I feel it is my duty to bring to light what is going on around ex-gay or "gay cure" items and the changes that are happening under our nose. Especially since I buckled down and tried these type things to "change" myself for about 10+ years or so. My book Discoveries in the Closet lays it all out for you. And let me tell you, though Exodus International closed it has re-formed with clever new language under Exodus Global and a new NARTH like organization has rebranded. The bump in the conversion therapy road has only gotten people to change names and web pages. We now also have the Restored Hope Network in addition to that. Instead of People Can Change, they changed names and their brand into The Brother's Road. By the way, the Brother's Road recommends as a resource a camp right here in Michigan called EdgeVenture whose founder does not reveal his past leadership roles in such organizations. If you go to EdgeVenture and struggle with a homosexual identity you can imagine the kind of spiritual direction you will get. We also have instead of N.A.R.T.H., The Alliance and the Journal of Healthy Sexuality. Now, don't get me wrong. I believe people have the right in America to do and go to these things. What I take issue is their message that they are the true, healthiest, authentic perspective and practice to be had for those who struggle with accepting a homosexual identity. This is America and you should be able to do what you want to do. So I'm not against the choice being there but I also have a voice and the right to call bullshit when I see it as well as point out that things are dangerous.
We have a new masking of sorts. I recently clicked on a Facebook page called "God Loves Homosexuals" and come to find out it promotes the "change" or cure industry. There is no focus on God loving gays. It leads you to their website of the same name godloveshomosexuals.com. Their "education" page consists of one video of a white woman speaking. Talk about diversity. They have more testimonies than education videos which says a lot. On their resources page there is a link to something called The Alliance for Theraputic Choice and Scientific Integrity. Since there is no longer any "N.A.R.T.H." page with the passing of its founder, a Dr. Joseph Nicolossi, it appears this has popped up which is essentially N.A.R.T.H. on steroids. NARTH is not something from the old Mork and Mindy TV show. It stands for the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. And it was shocking to discover that she apparently has went a float. But, not really....a few clicks away and I found this site called The Alliance.
A whole new face and league of un-extraordinary gentlemen and women are listed here like an ex-gay Hogwarts. They display their resume as clinicians with broad expertise but just so happen to be laser focused on conversion therapy and masking it as not only good science and therapy practices but a truly unbiased, authentic choice. They not only have a referral system but also "Alliance" conferences. While a person might think that this is a group of clinicians and researchers who want to defend and support those who want faith values implemented in their therapy, it all comes down to one thing if you click around the page long enough--trying to change "same sex attraction". It is not a broad range of religious and moral topics they feel other clinicians dismiss but rather just one--being able to rid yourself of homosexual desires.
Newsflash #1: Joseph Nicolossi's work and those supporting it are prominent resources throughout page. He was the founder of Reparative Therapy and N.A.R.T.H. which is conversion therapy rebranded. This is clearly a webpage that is an arm of the deceased Nicolossi whose organization appears to be no more. At least, I can no longer find their webpage. Alliance has also worked to get themselves out from under the word conversion therapy or reparative therapy. They insist :
- "The terms “conversion therapy” and “reorientation therapy” are used by political activists as pejoratives and are unrelated to the work of Alliance clinicians.
- "We advocate the practice of mainstream, standard clinical models, approaches, and techniques. For example, Alliance clinicians use cognitive-behavioral and dialectical-behavioral therapies, EMDR and other trauma interventions, solution-focused and narrative therapy, psychodynamic, and experiential therapies such as psychodrama and gestalt, and many others."
News flash #2: Trauma interventions, narrative, cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodrama and gestalt like models have made up conversion therapy for years. It is not like we have stepped into conversion therapy booths in the past hoping to pull off a Clark Kent to Superman change but now Alliance type therapists came along and got rid of the booths and use only traditional approved models. It has all been cognitive and behavioral with a heavy mix of gestalt and psychodrama stuff tucked in a negative homosexual slant. Period. End of story. I've been there to see it myself. However, what Alliance has managed to do is get what they practice changed from conversion therapy to what they call "SAFE-T" which stands for sexual attraction fluidity exploration in therapy. If you explore their "Key Organizational Document" page you will see as I did that their contention is that if we are all on a spectrum, we are all fluid and that change can go from hetrosexual to homosexual and vice versa at any point via their recommended therapy. The issue here is though they recognize a concept of sexual fluidity, they say it is a matter of choice, a method of practice. Again, just like Narth and all conversion therapy, they continue to focus on the words "unwanted same sex attraction" but also change that out with a more clinical sounding term of sexual fluidity exploration.
