Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Salon.com: A Great Series on "Ex-Gays"

We have seen in their emails that the CRC's next big goal is to get the MCPS sex-education curriculum to include sections on "ex-gays." Does that seem a little off the wall to you? Yeah, me too. It turns out that the "ex-gay" angle is the biggest hook now for the religious right to hang their anti-gay bigotry on.

This week, the online magazine Salon.com is doing a big, four-part series on the "ex-gay" phenomenon. So far the first two installments are on the web, and it is really outstanding. It starts out with a little dose of deja vu:
July 18, 2005 | Last month, the Montgomery County Board of Education in suburban Maryland settled a lawsuit over sex education in the county's public schools, brought in part by PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays). The group is a branch of a national network of "ministries" that claim homosexuality is a chosen and dangerous lifestyle, and that through "reparative therapy" a gay person can be turned straight -- into an "ex-gay."

PFOX won a restraining order in May and successfully halted the county's new sex ed curriculum, intended, among other things, to promote tolerance toward gays by treating homosexuality as natural and benign. A judge concluded the school curriculum did exclude other views on homosexuality -- namely, those of PFOX. Under the settlement last month, the county agreed to pay $36,000 of PFOX's legal expenses. The group also gets a seat at the table in drafting a new sex ed curriculum for county schools.

With homosexuality and gay marriage at the vortex of the culture wars, religious conservatives say the victory in Montgomery County will be the shot heard around the world. "This has national significance because Montgomery County is a wealthy, influential school district and the lid has been ripped off an agenda that has crept into schools nationwide," declared Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute at Concerned Women for America.

"We are going to march across the country and we are going to help parents organize in every county," says Richard Cohen, president of PFOX. "We want parents to check out the curriculum in every place where sex ed is being taught, and if they are advocating homosexuality without any other diverse views being offered to the children, we will help them with a legal defense."

(This should give you a clue as to why TeachTheFacts.org's mission is so critical.)
Cohen says he will press Montgomery County to teach that homosexuality is an unhealthy lifestyle that can be fixed. "With respect to the risks of homosexual behavior, that would be fair," he says. A PFOX pamphlet states that homosexuality is a "developmental process not genetically determined" and can be treated with therapy. It notes that gay sex results in surging AIDS rates, drug abuse, "gay bowel syndrome," psychological problems and violence.

The pamphlet insinuates that men having sex with men is what causes AIDS. It fails to mention that HIV can be transmitted through either heterosexual or homosexual contact. It does not acknowledge that of the 50 million people currently living with HIV -- 3 million of whom die annually -- nearly half are women. Nor does it point out that officials worldwide are most alarmed by the rise in AIDS among girls and that AIDS rates among homosexual men in the United States have fallen 27 percent since 1990.

Despite the Maryland settlement, PFOX's claims about homosexuality are, according to virtually all mental health professions, wrong, bizarre and potentially dangerous. "I can give you a short answer of where reparative therapy fits in with the modern mental health profession: It does not," says Dr. Douglas Haldeman, president of the Association of Practicing Psychologists, a group affiliated with the American Psychological Association. "These theories have been discredited for years."

Look, it is tempting to quote this whole article, but there's just too much here.

I've never registered to read Salon, but I did today. It's a little tricky to figure out how to get a single-day site pass, but it only takes a few minutes, and you can read these two articles after you watch a short ad. The pass is good, they say, for one to eight hours.

In the second installment a straight guy goes to a therapist named Barry Levy in Rockville, claiming to be gay and wanting to change (somebody tell me, how did all this stuff end up in Montgomery County?). This therapist was recommended by Focus on the Family. The writer, Mark Benjamin, gets the whole skinny on reparative therapy.
Levy practices what is called "reparative" or "conversion" therapy, which allegedly helps homosexuals become heterosexuals. The theory that homosexuality is a mental disorder that needs to be cured is the moral underpinning of the Christian right's crusade against gay marriage, sodomy laws, gay adoption and sex ed curriculums in schools. While all major modern mental health professions say conversion therapy is baseless and potentially dangerous, I wanted to experience for myself what is going on behind counselors' closed doors.
According to the Bible, Levy says, homosexuality "is not consistent with the manufacturer's desire. It is not what the body is for. It is not what procreation is for. It is not what life energy is for. I am going to draw you out of that because the people around you are into that." To receive God in his holiness, Levy tells me, to experience the ultimate happiness for which God created men and women, a person needs to overcome any homosexual feelings.

Homosexuality, Levy asserts, is a mental disorder, a certifiable neurosis. "The psychoanalytic perspective has always considered homosexuality and same-sex attraction to be a neurosis. They still do and they still treat it." (In fact, mental health associations do not consider homosexuality a neurosis and do not "treat" patients for it. Dr. Douglas Haldeman, president of the Association of Practicing Psychologists, a group affiliated with the American Psychological Association, says it is wrong to identify homosexuality as a neurosis. "There is no scientific evidence of that, and there is no mainstream mental health organization or profession that supports this ancient, discredited theory," he says.)

Levy informs me that homosexuality is difficult to treat because it is about more than sexuality -- it is about a way of life. "I want to make a distinction between same-sex attraction and being gay," he says. "That is a whole ideology. It is a lifestyle. It becomes the locus, or organizing principle, of the identity of the human personality." Reparative therapy focuses on getting gays and lesbians to stop talking or walking "gay." One "ex-gay" program in Memphis, Tenn., Refuge, bars men from wearing jewelry, donning Calvin Klein clothes and listening to secular music.

Well, there's just too much.

If you're concerned about what is happening here in Montgomery County, if you're trying to understand who it is that wants to hijack your kids' education, and what it is they want, you need to read this series of articles. It is very informative and well-written. Registering at Salon doesn't seem to be any big deal -- this is worth it.


Blogger andrea said...

Cohen, in his testimony before the Montgomery County BOE, said being gay or not being gay is okay- this seems in direct opposition to his statement that MCPS must teach that homosexuality is an unhealthy "lifestyle" that should be changed. Well, the guy got barred from life from his counseling association for unethical practices so I guess lying isn't a problem for him.

July 20, 2005 8:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do you feel the need to trash this person? You people are sick! There is no room for any disagreement -- nooo, just demonization.

July 20, 2005 3:27 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Anon, doesn't your presence here prove that there is "room for disagreement?"

July 20, 2005 4:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since when is pointing out the truth about someone *trashing* them?

The truth is Mr. Cohen's group, PFOX, sued Montgomery County Public Schools and walked away with $36,000.00 from our school budget and a guaranteed seat on the CAC that will approve the new curriculum. Less than two weeks later, he waltzed into the Carver building and made a Public Comment to the MCPS Board of Education.

On July 6, 2005, Mr. Cohen shed some crocodile tears and apologized for "any inconvenience or expense we have cost the Board." And how much money did he offer to give back? Not one cent!

In that same Public Comment, Mr. Cohen mentioned his past 15 years as a "professional psychotherapist" but he failed to mention that he was permanently expelled from the American Counseling Association due to ethical violations. And what does he call *psychotherapy*? Getting gay people back inside the closet!

That's the truth. If you find it trashy well guess what? So do I.

Aunt Bea

July 20, 2005 6:17 PM  

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