In Defense of “It Gets Better”

When Dan Savage created the It Gets Better project, I thought it was amazing.  It was such a brilliant idea to reach out like this and let kids know that they aren’t alone.  But lately I’ve run into a lot of people finding fault with the project and with Dan Savage in particular (such as those interviewed in this article), and I think it’s time to address some of the criticisms that have been going around.

In no particular order, these are some of the things I’ve been hearing:

  • Dan Savage is a middle-income white guy who knows nothing about what minority (in terms of race) gay teens are going through.
  • Dan Savage is hostile to the trans community.
  • The It Gets Better project encourages teens to do nothing to improve their situation.  Instead, it tells them to sit it out and wait for things to magically improve.
  • The project allows adults to create a video and pat themselves on the back for doing something, when in fact they’ve done nothing to help bullied gay teens.
  • The project does nothing to address broader issues of discrimination in the LGBT community.

Let me begin by saying that I am a middle-income white guy and I really don’t appreciate the implication that being middle-income and white makes me callous to minorities or incapable of doing anything to help them.  I grew up poor and I am very aware of issues that affect low-income people in this country.  I am certainly not familiar with what a latino boy in high school might be going through, so I don’t feel I can write a novel from that viewpoint or claim that I understand him.  But that isn’t the same thing as saying I don’t care.  And I am still capable of trying to help in any way that I can—I can do what I can to draw attention to the issues, and more importantly I can strive not to be a jerk to minorities.

As far as Dan Savage and the trans community is concerned, I think this article makes some very interesting points in his defense—primarily demonstrating that a lot of the “evidence” has been taken out of context.  But frankly, this is at best an ad hominem attack—a classic logical fallacy, which posits that we should ignore something regardless of its own merits, because it was spoken (or created) by someone of dubious character.  It’s the same reasoning that leads people to smear the characters of famous people like Martin Luther King and Gandhi, as if that renders their accomplishments moot.  The only relevant concern would be if It Gets Better itself was transphobic.  I haven’t yet encountered anyone claiming that, and in fact many of the videos on the site are supportive of the trans community and made by trans people.

Ultimately, the project was created by Dan Savage (and not someone else) because he was angered over the bullying that lead to the suicides of Justin Aaberg and Billy Lucas.  That doesn’t automatically mean he’s the best choice, but he happened to have the idea.  Dan Savage can be abrasive and he isn’t always politically correct.  As he himself has said, “I’m a terrible messenger because I’m a potty mouth and a cusser,  I’m an imperfect ambassador for this whole concept.”

But that doesn’t invalidate the project.

Before I go into the last three points, let me relate a little history—my own personal history, but through that a little history of gay culture in this country.

I was in high school from 1979 to 1983.  The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, version 3 (DSM-III) came out after I graduated and only then was homosexuality removed from the list of mental disorders that psychologists and psychiatrists were using to diagnose patients.  After its release, President Reagan went on national news to express his disapproval and tell the country that as far as he was concerned, homosexuals were still mentally ill.  Every novel I could find about gay men ended with the death of the main character, or at least it ended with him alone and miserable.  (The one exception that I recall was Marion Zimmer Bradley‘s The Catch Trap.)  The gay men’s group in my town (which I didn’t find until a year after I graduated high school) was advertised largely by word-of-mouth and met clandestinely each month at different people’s houses, flagged by balloons tied to the mailbox.

These were not happy times for the gay community.

I was so alone and miserable that I used to come home from school and rush to lock myself in my bedroom, because I cried so much.  There were no Gay-Straight Alliances in my school.  There were no quirky-but-lovable gay characters on television.  I remember finding one book about finding your gay soul-mate  which I devoured, but the author had this odd notion that gays were only half-souls, cut off from the full soul that straights had.  A notion I found ludicrous then, and insulting today.

