Thursday, August 6, 2009

Gay to straight? Fuggedaboutit say psychs, go for it says "religion"

Some ministries just don't get it.
Late last night CNN reported that the American Psychological Assocation, meeting this week in Toronto, said that a peer review of 87 studies between 1960 and 2007 demonstrates it is just not possible to use psychiatric treatment to "treat" homosexuality or to try to transform someone from gay or lesbian to straight. In fact, trying to do so can actually cause more harm than good, in the worst case scenario loss of sexual identity all together, loss of appetite or even suicidal thoughts. It's worth pointing out homosexuality was dropped from the list of mental illnesses from the DSM back in 1975, thirty-four years ago, but the perception of wrong is still widespread.

(Report in PDF here.)

While there are cases where someone has themselves come to the conclusion that they are not homosexual but heterosexual -- or vice versa -- and I don't deny the personal stories that do exist along this line, the whole idea of coercion or even "counselling" for what so many see as an inherent "wrong" is just so unseemly that it probably wouldn't deserve further comment; were it not for the resurgence of religious groups who think one can be counselled out of what they still think is either a mental illness or even worse demon possession that must be driven "out", so to speak. Does anyone remember the late Jerry Falwell holding a "Coming Out of Homosexuality" event on the same day as "Coming Out Day"?
One of these groups is called Exodus International. Actually a coalition of some 250 ministries, it claims it has been able to "convert" about ⅓ of its clients. I have to wonder about that. Were the switches genuine, or were they forced? Personally, I think that it's mostly the latter.
The APA does note that some homosexuals who come to the conclusion that their choice of lifestyle is "wrong" for religious reasons do need counselling, but of the appropriate kind. This includes reducing the stigma associated with the lifestyle as well as respecting their religious beliefs and working that into the counselling rather than as a separate issue.
Besides which, people who are gay and lesbian offer as much to the community as heterosexuals. They live, work, parent, contribute to the communities they live in, even serve as police officers or combat personnel. Why do some continue to stamp people who are "different" with the badge of offence? Is it hatred, or could it be just the fear that they could actually be befriended by a genuine person with a good heart?
From the Catholic perspective, there appears to be a contradiction in the official line. Article 2357 of the Cathecism states outright that "homosexual acts are instrinsically disordered," but acknowledges how one becomes gay or lesbian in the first place is still largely unexplained. It calls for respect for homsexuals and that "every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided" (2358), but then insists those who are gay or lesbian should remain celibate (2359).

Fat chance; back in high school during the 1980s I knew for a fact quite a few of my classmates were homosexual and were even openly affectionate about it on school property, and nothing happened to them. Nor did the majority of us who were straight think any less of them or that they didn't have it all "up there." This was at a time when sexual orientation had just been added to Ontario's Human Rights Code, despite the very open opposition of the province's Catholic bishops. (Did they even bother to read the Cathecism in seminary when they were training to be priests, or just listening to what they wanted to hear? I have to wonder.)

Like on many other issues, such as the HPV vaccine (which I wrote on here and here), the bishops are so out of step with the laity on currents that it way past the point of being funny anymore because it is not and never has been; and even the Catholic school boards in the province have acknowledged the necessity of the vaccine for teenage girls -- knowing that despite teaching about abstinence before marriage most of their students are sexually active and it protects students who are both straight and homosexual, not to mention as acting as a line of defence against some STDs if a teenage girl is unfortunately raped.
It's not a stretch to imagine that some bishops still think that having an attraction to someone of the same sex is a mental illness. The same bishops who kept moving priests around so they could avoid prosecution for raping altar boys and persons of both sexes at schools of all sorts, who may have in fact contributed to those students become gay or lesbian in the first place. What utter hypocrisy. Let's not forget, at least one of them, Cardinal Bernard Law, the one-time civil rights activist and former archbishop of Boston who was forced to resign in disgrace over this, and who faces possible prosecution in Massachusetts for obstruction of justice, now has a top post at the Vatican (pratically a reward for what he did) and as a citizen of the Holy See while he acts for the Pope has diplomatic immunity. Give me a break, and talk about talking out of both sides of the mouth!
If someone is gay or lesbian, then just let them be that way. Throwing religion into the mix makes it so much worse that it defeats the purpose, which after all is supposed to be about compassion and accepting people of all kinds even if we individually disagree with their personal beliefs or lifestyles.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very good article, I really enjoyed reading it. It makes a lot of good points. I my self being a homosexual.