Newsflash #3: Alliance refers people to clearly ex-gay organizations like the Restored Hope Network, Exodus Global Alliance....wait, wasn't Exodus closed up? Yep. I even wrote about it my book but as of 2018 it too has reformed. You can read about the new Exodus Global Alliance here.
What a coincidence that this scientific, unbiased "alliance" of clinicians refers you to these religious organizations as well as Catholic and Mormon ones. All of which I will tell you right now, when you break it down, see homosexuality not just as "unwanted" but as a sin punishable by eternal damnation. Dress it up all you want, that is what it comes down to for them. So those coming to the Alliance page should not be fooled that they are neutral on this matter or that their "science" is unbiased which all good science requires.
Newsflash #4: This website will also refer you to a web page called "The Journal of Human Sexuality". The web page starts with a quote from Pope John Paul II. Well, that is highly scientific and unbiased isn't it? I don't have a problem with the Pope at all. I like John Paul II. However, if you are journal of science and sexuality that we are to take as unbiased, a picture and quote from the Pope via the Cathoilc Church is not good for a "scientific journal". In addition, all the journals on this page are documents that contain the writings of Joseph Nicolosi or other lead conversion therapy advocates over the years like Neil Whitehead.
I propose that if you are exploring sexual fluidity and it truly is in our hands as to choice, than where are the numbers of the people that you are helping to change from their "unwanted hetrosexual desires" so they can embarce their gay identity? Where is your research on that if you are truly unbiased and believing in all sexual fluidity? Things that make you go...come on!
I remember sitting in a circle of men once where a guy shared how he was living with a male partner for years and then after that they broke up. He later met a female who he fell in love with and they became partners. I asked him what he thought about that transition. He said he never gave it much thought. It just happened. He never once hated or found either attraction as unwanted. He didn't purposely set out to change his attractions, it just happened. When I heard the story, neither was I was concerned by the transition because he wasn't at any time fighting one attraction over another. It just happened without thought or effort.
Another mistake this Alliance organization makes is assuming that therapists out there somehow struggle in respecting a clients faith or moral values just because most therapist now accept the APA's declaration that homosexuality is not a mental illness. They speak a lot on this page of "conservative therapists" being rejected and dismissed. Should your therapists political bias be distinguished? That somehow, just because there is a league of therapists willing to go along with conversion therapy, they are the only ones respecting all faith values? Not all faiths even continue to buy into the diagnoses that homosexuality is morally objectionable. They also go on further and very arrogantly seem to claim that they are the ones holding to scientific integrity. Scientific integrity about what? Well about the truth of homosexuality of course! What else? Nevertheless, their bias is shown all over this page.
For example, they espouse books by Joseph Nicolossi that have quotes of praise on the back covers from what is supposed to be broad range of highly notable clinicians. Yet are they broad and objective if those quotes are ONLY from clinicians who have practiced ex-gay ministry and reparative therapy for years? I know because I've been to conferences where these people providing recommendations spoke years ago. I've heard them speak, read the books.
My concern about all this is this web page is promoting itself as a clinical group of medical researchers holding to scientific integrity and being non bias when this is not really the case. They pose themself as some kind of neutral scientific researchers that are set apart from bias they are a victim to, and yet they very biasly focus on a right wing extremist view of "unwanted same sex" desires. I wonder if they can truly explore what it is that is "unwanted" behind the indoctrinated (both religious and societal) "faith values" or "moral values" they cling so tightly to. I propose that Alliance is doing exactly what they claim a biased academia and other clinicians outside their own spectrum have done--focusing on one subset of people and a politically motivated viewpoint. For example, while they propose research done supporting homosexuality as not a choice was led by a team of LGBTQ therapists and conservative therapists were dismissed, their own research and materials are by people within the conversion therapy movement for years, who are tied to evangelical organizations. How is that any different? How is that any less unbiased? I can say from my own experience with many therapists, and many type of therapists (from Christian, pastoral, to analytical, LGBTQ accepting, coaches, eclectic etc.) Alliance's proposed conclusions are much more a closed minded, bias viewpoint than I have ever experienced with a gay accepting therapist or healer. I have only been rejected over my sexual exploration by Christian and pastoral therapists, never ones who were pro-gay even when I was still ex-gay. This is no different than Exodus Global trying to break down "change" as though they don't advocate it, and yet having qoutes scroll through that read "There is freedom from homosexuality through Jesus Christ".
