| By Sandy Rapp
So it developed that one didn't have to fry the whole gay person, but could get away with incinerating just the offending organ, the brain. Thus it came to pass that the medicalized model of sexual orientation provided a framework for electro-shock and chemical aversion "reorientation" attempts.
Although aversion "reparations" are almost entirely a thing of the past, attempts at religion-induced "conversions" persist. Now such bastions of mental health as the Christian Coalition, the Family Research Council, and the Concerned Women of America (remember them from the anti-ERA days?) are running full-page ads in all major newspapers claiming "homosexuals can change" into "Ex-Gays."
Most professionals believe that the elements which later emerge as sexual orientation (whether hetero or homo) are functions of both natural (inborn), and developed characteristics, all of which are established before the age of six. In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the organization's list of mental disorders, concurrently deploring "all private and public discrimination against homosexuals."
Directly informing this historic decision were Dr. Evelyn Hooker's demonstrations through psychological profiles that the psychiatric community was unable to distinguish homosexuals from heterosexuals by any feature other than their orientations. Dr. Hooker's findings, eventually incorporated in a National Institute of Mental Health Task Force on Homosexuality Report, showed clearly that homosexuality did not imply pathology.
The psychiatrists' policy was soon adopted by most mental health clinicians. The American Psychological Association concurred in 1975 and, in 1997, resolved that psychologists would be "breaching ethical guidelines" should they tell clients there is effective "reparative" or "conversion" therapy for gay people. In 1994 the American Medical Association affirmed that aversion therapy was not recommended in that "negative social attitudes" rather than "physiological" causes inspired gays who wished to change their orientations.
"Cure" claims often involve bisexuals who have become celibate, or lesbians and gays whose fantasies (and often gay relations) continue throughout heterosexual marriages or friendships. In the face of "conversion" claims one must always ask what magnitude of dogma was brought to bear upon any given individual to behave heterosexually and proclaim "reorientaiton." One must also remember that pressure for religious conformity has been known to induce everything from mass marriage to mass suicide.
As was explained by Dr. Charles Silverstein, author of The New Joy of Gay Sex: Harper Collins: NY 1992: "What happens in so-called "conversions" is that the churches create immense support for the suppression of sexuality." But, as Silverstein told Long Island, New York's Rainbow Community News: "Suppression works for only so long. After a while the experience of support diminishes and is outweighed by the intensity of gay feelings." Silverstein said that while doing a television talk show he met a fellow who had once attempted religious "reorientation." The man had attended Christian "conversion" camps and retreats where he said he "HAD A LOT OF SEX!"
Furthermore, immeasurable harm can be done by these unsuccessful attempts to alter sexual orientation. In the words of Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy Editor-in-Chief, Jack Drescher, MD: "There are many anecdotal accounts of patients who did not convert and who, believing themselves to be at fault for the failure, were left feeling anxious, depressed, worthless, hopeless, and even suicidal."
Now the pseudo-medicine of religious "reparation" is blatantly politicized by the Christian Coalition et. al. Their strategy is fundraising through fear mongering. Ignorance is the only problem and education is the only answer. But the education required is that self-same accurate, scientific information about same-gender orientation that the religious activists would censor from print, schools, speech, art, and of course the Internet.
Meanwhile, word is OUT that a great many "Ex-Gays," including two original religious "reparation" leaders, fell in love with each other and renounced the movement to establish a network for recovering fundamentalists - Ex-Ex Gays. Now, ain't that one for the Ex-Files?
Sandy Rapp is a feminist singer and author of God's Country: A Case Against Theocracy Book orders may be placed through the publisher: 1-800-3-HAWORTH.
Sandy Rapp's CD We The People is also available: