Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Time to Choose

The CRC/PFOX lawsuit objected to many, many things about the curriculum, which Judge Williams ignored. He ruled on the basis of two items. First, he objected to some opining about various religions in the background resources. I think everyone understands that 1) those were not really grounds for throwing out the whole thing, since students would never see the materials, and 2) those resources could easily be jettisoned -- nobody wants to propose a curriculum that criticizes any religion, or even appears to.

The other argument was a little less clear, and, at least to me, scarier. Besides the "Establishment Clause" opinion, there was a "First Amendment" opinion, not very specific, but generally it implied that the curriculum was "unbalanced." Quoth His Honor:
Viewpoint discrimination consists of state action in which "There is no ban on a general subject matter, but only on one ore more prohibited perspectives." [legal citations deleted] When government restrictions "target not subject matter but particular views taken by speakers on a subject, the violation of the First Amendment is all the more blatant. Viewpoint discrimination is thus an egregious form of content discrimination." ... ("the government must abstain from regulating speech when the specific motivating ideology or the opinion or perspective of the speaker is the rationale for the restriction.").

Now, we don't really know what he means, or how far he wants to take this, but I'm sure the other side is thinking he means that all their nutty stuff about ex-gays has to be included.

Look, here's what they said in their complaint:
Defendants made a deliberate decision to include discussion of sexual orientation, including homosexuality, bisexuality and lesbianism in its comprehensive health education. Yet, they refused to include information from reputable sources, including the United States Center for Disease Control, that discussed the substantial and unique health risks associated with same-sex sexual activity. They also refused to even mention the ex-gay perspective or that people have had success through reparative therapy in overcoming same-sex attractions. Beginning May 5, 2005, Defendants plan to intentionally mislead our students.

It might come down to this, and the people of Montgomery County need to know what they want.

Do you want the sex-ed course to talk about "the ex-gay perspective?" Do you believe there is such a thing as an "ex-gay" person? Do you think it is worth mentioning, when other more relevant sexual behaviors, such as pedophilia, masturbation, rape -- stuff that happens every day -- are not mentioned at all? Is "the ex-gay perspective" that important?

No, of course not. Look, if any ex-gay people exist, the proper term for them would be "straight." OK, you fooled around, you didn't like it or you decided not to fool around any more, and you stopped. What does that make you -- a saint, fer crying out loud? Naw, you're just another straight person. One with a history, OK, so what, there're eight million stories in the naked city.

Let's focus on "reparative therapy," which is something they want taught in the schools. Reparative therapy is the generic name for psychotherapy techniques that are aimed at changing a person's sexual orientation from homosexuality to heterosexuality. Here, read all about it at WikiPedia. Looks like a pretty unbiased article, very thorough.

Reparative therapy, the whole concept of "ex-gays," is a religious topic, not a scientific one. It assumes that homosexuality is a sin, and tries to help the person overcome it as an immoral thing. No organization that bases its techniques on scientific principles accepts that reparative therapy is either effective or appropriate. In fact, none of those organizations see anything wrong with being gay.

Here's the choice that Montgomery County is faced with: do you want your public schools teaching about psychological theories and techniques that are based on religion, or ones that are based on science?

Because there are several large organizations of scientifically-trained psychologists, psychiatrists, and counsellors, and they feel very strongly about it.

A statement was prepared by an aggregation of organizations, including:

  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American Counseling Association
  • American Association of School Administrators
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • American Psychological Association
  • American School Health Association
  • Interfaith Alliance Foundation
  • National Association of School Psychologists
  • National Association of Social Workers
  • National Education Association

They said:
The most important fact about "reparative therapy," also sometimes known as "conversion" therapy, is that it is based on an understanding of homosexuality that has been rejected by all the major health and mental health professions. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers, together representing more than 477,000 health and mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus there is no need for a "cure."

Montgomery County, you will have to choose. The faith-healers are in the courts trying to force their wacky beliefs into the classroom -- is that what you want?

They have tasted victory, and insist that the school board must now negotiate with them.

Teaching half science and half religion is not balance, it's schizophrenia in the colloquial sense. We're at a crossroads, and need to decide which way to go.

These people hate and fear homosexuality. Why that is, I can't understand. But trust me, we went to their big meeting, we saw what they stand for, and it's an ugly thing. They claim their revulsion is based on religious beliefs, but it's gotta be more than that. They want to teach your kids that being gay is a sin, and they want to teach your kids that there are ways to change you from gay to straight -- that's what's in the materials that the citizens committee rejected, which CRC/PFOX wants to "negotiate" with the board about. These therapies don't do what they say they're going to do; but worse, they are based on a supposition of hatred.

This isn't a religious-versus-non-religious issue, it's not a conservative-versus-liberal issue, it is a simple question of kindness. Do you want to treat your gay friends this way, either ignoring them or acting as if there was something wrong with them? Is that the kind of people we are? It is a simple matter of truth. Are you afraid that learning the facts will cause harm to your child's psyche?

People, you choose. You want to let this happen, or stop it?

Write the Board of Education, tell 'em what you think.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it ironic that the CRC wants to include material on ex-gays in the curriculum. The whole issue with ex-gays is extremely controversial and it has absolutely no place in a public school's health education curriculum. Teaching this material in a public school would be indoctrinating the students into biased principles and beliefs.

The term "ex-gay" is also misleading since it implies that a person is no longer gay. Being "gay" means different things depending on who you ask, but I think it would be safe to assume that the majority of people in the world believe being gay, means having sam sex attractions. To a minority of people, being gay simply means living the gay "lifestyle," so "ex-gay" would mean one who no longer lives the gay lifestyle. Going by that definition, celibate homosexuals and (young) homosexual virgins would also be called "ex-gay," yet they themselves would still identify as gay.

Since the term "ex-gay" currently has a single definition, derived from a word with multiple definitions, it's difficult to use. The term "ex-ex-gay" also exists, defining one who has left the gay lifestyle but chose to go back to it. I personally find both terms quite ridiculous since I don't think being "gay" is just a lifestyle.

The success rates of reparative therapy are low regardless of whether organizations wish to reveal the actual statistics or not. Very few people have actually expressed true conversion. Many are living the "straight lifestyle" but with same sex attractions. Usually any reference to "overcoming" homosexuality is vague and brief.

The bottom line is, adding ex-gay material to a curriculum designed for high school students is just not appropriate. Having gay students hating themselves and potentially going through reparative therapy is emotionally damaging, and could possibly have a great negative affect on their mental health. At that age, they shouldn't be worrying about such contraversial matters that are debated about by religious and political organizations.

May 17, 2005 4:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


If you are gay and you can't change whether you are gay or not,

What does a questioning youth mean ?

And if questioning means I haven't figured out IF I am gay or not, wouldn't it be beneficial to such youths to know that there were people who had thought they were gay and then decided they weren't (if you take the they were straight all along attitude) - OR to know that there were people who thought they were gay and then decided not to exercise that lifestyle....

The whole existence of "questioning" terminology for youth (supported by the gay community) and the assertion that homosexuality is not a choice - seems somewhat of a non sequiter to me....

May 19, 2005 11:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And were does bisexuality fit into all of this? It seems to me if a person can choose a sexual partner of either gender, that person is bisexual.

May 20, 2005 7:04 AM  

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