11 Dec 2010

Undercover investigation prompts British Medical Assn. to call for ban of discredited, harmful gay conversion therapies

Secular News Daily - July 4, 2010

British Medical Association labels gay conversion therapy harmful, discredited


Following a year-long undercover investigation by a reporter, the British Medical Association has determined that “gay conversion therapy” is not therapy, is more harmful to patients than helpful, and should be banned.

Journalist Patrick Strudwick posed as a patient seeking “gay conversion therapy” or “reparative therapy” for a year. In his report on his experience, he described what amounted to psychological torture; Strudwick went to two conversion therapists. One, a Christian, focused on turning him to focus on her god and tried hard to convince Strudwick he’d been sexually abused. The other focused on explaining to Strudwick that he was somehow “wounded”, and that he had to find the source of those “wounds” to discover the roots of his sexuality.

Both of these “therapists” were licensed and receiving funds via the NHS. Strudwick learned that they use methods created by Joseph Nicolosi, the Christian Evangelical American founder of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.

The British Medical Association has determined that such “therapies” have been discredited, are damaging to patient, and should be banned. The Association’s membership further agreed that the NHS should investigate any cases of such conversion therapies, and terminate any public funding to such practices.

Tom Dolphin, vice-chair of BMA’s junior doctors committee, proposed the motion. “Sexuality is such a fundamental part of who a person is, that attempts to change it just result in significant confusion, depression and even suicide. You can’t just wish away same-sex attraction no matter how inconvenient it might be,” says Dolphin.

Strudwick commented on the successful motion, “My undercover investigation for The Independent, [see article below] which prompted this motion, highlighted the fact that not only are psychiatrists and psychotherapists still peddling these abhorrent techniques, but that in some cases the NHS are paying for it.

“Hopefully, anyone involved in the so-called treatment of homosexuality will realize that the medical profession considers them dangerous charlatans, and will reconsider their beliefs. I also sincerely hope that any vulnerable gay person who is unhappy about their sexuality takes notice of this motion and realizes that it is the world that needs to change, not them.”


This article was found at:

http://www.secularnewsdaily.com/2010/07/04/british-medical-association-labels-gay-conversion-therapy-harmful-discredited/

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The Independent - UK February 1, 2010

The ex-gay files: The bizarre world of gay-to-straight conversion

Is homosexuality a form of mental illness? A small but evangelical band of psychotherapists believe that it is - and they're on a mission to 'heal' the afflicted. Patrick Strudwick enters the bizarre world of gay-to-straight conversion


In Britain today therapists are trying to convert gay men and women to heterosexuality. I know this, because for several months I infiltrated this network of therapists and put myself - a happy, "out" gay man - through treatment.

According to a report by Professor Michael King of University College London, one in six UK psychiatrists and psychotherapists have sought to reduce or change a patient's sexual orientation. And with the help of the American conversion therapy movement, practitioners here, along with a clutch of international "conversion" organisations, are becoming co-ordinated and unified. They plan to gain credibility, university backing and government funding. In some cases, the NHS is even paying for the treatment.

This is despite the fact that homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual - psychiatry's glossary of conditions - 36 years ago. And despite much evidence that such practices are damaging and ineffective.

My investigation began last spring, shortly after King's report was published, when an evangelical group held a conference in a central London church for therapists wanting to learn how to "reorient" their patients. I wanted to know who these therapists were, what happened during the treatment, and what effect it would have on the recipient. I posed as a potential client wanting to be cured.

***

Two hulking security guards search me on my way in. Inside, there are two large lecture halls with more than 100 delegates. They are mostly men; they seem subdued, waiting for the show to start. Tables at the back of the hall display books on how to make people heterosexual.

The keynote speaker is Dr Joseph Nicolosi, an American psychologist and the author of some of the movement's core texts. He is the founder of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), one of the biggest international conversion organisations. He has a cropped beard and wears a crisp suit.

"Homosexual behaviour is always prompted by loneliness," he tells the rapt audience with big gestures and a dramatic voice, "It's a pathology, a struggle to connect with the male identity."

His thesis is faintly Freudian: a distant father and an overbearing mother create deep wounds in a child, which lead to homosexuality. He speaks about the work at his own Californian conversion clinic. "We advise fathers, 'If you don't hug your sons, some other man will.' We train the mothers to back off.'"

During the lunch break gay protesters gather outside the venue, kept back by a police cordon. I can hear the din of the chanting and the whistle-blowing. The organisers advise us to stay inside.

I approach a psychiatrist, David, who had earlier asked a question from the floor, to see if he will treat me for my homosexuality. David tells me he runs a clinic which helps men "reach their heterosexual potential". He won't treat lesbians. "I have resolved my own sexuality," he says, explaining that he is now married with children, and gives me his business card: it reads, "I took the road less travelled." David points out a female psychotherapist who also practices conversion therapy, so I go over and introduce myself - I call myself Matthew.

She looks homely and her hair is greying. Her name is Lynne. She too gives me her business card. She is a fully accredited member of the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP), the largest of the psychotherapy bodies.

After the conference I look David up online. As I'm researching his practice and qualifications, I see a reference to Iris Robinson, the scandal-stricken Ulster MP who in 2008 famously compared homosexuality to child abuse. In an interview with the BBC, she mentioned she knew a "lovely psychiatrist" who "tries to help homosexuals to run away from what they are engaged in." For the next step in my "treatment", I contact David and Lynne to arrange one-on-one sessions.