Luckily, I did eventually find people I could talk to.  I met my first boyfriend through a local shopping center “newspaper” that accepted MSM (Male-Seeking-Male) personals, and fortunately he didn’t turn out to be a psychopath, but someone who was able to introduce me to the local gay community.  (On the downside, though Michael helped me considerably, I was unable to help him.  He committed suicide when we were in college.)

It was only after I’d been seeing Michael for a while that I found the courage to come out to my family.  It seems strange, looking back, that I was so nervous about it, since they were very accepting, and I should have known they would be.  But I wasn’t the first or the last gay teen to find that hurtle daunting, even knowing that it would probably work out all right.

Since I wasn’t out in high school, I wasn’t bullied for being gay, apart from one incident where my best friend and I had a fight and he told everybody I was gay (he suspected before I did).  But even that was relatively minor compared to what many teens experience every day.  My friend and I patched things up within a week and our friends basically forgot all about it.  The problem for me, especially after moving away from my friends in New Mexico, was how isolated and lonely I felt, coupled with the image of gay men as diseased and doomed to a life of sleazy backroom hookups.  Nowhere did I see anything that told me I could expect to meet someone and be part of a happy family.  Even after I met Michael, the idea that we could ever marry and live together without hiding our relationship from the neighbors was inconceivable to me.

If something like It Gets Better had come along in the early 80s, when I was going through all of this, it would have been a godsend!  To have thousands of people from around the country making videos for me to watch, telling me that there are millions of us in the country—around the world—and that there was nothing wrong with being gay, and that it was possible for me to look forward to what I in fact have now:  a happy marriage, a house in the country, pets, not having to worry about my job firing me (for being gay anyway) or the neighbors beating me up… This would have blown my mind!

I find it truly baffling that people can fail to see how absolutely amazing it is that we now live in a world where the President of the United States has made an It Gets Better video and later issued a public statement supporting same-sex marriage; a world in which several sports teams and celebrities have used the It Gets Better platform to show their support of LGBT kids.  As a teenager, I would not have considered this insignificant.  I would have thought it was epic!

Is the project guilty of encouraging teens to accept their plight and do nothing to change it?  What a bizarre concept.  How does telling young people that they’re not diseased or evil, that they deserve to live full lives, and that a lot of people in the country support the LGBT community render them incapable of lifting themselves out of unpleasant circumstances?  Is this some kind of social Darwinism theory, claiming we should just let them take their punches until they toughen up?  Do the critics fear that we’re coddling them?

Regardless of the motivation behind the criticism, I simply don’t see what they’re getting at.  As Dan Savage says, “There’s nothing about this project—nothing about participating in this project—that prevents people from doing more.”  And there isn’t.  I don’t see anyone telling kids to hide under a rock until it’s all over.  They still have the option to do whatever they can to improve the situation.  But now they know they aren’t alone.

Sadly, many of the teens who commit suicide are already doing their best to improve the situation.  Often, they’ve reported the bullying to their parents and school administrators, in some cases their parents have backed them up against the school, and some of them have participated in The Trevor Project and It Gets Better themselves.  Yet it still wasn’t enough to prevent them from taking their lives.

But the fact that something isn’t always enough doesn’t mean we should just throw it out until something better comes along.  Every little bit helps.  It’s simply untrue to say that it doesn’t.  For some teens, all they need is hope to help them hang on through a rough time of their lives, and that is what this project does for them.  I know it would have helped me immensely.

Does it encourage people to do too little?  Are people making It Gets Better videos because they’re easy, and not doing more for the LGBT community?  I find the implication that making an It Gets Better video somehow saps all of your motivation to do more flatly ridiculous.  Some people would have likely done nothing to get involved, so for them making a video is at least more than they would have done previously.  Even if it’s just to jump on the bandwagon and feel good about themselves, it may very well help someone.  And for many, participating in something like this is a launching point for doing more later.

Lastly, the question of whether the It Gets Better project files to address issues of discrimination and intolerance within the LGBT community itself.  Aside from the fact that it was never intended to address these issues, a quick search on the site turns up videos made by blacks (or African Americans, if you prefer), Latinos, Asians, trans people, bisexuals, etc.  Pretty much anybody can make a video.

