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Psychology Today Promotes Queer Alien Sex and Ex-Gays

By Thomas Kraemer

The April 2003 issue of Psychology Today profiled a Pulitzer Prize winning Harvard psychiatrist who has studied people that were abducted by extraterrestrial aliens. One research subject "believes he endured years of sexual probing by hooded creatures who implanted chips in his anus and stimulated him to ejaculation." I am sure that the politically incorrect, animated cartoon kids in South Park would respond by saying, "That is SO gay!"

I am now convinced that Psychology Today is surreptitiously promoting queer alien sex and ex-gay ideology. I do not form my opinion lightly. I have bent over backward to give the magazine's editor-in-chief, Robert Epstein, the benefit of doubt. I base my opinion on Epstein's editorial behavior over the last several years, including the last three issues (December 2002, February 2003, and April 2003), and his responses to comments and questions from multiple people, including myself. By the way, I have nothing against anti-gay individuals, but I do think they can change their anti-gay behavior.

Before describing specific examples that support my opinion, it may be worthwhile to summarize how this controversy started. Many people were shocked when an advertisement appeared in the December 2002 issue for an ex-gay book, A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality, which was written by Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, a well-known advocate of ex-gay therapy. GayToday has published several responses to this ad and book as follows:

"Psychology Today Elicits Disappointment & Concern from HRC - 10/17/02" http://www.gaytoday.com/events/101702ev.asp

"Pen Points: letter by Martin Thomas, Ph.D. with Robert Epstein's reply, and 'Psychology Today Editor's Justifications Mislead' by Thomas Kraemer - 10/28/02" http://www.gaytoday.com/penpoints/102802pp.asp

"Pen Points: 'Something is Queer about Psychology Today' by Thomas Kraemer - 11/04/02" http://www.gaytoday.com/penpoints/110402pp.asp

"Reviews: 'A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality' by Thomas Kraemer - 12/23/02" http://www.gaytoday.com/reviews/122302re.asp

The February 2003 issue of Psychology Today included letters and an editorial by Epstein responding to this controversy, which was titled, "Am I Anti-gay?" Epstein's editorial was highly defensive and significantly longer than his usual ones.

In the lead paragraph, Epstein tried to establish himself as being open minded by noting that he has been called gay, because he fits some gay stereotypes, and he "considered the label a compliment because some of the most intelligent, sensitive and creative people" he has known "have been gay or lesbian." Even though his statement sounds like a backhanded compliment, I am assuming that he is being sincere and truthful about what he believes.

Epstein calls homophobia a "misnomer," because it suggests people "fear" homosexuals, and so he suggests "a more appropriate term would be homomisic, from the Greek term misos ('hatred'), since many Americans actually hate gays." He rules out Biblical reasons as being the source of this behavior because he believes "religious objections to homosexuality can, it seems, be overcome." He also asserts that those who "consider homosexuality to be unnatural" are "simply wrong" by quoting research on its history, its existence in animals, and its genetic component.

Epstein doesn't mention it, but traditionally all types of phobias have been defined by feelings of "fear" or "anxiety." George Weinberg, Ph.D., who coined the word homophobia, believes "the roots of homophobia are fear." (See GayToday "George Weinberg, Ph.D. Interview," 2/3/97, http://gaytoday.com/garchive/interview/020397in.htm "George Weinberg: Love is conspiratorial, deviant and magical," 11/1/02, http://gaytoday.com/interview/110102in.asp )

However, one recent study suggested homophobia is a "disgust" reaction, instead of a phobia, which by definition involves "fear" and "anxiety." This study found homophobia to be psychologically closer to racism. (University of Arkansas psychologists presented this finding at the June 2002, American Psychological Society convention, New Orleans)
Dr. George Weinberg

The difference between "fear or anger" and "disgust" is important because recent brain mapping studies have shown that these two emotions are processed in different areas of the brain. For example, the look and smell of dirty diapers probably disgusts you, but you are unlikely to have a diaper-phobia where they make you angry and fearful. You will typically "hate" and avoid things that disgust you. ("Oh, Yuck!" Josie Glausiusz, Discover, December 2002, pp. 32-34)