***

I have a dictaphone taped to my stomach as I arrive at Lynne's large house, north of London. She had told me beforehand that she would charge me £40 per session and that she always prayed at the beginning and end of the sessions. I'm shown into a spacious living room.

"I love my work and in particular this whole area of SSA [same sex attraction]," she says, as we sit down. "It's such an important area to work in." She has a wholesome face and the suburban air of someone who, when not trying to convert you to heterosexuality, would probably be rustling up a jolly good Victoria sponge. Like those at the conference, she doesn't say "gay"; she only uses the term "SSA".

I ask how she views homosexuality - as a mental illness, an addiction or an anti-religious phenomenon?

"It's all of that," she replies.

And then we pray. "Oh Father, we give you permission to work in Matthew's life to bring complete light and healing into every part of his being." After asking God to heal me, she opens her eyes. "I know the boundaries to keep within," she says.

She begins by asking me about my psychological history. I tell her that I was depressed as a teenager because I feared I would face prejudice for the rest of my life.

Can I learn to not feel attraction to men?

"Yes," she replies, "because that attraction is connected to a deep need that needs to be met and responded to and healed."

But how do I instead become attracted to women? Lynne explains that it's about "reprogramming" and going back into my early developmental stages. "Parts of you have developed but there is a little part of you that has stayed stuck," she says.

Oh, like being retarded?

"It is a bit like that," she agrees.

Lynne asks why I have come for treatment. I tell her that I'm tired of meaningless sexual encounters and that I have rediscovered my faith. She gets a whiteboard out and starts writing my words up on it. "I can't deal with the meaningless anymore," she says as she scrawls. "Hmm. Good sentiment."

"Are you feeling quite lustful with the SSA?" she asks. I reply that I am - but not just lust. In my last relationship, I say, I felt profound love towards my boyfriend. "That needs to be broken," she says. "There's a darkness that's very real that keeps you as its dog, but of course our God is more powerful than that."

Lynne's approach is two-pronged. She gives practical advice to intercept my sexual feelings towards men and, in keeping with Nicolosi's theories, delves into my past to search for my "wounds". These, she says, will explain why I turned to homosexuality.

She begins her wound hunt by asking about my family. I tell her that I have a close relationship with my parents and that they always gave me huge amounts of love, so I didn't understand why Nicolosi says that homosexuality is caused by inadequate parenting. "Well, there was something happening within your family dynamics that led to your depression," she says.

Lynne explains that people only identify as gay when they are already depressed. "There's a confusion, there's an anxiety, there's a lot of pain," she says. "Often the thought can be, 'Oh I'm confused about my sexuality so I must be gay'." She says that at the heart of homosexuality is a "deep isolation", which is, she says, "where God needs to be".

"Did you have a difficult birth?" she asks. No, I say. Why?

"It's just something I have noticed. Often [with homosexuality] it is quite traumatic, the baby was put into intensive care and because of the separation from the mother there can be that lack of attachment."

She moves on. "Any Freemasonry in the family?" No, I say, again asking her to elaborate. "Because that often encourages it as well. It has a spiritual effect on males and it often comes out as SSA."

Next, she looks for self-esteem wounds. "I think you have some unhelpful thoughts about yourself, about who you are," she says. "What do you think about yourself? In the deepest part of you, in your stomach."

"I think I'm a good person," I reply. She wants more. "I think I am a determined person." Still not enough. "I think I've a lot to give."

"But do you like yourself?" she asks, becoming impatient.

"I think I'm a good person," I repeat.

"Yes that's different though from 'do you like yourself?' Deep underneath this there's other stuff we need to get to. I think you must have had quite a lot of bullying." No, I say. "There was no sexual abuse?" she asks, leaning in and squinting again. No, I repeat. "I think it will be there," she replies, dropping her voice to a concerned tone. "It does need to come to the surface."

And so, she prays for me again. "Father, we give you permission to bring to the surface some of the things that have happened over the years. Father, enable your love to pour into that place of isolation in that little boy, whatever age, we give you permission to go there, with your healing power and your light, go into those parts, open all the doors, and access each one with your light."

She looks up. I ask her again about this abuse. "I think there is something there," she says. "You've allowed things to be done to you." In the next session I ask if she thinks the abuse would have taken place within my family, because I can't remember it. "Yes, very likely," she replies.

The following session takes place on the phone as Lynne is abroad. This time, she focuses on the practical. She recommends that I distance myself from my gay friends and take up a sport such as rugby.

I ask what I should do about masturbation - is it best to abstain completely? "It is, it definitely is," she says. "It will be a battle, but the more you can say no to it, the stronger you get. The enemy is going to bombard you."

She tells me what to say internally when I think about an attractive man: "Father I need help, I know it's wrong, you have all the power over my thoughts and I give that image to you Father, and I ask that you will help me to put the right image in my mind."

Lynne recommends I read a book called Setting Love in Order by Mario Bergner, an "ex-gay". In it, he claims that through prayer he also managed to cure himself of HIV. So with prayer can an HIV-positive person really become negative? "Well the Lord heals, doesn't he?" she replies. "Are you HIV-positive?"

