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GLB topics

Changing attitudes about lesbians, gays & bisexuals.
Promoting change. About reparative therapy

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Is change happening?:

The short answer is yes and slowly.

bulletOn a person to person basis, change is happening.
 
bullet When a parent learns that their child is gay, the information often triggers a crisis. Their initial reaction is often very negative. However, some parents are able to survive the crisis, to learn about homosexuality, to abandon what they have been taught them in the past, and change. Some become enthusiastic advocates for an end to homophobia and in favor of equal rights for persons of all sexual orientations, including the right to marry.
 
bullet When a gay person comes out of the closet and reveals their sexual orientation to friends and family, many of the latter experience a conflict between the evils of homosexuality about which they had been taught, and the respect and love that they have to the gay person. Love often wins out.

Homophobia seems to thrive in an environment where people view gays and lesbians as a faceless, evil group with an culturally dangerous agenda; it weakens when people view homosexuals as hurting individuals. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey in the year 2000 showed that among those who don't know any homosexuals, 68% agreed with the statement "Homosexual behavior is morally wrong." Among those who know a homosexual as a personal friend, the percentage dropped to 47%. 1 That was over a decade ago. The numbers are probably at least 10 percentage points lower today.

Many gays and lesbians are coming out of the closet in school. And so we see an age-related split in North America over homosexuality: Surveys have shown that high school students are becoming far more accepting of homosexuality than are their parents -- and even more accepting than their grandparents. Polls indicate that support for civil unions and same-sex marriage is steadily increasing, just as support for interracial marriage did during the last decades of the 20th century. As of early 2011, those supporting same-sex marriage have taken a major surge, largely because its acceptance by men has caught up with the acceptence of women. Supporters now outnumber those opposed by about 9 percentage points.

bulletOn an organizational basis, change is still happening, but it is proceeding much slower:
 
bullet A remarkable event happened in 1988 that few Americans know about. The General Council of the United Church of Canada met in Victoria BC to discuss the ordination of sexually active gays and lesbians. Hundreds of local study groups had preceded the meeting. About 90% of them opposed ordination. The vast majority of delegates to the Council were similarly opposed, but they came with open minds. They heard the heart wrenching testimonies of a few devout gay and lesbian church members. At the Council, many delegates probably met an openly homosexual person for the first time in their life. They debated little else among themselves. They searched their souls and prayed to learn God's will. Most changed their mind! The resolution passed by a 3:1 margin. A second resolution was also approved. It called for the denomination to fight discrimination against homosexuals both in and beyond the church. Again, change occurred when gay individuals risked censure and homophobia by coming out to others. Unfortunately, the folks back home did not have the advantage of hearing the personal stories of gays and lesbians; the delegates had a lot of explaining to do when they returned to their home towns.  More info.
 
bullet Gay-positive groups have been organized in most of the larger denominations. 2 The Unitarian Universalist Association was the first large faith group to organize a department of gay and lesbian concerns in the early 1970s. 3 In many other denominations, the groups are independent of the main body. Typical among these is the Reconciling Ministries Network within the United Methodist Church. 4 The Roman Catholic Church has two groups: Dignity that celebrates "...the wholeness and holiness of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Catholics," 5 and the official Courage Apostolate within the Church that attempts to teach chastity and celibacy. 6 In the U,S, Dignity is prohibited from using church facilities.
bullet Very little, if any. dialog is occurring between secular GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transsexual) groups and religious denominations -- particularly those faith groups from the evangelical wing of Christianity and the conservative wings of other religions.

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How an individual can promote change:

First one assesses the need for change; then act. We recommend a four step process:

  1. If you are affiliated with a religious denomination, study what your faith group has to say about homosexuality. Go to their home page and search out official statements on the topic.

