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"Ex-Gay" Groups Targeting Kids: NGLTF Report

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) has released a report entitled, Youth in the Crosshairs: The Third Wave of Ex-Gay Activism. It is, quite frankly, one of the best reports on "ex-gay" groups (again, I don't even dignify them with the word "ministry") I have read.

I was disappointed by the NGLTF's Calculated Compassion (1998) and A Report From 'Love Won Out: Addressing, Understanding, and Preventing Homosexuality (2005) because I felt as though the content of the report did not go far enough in refuting the lies of "ex-gay" groups, but instead focused on describing what these groups actually do. Yes, we know these groups are bad and that they say outrageous things about queer people. What we want to hear is what's wrong with these ideas and how to respond to them.

Youth in the Crosshairs is quite good in dealing with "ex-gay" charlatanry because in many instances the authors of the report (Jason Cianciotto and Sean Cahill) go into detail, spelling out methodological flaws with anti-gay "science" and pointing to better, more scientifically legitimate studies. For instance, often right-wingers will say that sexual molestation is a major reason that people are queer. There is one widely cited study that purports to show this. Cianciotto and Cahill point out that the statistical samples pulled by the authors of this study were wildly different and that numerous relevant questions about the samples were unanswered (pp. 53-54). The heterosexual sample was pulled from surveys distributed in the classroom at universities, and the queer people's sample was pulled from people who went to a booth a gay pride celebration (and we know nothing about what the signs on this booth said, or what). That's almost like distributing surveys to members of college LGBT groups and to straight people at frat parties and then making generalizations about queer and straight people! But this is the kind of "research" that "ex-gay" pseudoscience is based on. Another juicy tidbit of info about this "study" is that it was coauthored by Donald I. Templer, a man who supports the racial inferiority theories of Charles Murray and Richard Hernnstein, authors of The Bell Curve (pp. 55-56)! So, while it shouldn't surprise us, the Christian Right is citing the research of open eugenicists and racists. Like I said in another post, racists and homophobes are two peas in a pod. It also shows that the methodology of eugenics and anti-queer "research" is similar.

Sadly, when it comes to how to respond to "ex-gay" groups, the report falls short. The report asks on p. 91: "...what can be done to protect people, particularly minors?" As a solution, the authors suggest victims of these groups seek legal help and presumably file lawsuits against "ex-gay" groups. While I certainly believe that individuals have the right to sue these groups, and the study certainly provides some good suggestions on what legal and ethical arguments one could use (pp. 85-89; 91-92), this strategy by itself will probably have very limited success. "Ex-gay" groups have been successful in thwarting stronger action against them by the scientific community by citing "free speech" and religious freedom.

If we want the scientific community and the State to take more aggressive action, the key is to create a sense of public outcry, and to force the media to look at the scientific facts, not the rhetoric of "ex-gay" groups. Cianciotto and Cahill cited "public outcry" (p. 5) against Love in Action, an "ex-gay" cult in Tennessee as the reason that the state launched an investigation into the group. But it failed to mention the grassroots efforts of local activists, particularly queer youth, in organizing this "public outcry." In fact, it took quite some time for the mainstream LGBT press to even take notice of this battle. It wasn't the mainstream LGBT organizations that were responsible for the response to LIA, but queer youth's own self-organization. Grassroots organization of the community has an important role to play in the opposition to "ex-gays" (and in advancing the interests of the queer community in general), but the NGLTF report fails to suggest this, let alone offer ideas on how to organize.

The fact that the NGLTF even did this report shows that they rightly perceive the danger of this new youth-focused strategy of "ex-gay" organizations. But if we truly believe that "ex-gay" groups are entering a new and dangerous phase, mainstream LGBT groups are going to have to do more than issue angry press releases. This ties into what we at have been discussing and debating this week. The undeserved prominence of "ex-gay" groups and their ability to target youth with virtual impunity shows how the over-prioritization of same-sex marriage and other "mainstream" issues has hindered us. A response to these kinds of insidious attacks by the Right will require the grassroots mobilization and engagement of our community that involves confrontation and protest. This can only happen if a large part of the community's resources are put into logistical, financial and legal support for largely local grassroots mobilizations--which will necessarily mean less resources are poured into mainstream, lobbyist bureaucracies (like the HRC, NGLTF, GLAAD, etc.).

1 comment:

Mike H said...

I couldn't agree more. I think this is the real fight we have to take on. These people are abusers and the real victims of this abuse is youth. I am truly pissed at the lack of outcry I see about it. We organized an amazing protest here in St. Louis of the Love Won Out conference with only about 10 days of planning time. I am working on a website right now to detail the protest we had but to also speak out against Love Won Out. I'd like to see the website used as a forum to organize protests against the conference as it moves from city to city. Only time will tell if that will be acomplished. There was also quite a bit of a controversy locally over billboards Exodus had put up for the conference being defaced. The group organizing the protest did not deface the billboards. However I had no problems personally with what was done to one of them. You can see that billboard at: