Truth matters in ex-gay debate
[Note: A condensed version of this post appeared at The Christian Post on August 28, 2014 under the title, “Ex-Gay Therapy Debate: The Truth Matters.”]
The fact that some people change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual (some spontaneously as a developmental change, some through religious counseling, and some through professional therapy) is a big problem for the homosexual movement. It seriously undermines the myth that people are “born gay and can’t change” This myth is essential to making the public believe that disapproval of (or even failure to actively affirm and celebrate) men choosing to have sex with men and women choosing to have sex with women is exactly as loathsome as “discrimination” based on race.
The organized ex-gay movement is small and poorly-funded, but it poses such an existential threat to pro-homosexual mythology that homosexual activists have mounted a furious assault upon it. The principal form this assault has taken is the introduction of laws that would ban any and all “sexual orientation change efforts” (or “SOCE”) with minors by licensed mental health providers. This idea was pioneered in California where they originally wanted a ban across the board regardless of age. However, it was concluded that this shocking violation of a long-time ethical principle of client autonomy might be too much to take, so the ban was limited to minors on the grounds of “protecting” children. Such laws have been adopted already in California and New Jersey, but similar bills died in more than a dozen other states over the last year or so.
As noted, “protection of minors” has been a key selling point in the legislatures that have considered these bills, and the threatened loss of licensing has been the legal stick employed. However, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a wealthy, left-wing, anti-Christian political advocacy group that was linked to domestic terrorism in federal court, has executed a pincer movement in New Jersey by suing SOCE providers, including unlicensed counselors who work with adults, charging “fraud” under that state’s consumer protection laws.
Most “sexual reorientation therapy” today consists of “talk therapy” — a client simply talking with a counselor about his or her feelings, experiences, relationships with parents and peers, etc. Some therapists add other positive techniques that have been validated in a variety of contexts — not just SOCE.
However, to generate opposition to SOCE, its opponents have reached back decades to techniques some therapists once used called “aversion therapy” — attempting to associate homosexual feelings with some sort of negative stimuli. No one has been able to identify a single therapist actually practicing today who uses “aversive” techniques in SOCE — but that hasn’t stopped homosexual activists from pretending that they do.
In a hearing before the New Jersey legislature, one witness in support of the ban was a young person who is a male-to-female transgender and goes by the name Brielle Goldani. Christopher Doyle is ex-gay, a therapist himself, and a founder of the ex-gay advocacy group Voice of the Voiceless. He was also present at the March 18, 2013 hearing, and described Goldani’s testimony in a piece for WorldNetDaily the following week:
“Twice a week I was hooked up to electrodes on my hands,” she said. “I, a child, was shocked repeatedly by people who had my parent’s permission to torture me.” Goldani, now 29, claims that she had no rights when her parents sent her away as a male teenager. She claims that the torture occurred at conversion camp called True Directions. “This is nothing more than legalized child abuse,” claimed Goldani at the hearing.
Having attended and testified at the hearing myself, I was shocked and horrified to hear about such abuse… . So I tracked down Goldani and talked to her on the phone to find out more information.
Goldani claims that an Assemblies of God Church in Columbus, Ohio, ran the True Directions conversion therapy camp:
“There were 12 boys, and 12 girls. The first Sunday I was there, I was forced to sit in their church service, which was nothing but hate speech. Then, on Monday, the heavier therapy began. We were forced to masturbate to heterosexual images and soft-core pornography, such as Sports Illustrated swimsuit models. Twice a week, my hands were hooked up to electrodes for two hours at a time while we were shown positive images such as a nuclear family, a female with children, a male construction worker and a female receptionist. I was also subjected to forced IV injections twice a week for two hours each while being made to watch negative images of what they didn’t approve of. … The injections made me vomit uncontrollably. Every Friday and Saturday evening, we were forced to go on ‘flirting dates’ where a camp counselor coached us on how to talk to the opposite sex romantically. … We were also given uniforms to wear, black pants and white shirts for boys, black skirts and white blouses for girls.”
Doyle wrote in his article, “As a former homosexual and practitioner of Sexual Orientation Change Effort (SOCE) therapy, I had never heard of such inhumane treatment, except from anti-ex-gay activists who often claim that SOCE employs such barbaric methods.” So he did further research to see if he could verify any of Goldani’s account.
The Assemblies of God in Ohio denied that any such camp existed, or that they had ever participated in such activities. The state government of Ohio could find no record that a camp named “True Directions” had ever existed there. Goldani claimed that her family’s church in New Jersey had paid for him to go to the camp for a month and a half, but the pastor of the church scoffed at the idea that they would ever have done such a thing.
Doyle did find one reference to a “gay conversion camp” called “True Directions,” though. It was part of the plot of a fictional 1999 movie called But I’m a Cheerleader, which starred drag queen RuPaul. It would be hard to conclude anything other than that Goldani took the plot of this far-fetched movie, and tried to pass it off as her own life story.
The latest debate over the issue occurred on June 27 at a committee hearing on a bill similar to the California and New Jersey measures that has been introduced in the District of Columbia. You can read my account of the hearing on the Family Research Council Blog, and my testimony on the FRC website.
