I've been doing ex-gay activism for over a decade. One of the most painful things about this work is repeatedly encountering the refusal of even fellow conservatives to make effective use of ex-gay information.
There are two "pro-gay" movements. The first was the movement to decriminalize homosexual and transgender activity. Overlapping with it is the movement to achieve equal status, social and legal, for homosexual and transgenderism relative to normal sexuality. Not too many people want re-criminalization. I do not. But gay-egalitarianism is another matter.
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The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality was founded in 1992. It builds on scientific research and clinical experience going back to the time of Freud. Other secular organizations also provide information and psychotherapeutic/psychoeducational services on the subject. Two I have particular respect for are the International Healing Foundation and People Can Change.
Concerning the nature, causes, prevention and healing of homosexuality and transgenderism, the basic facts are these: These conditions indicate deep-seated gender self-alienation. This is generally caused by faulty bonding and identification with the same-sex parent figure, starting at age 2 or before. Homosexual feelings are the mind's automatic attempt to heal the same-sex emotional breach. Transgender feelings result from automatic identification with an opposite-sex figure filling the emotional vacuum left by the same-sex figure. Healing is achieved psychodynamically, by getting in touch with buried feelings of shame, anxiety, depression and rage; releasing those feelings deeply; forming healthy, platonic same-sex bonds; and learning to appreciate one's natural gender without caricaturing it.
Hundreds of attempts on my part to urge conservative politicians, media people and activists to combat gay-egalitarianism with ex-gay information and argumentation have been without discernible success. I've thought very hard about why this is. Here are my conclusions:
- They are afraid of being seen as mean-spirited, prudish or intrusive, with socially and politically unfavorable results.
- They feel antagonistic or ambivalent toward psychodynamic psychology, which focuses on the unconscious mind, its vulnerability to being shaped by social experience and its power to override conscious, mature judgment.
- They see it as unethical to subject prominent figures like the Cheneys and the Schaflys, with their respective homosexual children, to embarrassment.
- They see it as politically dangerous to risk alienating Republicans and swing voters by taking the ex-gay stand.
- They are banking on the hope that gay-egalitarianism can be reversed or contained through focusing on other tacks, such as majority rights, states' rights to set "heterocentrist" policy and religious liberty.
- They have given up on "gay" issues, and prefer to focus on abortion and other issues.
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This is why they're wrong:
- If social conservatism is going to gain ground, there needs to be a maturing of moral judgment in the American population as a whole. Conservatives must make their case in the most intellectually solid way possible, and keep making it. A condition based on what is essentially early-life emotional trauma is not the state of liberty our founders intended. Nor, as some libertarians would have it, is disregard for natural law in social and legal rule-making. Further, the power exercised by the left with the help of leftist-dominated social-science organizations like the American Psychiatric Association is tyranny, pure and simple. The short-term result of doing the right thing will be plentiful castigation – "American Taliban" is a label we've already received. But the longterm result will be the persuasion of more and more people that our way is both wise and just.
- To understand the psychodynamic causes of morally undesirable actions and inclinations is not to excuse them socially or legally. Punishment can be justified as a society's need to set moral and social limits whether the offender could "help" acting as he or she did or not. Indeed, if conservatives would work to see that the private sector provided quality psychodynamic psychotherapy to those who currently can't find or afford it – and this includes not only adults but children, with or without their parents' cooperation – they would see the rate of social dysfunction across the board go way down. This, in turn, would lead to less demand for tax-supported services, both criminal-justice and social.
- It's morally and prudentially indefensibly to put a blackout on communication about a psychological-behavioral problem merely because a respected conservative or Republican has that problem him or herself, or has a child with that problem. A problem dealt with promptly and effectively can be eliminated with minimum personal and political damage. In any case, our integrity precludes changing the rules when they touch our personal interest.
- Over the past four decades, evading the ex-gay facts in favor of other legal approaches has not worked. It will not work.
- With a comprehensive approach, and the willingness to commit mass, sustained civil disobedience to all gay-egalitarian laws, we can eradicate gay-egalitarianism from our culture and laws. There will be a heavy price, but we can do it.
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. We can best flatter our forefathers by imitating them – by pledging to this just and vital cause our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor. I say, forward.
Sharon Kass is a writer and activist based in Washington, D.C. She focuses on mental health, education, child development and culture-wars politics.