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Religious Tolerance logo

The ex-gay industry is fostering social rejection
of persons with same sex attractions

An essay by website visitor Randi Schimnosky

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Ex-gay politician Warren Throckmorton 1 is harming gays by fostering social rejection. Contrary to what he says, teens acknowledging their same sex attractions is not a bad thing. Being asked to hide them is. He complains that teens may prematurely label themselves gay but he also prematurely and possibly destructively labels gays as ex-gay.

The ex-gay industry wrongly claims that complete change is possible -- that gays can completely convert same sex desires into opposite sex desires. Everyone involved in conversion therapy deserves to know that many of even the most prominent 'ex-gays' admit they still repress same sex attractions. Many ex-gay leaders have renounced conversion therapy due to high rates of suicide. Some have been discovered as frauds secretly involved in gay sex. Given the strong religious, social and financial incentives to lie, therapist opinions of, and participant claims of, successful and complete conversion are not sufficient. An objective test to determine if any change in the level of same sex attraction has really occurred requires a penis volume measurement device used in conjunction with separate sexual images of men and women.

If teens labeling themselves gay is bad because it is premature, then Throckmorton must condemn traditional society which blindly and prematurely labels us all heterosexual by default at birth. Kids are harmed by having heterosexual identities forced on them before they realize to which gender(s) they are attracted and are mature enough to decide if they are better off accepting same sex attraction or struggling to suppress it. Teenagers become confused about their sexuality because when a same sex attraction appears it conflicts with what they've been taught by traditional society. They've been led to believe they are totally heterosexual and same sex attractions are an undesirable response that only happens to undesirable others. Admitting to themselves and others that they experience these attractions, and accepting that these attractions do not make them bad people is part of the resolution of this confusion. If picking a gay sexual identity too young causes gay sexual experimentation then prematurely identifying youth as heterosexual causes opposite sex sexual experimentation. Throckmorton can't have it both ways.

Sexual orientation is not pliable as Throckmorton states. Much of the population may be at least slightly bisexual and able to alternate which desire we act on or suppress. But that is not pliability. The desires persist regardless. Throckmorton admits most of us have had a same sex attraction. The historically visible gay minority is primarily same-sex attracted. They are not suited to suppressing desire for the male gender which many societies consider sexually repugnant. One primitive tribe requires that all boys be sexually involved with older men until designated maturation. At that point the man-boys return to their inborn strongest sexual desires and most select partners of the opposite sex while only a small percentage (similar to what we consistently find in all societies across time) pursue their predominant desire for same sex intimate relationships. This shows that while society can temporarily coerce people into going against their same or opposite sex attraction, left to their own innate tendencies people will return to what comes natural to them. That includes same sex intimate relationships - a fact Throckmorton does a disservice to fairness, justice, truth, and society by ignoring.

Religious conservatives like Throckmorton claim to oppose moral relativism but practice it in the form of moral subjectivism. Whether they consider an action good or bad is dependant on who does it, not the action itself: Throckmorton criticizes the National Education Association for not presenting both the ex-gay and gay affirming view. But he doesn't criticize the ex-gay organizations which also present only one side of the story. That's a disservice to fairness, justice, truth, and society. The ex-gay industry is primarily a political ploy to reinforce a rejecting social environment which blindly and needlessly torments with erroneous assumptions of heterosexuality and condemnation anyone with a same sex attraction. This is evidenced by its studiously avoiding objective measures of success and callous concealment of the suicide rates involved with conversion therapy. What religious fundamentalists like Throckmorton oppose is not the moral relativism of unjustifiable excuses, but recognition that arbitrary religious teachings based on fabricated evidence are sometimes irrational and wrong. Faith -- accepting ideas at face value when you're too young to think logically and then as an adult rigidly adhering to them despite any evidence to the contrary -- is not a virtue. If Throckmorton's claim to not hate gays was true, he would try to make things better for all people with same sex attractions including those who wish to be in monogamous, supportive and loving same sex relationships. That means supporting gays' right to marry the individual to which they are most attracted. That means telling the truth: There's a slippery slope from teaching that same sex attractions shouldn't be acknowledged or acted upon to violence against people with those attractions.

Even if male teens with same sex attractions do not declare as gay, effemininity is often present and reflexively and unconsciously displayed. It is difficult and stressful to suppress, readily apparent to the public, and draws verbal and physical attacks from traditional society because if its wrong to act on same sex attractions those with them are considered undesirable. In school I watched while an effeminate classmate who never claimed to be gay was regularly verbally and physically assaulted. Most of us have seen that kind of thing. I also was attacked as I struggled unsuccessfully to entirely suppress reflexive feminine gestures and slips of the tongue betraying my same sex attraction. It may not be the same prejudice blacks experienced, but ask Jews what its like to live hiding a secret, in fear and constantly on guard.

Teens declaring themselves GLBT on National Coming Out Day are not doing it just to be a part of adult political activities. They're not taking on a predetermined identity supposedly causing behavior consistent with a role or adult expectations. Teens are more autonomous these days and less likely to do that. They are simply acknowledging they experience a level of same sex attraction that appears without any choice, just as opposite attractions do. They are unburdening themselves from the socially imposed stress of hiding their same sex attraction and the reflexive mannerisms which make it apparent. They are intentionally creating a future where they are protected from physical and psychological abuse by increasing the numbers of people who know a gay person. Studies show those who know a gay person are less hostile to gays; increasing numbers of them reduce attacks against gays. Throckmorton's statement that its okay for gay adults to act responsibly on same sex attractions would help stop this unfair socially destructive oppression. This is a glaring omission from the writings of someone claiming to not hate gays.

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A note from the webmaster:

We invite someone from the ex-gay movement to write a rebuttal to this essay, if they wish.

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Reference used:

  1. Warren Throckmorton, PhD is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Fellow for Psychology and Public Policy at Grove City (PA) College. His website: "DrThrockmorton.com: Celebrating Truth, Faith and Live," is at: http://www.drthrockmorton.com/

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Home page > Visitors' essays > here

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Originally posted: 2005-NOV-08
Latest update: 2005-NOV-08
Author: Randi Schimnosky

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