Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Ick, or Evil?

We talked last week about the ... creepy ... CNN segment on Richard Cohen, the "ex-gay" therapist who is President of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX). PFOX was one of the two groups who sued Montgomery County schools last year, along with the Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC).

Last fall, the CRC had a public meeting where their featured speaker was Warren Throckmorton. Throckmorton is a psychologist at a small Christian college who specializes in helping gay people become straight. He is a favorite of the nutty groups, I think, because it's hard for them to find someone with an education or any credentials to stand with them. He supports the "ex-gay" movement, though his wording has become much more cautious recently.

This morning I happened to come across Throckmorton's reaction to the Cohen CNN piece. (CNN has the video online HERE.) It's kind of interesting. He says:
CNN, the Paula Zahn Now show, about a 6 minute clip, I was speechless for a few minutes afterwards. My wife and the rest of the sane people in the house were watching Idol. At last count, my daughter voted for Taylor 62 times.

Anyway, when my wife watched the clip (I taped it), she said she couldn't get past the "ick factor" to even evaluate what was said. We discussed which was the ickiest, the tennis racket slamming the pillow while screaming at mom; or the client-cuddle technique where Richard holds his client like a baby in a kind of nursing position. We couldn't decide. CNN segment involving Richard Cohen

Yeah, what was ickiest?

How about the whole thing?

How about the whole idea that this gay guy is on a mission to convince other gay guys that being gay is a bad thing and that he knows how they can change? How about Cohen's whole fake-theory about how sexual orientation develops, and his fake therapeutic techniques? How about the ethics charges that got him thrown out of the American Counseling Association? How about the fake way he "takes donations" rather than charge for his services? The whole thing is icky.

Look, the "ex-gay" thing is a hoax. Cohen is a fake. PFOX is an invention of a Family Blah Blah group to promote their anti-gay bigotry. It's a terrible tragic movement that plays on the conflict between religious intolerance and the fact that some people are attracted to people of their own sex. A member of one of those religions who grows up to discover he is attracted to other guys is faced with a decision: reject the church, or reject your own feelings. It's a hard choice, a wrenching choice that tears you limb from limb, especially when you have spent your whole life being socialized in a culture that has beliefs about sexuality that are judgmental and, simply, erroneous.

PFOX is an organization that is dedicated to getting people to choose their religion over their own feelings. Some TeachTheFacts members have been discussing a disgusting PFOX web article that you can read HERE. It's more creepy gay-hating stuff, a story about a kid who goes away to summer school, learns a little bit about sexual orientation, realizes he's gay, and how his mother is totally unable to accept the fact. She goes on a rampage, hooks up with another family with a similar story ... there's a lawsuit ... it's a mess.

If you are interested in this story, one of our members put together a little list of articles that sort of fill in the gaps, some from each side of the issue:

It's one thing to pretend to be holier-than-thou, to stand at the back fence gossiping about the neighbors' evil ways, and how you're so much better than them. And it's one thing to believe you have the one true religion and a direct line to the Almighty. Whatever, you may be a misanthropic idiot, but you're not hurting anybody.

But when you promise someone that they can change one of the most fundamental components of their psychological being, when you convince them that they can and should become something different from what God made them -- when you give them hope that they can become something that will be accepted by their families and church communities -- then you have strayed into inviolable space. Such reckless disregard for another person's well-being in the name of ideology is unforgivable.

It is interesting to read the comments in Throckmorton's blog, too. These days, he claims not to be a reparative therapist. I think this is because he has given the term a new, narrowed meaning, for him it's not the overall idea of "converting" gay people, it is a particular set of techniques, which he says he doesn't use. He's still an "agent of intolerance," as John McCain described Jerry Falwell, and for the same reasons. But even those on the Dark Side can make out the vague shadowy outline of evil, which from their point of view looks like "ick," in what Richard Cohen's doing.


Blogger W. Throckmorton said...


When I came to speak in Montgomery County, you stated publicly that you could find nothing wrong with what I presented. Not sure how I went from presenting reasonable stuff to being an agent of intolerance.

You come close to catching the dilemma of people who struggle with religious and sexual conflict but you get all PC about it. Why isn't it fine for a person to live in alignment with his/her beliefs? This would be one option among many wouldn't it?

June 04, 2006 10:42 PM  
Blogger JimK said...