So really, for those who feel that It Gets Better leaves something to be desired, I just have this to say:  Come up with something to take it further.  Don’t look at what Dan Savage has accomplished and complain that it doesn’t go far enough.  Take the next step.

Here are some sites that are trying to do just that.  If you know of any, in addition to these, that are trying to take that next step, I’d love to hear about them!

The We Got Your Back Project

Sacred Village

You Can Play Project

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“Seidman” has received two honorary mentions at the Rainbow Awards!

rainbowawards_hon_mention3

So yesterday the winners of the Rainbow Awards were announced.  The Rainbow Awards are given out by a panel of judges (quite a large panel, in fact) on the popular Elisa Rolle review site.  I don’t know how many years they’ve been going on for now, but they’re pretty big, with a huge list of books in the competition, so it’s really an honor to win.

Seidman didn’t win, but it did get an honorable mention in two categories:

BEST LGBT YOUNG ADULT / COMING OF AGE

and

BEST GAY DEBUT NOVEL/BOOK!

In honor of this, my publisher has discounted Seidman by 25% for the entire week at All Romance eBooks!

In other news, Dreams of Fire and Gods: Dreams has gone into galley proof, which means that it’s mostly done — we’re just checking over the formatted novel for typos and other errors.  It will be available on December 15th!

Coinciding with the release, I (James Erich, in case you’ve forgotten who I am) will be doing my first online chat!    It will be on the Harmony Ink Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/HarmonyInkPress

So come and say hello!  And win free stuff!  We’ll be giving away a free eBook copy of Dreams of Fire and Gods: Dreams, as well as some original sketches of the main characters, Sael and Koreh, by Beau Shemery!  I think it’s from 1pm EST to 6pm EST, but I’ll double check that and post the hours here again, when I’m more certain.  The first Harmony Ink chat was yesterday, featuring Beau Shemery (in his author guise, but with plenty of giveaways of his sketches), discussing his steampunk novel, The Seventh of London, and it went pretty well.

Lastly, I’ve submitted Seidman for consideration in the Lambda Literary Awards.  As they say, you can’t win, if you don’t enter.  The competition is steep, but the award is prestigious.  Even being a finalist would be amazing!

National Coming Out Day!

In honor of National Coming Out Day, I’ll be giving away a free eBook copy of my historical gay Viking novel, Seidman!  Just post a comment here between now and Sunday night and I’ll pick a winner at random!

In Viking Age Iceland, where boys are expected to grow into strong farmers and skilled warriors, there is little place for a sickly twelve-year-old boy like Kol until he catches the eye of a seið-woman—a sorceress—and becomes her apprentice. Kol travels to the sorceress’s home, where her grandson, Thorbrand, takes Kol under his wing. Before long Kol discovers something else about himself that is different—something else that sets him apart as unmanly: Kol has fallen in love with another boy.

But the world is changing in ways that threaten those who practice the ancient arts. As Kol’s new life takes him across the Norse lands, he finds that a new religion is sweeping through them, and King Olaf Tryggvason is hunting down and executing sorcerers. When a decades-old feud forces Thorbrand to choose between Kol and his duty to his kinsman, Kol finds himself cast adrift with only the cryptic messages of an ancient goddess to guide him to his destiny—and possibly to his death.

More than Getting Better, Let’s Make it Better, Starting Right Now

More than Getting Better, Let’s Make it Better, Starting Right Now.

A wonderful video by Ann Evans at The Priestly Chapel in the Susquehanna Valley, PA.  She’s stepping up and offering a place for GLBT teens to go, if they need help or someone to talk to.

Another Excerpt from “Dreams of Fire and Gods: Awakening”

Okay, so last night I was in a romantic mood and posted one of my favorite scenes in the developing relationship between Sael and Koreh — something humorous, with a dash of sex thrown in.