One peer-reviewed study showed that men, who are negative about homosexuals, have more erections while viewing homosexual pornography than other men. Homophobes are secretly aroused by gay sex. (Adams, H.E., et al., (1996). "Is homophobia associated with homosexual arousal?" Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105, 440-445)

One hypothesis is that aggressive homophobic behavior occurs in men who are conflicted by simultaneous feelings of arousal and anger over homosexuals. Perhaps this is Epstein's problem. (Bernat, Jeffrey A., et al., (2001). "Homophobia and physical aggression toward homosexual and heterosexual individuals," Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 110, 179-187)

We can only hope that this research will lead to a cure or treatment for the biological defect that causes homophobia. Then we will be able to cure the radio talk-show host Dr. Laura.

However, despite how most psychologists define homophobia, Epstein probably redefined it because he clearly wants his readers to know that he doesn't "hate" gays and that he doesn't have a "phobic" mental disorder. Writers of anti-gay literature similarly redefine homophobia to inoculate themselves from being called "hateful" or "phobic." Most are probably sincere about not wanting to "hate gays," but this doesn't make their harmful anti-gay behavior acceptable.

Epstein's editorial goes on to arrogantly belittle the quality of complaints about the ex-gay book ad, which he defended publishing by claiming the editorial department had nothing to do with it. This is a weak defense because all publishers establish advertising standards that are compatible with the magazine's editorial goals. For example, few serious health magazines will publish ads for unhealthy products such as cigarettes. Disney does not accept sex ads. Rejecting incompatible ads is not censorship. It is good business. Psychology Today has a goal of educating readers about psychology. This goal is incompatible with publishing ads for potentially harmful ex-gay therapy.

Instead of agreeing that ex-gay ads are incompatible with his editorial goals, Epstein whines that he is a victim of the "dark, intolerant, abusive side of the gay community." He insists, despite being attacked, that he "will continue to be a strong advocate for gay and lesbian causes, to champion the individual's right to self-determination, and to condemn any attempts by anyone to suppress the truth." His noble words appear supportive, on the surface, but they mimic anti-gay religious literature, which makes them look surreptitiously anti-gay.

Epstein condescendingly refers to a "lesbian psychologist" who questioned him about running this ad given that the American Psychological Association had condemned it. He rebuts, "The APA has never condemned sexual conversion therapy but has merely issued cautionary statements, one of which reminds psychologists to 'respect the rights of others to hold values, attitudes and opinions that differ from [their] own.'" He then accused her of being intolerant of ex-gay values.

It is technically correct that the APA has only issued "guidelines" for the treatment of gays, but Epstein is disingenuous to not mention that the APA "ethical standards" forbid abusive or coercive ex-gay therapy. The ethical obligation to respect diverse viewpoints is not a right to abuse others. (Division 44, http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbc "Guidelines for Psychotherapy with lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients," American Psychologist, December 2000, pp. 1440-1451)

All but the most radical would agree with Epstein that even anti-gay kooks have a right to publish and advertise their books. But Epstein's freedom of speech defense fails to see the potential harm of Dr. Nicolosi's ex-gay book. Dr. Nicolosi's freedom to say that stopping "sissy boy" behavior will "prevent homosexuality," does not give parents a right to force their boys to act masculine. Few effeminate boys can truly "choose" to change, especially if they are part of an anti-gay family or religion.

Epstein deliberately dodges these ethical questions by defending the "self-determination" right of gays to seek therapy to help themselves behave heterosexually. Adults certainly do have the right, if provided with proper informed consent, to accept any risky and unproven treatment, but Epstein is negligent in not mentioning the unique risks posed with children.

