Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ex-gays to ex-ex-gays: it's your fault you didn't change

I recently found myself at the first official recognition that I've seen of the existence of ex-ex-gays from a supporter of an ex-gay ministry. The piece is written by one Sue Bohlin of Probe Ministries and is available here. It's also notable in distinguishing between the "reparative therapy" used by psychoanalysts trying to "cure" homosexuality and what Bohlin calls the "redemptive approach", in which homosexuality is "healed" through cultivating a relationship with Jesus Christ. She describes the latter as the superior method of the two.

The specific reference to ex-ex-gays is an attempt to explain their existence. Ater all, if a relationship with Christ is all that is needed to heal homosexuality, then why do ex-ex-gays even exist? Unsurprisingly, the answer is to blame the victim: Bohlin outright states that it is because ex-ex-gays failed to really do what is necessary to change that they didn't change. Notably, she didn't talk to a single ex-ex-gay before leaping to this conclusion, merely assuming it to be true based on her own assumptions about religious belief. This is understandable given the ex-gay ideology: after all, in the Fundamentalist worldview God cannot fail, therefore He can only be failed, therefore it must be the ex-ex-gays and not the "Godly" ex-gay ministration that failed.

But it's also quite destructive. Unlike Miss Bohlin, I have spoken one-on-one with ex-ex-gays (the undergraduate assignment for which I did this has been publicly posted about halfway down this forum page), and I understand just what the accusation that "they're not trying hard enough to change" did to them when they were in ex-gay ministries. It laid a whole new heaping of undeserved shame onto them, over and above the shame they experienced in the first place for "experiencing unwanted same-sex attractions", as the ex-gay movement puts it. Having given their all in the effort to change, these people were then told by the ex-gay ministries that their all wasn't good enough. Is it any wonder that Shidlo and Schroeder's 2002 ex-gay study found that the many individuals in ex-gay institutions who experienced no change at all reported that they found the ex-gay experience harmful? The ex-gay ministries make it abundantly clear to them that they will never be able to change, and that this is their own fault.

This is why the demands by the ex-gay movement for "tolerance" fall flat. They do not merely want tolerance for how they live their own lives, they want people to be "tolerant" of the way they dictate how much or how little faith other people must allegedly have, without any regard for the actual feelings of those other people about the matter. They can also be dangerous to a same-sex-attracted person's mental well-being: their harmful imposition of shame onto those who they fail, demanding that their failure be treated as the failure of their victims, is not something that deserves any tolerance at all.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The response of Bryce Faulkner's family

As I expected, the parents of Bryce Faulkner have hit out against efforts to locate their son, speaking to a media outlet that is sympathetic to their side of the story, specifically, Fox News. Notably, there is still no direct contact with Bryce Faulkner, despite a written statement from an unidentified "family representative" allegedly from Bryce saying "Every decision that I've made has been based solely upon my beliefs and I have not been manipulated or coerced by anyone to do anything".

The Facebook groups that were set up concerning Bryce's situation still appear to be down, and the original "help save Bryce website has been updated with correspondence between the site maintainer and what he believes to be members of the Faulkner family (The e-mail address is unverified but the wounded effrontery, bad spelling and unironic signing off of a really angry letter with "in Christ," suggests to me that the letters are indeed from a small-town Christianist family that has found their actions unexpectedly scrutinised).

I have an obvious bias in the matter, but the Faulkners deserve a fair hearing, so I'm glad the letters are up. The website maintainer for his part is to my mind responding well to all allegations made about such things as the alleged length of the relationship between Bryce and Travis Swanson and the reason the relationship ended. One troubling thing does stand out for me however.

In one letter, signed by "The Faulkner's [sic]", it is stated "Bryce has ended this relationship and is moving on with his life. It is no different than any other relationship...its over...". This is a highly unusual thing to see in Christianist writing, specifically placing a homosexual relationship on the exact same emotional footing as "any other relationship". The standard anti-gay rhetoric as I understand it is that there's simply no equivalency between a heterosexual relationship and a homosexual one: the latter is a product of "sexual broken-ness" and can never be emotionally satisfying. So why is a rather different point of view about homosexuality being put forward by the Faulkners?

The Fox News article has a quote from Mrs Faulkner in which says that Bryce "got caught up with friends who were pulling him that way", which Fox News interprets (probably correctly) as Mrs Faulkner believing that friends were influencing Bryce towards homosexuality. So she apparently believes homosexuality is a choice, and one that can be influenced by outside factors. Yet the usual rhetoric doesn't quite match.

I'm not sure what to make of that. It could be that the Faulkners have never really had to think the issue through, and so have amassed a collection of contradictory beliefs that they've never taken the time to examine. I'm afraid that'll probably change now as anti-gay activists turn them into "victims of the homosexual movement" and instruct them more formally in the assumptions of anti-gay ideology. Pity.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Xavier High School, villification, and freedom of speech

Somewhat unusually for a GLBT person it seems, I'm opposed to the criminalisation of "hate speech". That includes opposition to the villification laws that exist in New South Wales and other Australian states. That means that on principle I must oppose the decision by Gary Burns to use villification law against Xavier High School in Albury after they printed a letter to the editor in their Alumni magazine from "former homosexual" Matt Price entitled "Imagine a world free from homosexuals".

