The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) is investigating computer science professor Timothy Farage after he published a tweet suggesting that a “cure” to homosexuality could help prevent the spread of monkeypox and other diseases.
Last Friday, Farage published a now-deleted tweet that included a link to a news story noting that most of New York City’s monkeypox cases were amongst gay and bisexual men. He wrote, “Can we at least try to find a cure for homosexuality, especially among men? Homosexual men have anal sex, which can lead to a variety of diseases.”
Farage, a 71-year-old who has taught at UTD for 20 years, defended his comment to The Mercury, UTD’s student-run newspaper, by stating that he isn’t “hateful or bigoted or homophobic or racist.” He said he respects transgender student’s names and pronouns, and that he doesn’t share his personal views on homosexuality in his classroom.
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“I do not think that consensual homosexual sex is a sin,” he wrote. “I have not said one word about homosexuals being bad people. I have homosexual friends just like you do.” He said he knew three of four gay people who didn’t want to be gay.
“If somebody doesn’t want to be, why not try to find a way to help them do that?” he said, according to The Dallas Morning News. “My comment was to try to be helpful and compassionate.… I never said a word against homosexuals or transgender individuals or anything.”
However, he also said, “I think [homosexuality] is a medical disorder. More research needs to be done about [possible cures for gayness]. ” He added, “Male homosexuals have a higher incidence of STDs. And they can’t have their own biological children.”
His views on homosexuality align with anti-gay organizations that have referred to homosexuality as a public health threat. Similar views see LGBTQ identity as something that can be “cured” by so-called conversion therapy. The largest medical and mental health organizations in the U.S. and world have disavowed conversion therapy as a harmful, ineffective, and pseudoscientific form of mental torture.
Farage is a graduate adviser who teaches undergraduate sections of discrete math and automata theory for undergraduates. Farage has since deleted his Twitter account.
After numerous student complaints, UTD issued a July 16 statement that called the professor’s comments “understandably upsetting,” noting that his views don’t represent the university’s “culture or climate of inclusion and respect.”
Stephanie Adams, the dean of UTD’s school of engineering and computer science, said she was “personally appalled” by Farage’s comments, calling them “in direct opposition to my personal views” and her school’s vision. Adams also noted that the school would offer multiple sections of Farage’s classes in the fall so that students could opt out of having him as a professor.
The UTD Rainbow Coalition, an organization representing six different campus groups, issued a July 17 statement calling on the university to take “immediate substantive action” against Farage.
“Farage has a long, well-documented history of hostility on LGBTQ+ issues,” the coalition’s statement said. “Farage’s personal social media accounts contain much, much, much more offensive content… Dozens of students have made online statements verifying that Farage’s beliefs create an uncomfortable environment in the classroom.”
“Being LGBTQ+ is not a ‘medical disorder,’ and LGBTQ+ students do not need to be ‘cured,’” the coalition’s statement continued. “Not holding a professor accountable for such statements is unacceptable. Merely disavowing Farage’s actions actively makes our campus less safe.”
Statement from QTPOC and our friends in the UTD Rainbow Coalition on the recent statements made by CS Professor Farage and the University of Texas at Dallas response. We call upon the university administration to take immediate action on this issue. pic.twitter.com/VBmWIlGtdJ
— QTPOC at UTD (@QtpocUTD) July 17, 2022
On July 17, UTD’s Student Counseling Center issued a statement acknowledging the “significant damage and harm” caused by the professor’s comments.
In a July 18 statement, UTD said it was investigating the claims made against Farage but declined to comment further. On July 20, the campus’ Galarstein Gender Center held an “Embrace Space” to discuss the feelings of LGBTQ students on campus.
While monkeypox is spread by skin-on-skin contact, prolonged respiratory exposure (like kissing), and from pregnant people to their fetuses. It is not a sexually transmitted disease nor is it exclusive to queer men.
The current outbreak is believed to have started at two gay rave events in Europe. From there, it has predominantly stayed among queer male social and sexual networks, Gregg Gonsalves, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health and a global health activist, told the New York Times.
Health advocates have warned against labeling monkeypox as a “gay disease” because it misinforms people about who can contract it and discourages others from seeking medical help for fear of being stigmatized as a queer person.