I am troubled by Epstein's behavior because it may mislead uninitiated readers into seeking ex-gay "folk therapies," which are commonly provided by religious laypersons, without getting the proper warnings that a professional psychologist would be ethically required to provide. He provides no warnings about this to his readers other than to dismiss the risks as being similar to the angry outcome that sometimes occurs after couples counseling.

Epstein insists, as do ex-gay ideologues, that sexual behavior is potentially changeable, as are other "tendencies with possible genetic bases," such as excessive "gambling, drinking," and "urges to have sex with children." This comparison is also surreptitiously anti-gay because it unfairly compares harmless, private, and noncommercial homosexual behaviors with harmful and nonconsensual behaviors.

However, Epstein doesn't stop there. He also indirectly equates homosexuality to a desire for fucking dead people by mentioning only the ICD-9 number, 302.9, and not the name of the mental disorder that is used to treat ex-gays. The "Paraphilia Sexual Disorders," such as necrophilia (corpses), zoophilia (animals), coprophilia (feces), urophilia (urine), share the same ICD-9 number as "Sexual Disorders, Not Otherwise Specified," which includes "mental distress over one's sexual orientation." By omitting the name of the mental disorder, many readers will read the wrong 302.9 in the listing of mental disorders because six pages separate the definitions. Many readers will probably look up 302.9 because therapists encourage their clients to read the listings, which are widely available in bookstores and libraries.

What Epstein doesn't mention is that the "mental distress over one's sexual orientation" category was retained as a compromise to appease ex-gay therapists when homosexuality was removed as a mental disorder in 1973. Ex-gay therapists have exploited this loophole, along with other ones, such as gender identity disorder, to bill insurance for their unproven ex-gay therapies. This type of charlatan behavior has, unfortunately, provided many insurance companies with an excuse to deny the coverage of genuine mental health problems.

Epstein's semantics game reminds me of Senator Trent Lott comparing homosexuals to kleptomaniacs or the Catholic Church equating pedophiles with homosexual priests. Also when Senator Rick Santorum compared homosexual sodomy to incest. Epstein must be aware that his analogies are controversial, which makes them seem intentionally inflammatory.

As an aside, both Epstein and Santorum used arguments emphasizing that they do not hate homosexuals, but they believe homosexuals have a right and ability to change their behavior. Santorum goes further than Epstein by saying the right to privacy doesn't exist in the Constitution and therefore States can and should outlaw homosexual sodomy.
Sen. Rick Santorum

I think Bush's Republican guards are worried that in June the Supreme Court will overturn the Texas sodomy law, which bars oral and anal sex between two men, while allowing the same acts between a man and women or animals. If this law is overturned, I think Santorum's comments are intended to agitate people into thinking that privacy rights made sodomy legal and therefore pedophilia will also be legal.

Santorum has tricked the press into reporting only the privacy aspect of the Supreme Court sodomy cases. The press is not reporting why Santorum wants to undermine the right of privacy. He wants to outlaw contraception and abortion. (See unedited AP interview, 4/24/03, http://www.gaytoday.com/events/042403ev.asp ) Why are women being silent on this issue? Are they terrified of being associated with homosexual sodomy? I doubt they are silent due to ignorance.

Santorum is exploiting the reluctance of the "family oriented" corporate media to report sexual details, which would undermine his agitprop. I discovered this when my local newspaper, which prints virtually every letter to the editor, refused to print in their "family newspaper" my letter describing how Texas unequally outlaws certain sex acts, but only for homosexuals.

In fact, the Supreme Court is most likely to overturn Texas sodomy law based on the equal protection guarantee, which even Santorum agrees is in the Constitution. The Constitution requires that all laws, such as one against oral or anal sex, be applied equally to all citizens, not just homosexuals. The Supreme Court upheld this basic right in 1996 when they overturned Colorado's anti-gay Amendment 2.