It transpires during the sessions that she gets most of her clients through an NHS GPs' surgery near her home. She says they refer people to her for treatment for their homosexuality. I tell her I know someone in that area that wants referring, should he just say its for anxiety and depression? "I think it would be better to say anxiety and depression initially and then we can take it from there," she replies. "He can usually get four sessions with the practice, which are paid for by the NHS."

At the end of the session I ask about my chances of success with this treatment. "It's down to what you want," she says. "Good will come out of this. The Lord will lead us through."

***

I am being cured of my homosexuality via Skype. We use webcams throughout to see each other. David holds my gaze constantly. There are more psychotherapeutic models and theories and a little bit less God, but the agenda is the same: you have been wounded.

Like Lynne, David takes a psychological history. He asks me why I'm seeking treatment and says that, with a bit more investigation, he can tell me why I became gay.

His prognosis is optimistic. "One third of people change completely," he says, "one third of people experience significant change, and one third don't experience change. Those people may have been more deeply wounded." He says you have to find the wounding in order to move forward.

So he sets about finding mine. But this isn't his only tool - his central thesis is that you have to replace homosexual sex with what he calls, "the Four Intimacies: intimacy with God, intimacy with oneself, intimacy with the masculine and intimacy with the feminine." By strengthening your relationships in all these areas, and particularly by having more platonic contact with men, he says, your need for sexual contact is negated.

David sets out an action plan. He recommends I join Christian men's groups. "Often there are [for homosexuals] a lot of wounds around masculine community," he explains. He also gives me "exercises" to do. These include standing in front of the mirror naked, touching and "affirming" myself. He makes another such suggestion. "A man may choose to go for a massage as a way of having healthy contact [with another man]," he says.

In the next session I tell him I have followed his advice. "It made me aroused," I say about the massage.

"An erection is just an erection," he replies. "All that indicates is that your body has been programmed that [sex] is the only way men have physical intimacy."

But how do I interrupt lustful thoughts?

"The attraction isn't the problem," he says. "It's the story that you tell yourself of what the attraction means. Ask yourself why you find a man attractive. Is it because he's got broad shoulders? Well, what do the broad shoulders mean to you?"

He then asks if I know the work of someone called Elizabeth Moberly. "She talks about the cannibalistic nature of homosexual sex," he says. Cannibalistic? I ask. "If I see you're a younger man," he explains, "and the story I tell myself is that younger men are fitter, or more powerful and I'm feeling particularly weak, then suddenly you have something that I want to possess."

"What kind of men do you find attractive?" he asks.

"I don't have a type," I say. He looks displeased. "Sometimes when I was younger I went for older men," I add. He asks me about my childhood. I tell him it was happy. "Any big traumas?" he asks. No, I say. "Any sexual or physical abuse?" Again, he finds nothing.

"Tell me about your father." I say that he was great, supportive and that we are very different. He is scientific and introverted, whereas I am more like my mother: creative, extrovert. This is a breakthrough.

"So in your mind there's something that says, 'I'm like mum, but dad's over there, he's different from me,' so there hasn't been that gender-affirming process. When puberty kicks in, those natural needs for masculinity become sexualised. Suddenly older men want to have sex with you, and it's pretty intoxicating. That's what's lead you down the line of homosexuality.

"But the men you were having sex with or falling in love with are just as wounded as you," he adds. "They cannot complete you in the same way as a woman. What would complete you is sex with a heterosexual man but a heterosexual man isn't going to want to have sex with you, so it's that desire to get what you can never obtain."

So is homosexuality a pathology? "It does represent a pathology," he replies. "Often the dynamics behind it aren't healthy. God's intention for us is to have an opposite-sex relationship."

I suddenly remember his wife and children. "You're very much a success story then," I say.

"Well, I mean it works," he replies. "I never went down the line of gay identifying, it was something I experienced that I had disgust around and I always wanted to be married and have kids."

What about his same sex feelings now? "Sometimes if I'm not looking after myself then that can bring up a sexual charge," he replies, "but it's not a big issue for me now, it's more unhealthy patterns of porn and masturbation, if I'm feeling a bit flat."

In the following session I tell David I've had sexual thoughts about him. "Thank-you for being honest," he replies with a small laugh. "I'm trying to model unconditional love for you, so it is very natural that you would have sexual thoughts related to that. Although we're doing this over the internet, there is still a potential for a sexual connection. So there's probably a part of your mind that's thinking that through."

"Do you have to deal with sexual feelings towards men you're working with?" I ask.

"I get echoes of it sometimes," he replies. "I'd be lying if I said I didn't."

I tell him that I had tried the standing-in-front-of-the-mirror-naked technique that he recommended, but, like the massage, it had aroused me. "I would be surprised if you didn't experience sexual feelings," he says. And with that he starts to "affirm" me.

"I think you're a brave man," he says. "I think you're really strong in terms of being willing to look at your life and who you really are, and you also look as if you look after yourself in terms of your body. How do you feel being affirmed in this way by another man?"

I say that when men compliment me on my appearance it triggers sexual feelings. He probes again, asking me how I'm feeling as he talks about my body. Aroused, I repeat. But rather than moving away from this apparent sexual trigger, he asks if we can do an "exercise" around it. I agree.

