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Memo to PFOX: We don’t need your rehabilitation

Sunday, August 19, 2012
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In California, numerous “gay rehabilitation” groups have come under legal scrutiny. Numerous lawmakers, including State Sen. Ted Lieu, have backed legislation against these institutions, specifically their practices towards minors.

The ex-gay advocacy group PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays) has recently labeled this legal backlash as “fascism.”

Well, if PFOX would like to forward the argument that ex-gay ministries, like Exodus International, are legitimate medical institutions maligned by undue political activism, than surely they should be able to cite peer reviewed medical journals or established psychiatric standards to back their practices.

PFOX ad: “Gays choosing change.”

Claiming the medical veracity and/or necessity of SOCE (sexual orientation change effort) organizations is a subject of debate would grant them more credit than is due. This debate was settled four decades ago.

It is universally accepted by the medical and psychological communities that homosexuality is not a medical disorder and LGBTQ people aren’t in need of “rehabilitation.” They have firmly stated that so-called “reparative” treatments are roundly ineffective at best and dangerous to the participant’s health at worst.

“The American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation conducted a systematic review of the peer-reviewed journal literature on sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) and concluded that efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm, contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates.

[…]

Even though the research and clinical literature demonstrate that same-sex sexual and romantic attractions, feelings, and behaviors are normal and positive variations of human sexuality, regardless of sexual orientation identity, the task force concluded that the population that undergoes SOCE tends to have strongly conservative religious views that lead them to seek to change their sexual orientation.”

The rest of the report can be read here.

PFOX and others seem to be rather apathetic towards the standards put forward by the APA and the general consensus in the medical world.

Instead of offering a shred of empirical data, PFOX put forward the argument that homosexuality is a detriment to one’s health by regurgitating CDC statistics; with no regard to their context or the CDC’s actual statements.

Yes, STDs are far more pervasive in the gay/bi, male community. But to infer that STD’s are an intrinsic, inalienable trait of homosexuality & that the solution should be comprised of immediate marginalization, conversion, and/or eradication of the gay community, is absurd and overly simplistic.

It is also a textbook example of the “correlation/causality” fallacy.

Reviewing the issue of STDs in the gay community, there are many factors that must be considered.

To ignore all possible factors at play (as PFOX has done), is to essentially disregard the entire field of sociology itself. It is shameful that PFOX would attempt the validate SOCE organizations with such substantially bereft rhetoric.

What the CDC actually says about the pervasiveness of STDs in the gay community:

CDC cites homophobia and stigmatization as the leading factors in disparate health conditions for gays.

Negative attitudes about homosexuality can lead to rejection by friends and family, discriminatory acts and violence that harm specific individuals, and laws and policies that adversely affect the lives of many people; this can have damaging effects on the health of MSM and other sexual minorities.

Homophobia, stigma and discrimination can:

  • Limit MSM’s ability to access high quality health care that is responsive to health issues of MSM
  • Affect income, employment status, and the ability to get and keep health insurance
  • Contribute to poor mental health and unhealthy behaviors, such as substance abuse, risky sexual behaviors, and suicide attempts
  • Affect MSM’s ability to establish and maintain long-term same-sex relationships that reduce HIV & STD risk
  • Make it difficult for some MSM to be open about same-sex behaviors with others, which can increase stress, limit social support, and negatively affect health

The CDC states that we should work to reduce homophobia in our society and improve self-esteem and acceptance for the gay community. (The exact opposite of what SOCE groups have strived to accomplish. PFOX, you have no right whatsoever to cite the CDC in support of your cause.)

MSM and their family and friends can take steps to reduce the effects of homophobia, stigma and discrimination and protect their physical and mental health. One way to cope with the stress from stigma and discrimination is social support. Some studies show that gay men who have good social support—from family, friends, and the wider gay community—have:

  • higher self-esteem,
  • a more positive group identity, and
  • positive mental health.

Whether you are gay or straight, you can help reduce homophobia, stigma and discrimination in your community and decrease the negative health effects. Even small things can make a difference, such as supporting a family member, friend, co-worker.

The CDC supports numerous programs intended to promote safe sex techniques- use of condoms, frequent STD testing, and sex education. These programs include “Mpowerment,” “Many Men Many Voices,” and the “Act Against Aids Campaign.” There are many other programs specifically designated for racial and ethnic groups with a high frequency of STDs, as well.

Recently the CDC published that STD rates are especially pervasive in the African American demographic. While African Americans make up 14% of the population in America, they make up roughly 44% of new HIV infections per year.

Using PFOX’s logic, one could assume that being black, in itself, makes someone more prone to catching and spreading STDs. (Yes, let’s ignore the ubiquitous poverty and social segregation brought upon by centuries of relentless discrimination and economic marginalization. Let’s just forget about all of that and blindly assert that correlation equals causality. Apparently being black is just integrally tied to STDs.) Does that reasoning sound familiar to anyone?

PFOX probably wouldn’t go so far as to assert these causality claims about race and STDs, but there are groups who do. We call them “white supremacists” or, as many of them like to be called these days, “race realists” (I’m not making this up).

They use the same fallacious arguments, abusing and twisting the same sources of information (ie: CDC) to push their bigoted agenda. White supremacists bend the truth in order to demonize a minority group that they have a predisposed disdain for, and to push for racial segregation.

PFOX uses the same technique to advocate the quackery that they call “gay rehabilitation.”

“Victims,” best describes those who participate (especially those forced to participate) in the macabre ritual of self-loathing that SOCE groups advocate. These are not institutions of healing. But are institutions of shame and degradation. They are not based in science, instead they’re based in ancient dogma, blind bigotry, and willful ignorance.

SOCE institutions are the modern equivalent of foot binding, I look forward to the day that they tumble into the gutters of history, wallowing in the muck of antiquity.

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