This morning, I woke up and realized that this may have given people the wrong idea about the book.  It isn’t just a silly gay sex romp with a thin veneer of fantasy painted over it.  It actually has a very detailed world, with a complex mythos and warring factions of gods in it, along with a war between the emperor and Sael’s father, Vek Worlen.  (Vek is a title given to the emperor’s regent in the eastern half of the kingdom.)

So here’s a scene that hopefully appeals more to fans of the fantasy genre:

In the darkening twilight, the forest seemed to close in on him, until the sounds of Sael’s chanting grew muffled and far away.  He could feel what Geilin had talked about — that there was something wrong with this place.  But Sael’s spellworking disturbed him even more.  He’d as soon wait until it was over, before returning to camp.

Koreh smelled the creature before he saw it.  A rotten smell, as though he’d stumbled upon the carcass of a dead animal.  He screwed his face up in distaste, nearly gagging on the stench as he searched the underbrush with his eyes for it.  When he turned around, he saw something huge and monstrous lumbering towards him out of the shadows.

It creaked and rustled as it moved, like old bare branches swaying in the wind.  Its hide was a patchwork of matted, rotting fur — wolf, bear, elk, a dozen others Koreh couldn’t identify — held together with dirt, dried leaves and pine needles.  And as it drew nearer, Koreh could see bones jutting through in places.  Its head was the skull of a bear, with great hollow eye sockets and monstrous fangs, yet it was crowned with the antlers of a great stag.  From somewhere deep within its hollow chest, came a rasping, menacing growl.

Koreh backed away, aware that the thick brambles behind him would make it impossible to run in that direction.  He wondered for just a second how the dried, dead thing would fare against one of Geilin’s firebolts.  But the old man was too far away, even if he were up to fighting the creature.  Koreh would have to save himself.

But there seemed to be some kind of…force emanating from it — an almost palpable aura of dread.  Koreh felt certain that it wasn’t just his own fear holding him rooted to the spot.  He’d never felt terror this intense in his entire lifetime; it was paralyzing him.  He wanted to drop into the earth and escape, but he was unable to make his mind obey.

He knew he was about to die.

Would the thing eat him?  Did it even have a stomach?  Perhaps it would somehow incorporate him into its body.  Koreh had heard tales of demen with animal bodies, but the heads or faces of men.  If he hadn’t wanted to scream before that thought passed through his mind, he certainly did now.  But no sound would come from his mouth.

Suddenly two things happened at once.  The beast charged, letting out a horrible bellow, and the leaves on the forest floor in front of Koreh swirled upwards, as if caught in a whirlwind.  Within the leaves was a dark shape, like the figure of a man, but impossible to see clearly.  It seemed to be wrapped in a cloak made entirely of shadows.  Koreh couldn’t tell if he was looking at something solid, or not.  In places, it seemed almost transparent, and the leaves seemed to pass through it, as they fluttered through the air.  The figure slid silently up out of the ground, whirling around to strike at the monster with a shimmering staff.

Frozen, Koreh watched the butt of the staff thud against the beast’s skull.  The staff, at least, was solid and there was a resounding crack that sounded far too loud to be mere wood against bone.  The creature’s skull blazed with a shimmering blue fire.  It roared in pain, swinging its great antlered head in a deadly arc.  But there was nothing for the antlers to strike.  The sharp, jagged points swept through the shadowy cloak without ever tearing or snagging it.

In the next instant, two other figures rose up out of the forest floor, in swirls of dead leaves and twigs and dark cloaks.  They surrounded the beast, striking at it quickly, as it thrashed about in pain and anger.  Wherever the staffs struck its mottled, patchwork hide, blue light flickered briefly.   The light lapped upward like flame, but left no scorch marks.  The creature was clearly suffering great pain and as it writhed and thrashed about, Koreh felt a momentary flash of pity for the thing.