"Close your eyes and focus on that arousal you're feeling down in your genitals," he says. "I want you to hear, as a man, as I look at your body, I see strong shoulders and a strong chest, I see a man who has an attractive body and I want you just to notice the arousal you feel as you hear me talking about that. Imagine an energy and picture that energy as a colour, and make the brightness of the colour relate to the intensity of the sexual feeling, so you might be starting to get a bit of a hard on, you might be starting to feel an erection and that sexual energy, but I want you to just picture that as a coloured light. What colour would it be?"

Red, I say.

"I want you to imagine that red colour, that energy and listen to the affirmations that I see you as a strong, confident man, and I want you to move that red light from your genitals up into your chest to join that feeling of affirmation as a man, and as you breathe in that affirmation do you notice now what happens to the arousal?"

I tell him it's still there. We're at the end of the session. I ask who his supervisor is. He tells me that his supervisor is involved with "Richard Cohen's organisation".

Later, I do an internet search. Richard Cohen has been permanently expelled from the American Counseling Association. He founded the International Healing Foundation, a conversion organisation.

David then mentions that he is attending a meeting in London next week to discuss how to create a training school for therapists working in this field. I ask if I can come too.

A week later I am sitting round a table with the heads of every major British conversion organisation - some of whom are also therapists. We are in the bright, cramped London offices of Living Waters, an evangelical conversion association. Our special guest is Dr Jeffrey Satinover, 62, an American psychiatrist.

"We need to think of practical ideas for forming a training programme [for conversion therapists]," says Satinover. "We can learn a lot from what the Mormons did. They created a training programme and linked it with a university."

They decide that in order to gain such a link, and the credibility and funding that would go with it, their training school also needs to do research into the field.

"If I could get trainees doing a PhD in this area that would help, because that brings funding in," says David. "It's difficult to access money, but if we're clever there are ways." He talks about his conversion practice, and how it's funded. "We use people's private medical insurance," he says.

***

I phone Lynne. I explain that I'm a journalist. "Who is this please?" she says, confused, or in denial. I repeat myself and then read to her what the psychiatrist Professor Michael King from UCL had to say about her practices when I contacted him with transcripts of the sessions:

"This is grossly improper practice," he told me. "She's imposing prayer and using evidence-free techniques. The whole approach towards the subject of sexual abuse is extremely unprofessional. Leading [and] suggestion in a therapeutic situation is the absolute antithesis of what an exploration of sexual abuse should be about. It's the base of many of these false memory syndromes. She should not be able to get referrals from a GP. Her membership of the BACP should be immediately revoked."

Lynne is silent. Finally, she summons her defence. "When I take someone on, I work with the person's value system," she says. "You told me you were a Christian so that then means that I work in that person's value system. Everything I did was totally within the BACP's ethical framework."

I quote one of their guidelines: "Practitioners should not allow their professional relationships with clients to be prejudiced by any personal views they may hold about sexual orientation."

She hangs up. I phone the GP surgery and get through to one of the partners. Is it true his practice refers patients to Lynne to treat their homosexuality?

"That is not true," he says, before admitting that he has never had a discussion with the other partners in the practice about this. "If the patient said that's what they wanted we can't stop them going for help," he says.

Later I lodge a complaint with the BACP about Lynne.

David remains completely calm when I reveal I am a journalist. As with Lynne, I read out what King said about his practises:

"None of this would be recognised within psychiatric practice. No psychiatrist could ever justify explaining their fantasy life to a patient. It's not good practice to talk about your own psychotherapy or your own difficulties. He's encouraging an arousal during a session - it's like a hypnotic technique. I wonder what he's doing with patients - that he is at risk of crossing the line. My personal opinion is that he is going against every code of practice from the RCP. The College should withdraw his membership."

"All I can say is that I try my best to deliver a service to help people, to provide people with an alternative in terms of change," David replies. "It [his treatment] is only for people who come asking."

I lodge a complaint about David with the GMC.

The purpose of this investigation was to find out how conversion therapists operate. What I didn't expect was that I would learn how their patients feel: confused and damaged.

I began to constantly analyse why I found particular men attractive. Does that man represent something that's lacking in me? Do I want him because he looks strong which must mean I feel weak? Did something happen in my childhood? The therapists planted doubt and worry where there was none.

My experiences, I learn, are typical. I speak to Daniel Gonzalez, one of Nicolosi's former clients. "Conversion therapy is a very complicated form of repression," he says. "It's a way of convincing yourself that your same sex attractions have some alternate meaning. It continued to haunt me for years."

I also speak to Peterson Toscano, who spent 17 years in Britain and the US trying every different reorientation treatment available. He says simply: "It's psychological torture."

Some of the therapists' names have been changed.


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9 comments:

  1. Former Ex-Gay Ministry Leader Comes Out, Recants Previous Teachings

    by Zach Ford Think Progress October 11, 2011

    Love in Action (LIA) is one of the largest and oldest ex-gay ministries in existence, founded in 1973, the same year the American Psychiatric Association decided that homosexuality was no longer a mental illness. John Smid resigned as the group’s executive director in 2008, and since then has slowly beenrethinking his understandings of sexuality and his beliefs about homosexuality. In a new blog post last week, Smid has shown just how far he has come, acknowledging his own homosexuality (despite his loving marriage to his wife) and the fact that sexual orientation cannot be changed. Here are some of the key confessions Smid makes:

    NO ONE CHANGES: “One cannot repent of something that is unchangeable… I also want to reiterate here that the transformation for the vast majority of homosexuals will not include a change of sexual orientation.Actually I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual.”