  2. Go to the home page of a denomination at the opposite end of the conservative-liberal spectrum. For example, you are a member of the United Church, examine the statements of the Southern Baptist Convention, 7,8,9 or vice-versa. 10

  3. Talk to some lesbian, gay or bisexual friends. Visit some gay-positive websites. Read a book describing the personal experiences of gays and lesbians. We recommend two books:
     
    bullet Mitchell Gold and Mindy Drucker, "CRISIS: 40 stories revealing the personal, social and religious pain and trauma by growing up gay in America." 11
     
    bulletJack Rogers, former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has written a helpful book called: "Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church." 12
     
  4. Modify your current position, if you feel that is justified, and then ACT.

We maintain a list of events that indicate a cultural shift showing an increase (or decrease) in acceptance of homosexuals and homosexuality in North America.

In early 2011, a federal judge in Massachusetts declared the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional. The Obama Administration then decided to no longer defend DOMA during court challenges. These developments convinced some LGBT commentators that a "tipping point" had been reached on equal rights for LGBTs, and that future change towards equality would accellerate.

Our thoughts on engaging in reparative therapy:

It is our belief that no new therapeutic technique, whether recovered memory therapy, therapy for multiple personality disorder, facilitated communications, theophostic counseling, etc. should be widely practiced until after its efficacy and safety are firmly established. People's lives are simply too valuable to risk injury from untested, unevaluated, and potentially dangerous therapies. People have received lengthy jail sentences for crimes that never happened as a result of some of these therapies; some clients have committed suicide; some clients have become emotionally disabled; some families of origin have been destroyed.

We strongly recommend caution before entering reparative therapy or similar programs for three reasons.  

bullet The efficacy and safety of Reparative therapy or programs at Transformational Ministries have not been established through long term studies by impartial observers, and
 
bullet There exists considerable anecdotal evidence of extreme depression, suicidal ideation, attempted suicide, and completed suicide following such therapies among some clients, and
 
bulletA large investment in effort, time and money required by the client.

Unfortunately, the quality of the studies about reparative therapy is extremely poor. We desperately need well designed, statistically valid studies that will produce results that both religious conservatives and others will be able to accept. To do less than this is profoundly immoral, and could continue to result in large numbers of people in real pain, some with suicidal ideation, and some completed suicide.

Seeking a permanent resolution to the conflict:

That folks who maintain this website are seriously troubled by the distress experienced -- and loss of life through suicide -- within the LGBT community. Our feeling is that the solution to the pain and loss lies not in debate but in honest dialogue. This would require individuals or groups to ditch their preconceived beliefs and biases, to abandon the promotion of their foundational beliefs and conclusions, and earnestly seek the truth about sexual orientation and gender identity, wherever it lies.

On 2011-APR-25, we attempted to start such a dialogue with a supporter of the group: "Americans for ex-gay rights."

 

References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. Cited in David G. Meyers & Letha Dawson Scanzoni, "What God has joined together? A Christian case for gay marriage," HarperSanFrancisco, (2005-JUN), Pages 140 to 147. This is based on a proof version of the book; the page number may be changed in the final published copy. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
  2. "Religion and Social Issues by Tradition," Inter-Faith Working Group, at: http://www.iwgonline.org/
  3. "Office of Gay Concerns: 1975 business resolution," Unitarian Universalist Association, at:http://www.uua.org/
  4. "Reconciling Ministries Network," at: http://www.rmnetwork.org/
  5. Dignity USA, at: http://www.dignityusa.org/
  6. "Welcome to the Courage Community," at: http://couragerc.net/
  7. "Sexuality," Southern Baptist Convention, at: http://www.sbc.net/
  8. "Homosexuality: your questions answered," The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, at: http://erlc.com/article/homosexuality-your-questions-answered
  9. A search of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission using the search word "homosexual" found 600 references! This is clearly a topic of major importance to the Commission.
  10. "We do," Unitarian Universalist Association, at: http://www.uuworld.org/2004/03/feature1.html
  11.   Mitchell Gold & Mindy Drucker, "CRISIS: 40 stories revealing the personal, social and religious pain and trauma of growing up gay in America," Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  12.   Jack Rogers, "Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church," Westminster John Knox Press, (2006) Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store

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Copyright © 2006 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Originally written: 2006-NOV-17
Last update and review: 2011-APR-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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