Then its legs gave out beneath it and, with a great rasping exhalation, it tumbled over and lay still.  Just as quickly as they had appeared, the shadowy figures spiraled down into the leaves and dirt, and vanished.  They might never have been there, save for the corpse they’d left behind.  And that looked as if it had been dead for weeks, if not months.

Koreh was shaking.  Somehow he’d managed to hold onto the wood he’d been gathering, though he hadn’t been conscious of clutching it.  It was rapidly growing dark now and he wanted nothing more than to run back to camp.  But some perverse sense of curiosity made him approach the dead thing.

It lay absolutely still.  Cautiously, Koreh kicked the massive bear skull with one foot.  The head came loose from the neck with the sound of rotted parchment tearing and rolled away from him, coming to rest with one of its antlers propping it up.  Empty eye sockets stared back at him.  But apart from that, the creature did not move.

 

What Was It Like to be a Gay Viking?

I’ve been posting a lot about being gay in a Christian world lately, because it is after all what most young people in this country have to deal with as they’re coming to terms with their sexuality.  But as I’ve stated in previous posts, I am no longer Christian.  Furthermore, religion in general isn’t the main thrust of this blog or of my YA novels.  No doubt relgion will come up again, but for now I thought I’d cover a topic that readers of Seidman might find interesting:

What Was It Like to be Gay in Viking Age Iceland and Scandinavia?

WARNING:  Though I’ve attempted to keep this discussion from becoming too graphic, it does contain some referrences to sexual practices.  It really couldn’t be avoided.  Anyone old enough to read Seidman (recommended 14+) should be old enough to read this post.

I’ve had people try to tell me that there were no gay people in the Viking Age.  This is flatly ridiculous.  First of all, there have always been people with same-sex attractions, throughout history, all over the world.  Always.  Anyone who thinks homosexuality suddenly appeared out of nothing in the past century simply hasn’t bothered to crack a book on the subject.

Secondly, we know that people experienced same-sex attraction in Viking Age cultures, because they had words to describe it and laws to regulate it.  You don’t make something illegal, if it doesn’t exist to begin with.

So how did the Norse actually feel about homosexuality?  Well, the answer is a bit complex.  In general, they didn’t approve of it, which isn’t much of a surprise.  But like many cultures, they mistakenly equated homosexuality with a lack of masculinity, as if being attracted to men (if you’re a man) somehow makes you behave in a “womanly” manner, and likewise being attracted to women (if you’re a woman) somehow makes you “mannish.”  (Obviously, this attitude is still with us in modern western culture.)

But this is where it got a little weird.

The key to understanding the Norse attitude towards same-sex attraction lies in their concept of “manliness.”  We don’t have much evidence one way or another that the Norse gave much thought to same-sex attraction or other forms of sexual contact besides anal intercourse between two people of the same gender.  But we do know that they were obsessed with manliness.

Men had to behave in a masculine fashion (and conversely, women had to behave in a feminine fashion).  Men who acted effeminitely really upset people and in some cases were put to death.  A similar fate awaited women who wore men’s clothing!  And for a man to be accused of being effeminite was a horrible insult — so horrible that the accuser could be challenged to a duel to the death, if he couldn’t prove his accusation, and the law would not protect him.

Two of the words commonly used to describe “effeminite” men in the Sagas are ergi (a noun) and argr (the adjectival form of ergi).  The definition of these words is uncertain, because they are used in so many contexts.  In general, it appeared to refer to a man allowing himself to be used sexually by another man.  (In other words, a man who took the passive role in anal intercourse.)  We might translate ergi as “effeminacy” and argr as “effeminate.”

But there were other usages that suggested somewhat different meanings.  For instance, when used to describe a woman, it meant that she was lecherous or immodest — in other words, too masculine.  It was also said that old age made a man argr and the god, Oðinn, was said to become argr after practicing seiðr.  (Technically, the phrasing was that the practice of seiðr was accompanied by a great degree of ergi.)  However, I seriously doubt that this meant old men suddenly turned gay or Oðinn became effeminite after performing trance magic.