    NOT JUST BEHAVIOR: “I used to define homosexuality or heterosexuality in terms describing one’s behavior. I thought it made sense and through the years often wrote articles and talked from that perspective. Today, I understand why the gay community had such an issue with my writings. My perspective denied so many facets of the homosexual experience. I minimized a person’s life to just their sexuality but homosexuality is much more than sex.”

    GAYS CAN BE CHRISTIAN: “I hear story after story of men and women who accept themselves as being gay, in Christ, and finally find that life makes sense to them. Many are able to then nurture an authentic relationship with Christ because they are being honest and authentic with themselves and finally are able to accept His love unconditionally which changes the dynamic of their understanding of Him. Far too many homosexuals who are seeking Christ perceive that they cannot come close to Him if they remain a homosexual. In this mindset they search feverishly for change that will not come to them.”

    I AM HOMOSEXUAL: ”I would consider myself homosexual and yet in a marriage with a woman. My sexual desires, attractions and lifelong struggle with common factors relating to homosexuality are pretty much all in the classification of homosexual. I tried my hardest to create heterosexuality in my life but this also created a lot of shame, a sense of failure, and discouragement. Nothing I did seemed to change me into a heterosexual even though I was in a marriage that included heterosexual behavior. Very often when I am in situations with heterosexual men I clearly see that there are facets of our lives that are distinctively different as it relates to our sexuality, and other things as well.”

    ...

    Hopefully, testimonies like Smid’s will help others open their eyes to the experience of LGBT people beyond what they’ve convinced themselves is “moral” or “best for society.”

    read the full comment with hyperlinks at:

    http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/678916/former_ex-gay_ministry_leader_comes_out%2C_recants_previous_teachings

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  2. End of the Ex-Gay Movement?

    by Michelle Goldberg Daily Beast Oct. 13, 2011

    Last week, John Smid, the former director of Love in Action, the country’s oldest and largest ex-gay ministry, acknowledged on his blog that, contrary to the claims of the movement he represented for decades, gay people cannot become straight. “I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual,” he wrote. He himself certainly has not. “I would consider myself homosexual and yet in a marriage with a woman,” he explained. He loves his wife and has no plans to leave her, but wrote, “this doesn’t change the fact that I am who I am and she is who she is.”

    Smid, who resigned from Love in Action in 2008, was just the latest ex-gay luminary to leave the movement, either voluntarily or in a cloud of scandal. His break with ex-gay orthodoxy is a sign that, even in the evangelical world, the notion that sexual orientation can be altered is increasingly crumbling in the face of reality. Evangelicals used to insist that “change is possible,” says Warren Throckmorton, a Grove City College psychology professor once associated with the ex-gay movement. “The new paradigm, I believe, is no, it doesn’t look like that works, and so you go with it, you accept it, and you try to make the best life you can in congruence with the rest of your beliefs,” he says.

    Though he didn’t realize it at the time, Smid’s journey away from the ex-gay movement began in 2005. That’s when 16-year-old Zach Stark posted on MySpace that his parents were forcing him into Love In Action’s boot camp-style residential rehab program in Memphis, setting off a nationwide uproar. The program cut people off from their old lives—the rulebook forbid “reading/watching/listening to secular media of any kind,” and even keeping a private journal was verboten. Time spent in the bathroom was monitored to prevent masturbation. Hoping to reach Stark in his isolation, protesters stood outside throughout much of the teenager’s eight-week stay.

    One of them, Morgan Jon Fox, eventually made a documentary about the confrontation, This Is What Love in Action Looks Like. Smid agreed to let Fox interview him, and their meeting had a deep, lasting impact.

    ...

    He also published an apology on his website, inviting those who’ve been through Love in Action to contact him. “If you have been wounded by me or harmed through the hands of my leadership; please come to me and allow an opportunity for me to personally apologize with the hope that we can both be released from the bondage of unforgiveness,” he wrote.

    Still, some who feel victimized by his organization say that Smid’s apology hasn’t gone far enough. “I don’t think he yet understands quite the damage and the harm he has done,” says Peterson Toscano, who spent two years in Smid’s program as an adult and later created a one-man show about it, “Doin’ Time In The Homo No Mo’ Halfway House.” “It was a very destructive process mentally, emotionally, spiritually, sexually—all across the board.” Toscano describes an incident when Smid, responding to a young man of 19 or 20 who wanted to leave the program, staged a mock funeral. The would-be defector had to lie still on a table while the other participants “talked about how terrible it was that he didn’t stick with God, and now look where he is, he’s dead because he left,” says Toscano.

    read the full article at:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/10/13/ex-gay-leader-john-smid-s-about-face.html

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  3. California bans teenage gay conversion therapy

    BBC News October 1, 2012

    California Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law a ban on therapy aimed at making gay teenagers straight.

    When the law comes into effect on 1 January, the Golden State will become the first to outlaw the practice for people under the age of 18.

    The bill was backed by mental health groups, and gay rights activists say reparative or "conversion therapy" can increase risk of depression or suicide.

    Counselling and prayer is used to help some Christians deal with gay urges.

    The bill was signed over the weekend along with more than 100 pieces of legislation sent to the governor by California's state legislature.