Finally, here are some interesting questions and answers from Alliances FAQ page
11. Are there increased psychological and physical health risks associated with homosexual behavior?
Yes. While some statements have been made claiming health equivalency between homosexual and heterosexual populations, the facts are that individuals who engage in homosexual behavior have a significantly greater risk for some physical and psychological health problems compared to heterosexually oriented individuals. For example, there is a 1.4% per-act probability of HIV transmission for anal sex and a 40.4% per-partner probability (Beyrer, et al., 2012). This is roughly 18 times greater than the estimated risk for vaginal intercourse.
Regarding elevated psychiatric risk, the stress of sexual-minority status appears to play a role, but other factors that are rarely if ever studied (e.g., perceptual and coping styles of homosexually oriented persons, and their manner of responding to loss of a romantic relationship) may also play a role in homosexuality. Support for this reasoning is found in the fact that sexual minorities in The Netherlands also show an elevated level of psychiatric problems (e.g., anxiety, depression, suicidality), despite the fact that The Netherlands is a country that prides itself on being welcoming to homosexuals and has widely expanded the scope of gay rights (de Graaf, Sandfort, & ten Have, 2006; Sandfort, et al., 2001).
(Notice in this next one, that they use older N.A.R.T.H. documents as a resource with the links)
13. I heard that Sexual orientation change was discredited by the American Psychological Association? What about the 2009 APA task force on Sexual Orientation Change Efforts?
Sexual orientation change efforts is a term created by the task force and one that the Alliance would not use to identify the work of our therapists. That being said, the task force was formed to provide guidance to psychologists working with individuals who were experiencing conflicts with their homosexual attractions by reviewing the relevant literature. The task force “…concluded that there is little in the way of credible evidence that could clarify whether "SOCE" does or does not work in changing same-sex attractions” (APA, 2009, p. 28). While the Alliance concurs with some points made in the study, we see it as flawed from the outset. First, all of the highly qualified conservative psychologists who were nominated to serve on the task force were rejected. The director of the APA’s Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns Office, Clinton Anderson, offered the following defense: “We cannot take into account what are fundamentally negative religious perceptions of homosexuality—they don’t fit into our world view” (Carey, 2007). Such comments support the contention that the APA leadership constitutes a “tribal-moral” community united by a particular set of “sacred values” that will embrace science when it supports their ideals but ignore or distort it as soon as it threatens a “sacred” (foundational) value (Tierney, 2011). In addition, the task force set unrealistically high standards for methodological purity in order to find grounds to dismiss any literature that supported "change" therapies (Jones, Rosik, Williams, & Byrd, 2010). By limiting the composition of the task force to gay therapists and their closely associated allies and refusing to consider research that contradicted the anti-change predisposition of task force members it is not surprising that the report that had little positive to say about it.
Response to the APA 2009 Task Force Report on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, http://www.narth.com/docs/apataskforcereportbroch.pdf.
A Formal Response to the Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force, http://narth.com/2011/01/a-formal-response-to-the-report-of-the-american-psychological-association-task-force/
15. What is homophobia? Are Alliance supporters homophobic?
The term "homophobia" is often used inaccurately to describe any person who objects to homosexual behavior on either moral, psychological or medical grounds. Technically, however, the terms actually denotes a person who has a phobia--or irrational fear--of homosexuality. Principled disagreement, therefore, cannot be labeled "homophobia."
The shortcomings of the terminology of homophobia have led to it being largely abandoned in academic circles, but its ongoing rhetorical and political effectiveness ensures that accusations of homophobia will continue to be a prime weapon in the cultural debates over the moral, legal, and political status of homosexual behavior. That being said, the Alliance (ATCSI) is not a homophobic organization. Those who level such charges appear interested in partisan advantage rather than serious discussions about the deeper issues of values, morality, and the limits of science.
So what does this all mean? It means we can't rest on our laurels. Not in this age of rising racism and ignorance and amnesia to past horrors as an acceptable platform. As we who are LGBTQ find ourselves more and more accepted in society and some religious institutions, we cannot forget that there are those out there who honestly see soul genoicide of homosexuals via the nails of the cross of Christ as perfectly moral and the right thing to encourage. Be forewarned and ready to empathetically answer people. Reactions of rage and hate will only fuel their belief that you are more wounded and biased than authentic and moral. Listen to hear rather than listen to answer. Discuss rather than argue and realize this takes time.