What does make sense is that being old might make a man frail and performing trance magic might make a man feel temporarily weak.  As with the case of women who were called ergi or argr, the main implication appears to have been that a person was violating gender taboos.  The terms were also sometimes applied to men who were incapable of fathering children — another “failure” to be masculine — and argr was also synonymous with cowardice.

So the next question might be, did this association of ergi and argr with masculinity provide a loophole of sorts?  Did it mean that a man might have sex with other men, as long as he was still verifiably masculine?

It might have.

We know that Norsemen often violated male prisoners or slaves, and there did not appear to be a stigma associated with doing this.  (Yet it was still one more reason that being on the “bottom” had such a horrible stigma attached to it — because it was allowing another man to treat you like a slave or a defeated prisoner.)  We also know that there were male prostitutes who served men, and they seemed to have been regarded with contempt.  Yet men did avail themselves of their services.  And in Snorri Sturlusson’s Edda, a man named Sinfjotli boasts that he impregnated another man (as an insult to the second man), which might not be something he would boast about, if being a “top” had any great stigma attached to it.

So it may be that there were certain contexts in which sex between people of the same gender was considered acceptable or at least ignored.  Keep in mind that the only references we have to homosexuality concern accusations of anal intercourse.  We have no record at all of how the Norse felt about mutual masturbation or oral sex.

It was also not unheard of for men to live together as “bachelors” once they were past the age where they were expected to marry and father children.  While these would not have been open same-sex relationships, advanced age might have made it possible for others to look the other way.

One last point to keep in mind:  all of the information we have about Norse attitudes toward homosexuality comes from Christians who wrote about the Viking Age centuries after the events they were describing, and by this point homosexuality was widely condemned by the Christian Church.  It’s difficult to know how much the writers’ personal religious beliefs may have colored their accounts of their ancestors.

Resources:

Probably the best source of information on this subject is Preben M. Sørenson’s The Unmanly Man:  Concepts of Sexual Defamation in Early Northern Society, but that can be hard to come by and it’s somewhat dry reading.  A more accessible discussion of the subject can be found at the Viking Answer Lady site:

The Viking Answer Lady doesn’t appear to be updating her site anymore, which is sad, because she really knows her stuff.  But as long as the site is still up, it’s a fantastic reference for a lot of aspects of Norse culture.

The Folly of Ex-Gay Therapy

When I was a teenager, I was Christian.  I was very Christian.  I read the Bible frequently, if not exactly on a daily basis, attended the Assembly of God church with my father and stepmother and occasionally attended a Baptist church, because they allowed me to practice piano there after school.  I had a constant dialog going on in my head with Jesus and I felt close to Him.

I wasn’t perfect, of course.  My need to please my friends kept the “Jesus-talk” to a minimum, when I was around them (evangelists seem to believe that you aren’t truly worshiping the Lord, if you aren’t talking about Him constantly) and eventually turned a 16-year-old who couldn’t say anything more severe than “hell” or “damn” into a 17-year-old with an absolutely foul mouth.

And then there was sex.  At seventeen, I was still a virgin.  Worse, I had no interest in girls, at all.  I certainly masturbated — a lot — but when I did, all I could think about was seeing certain male friends naked or touching them.  I tried to force myself to think about girls, but it just didn’t get me aroused.

However, I was a good Christian.  I loved Jesus.  I hadn’t killed anybody or done anything particularly sinful, at this point.  (I still haven’t killed anybody, in case you’re wondering.)  I hadn’t actually been raised to believe that masturbation was a big deal — thank God.  It was inconceivable to me that I could be truly “evil” or “sinful” at the core of my being.

There had to be some mistake.

Perhaps I was a late bloomer.  Or perhaps this was some sort of test that God had come up with for me.  But then, why me?  The very thought that God was testing me, struck me as ego-centric and therefore sinful, as if I were thinking that I was somehow favored by God and deserving of His special attention.  But I could think of no other reason for God to put me through this anguish.