    'Junk science'

    In a statement, Mr Brown said sexual orientation change efforts "have no basis in science or medicine and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery".

    The Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group, said: "We're grateful to Governor Brown for standing with California's children.

    "LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] youth will now be protected from a practice that has not only been debunked as junk science, but has been proven to have drastically negative effects on their well-being," the gay rights advocate added, urging other states to take up similar measures.

    But the National Association for Research and Therapy on Homosexuality said the bill was a "legislative over-reach".

    Some conservative groups have said banning the therapy would restrict a parent's right to care for children going through gender confusion.

    California is embroiled in a long-standing legal tussle over gay marriage.

    A law called Proposition 8 banned same-sex marriage in California just months after it had been introduced. But a court overturned the ban in 2010.

    After an appeal was upheld, the matter may now come before the US Supreme Court for a final ruling.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-19789505

    ReplyDelete
  4. A Burning Question: Is Heterosexuality Illegal in California?

    by Don Terry, Southern Poverty Law Center October 3, 2012

    The headline is sensational and does what headlines are supposed to do – it grabs your attention:

    “California Bans Heterosexuality.”

    After my initial shock, I settled down and read the story under the headline and quickly learned, to my great relief, that the Golden State hasn’t really banned heterosexuality – at least not yet.

    The story turns out to be the latest anti-gay rant from Linda Harvey’s Columbus, Ohio-based website, Mission: America, whose subtitle is “Christian Commentary on the Culture.” Her outfit is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which publishes this blog.

    In this case, the commentary is about California Gov. Jerry Brown signing a bill on Saturday that made his state the first in the country to prohibit mental health providers from subjecting LGBT children and teens to therapy intended to change their sexual orientation.

    “This bill bans nonscientific ‘therapies’ that have driven young people to depression and suicide,” The New York Times quoted the governor as saying in a statement after he signed the bill into law. “These practices have no basis in science or medicine, and they will be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.”

    Needless to say, Mission: America sees the bill in a much different light.

    “California Governor Jerry Brown just signed a law that essentially removes choice for most teens with homosexual attractions, except to enter that sinful and high risk lifestyle,” the commentary says. “Counselors cannot warn them or steer them away from these desires.

    “What’s next, ‘LGBT’ loyalty oaths?”

    On her website, Harvey calls what she does a “media ministry’’ and an outgrowth of her “Christian faith and a successful career in journalism, marketing and public relations.” Her on-line bio goes on to say she founded Mission: America in 1995 as “a non-profit organization whose objective is to equip Christians with current, accurate information” – like California’s ban on heterosexuality? – “about cultural issues such as feminism, homosexuality, education and New Age influences.’’

    Gathered together on the site, under the heading “The ‘Gay’ Agenda Targeting Youth,” are some of the many articles she has written about her fears of a gay planet. They include: “How Homosexual Friends Can Influence Our Kids,” “Protecting Youth Against Homosexuality: A Plan for Churches,” and “Grooming Kids in a ‘Gay’ Identity is Like Penn State Abuse.’’

    Here’s another headline for you: “California Bans Heterosexual Bigots.” Come on, governor, the dustbin has plenty of room.

    http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2012/10/03/a-burning-question-is-heterosexuality-illegal-in-california/

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  5. Gay ‘Conversion Therapy’ Faces Test in Courts

    By ERIK ECKHOLM New York Times November 27, 2012

    Gay “conversion therapy,” which claims to help men overcome unwanted same-sex attractions but has been widely attacked as unscientific and harmful, is facing its first tests in the courtroom.

    In New Jersey on Tuesday, four gay men who tried the therapy filed a civil suit against a prominent counseling group, charging it with deceptive practices under the state’s Consumer Fraud Act.

    The former clients said they were emotionally scarred by false promises of inner transformation and humiliating techniques that included stripping naked in front of the counselor and beating effigies of their mothers. They paid thousands of dollars in fees over time, they said, only to be told that the lack of change in their sexual feelings was their own fault.

    In California, so-called ex-gay therapists have gone to court to argue for the other side. They are seeking to block a new state law, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September and celebrated as a milestone by advocates for gay rights, that bans conversion therapy for minors.

    In Sacramento on Friday, a federal judge will hear the first of two legal challenges brought by conservative law groups claiming that the ban is an unconstitutional infringement on speech, religion and privacy.

    Since the 1970s, when mainstream mental health associations stopped branding homosexuality as a disorder, a small network of renegade therapists, conservative religious leaders and self-identified “life coaches” has continued to argue that it is not inborn, but an aberration rooted in childhood trauma. Homosexuality is caused, these therapists say, by a stifling of normal masculine development, often by distant fathers and overbearing mothers or by early sexual abuse.

    An industry of “reparative therapy” clinics and men’s weekend retreats has drawn thousands of teenagers and adults who hope to rid themselves of homosexual urges, whether because of religious beliefs or family pressures.

    But leading scientific and medical groups say that the theories of sexuality are unfounded and that there is no evidence that core sexual urges can be changed. They also warn that the therapy can, in the words of the American Psychiatric Association, cause “depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior” and “reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.”

    Those conclusions will be at the center of the coming legal fights in the state and federal courts.

    In the spotlight in New Jersey are a counseling center called Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, or Jonah; its co-founder Arthur Goldberg; and an affiliated “life coach,” Alan Downing.

