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The "Dr. Phil" TV program & sexual orientation

Overview: Two solitudes, & their resolution

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The two solitudes:

On just about every issue involving lesbians, gays, and bisexuals, (LGB), North Americans are profoundly divided:


On the one hand, there are beliefs promoted by most religious conservatives;


On the other hand are opposing beliefs promoted by most LGB persons, religious liberals, secularists, therapists, human sexuality researchers, etc.

The two groups are deadlocked. On most sexual orientation topics, the beliefs of the two groups are mutually exclusive. Little or no dialogue appears to be active to resolve the conflicts.

The following gives a crude picture of the lack of agreement between the two main "solitudes." It is impossible to be precise in the space available, but this chart may give a general idea of the conflict:

Topic Beliefs of most religious conservatives Beliefs of most religious liberals, LGB persons, secularists, therapists, human sexuality researchers, etc.
Bisexuality & homosexuality are called: Sexual preferences, implying ease of change. Sexual orientations, implying difficulty/impossibility of change.
What an individual does They make a choice to try out same-sex behavior; this often leads quickly to addiction. They discover what their sexual orientation is.
What mainly sets up a person to be gay? Bad parenting and/or sexual molestation during childhood. Genes, determined at conception; perhaps hormones in utero.
How is it triggered? A conscious choice, typically during teen years. Probably an environmental trigger.
Is it changeable in adulthood? Yes, with major effort, through reparative therapy. Very rarely if ever. Reparative therapy is ineffective and unsafe.
Is a same-sex inclination moral? Opinions differ. Morally neutral.
Can same-sex behavior be moral Never. Yes, if it is safe, non-exploitive, and non-manipulative.
Same-sex marriage/civil unions Unalterably opposed; considered threat to opposite-sex marriage. Support as a human right.
Main cause of high LGB suicide rate Same-sex behavior itself, a disordered condition. Homophobia within society and within the LGB person.
Main source of information Bible or other holy text. Research, study of individuals.

Resolution of the two solitudes:

Unfortunately, both solitudes are absolutely convinced of the correctness of their own beliefs. Essentially no formal dialog exists between them to resolve the differences.

NARTH, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, is a group of conservative religious and social therapists and clergy. They once attempted to open a dialogue with the American Psychiatric Association, but were rebuffed.

In the meantime, the rate of suicide attempts by GLBT persons is quite high, particularly among youth and young adults. Dead bodies are piling up at a fierce rate. Unfortunately, in order to effectively save lives and directly tackle problems associated with sexual orientation and gender identity, the two side would have to actively engage in dialogue. This is apparently difficult for them to do.

Talk radio and TV programs in general and "Dr. Phil" in particular have the ability to help resolve the conflict over GLB issues.

bullet They bring people with opposite views together on the same program in the context of intra-relationship and intra-family conflict.
bullet In many cases, their viewers may find these programs to be their first opportunity to hear alternate viewpoints.
bullet They give a human face to GLB issues. It is much easier to hate and oppress minorities if they are considered as some nameless, faceless group. Seeing them as hurting individuals being oppressed by friends, family and society can change beliefs.
bullet Many people trust the heads of these programs. Some are motivated by the shows' content to change their own beliefs.

The same "two solitudes" phenomenon exists with abortion access: There are methods by which the total number of abortions in the U.S. could be reduced by many hundreds of thousands per year. Countries elsewhere in the world have employed these technique successfully and already have much lower abortion rates than the U.S. To a person who is pro-life, this would mean the saving of many millions of human lives every decade.

Unfortunately, the pro-life and pro-choice movements invest almost all of their effort into erecting barriers to prevent women from having an abortion, or into efforts to tear them down. Little money and effort is available to reduce the abortion rate by preventing pregnancy in the first place and by making it economically feasible for women to choose to continue their pregnancy.

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Copyright 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2009-OCT-20
Latest update: 2009-OCT-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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