One of the witnesses at that hearing who testified in support of the proposed ban was Dr. Gregory Jones, who introduced himself as a “gay identified” licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in “Affirmative LGBTQ Mental Health.”
“Sam Brinton says that his father first tried physical abuse to rid his young son of homosexual feelings. When that didn’t work, Brinton’s parents turned to something called reparative therapy. Some of the memories are hazy more than 10 years later, but Brinton does remember the tactics the counselor used. There was talk therapy, about how God disapproved, and there was aversion therapy, during which pictures of men touching men would be accompanied by the application of heat or ice. “It was pretty much mental torture,” Brinton says. “To this day, I still have light pain when I shake hands with another male.”
I had seen the Time article — and it, in turn rang a bell. The name of Sam Brinton had first come to my attention the week before that, when a piece appeared in Politico that was authored by John Paulk. In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, John and his wife Anne were former homosexuals who worked for Focus on the Family promoting the ex-gay message. In 2003, they fled the spotlight to move to Oregon, where John opened a catering business.
John Paulk has now renounced his ex-gay advocacy and, apparently, returned to homosexuality. (Anne Paulk, his now-estranged wife remains active in the ex-gay movement.)
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A sidebar article accompanied John Paulk’s piece in Politico: “Gay-Conversion Therapy: How It Works (Or Doesn’t),” By Elizabeth F. Ralph.
It included this:
One former patient described his course of electroconvulsive therapy, in use today, as “The Month of Hell.” The treatment, he told the Huffington Post, “consisted of tiny needles being stuck into my fingers and then pictures of explicit acts between men would be shown and I’d be electrocuted.”
This refers to Samuel Brinton, a Kansas State student whose story was reported almost three years ago in the Huffington Post:
QUOTE [emphasis added]
“I grew up as the son of Southern Baptist missionaries and without knowing what the word “gay” was (we just called them abominations) I asked my father why I was feeling attracted to my best friend, Dale. I don’t remember the second punch but I do remember waking up in the emergency room for the third time asking the doctors not to send me back and telling them that I had not fallen down the stairs again. When “punching the gay out” didn’t work we moved to conversion therapy. Being told I had AIDS and was going to die if the government found me was only the beginning. I would be strapped down with blocks of ice or heating pads placed on my hands while pictures of men holding hands were shown. The conversion ended when I told my parents I was straight to stop the electrocution by needles in my fingers while gay sex acts where shown to me. When I would later come back out to them for a second time I was told never to walk back in that house if I wanted to walk out alive.
“I tell you the story of my conversion therapy not for dramatic effect but to explain why I do what I do. I cannot let another child go through that torture because their parents think this is the only way to have a normal child.
Brinton received an award from “Campus Pride,” the college LGBT group, for sharing his horror story of therapy. This report was so shocking that even some pro-“gay” media tried to verify this report — and couldn’t.
Even Wayne Besen, the most rabid “anti-ex-gay” activist, refused to use his story because it remains unverified. Here’s the full statement Besen posted in the comments section of the Queerty article which questioned Brinton’s story.
QUOTE [emphasis added]
Samuel came forward and told a story presumably in an effort to help others. There are groups like mine who would be thrilled to use his example to demonstrate the harm caused by “ex-gay” therapy. We live for real life examples like this.
However, until he provides more information to verify his experience, he makes it impossible for us to use him as an example. Indeed, it would be grossly irresponsible for us to do so.
If a group like mine puts out or promotes a story that turns out to be exaggerated or fake, the religious right would rake us through the coals and by extension the entire LGBT community. This would cast an ominous shadow on all of the legitimate ex-ex-gay testimonies that have helped so many people come out of the closet.
So, for the sake of the movement he is trying to help — it is critical that Sam reveal exactly who the therapist was that tortured him. He could do this publicly or privately, but we need more information before we can use his narrative.
We very much hope he will provide enough information so we can help people by sharing his compelling story.
Truth Wins Out
Oct 11, 2011 at 8:51 pm
Here is part of Brinton’s reply to Besen:
I was indirectly in contact with Wayne and although I know he wants me to send the information of the therapist that is simply not an option. Counselor after counselor has seen me revert to near suicidal tendencies when I try to dig deep into the memories of that time and I simply don’t have his name. I can picture him clear as day in my nightmares but his name is not there. The movement can’t use me I guess.
I have no problem with people not believing my story. It is not for me to try to prove. I don’t want to be the poster-child of the anti-conversion therapy movement since graduate school at MIT is plenty tough as it is.
. . .
Oct 14, 2011 at 2:11 am
Brinton’s memory does not seem to have gotten any better since 2011, since Time reports “Some of the memories are hazy more than 10 years later.” And he seems to have dropped the claim that he was electrocuted as part of his therapy (or perhaps even Time thought that strained credulity). Yet what even Wayne Besen said would be “grossly irresponsible” (using Brinton as an example), Time is perfectly willing to do, thus making Brinton exactly what he coyly claimed he didn’t want to be — “the poster-child of the anti-conversion therapy movement.”
Reprinted with permission from FRC blog.