From Florida comes an article that flew under the gaydar here at Ex-Gay Watch, but the Miami New Times piece, published last July, is still worth noting.
In Scared Straight, Joanne Green profiles Worthy Creations, the Fort Lauderdale-based ex-gay ministry that promises the gay struggler (in a phrase borrowed directly from Exodus) “the freedom to grow into heterosexuality.”
The article is at its most effective when gays, ex-gays and ex-ex-gays are speaking for themselves. Randy Thomas of Exodus is interviewed, for example, as is Worthy Creations dropout and critic Jerry Stephenson.
However, the article is also very strong on opinion, and likely to infuriate ex-gays. Unfortunately, Green’s style is very unsubtle, and relies heavily on innuendo. For example, the description of Worthy Creations counsellor Joe Alicea painfully overdoes the suggestion that he’s still as camp as a row of tents:
[The] immaculately groomed Joe Alicea — a self-described former homosexual — leans back, kicks up a shiny black shoe, and crosses one starched navy pinstripe pant leg neatly over the other.
Bowing his clean-shaven head, he flutters his dark eyelashes and nods reassuringly toward the effeminate, lanky Miami Beach man seated across from him.
“Exactly!” Alicea beams, palms open, arms outstretched toward the heavens. “You are not homosexual.”
Lowering his hands, he purses his lips, raises a tweezed eyebrow, and pensively taps a manicured finger on his cheek.
Green does the same posturing with Sarah, a participant in the program:
A slender, tan young girl in hot pink shorts jogs past Sarah. She pretends not to notice, but the slight tilt of her chin belies her stab at deception.
As she wanders back to the construction site on a blustery afternoon, a raven-haired girl passes by on Rollerblades and smiles. Sarah smiles back.
This all seems like what we Brits call “over-egging the pudding.” When the substance of the interviewees comments in many instances appears to speak so well for itself, one wonders why Green felt the need for such embellishment.
The article also suffers from some unfortunate generalizations and inaccuracies. For instance, early on Green writes that “for God to love her, Alicea teaches and Sarah believes, she must live righteously.” I needn’t look at the Worthy Creations website to know that this is a gross oversimplification. No mainstream evangelical ministry actually teaches that God doesn’t love you until you become straight (or repentant or righteous); they explicitly teach the opposite. All things considered, the reality may be nuanced, inconsistent or even self-contradictory, but “Alicia teaches x” is certainly the most simplistic and least accurate way to describe it.
Later on, Green gives the impression that the typical therapy supported by Exodus includes electric shocks to the genitals, exorcism or physical restraint. She also says that the ex-gay movement has “one steadfast rule: Same-sex strugglers are prohibited from spending time together alone.” While this may be a rule of some programs (perhaps including Worthy Creations), this is not a “steadfast rule” of the ex-gay movement as a whole. The problem here is that Green treats the ex-gay movement as unrealistically monolithic, when the size and scope of the article warranted a more nuanced approach.
There were also a couple of factual errors in the article. Robert Spitzer’s ex-gay study was peer-reviewed (all documented in Drescher and Zucker’s 2006 volume Ex-Gay Research, and Michael Johnston was exposed by Southern Voice in 2003, not 2002.
But it is not these factual errors that are the most bothersome. The problem here is that Green simply tries too hard to paint a particular picture of the ex-gay movement, instead of letting the facts do the work. She may ultimately be right in her analysis, but wrong in her delivery. Without a more reasoned, less theatrical approach to the subject, she makes it far too easy for ex-gays to demolish her report.