False Cure

Commentary: A Town Square Opinion

by Richard J. Rosendall
Published on December 6, 2007, 12:00am | Comments

Sharon Kass of Silver Spring, a stranger, is concerned for my welfare. In March 2006 she sent me links to several ''ex-gay'' Web sites. In September 2006 she wrote, ''When you heal your early emotional wounds, you will be able to assess present danger more realistically and respond to it more effectively.'' She knows nothing about my childhood -- she merely recites the ex-gay dogma that homosexuality results from early childhood trauma.

When Kass learned of the Dec. 6 D.C. community forum on civil-marriage equality, she wrote to several gay activists and city officials that ''marriage is an institution specifically dedicated to the relationship of man and woman,'' and that ''homosexual and transgender feelings are symptoms of emotional disorders.'' I replied as follows:

''Ms. Kass, I am sorry to see your continued obsession against gay people and transgenders, who mean you no harm and simply want equality under the law. Your many slanders, unfounded claims, and preposterous statements make it clear that if anyone is suffering from an emotional disorder it is you.

''First of all, homosexuality and transgenderism are two different things, but what they have in common is the harm caused by ignorant and intolerant people like you.

''Your claim that homosexuality is an emotional disorder is rejected by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Association of Social Workers. You state, 'The conditions of homosexuality and transgenderism indicate gender self-alienation stemming from unfavorable early life experiences.' This old slander does not become true by endless repetition. The sources you cite, including NARTH and P-FOX, are notorious for their junk science. Their 'cures' are no more legitimate than the old 'water cure' torture, now known as waterboarding. See the APA Resolution on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, www.apa.org/pi/sexual.html.

''The fraud of ex-gay therapy is illustrated by so-called ex-gays like John Paulk whose homosexuality reasserted itself despite being denied and repressed. You claim supporters of gay equality 'have undermined the American political process with false authority and coercion,' yet it is you and your allies who routinely cite discredited authorities and who seek to coerce gay people into pretending to be something we are not.

''Sexual orientation and race are indeed different, as you say, but both have been used to justify discrimination against minorities. The District of Columbia has a longstanding policy of non-discrimination with regard to both sexual orientation and gender identity, with the latter recently added explicitly to the D.C. Human Rights Act.

''Your statement on marriage implicitly and ahistorically asserts that the institution is unchanging. The past 50 years show how false that claim is. Marriage is no more unchanging than language, and is no more threatened by the inclusion of same-sex couples than it was by the emancipation of women.

''Your reference to 'the complementariness of the sexes' brings to mind Plato's Symposium, in which Aristophanes describes humans as searching for their 'lost halves,' some same-sex and others opposite-sex. It is unclear why you find it necessary to ignore natural variations in human populations in favor of forcibly imposing a single standard on everyone; but it is clear that you see 'human nature' not as something to observe but as something to impose by fiat. This is fundamentally unscientific, authoritarian and inhumane.

''As for transgenders, there are many resources which you could easily find if you were interested in learning rather than lecturing. There is still much professional misunderstanding about transgenders, but my colleagues and I believe that understanding begins by letting transgenders speak for themselves. In this regard, I recommend that you visit http://www.genderpsychology.org/ for 'a scientific critique of the psychopathology of gender identity disorder.' In one article, a male-to-female transsexual named Madeline writes, 'Perhaps the answer is that transitioning does not make me happy. Transitioning is what makes it possible for me to find happiness.'

''You claim that 'the ex-gay movement is rising and will prevail. The 2008 presidential race may well occasion its decisive victory.' To the contrary, your movement is increasingly discredited. As to the presidential race, it is unclear how an election could validate scientific and medical claims that professional experts have overwhelmingly rejected. If anything, the pathetic parade of exposed anti-gay closet cases like Sen. Larry Craig presents a cautionary tale of the misery caused by denying one's true nature. Sincerely, Rick Rosendall.''

I expect Ms. Kass is a lost cause, but many in her target audience are not. They are the reason we need to refute such lies.

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist whose work has appeared on Salon.com and the Independent Gay Forum (www.indegayforum.org). He can be reached at rrosendall@starpower.net.


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