound reality is precisely the sort of story that homosexual/transsexual activist groups like GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) do not want other teenagers to hear. Because GLSEN knows that such stories undermine the “gay” myth that people are born GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered), and that such aberrant identities are mere natural and innocuous “orientations.”
The problem with resorting to a tale of conversion as a tool for arguing is that other stories exist. For example, I’ve gone from fundamentalist Christian to agnostic to non-fundamentalist Christian, while also in my life going from identifying as a boy, to identifying a transsexual teen, to identifying as a cross-dressing teen, to identifying as an ex-transvestite, to realizing I needed to explore my gender with a professional therapist, to now identifying and living as a transgender/transsexual-identified woman. Is John more of an expert on transgender and ex-transgender experience because of his life conversions, or am I more of an expert due to my life conversions?
The reality is that one can’t draw wide conclusions by means of Statements Of Conversion. John’s and my conversions make us each a little more knowledgeable about transgender issues than John Q. Public (and Joanna Q. Public too), but our conversions alone don’t make us authoritative speakers on transgender issues.
If we want to draw wide conclusions, we need to ask:
– What do studies and research reveal?
– What do the subject matter experts in the field think?
– What do the professional organizations state about a topic in their position papers?
And, this is where we at the Ex-Gay Watch differ from ex-gay and ex-gay affirming organizations. We don’t rely on personal experiences alone to draw broad conclusions — we look for other information, and then don’t knowingly distort the information we cite.
It perhaps goes without saying that the experts don’t agree with the broad conclusions Peter LaBarbera draws from John’s conversion testimony. (To read up on what some of the experts say, one can read the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care, the American Psychological Association’s Answers to Your Questions About Transgender Individuals and Gender Identity, info about gender psychology at GenderPsychology.org’s Psychology Of Gender Identity And Transgenderism, and info about Gender Identity Disorder (GID) on Gid Reform Advocates.)
Peter LaBarbera in his piece further states:
But, of course, change is possible, because God is in the business of changing repentant sinners. If the Christ of Christmas can turn around the lives of drug addicts, murderers, and drunks, He certainly can save men and women — and adolescent children — trapped in gender confusion and homosexuality.
And Peter LaBarbera is an authority on the change is possible dogma because…?
I’ll end this answering that rhetorical question — Peter LaBarbera’s personal religious conversion alone doesn’t make him an authoritative voice on sexuality or gender identity.