By Wayne Besen
Dr. Warren Throckmorton, the shamelessly self-promoting “ex-gay” therapist, has stepped up his holy war against gay people. This week, he organized a pack of fundamentalist quacks to file a formal written complaint with the American Counseling Association. Throckmorton’s crew is upset because they believe the ACA is inhibiting their ability to destroy the mental health of gay and lesbian people in the name of religion. They also believe that they have the special right as fundamentalists to use bizarre techniques and ignore normal therapy guidelines.
What is so morally distasteful and ethically disgraceful about Throckmorton is that he is taking this measure without offering a shred of evidence that his shame-based therapy model works. What Chutzpah! How can he credibly complain to the ACA without offering multiple “success” stories by people other than those who get paid to say they have gone from gay to straight?
Indeed, the ACA should launch a full-scale investigation against the good doctor. He works at little Grove City College, a fundamentalist school in a rural Western Pennsylvania town of merely 8000 people. The truth is, you probably could not find 250 farmers, no less gay people in need of ex-gay therapy in this neck of the woods. To no ones surprise, this brain-twisting blowhard has yet to produce on-record accounts out of his large pool of supposed clients. Clearly, he is either exaggerating the number of clients or his therapy is a monumental failure.
With such a paltry and embarrassing record, why is Throckmorton attacking the ACA? The reason is simple: Throckmorton and his cohorts act more like ministers than mental health professionals. Instead of ethical counselors who just happen to be Christian, they are politically motivated fundamentalists who can’t separate church and couch. This is the same type of backwards, “intelligent design” promoting crowd that wears lab coats, yet disdains science and stealthily tries to slip their oddball theories into the mainstream.
Predictably, the signers of the letter are disingenuously claiming religious discrimination. They don’t seem to realize that their professional rejection stems from the objective reasoning that their theories are illegitimate garbage.
Most of these counselors still believe that a distant same-sex parent causes homosexuality. Their “cure” is making platonic friendships with same-sex friends and playing sports. Such nonsense might have seemed credible 35 years ago – when few gay people were out of the closet. In 2008, however, we now know that this simplistic cause and effect is false. Any counselor who suggests otherwise is incompetent, has an agenda or is too lazy to talk to real gay people.
Other counselors, such as Throckmorton, believe in what I call “Larry Craig Therapy.” These practitioners actually promote the peculiar notion that one can effectively separate sexual identity from attraction. The idea that one can spend an entire lifetime in such obvious denial is untenable and a recipe for inner-turmoil.
Still, Throckmorton cruelly peddles the mental health mirage of the happy celibate gay person living according to his or her values. In ten years of going to ex-gay conferences, the people I have met who are living in this state of love-limbo are hopelessly despondent and constantly on the verge of tears. How is this good for mental health and why should the ACA acquiesce to this damaging pseudoscience?
These right wing therapists are central to the problem, not the solution. They do absolutely nothing to make clients heterosexual or reconcile faith and sexuality. All these therapists accomplish is enticing vulnerable clients to pay dearly for the identical shame and repression they previously received for free.
Conspicuously absent in the letter to the ACA are examples of how these “therapists” supposedly help their clients. They are coy about their reliance on controversial and unconventional methods. Ex-gay therapists or ministers routinely endorse exorcisms and tell clients that they may have demons in their bodies. They sometimes instruct clients to wear rubber bands on their wrists and snap them whenever they find a person physically attractive. Other times, “touch therapy” is employed, where the counselor caresses (sometimes abusively) a client sitting on his or her lap.
Finally, those who wrote the letter arrogantly suggested that they represent Christianity. They are but a few misguided sects of the religion – and ones that give the faith a bad name. These therapists would be infinitely more helpful if they would explain to suffering clients that many theologians disagree with their rigid worldview.
Attorneys from the right wing Alliance Defense Fund also sent a letter to the ACA, in an attempt to bully the organization. But, all the high-priced lobbying and lawyering in the world can’t hide the growing army of ex-gay counseling victims. The ACA would do well to listen to these survivors and then throw the right wing letter in the trash – where it can be reunited with the outlandish theories and screwy techniques that constitute so-called “ex-gay” therapy.