    Mr. Goldberg helped found Jonah in 1999, after he finished serving a prison sentence and probation for financial fraud he committed in the 1980s. The group describes itself as “dedicated to educating the worldwide Jewish community about the social, cultural and emotional factors that lead to same-sex attractions,” and says it “works directly with those struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions,” including non-Jews.

    While many Orthodox Jews consider homosexual relations to be a violation of divine law, Mr. Goldberg’s group has no official standing within Judaism, and many Jews accept homosexuality.

    Neither Mr. Goldberg nor Mr. Downing is licensed as a therapist, so they are not subject to censure by professional associations.

    The Southern Poverty Law Center, a rights group based in Montgomery, Ala., is bringing the suit on behalf of four former patients and two of their mothers, who say they paid thousands of dollars not only for useless therapy for their sons but also for more counseling to undo the damage.

    “The defendants peddled antigay pseudoscience, defaming gay people as loathsome and deranged,” said Sam Wolfe, a lawyer with the group.

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  6. The suit, filed in Superior Court in Hudson County, calls for monetary compensation and for a shutdown of Jonah.

    Mr. Goldberg and Mr. Downing did not respond to telephone and e-mail requests for comment.

    One former patient in the suit, Michael Ferguson, 30, who is now a doctoral candidate in neuroscience at the University of Utah, sought help from Jonah in 2008. He tried to battle his homosexuality, he said, when he was a practicing Mormon who believed that only those in a heterosexual marriage could achieve eternal bliss.

    Mr. Ferguson attended a retreat called Journey Into Manhood, where he shared what he called his “dark secret” with 40 other men. To be accepted among men who were also struggling with homosexuality was euphoric, he said, but that temporary high was not the promised first step toward becoming heterosexual.

    After months of $100 therapy sessions with Mr. Downing at Jonah’s offices in Jersey City, and after suffering from depression that led him to see a licensed psychotherapist elsewhere, Mr. Ferguson said, he realized that he was not changing.

    “It becomes fraudulent, even cruel,” he said in an interview. “To say that if you really want to change you could — that’s an awful thing to tell somebody.”

    “I was encouraged to develop anger and rage toward my parents,” he added. “The notion that your parents caused this is a horrible lie. They ask you to blame your mother for being loving and wonderful.”

    Another former patient in the suit, Chaim Levin, 23, grew up in an Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn where, he said, being gay seemed unthinkable.

    Referred to Jonah by a rabbi when he was 18, Mr. Levin began attending weekend retreats at $650 each. For a year and a half, he had weekly private sessions with Mr. Downing as well as weekly group sessions. He quit, he said, after Mr. Downing had him remove his clothes and touch himself, saying it would help him reconnect with his masculinity. Mr. Goldberg has defended Mr. Downing’s methods as sometimes appropriate for men dealing with body image problems.

    But Mr. Levin called the episode “degrading and humiliating.”

    Mr. Levin said that he was sexually abused by a relative between the ages of 6 and 10 and that Mr. Goldberg and Mr. Downing blamed the abuse for his homosexual attractions. “Saying the abuse made you gay is terrible,” Mr. Levin said. “Once I accepted that I was gay, I was able to focus on the more serious problem of a history of sex abuse.”

    Many of the same issues surrounding conversion therapy will be argued before federal judges in California as therapists, some represented by Liberty Counsel and others by the Pacific Justice Institute, seek to prevent the state ban from taking effect in January.

    Responding to the accusations of constitutional violations, a brief by the California attorney general’s office cited the extensive professional literature that discredits conversion therapy and said the new law barred harmful conduct but not speech or religion. Since the ban applies only to licensed therapists, religious counselors will not be affected.

    Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional expert and dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine, said, “The law is clear that the government can prohibit health care practices that are harmful or ineffective.”

    If the court accepts the scientific evaluation put forward by the state, he said, “the government is likely to prevail in the end.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/28/us/gay-conversion-therapy-faces-tests-in-courts.html

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  7. SPLC files groundbreaking lawsuit accusing conversion therapy organization of fraud

    Southern Poverty Law Center November 27, 2012

    The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit today accusing a New Jersey organization of consumer fraud for offering conversion therapy services – a dangerous and discredited practice that claims to convert people from gay to straight.

    The lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey, charges that Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), its founder, Arthur Goldberg, and counselor Alan Downing violated New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act by providing conversion therapy claiming to cure clients of being gay.

    It is the first time a conversion therapy provider has been sued for fraudulent business practices. The lawsuit describes how the plaintiffs – four young men and two of their parents – were lured into JONAH’s services through deceptive practices.

    “JONAH profits off of shameful and dangerous attempts to fix something that isn’t broken,” said Christine P. Sun, deputy legal director for the SPLC. “Despite the consensus of mainstream professional organizations that conversion therapy doesn’t work, this racket continues to scam vulnerable gay men and lesbians out of thousands of dollars and inflicts significant harm on them.”

    The lawsuit describes how the underlying premise of conversion therapy – that a person can “convert” to heterosexuality – has no basis in scientific fact. Conversion therapy has been discredited or highly criticized by all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations. It is the longstanding consensus of the behavioral and social sciences that homosexuality is a normal and positive variation of human sexual orientation.