And anguish it was.  I was so lonely that I often cried myself to sleep, longing for someone to hold and be held by.  Other teenagers were lonely, of course — perhaps even most — but they could hold onto the fantasy of a happy life someday with somebody they loved.  I saw nothing but a future of loneliness and self-loathing, stretching ahead of me for decades, until I finally died, never having been loved.

Now, the standard response to all of this is that God doesn’t make mistakes, of course, and regardless of whether it was a “test” or simply something I happened to be burdened with, faith in God would help me overcome it.  After all, people are able to overcome alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual addiction, infidelity and a host of other “problems” through prayer and devotion to God.  Certainly, God would help me overcome homosexuality!

So I prayed.  And I prayed.  And I prayed.  During this time I kept journals, documenting my struggle, analyzing sexual dreams and struggling to find hope in them — some sign that the prayer was working.  There were times when I thought I saw it, when I convinced myself that it must be “working.”

But it didn’t really work.  What it did was increase my despair, because the longing for another boy to love was constant.  It never lessened, no matter how much I prayed.  I knew that, if I got into a relationship with a girl, it would feel terrible.  Deep down in the pit of my stomach, the thought of being in a straight relationship nauseated me — as much as the thought of being forced into a gay relationship probably nauseates a straight person.

We know, at the core of our being, when something feels…wrong.

And the absurdity of it all was that the people who said heterosexuality was what was right for me…they were all heterosexual.

They.

Didn’t.

Know.

They were all people who would be unhappy if they were forced into a gay relationship.  Of course.  So they could state with “authority” that gay relationships lead to misery and despair, because that’s what was true for them.  But the thing is, they didn’t know that it would lead to misery and despair for me.  They couldn’t possibly know that, because they had no idea what being gay was like.

One of the greatest things that ever happened to me was when I gave up the fight against my own nature — when I stopped listening to people who had never experienced what I was feeling, yet had the unbelievable arrogance to claim that they knew more about what I needed than I did.

“But wait!” you might be thinking, “What about those people who were gay, but did find a happier life after praying to Jesus and rejecting homosexuality?”

Well, it would be hypocritical of me to insist that they’re wrong.  If they say they’re straight now, then I can’t say they’re not.  On the other hand, it has certainly not worked for a lot of people.  Several people who have had so-called “reparative therapy” have later stated that they did not feel that it worked for them.  Worse, many have attempted suicide, as a result.

One of the earliest “success stories” of reparative therapy involved subjecting a young boy to beatings and a cruel system of rewards and punishments to discourage his “effeminite behavior” (which was equated with homosexuality).  As an adult, he behaved in a “manly” enough fashion for supporters of the study to claim that it was successful and use it to back their claims that homosexuality could be cured.

Unfortunately, that was far from the case.  The young man in question did, in fact, turn out to be gay and he had sex with men off and on over the years.  But the guilt he felt over it eventually led him to take his own life, and his family now feels immense guilt about the cruelty they subjected him to at the recommendation of his therapist.

Recently, Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus International, the largest organization in the “ex-gay” movement, recently admitted that he still feels same-sex attraction, despite his marriage to a woman, and said that the organization would no longer support reparative therapy:

“As the president of Exodus International and, even more than that, as a Christian leader who is out in front of people all the time, it is my responsibility to lead honestly and transparently and to share with people that, just because you become a Christian,…your struggles don’t always go away.  You don’t get to a place where you’re never going to be tempted again.”

The American Psychological Association released a position statement in 2000 that basically stated that 1) there has been no actual proof that reparative therapy works, apart from isolated anecdotes, and 2) the theories behind it are highly questionable.

I cannot say with certainty that it is impossible for a gay man or woman to become heterosexual through prayer and devotion, anymore than I can say that it is impossible for prayer to heal someone of an illness.  I cannot say with certainty that miracles cannot occur.

But miracles, by their nature, are extremely rare.