It's true, I stated publicy that I agreed with what you said at the CRC's meeting, and I reported that on this blog: HERE. If all you had ever done was to say what you said at that meeting, well, face it, you wouldn't have been invited by the CRC to speak for them.

In a nutshell, your acceptance of the NARTH agenda is what makes you an agent of intolerance. You have been around this stuff enough to realize that there are some people who are attracted to others of their own sex, and not by choice, and you know as well as anyone that they don't change. They live in a world where some people refuse to accept them for what they are, and this intolerance -- the key word here -- puts those individuals in conflict with their society.

It is disingenuous to pretend that a reasonable response to this situation is to "help" the person become more acceptable to the intolerant ones. We can think of numerous examples where a society's norms are dangerously wrong and individuals find it hard to accept them -- say, norms of violence or prejudice, or other antisocial norms that are found in some groups. In these cases, a therapist can choose to "help" by persuading the individual to internalize the norms. But the ethical thing, the morally preferable thing, is to help the person to deal with the fact of the conflict between conscience and social expectations, and to resolve that in a way that empowers them on the basis of who they really are. I think it often comes down to learning to render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, while nurturing their own spirit in the way that God and nature intended.

In your writings you seem sympathetic to the pain of those who suffer the consequences of being gay in an intolerant society. We are all sympathetic to their desire to change -- wouldn't life be easier if we could just be what we aren't? As an intelligent person, Warren, haven't you sometimes wished you could be dumb like the others? The resolution of these conflicts is not straightforward, the round peg needs to learn to live with the square hole. But the moral thing to do, and I can't see that there are really two sides to this issue, is to work, if you care, to make society a more tolerant place for these poor people, NOT to help them submit to those who hate them. (And I presume you can see the lie in "Hate the sin, love the sinner," so let us not debate that point.)

You might call my view "PC," and of course you don't know me, so you might think I am concerned with that -- it is an easy way to dismiss my statements, and the CRC types will applaud your homage to their black-and-white moral system. But the idea you express, that there's nothing wrong with helping people live "in alignment with" their beliefs, is not so benign. What do you say to the anorexic who "believes" that her problem is that she eats too much? Come on, you know, I could list these things all day. The paranoid's problem is that people are after him. As a psychologist, you're not doing gay people any favors by convincing them that their social group is right and their feelings are wrong, even if that is what they want to hear when they come to you.

To my mind, it is your willingness to accept and even promote misanthropic norms that makes you an agent of intolerance. You see, firsthand, the suffering of these poor guys who discover they are something that they themselves have come to believe is unacceptable. The problem for them is not their sexual orientation, it is the fact that their social group -- often centered around a church -- will not accept them; and as they have grown up with these norms, they are often horrified by their own feelings. And yet you continue to argue that it is acceptable to treat the individual as if he is the one with the problem. No, Warren, it's got to be the other way -- you, more than most of us, are in a position to educate, to challenge and enlighten the consciences of people who hate out of ignorance, but you endorse the acceptance of such brutishness. That's what makes you an agent of intolerance.

And, by the way, that phrase was carefully constructed by McCain to describe Falwell, the words are careful not to say that Falwell himself is intolerant, but only that intolerance is encouraged by his attitude and behavior.

And as for what you said at the CRC's meeting, don't forget, your video didn't work, and your talk was cut short because of time constraints. I responded to the part you actually presented, which was a call for more nuance in the sex-ed curriculum, and more thorough discussion of sexual orientation. I still agree with that, and applaud your bravery for standing up in front of a bunch of yay-hoos and saying it.


June 05, 2006 9:43 AM  
Blogger W. Throckmorton said...

You don't know me either.

For the record, I am not a member of NARTH nor am I a reparative therapist.

If you are interested in my way of thinking about the matter, see my Sexual Identity Therapy Guidelines at www.sexualidentity.blogspot.com. You can download the guidelines there.

June 06, 2006 4:02 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

I never said you were a "reparative therapist," having seen your statements to that effect.

You might like to take this opportunity to rebut the rumor that you are "a leading advocate for the view that sexual orientation can be changed."

I also did not say you were in NARTH, I said you accept the NARTH agenda.

If there's anything else you'd like to clear up, please ... feel free. We're all ears.


June 06, 2006 4:25 PM  

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