President Bush slyly changed the subject and further tricked the press when he praised Santorum for his "inclusiveness" after probably sensing the "privacy" issue might backfire with conservatives. As of April 24, 69 percent answered NO, when FOX News host Bill O'Reilly http://www.billoreilly.com asked his mostly conservative radio and TV audience, "Does the U.S. Government have the right to criminalize sexual activity between consenting adults?" I think conservatives also want privacy rights, even if they aren't in the Constitution.

For example, it is ironic that Boy Scout supporters claim that privacy rights allow them to discriminate against homosexuals. Ditto for the private golf clubs that exclude women. Conservatives can't have it both ways!
Bill O'Reilly

Epstein has taken a much more sophisticated position than Bush's Republican guards have, but his position is also, essentially anti-gay, even though nothing he has written, by itself, is overtly anti-gay. In fact, I suspect that most readers will view him as being supportive and not anti-gay. However, similar to Bush and Santorum, Epstein's overall behavior speaks louder than any words. All of them are hypocritically claiming to have nothing against homosexuals, while their actual behavior is surreptitiously anti-gay.

The final straw that convinced me of Epstein's surreptitious anti-gay behavior was his selection of letters for the April issue, which were in response to his February editorial. He selected seven letters for publication and the single letter that opposed him, failed to challenge his ethical position. I know that he had no shortage of good letters to pick from. I even provided him and his assistant with a 60-word letter challenging his ethical position on forcing children into ex-gay therapy. His apparently intentional omission of ethical concerns is surreptitious anti-gay behavior.

Epstein dismissed the only critical letter out of seven by saying, "I have said repeatedly that homosexuality is a natural condition, not a disorder, and I have never endorsed any form of anti-gay advertising." However, Epstein, by not acknowledging that the ex-gay book and ad, in question, are anti-gay, he is implicitly endorsing them.

Two of the seven letters repeated Epstein's "freedom of speech" and "censorship" defense. Both of these letters praised him for not becoming the victim of "bullying" by those who want to abridge these freedoms. It always amuses me how anti-gay bigots will assume the role of being "victims" of "political correctness," but then criticize others for claiming to be a victim of their bigotry. As mentioned above, the freedom to advocate ex-gay ideology does not give anyone the right to abuse others.

Another letter, which was from Israel, similarly stated that they have "been subjected to much abuse for agreeing to help those who wish to change their behavior or reduce unwanted attractions." The letter writer didn't say if he was a doctor or a religious layperson.

Two other letters were from ex-gays. One of these two letters appreciated "those who respect the valid research available." The other letter was unsigned and said, "I slept with hundreds of men and considered a sex change. I am now a happily married father of two," and everyone should "keep a balanced, open mind. A life like mine could depend on it." Does he really mean that being denied ex-gay therapy might have led him to suicide? I'm sure that some ex-gay researcher will be publishing a "scientific" study to "prove" that denying somebody ex-gay therapy will lead to suicide.

The last letter also supported ex-gay therapy but with the mild proviso that "pushing your beliefs onto someone else is not appropriate." Unfortunately, neither the letter writer nor Epstein connected this to the bigger ethical issues with ex-gay therapy.

As in previous issues, Epstein answered a question in his "Ask Dr. E" column in a way that looks supportive of gays, but that also matches ex-gay ideology. In the April issue, a reader asked, "I'm straight, but I enjoy it more when a man performs oral sex on me than when a woman does. I don't reciprocate. Does this mean that I'm actually gay?" Epstein answers by saying "The 'gay' and 'straight' labels sometimes cause more problems than they solve. You were probably doing fine until you felt the need to classify yourself. Nature gives us black and white, but it also gives us an infinite array of colors. Stop trying to fit yourself into a box."

Once again, Epstein is very crafty, because his answer is technically good advice for many people. He is right that some people are not purely "gay" or "straight." But his answer looks surreptitiously anti-gay because ex-gay ideology points to the existence of bisexual behavior in order to deny the existence of gays. Epstein is correct that sexual behavior does not determine sexual identity, but he is wrong to devalue the psychological importance of accepting one's own sexual identity, even if that identity is "bisexual." Sexual identity is important to most people.