Gary Burns is suggesting that this can only be interpreted as a call to murder gay people. I disagree: as an ex-gay, the author of the letter most likely thinks that "a world free of homosexuals" is more akin to the idea of "a world free of unbelievers" that the Catholic church presumably aspires to through its prosetylising. It can be interpreted as a call to conversion of homosexuals to heterosexuality rather than a call for elimination. Admittedly, other people might not think so.

It's especially difficult to judge as the full text of the letter is no longer available online. As Channel Nine reports, the online version of the newsletter in question has changed the text in question to remove all references to homosexuality. Price's letter now reads as the following inoffensive pablum:
Sorry it has taken so long to get back to you. My family
moved from Sydney and then to Howlong, but my
parents divorced when I was in Year 7.
I started at Xavier North Campus in 1985. I stayed until
Year 11 when I transferred to Albury High, doing Year
11 again and completing my Year 12 certificate. Later
I was accepted into Sydney University to become a
Registered Nurse.
I have been a Registered Nurse since 1994 and have
pretty much worked full time since then. I am currently
living in Noosa and my mother is here also. I am really
pleased to say I am going regularly to church where I am
a reader. It is enjoyable and I can lead/heal my spiritual
life in the way I was guided as a child. “The Truth Will
Set You Free” is what Xavier taught me.
I have a surfboard which I’m still trying to learn, but I can
get up! I had a friend that I used to catch the school bus
with from Howlong – his name was Paul Lavis. I have
not heard from him since I left school. If you hear his
name in passing could you say Hello to him for me.
God bless! Yours,
Matt Price

According to SX News, a local paper called the Border Mail may have posted the original letter under the heading "world of sex and drugs", alongside an article entitled "gay activist demands cash from schools" which trys to paint Xavier High School as the victim. But again, neither of those two articles are available from the Border Mail website. There is an online copy of a letter to the editor of the Border Mail complaining that the Border Mail's coverage of the situation was inaccurate and misleading, but nothing more.

My approach to issues like this is that it is better to publicly expose bigotry as bigotry rather than try to censor it. I mean, it's kind of hard to publicly demonstrate just what's wrong with the letter when nobody's able to read it. Presumably it's out there somewhere, even if it's not online. If I find something, I'll post it. Otherwise....

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Australian Christian Lobby's misleading press release on GetUp's "misleading" ad

GetUp was planning to run some satirical ads opposing the Australian government's proposed mandatory Internet filtering scheme on Qantas fights in Canberra. Qantas has now refused to run them, citing a long-term ban on running "political advertising". While Qantas and GetUp tussle over the exact definition of the term "political advertising", the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has put out a press release entitled "ACL Welcomes Qantas move to ditch misleading GetUp ad".

The supposedly "misleading" ad is not misleading at all. It is ACL who is being misleading in their press release. The ad itself briefly makes mention of Iran and the alleged cover-up of a rigged election there, prompting the response from the ACL:
We have been concerned that people might be responding to GetUp's plea for money to screen its ad because of the misleading claim that the Rudd Government's clean feed for kids election promise might lead to Iranian-style political repression,

Yet again, proponents of Internet censorship misleadingly try to dodge the real problem with Conroy's filter: that under his scheme, Internet censorship will be mandatory for adults. It is the ACL, not GetUp, who is misleading the public by trying to suggest otherwise.

I thought "Christians" weren't supposed to bear false witness?

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Another case of coerced involvement in an ex-gay group

The story of Bryce Faulkner, a gay pre-med student in Arkansas, has started making the rounds on the net. Short version: a young man was unexpectedly outed to his parents through their discovery of electronic communications between Bryce and his boyfriend Travis. Bryce was given the option of ex-gay treatment or losing all financial parental support (for a college student in America, a very grave threat indeed). Bryce has not been heard from at all in 25 days since the time I write this.

Waymon Hudson of the Bilerico Project has been in contact with Travis' parents to verify the story (Per Waymon, Bryce's parents refuse to communicate anything at all). For that reason I believe that this comment, originally posted at Bilerico, is genuinely from Travis' mother. I'm reposting part of it here because I find it so disturbing:
Hello everyone. First and foremost, I want to thank Waymon for putting this out here for everyone. I am "the BF's mom". That being said, this is not a hoax, scam or anything blown out of porportion. Bryce is a fine young man and had a bright future ahead of him, until he decided to come out to his mom and dad. He actually didn't even have the option of coming out. He was "found out" by despicable means. Everything he had was in their name, the cell phone, the car, internet, he worked at a clinic his mom owned. She would call the cell company and tell them she forgot the voicemail password, which they would then reset for her in order to get access to his voicemails. His dad is a technician for the local cable company (inet) and installed a "tap" on the internet in order to get access to passwords for email accounts. They even got the password to an account that they didn't know that he had. Any mail that came to the house addressed to him was opened and scanned. He did rely on his parents for everything.

I suppose nothing about what Christianist parents will do to their children to try and keep them in line should surprise me, but this claim that Bryce's parents covertly monitored every communication that he had was still disconcerting to me. I hope that little factoid gets publicised in the wake of the parents' inevitable attempt to paint themselves as the victims of the so-called "homosexual agenda" in response to the negative publicity that, with any luck, is now coming their way.