    Customers of JONAH’s services typically pay a minimum of $100 for weekly individual counseling sessions and another $60 for group therapy sessions. The lawsuit describes sessions that involved clients undressing in front of a mirror and even a group session where young men were instructed to remove their clothing and stand naked in a circle with the counselor, Downing, who was also undressed. Another session involved a subject attempting to wrest away two oranges, which were used to represent testicles, from another individual.

    “Sadly, there is no accountability for those who practice conversion therapy,” said Michael Ferguson, a conversion therapy survivor and plaintiff in the lawsuit. “They play blindly with deep emotions and create an immense amount of self-doubt for the client. They seize on your personal vulnerability, and tell you that being gay is synonymous with being less of a man. They further misrepresent themselves as having the key to your new orientation.”

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  8. Downing and other counselors at JONAH also use techniques that leave clients alienated from their families. These techniques encourage clients to blame their parents for being gay. Clients even participate in violent role play exercises where they beat effigies of their mothers.

    “These counselors are skilled at manipulating you into believing just about anything,” said Benjamin Unger, another plaintiff in the case. “During my time with JONAH, they told me constantly that my mom had made me gay. I was so convinced that I refused to have any contact with her for several months, which caused a great deal of damage to our relationship.”

    JONAH, formerly known as Jews Offering New Alternatives for Homosexuality, was founded by Goldberg, a former Wall Street executive and attorney. Before founding JONAH, Goldberg was convicted of three counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to defraud the federal government. He was ultimately disbarred from being an attorney.

    “People who are told repeatedly that they are innately defective are being abused and traumatized,” said Laura Booker, a licensed clinical social worker who helps people recover from conversion therapy’s devastating effects. “The cost of conversion therapy to gay men and lesbians may be nothing less than emotional devastation. They may spend years recovering from the trauma inflicted upon them.”

    Conversion therapy also promotes the idea that gay men and lesbians choose their sexual orientation, a position that encourages a climate of anti-gay bigotry.

    The American Psychological Association has expressed concern that the positions espoused by some of the leading advocates of conversion therapy, such as the National Association for Research Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), “create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish.” JONAH’s practices include so-called scientific methods invented by NARTH co-founder Joseph Nicolosi.

    The law firms of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton LLP and Lite DePalma Greenberg LLC are serving as the SPLC’s co-counsel on the case. The SPLC has previously filed complaints against conversion therapists with the American Psychiatric Association and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

    More information about the SPLC’s campaign to end conversion therapy, including an interactive map showing the location of therapists who advertise conversion therapy, can be found here.

    to view the numerous links and charts embedded in this article go to:

    http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/news/splc-files-groundbreaking-lawsuit-accusing-conversion-therapy-organization-of-frau

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  9. Law banning gay conversion therapy put on hold by judge

    By Ashley Fantz, CNN December 4, 2012

    CNN) -- A federal judge has issued a temporary injunction on California's ban on "conversion" therapy -- a method some say can help turn a gay person straight.

    The first of its kind in the United States, the state ban was intended to prevent young people under 18 from undergoing the controversial treatment. It would have gone into effect January 1.

    Conversion therapy has been being hotly debated across the country for some time. In November, four homosexual men who underwent the therapy filed a civil suit in New Jersey against a counseling group, saying they were deceived under the state's Consumer Fraud Act.

    The therapy techniques described in that lawsuit included having participants strip naked in group sessions, cuddling and intimate holding of others of the same sex, violently beating an effigy of their mothers with a tennis racket, visiting bath houses "in order to be nude with father figures," and being "subjected to ridicule as 'faggots' and 'homos' in mock locker room scenarios."

    Some psychologists insist conversion therapy is dangerous to patients, and say it simply does not work.

    "To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective," the American Psychological Association writes on its website.

    "Furthermore, it seems likely that the promotion of change therapies reinforces stereotypes and contributes to a negative climate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons," says the APA, the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States.

    Since 1975, the APA has called on psychologists to take the lead in removing the stigma of mental illness that has long been associated with lesbian, gay, and bisexual orientations.

    U.S. District Judge William Shubb ruled Monday that the ban Gov. Jerry Brown signed earlier this year could offend the First Amendment rights of therapists to express their opinions about homosexuality. Three plaintiffs filed the suit, arguing that the ban was unconstitutional.

    The plaintiffs are a licensed marriage and family therapist who is also an ordained minister; a medical doctor and board-certified psychiatrist who works with people over 16 years old; and a man who was sexually attracted to other men but who wanted to practice conversion therapy to "help" men like him.

    Earlier this year, Brown tweeted about the measure to ban conversion therapy on minors.

    "This bill bans non-scientific 'therapies' that have driven young people to depression and suicide," the governor tweeted. "These practices have no basis in science or medicine."

    Shubb counters in a 38-page ruling that he didn't believe there was sufficient evidence to support the argument that conversion therapy could prompt patients to commit suicide.

    That assumption is "based on questionable and scientifically incomplete studies that may not have included minors," the judge wrote.

    David Pickup, a spokesman for the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, believes conversion therapy is valid and should be used.

    "We do competent therapy, therapy that truly works," he told CNN in October, adding that he'd undergone the treatment himself and was treating others.

    California governor OKs ban on gay conversion therapy, calling it 'quackery'

    http://edition.cnn.com/2012/12/04/us/california-gay-therapy-ban/index.html

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