It is interesting that in another article Epstein highlighted, in bold headline print, "The gay men who rated themselves as 'closeted' were keeping a big secret. Such concealment clearly had tragic effects." The article referred to a study that showed men with AIDS who also concealed their sexual orientation had a greater fatality rate, possibly due to the stress of keeping it secret. Ex-gays are similarly denying their sexual orientation. Epstein should agree that concealing or denying one's sexual orientation is probably equally stressful and harmful in both cases.

Supporters of same-sex sodomy laws similarly devalue the importance of sexual identity. They do not want to acknowledge that "gays" exist because it would make them look cruel for forcing gay people to be celibate. They audaciously claim that same-sex sodomy laws do not discriminate against gays because they "equally" forbid two heterosexual men from having oral or anal sex with each other. They say gays are not being forced to be celibate because gays can choose to marry and have heterosexual sex. As previously mentioned, in Texas, another legal option is to fuck your dog! Texas lawyers used this twisted logic in the Supreme Court case.

Coincidentally, many of the young students at my local university have embraced the "post-gay" movement, which also rejects all "labels." The "post-gay" identity has replaced the 1990's "queer" label, the 1970's "gay" label, and the 1950's "homophile" label. The word "gay" has completely disappeared from many annual "Pride" parades due to disagreements over which label to use.

No campus group at my university has "gay" in their name anymore, because students have bad memories of the word "gay" being used as an insult, starting in first grade. A March 25, 2003 Advocate http://www.advocate.com/html/stories/886/886_sogay.asp commentary, "The trouble with 'gay,'" also talks about this problem. Hey, labels do matter, despite what Epstein may think.

Another core belief of ex-gay ideology is the idea that gender behavior is a choice. This is why Dr. Nicolosi treats "sissy boys" for their "gender identity disorder." It is telling that the April issue of Psychology Today also contained a short article on research that found many intersex boys grew up never knowing that they are different. Intersex boys are biologically part male and part female. Unfortunately, Epstein appears to be misleading readers into misinterpreting this article as meaning that gender behavior is a choice.

"Award Named for John Money, Ph.D., Transgender Studies Pioneer" http://gaytoday.com/world/042903wo.asp GayToday, 4/29/03

Vern Bullough, RN, Ph.D. was very diplomatic in the way he smoothed over the controversy with Money. I've read all of Money's work and he certainly deserves good recognition for his pioneering work. However, I have a minor disagreement with Bullough's, perhaps just polite, remark that one case doesn't prove anything. One counterexample is all that is needed to prove an absolute statement incorrect. I would agree that there is always a chance that the counterexample could be wrong, but I think Money's work is being misused by people who want to say gender is always a choice of how you raise the child. Otherwise, Bullough is right on and I am glad that he got Money to come out in public on this issue.

The existence of transgender or bisexual individuals does not mean that everybody can choose to change their gender or sexual orientation. Forcing everybody to be straight is oppression and not freedom of choice. The May/June 2003 issue of the ultra-liberal Utne magazine also missed this important difference in two different articles that mentioned choosing to be gay (pp. 24, 68). Epstein is not alone with his illogic.

I have many more examples of Epstein's surreptitiously anti-gay editorial behavior, but I will stop here. He is deceptively hiding anti-gay ideas within seemingly supportive rhetoric. He is a wolf in sheep's clothing. He is more dangerous than the easy to spot, overtly anti-gay editors.

I believe that Epstein should seek therapy and voluntarily choose to change his anti-gay behaviors. Perhaps he is suffering from having an alien anal probe stuck in his ass, and to be cured, he needs it removed. Either way, I say that the gay community should welcome him with the compassionate and loving help he needs. We love him, but we abhor his lifestyle choices.

Love Welcomes All is the Portland, Oregon gay community response to the national ex-gay "Love Won Out" conference, which is scheduled there, June 21, to feature the ex-gay poster boy John Paulk. I will not be surprised if Psychology Today also shows up.
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