My Observations: Texas Republicans’ New Statement on Homosexuality

texas-gop-gays

Disclaimer: Long Post!

Never let it be said that Texas Republicans aren’t arrogant.
(Not sure who would ever say that!)

But at their state convention in Fort Worth last week, GOP delegates were ever vigilant to impose their narrow, outdated concept of morality by writing into their political platform support for the idea of (so-called) reparative, or “ex-gay” treatments designed to change the homosexual. This is an ignorant, egregious stance, and it seeks to legitimize processes shown to be harmful and dangerous. These programs are not therapeutic. They do not change a person’s sexual orientation.  At best, they insist on self-imposed celibacy, and pass that off as an orientation charge. At worst, they reinforce the idea the homosexual is disgusting—to God, to their family, to the faith community and to society. This can lead to highly destructive behavior, including suicide.

But that didn’t stop these arrogant Texans.

Here’s how the wording reads:

Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, in public policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples. We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin.

Additionally, we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values. We recognize the legitimacy and value of counseling which offers reparative therapy and treatment to patients who are seeking escape from the homosexual lifestyle. No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to this type of therapy.

Allow me to share some random thoughts and questions about this new GOP platform plank (from top to bottom, as much as possible):

1. The new platform statement took out extremely offensive anti-gay language, and replaced it with softer, still-offensive anti-gay language. Before, the Texas GOP (Let’s shorten it to T-GOP. That seems onomatopoetic and sounds appropriate.) affirmed “that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country's founders, and shared by the majority of Texans."

Yes, I feel so much better now!

2. T-GOP has equated “homosexuality” with something they are calling an “alternative lifestyle.” They are confused about the difference in a sexual orientation and sexual behavior. 

Becoming a cloistered cleric is an alternative lifestyle.
Goth is an alternative lifestyle.
Following NASCAR around the country is an alternative lifestyle.

A man who is attracted to women is a heterosexual; that is his orientation.
If that man enjoys dressing up in Star Trek costumes, going to conventions to have sex with women in Star Trek consumes, that’s a lifestyle.
One is chosen behavior; the other is innate.
One is changeable, the other is not!

Likewise, T-GOP is missing the point by suggesting that anyone wants homosexuality presented as “an acceptable alternative lifestyle.”  Gays and lesbians don’t want our lives to be reduced to any kind of vague lifestyle. We are people! Whatever choices we make to live out our lives cannot be summarized, and should not be marginalized.

In point of fact, there is no such thing as a definitive “homosexual lifestyle.” That’s a term used solely to lump everyone into the same category, as if all homosexuals are the same. It is a bigoted generalization, akin to saying “all black people,” or “all Jews.” But by keeping the focus on some dark, scary “lifestyle,” T-GOP is able to avoid any real discussion on intellectual issues such as biology, psychology, or history. And with the use of the phrase “patients who are seeking escape from the homosexual lifestyle,” T-GOP is employing incendiary language, which continues to demean the homosexual who might indeed be struggling with sexuality. Moreover, it demonized the homosexual to the family, friends, church, etc. It is this perception by others which prompts so much of the pressure for the homosexual to change.

3. Families already include homosexuals (even some prominent Republican families) and homosexual couples already exist…and they are creating their own families. This isn’t about “defining” or “redefining” anything, it’s about recognition of what already exist. It is no different than earlier attempt to recognize the legitimacy of inter-racial couples and families.

4. Who’s asking Republicans…or anyone, for that matter…to give us “special entitlements” or “special status?” This is perhaps one of the most insulting statements in the platform, which is again, nothing more than deflection and misdirection. We don’t want “special rights;” we demand equal rights. We want the same rights as all other Americans, based on the Constitution of the United States, not a particular interpretation of the Bible.

Author’s Note: And let’s face it: that is the origin of this perspective. Texas Republicans , like the rest of the party, has been overthrown by a fringe group of right-wing, xenophobic  Tea Party extremists who are dictating policy and platform based on a narrow Fundamentalists view of the Bible.

5. They are seeking to legalize discrimination based on a business owner’s personal faith: “we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.”

In other words, a Christian who owns a flower shop can refuse to sell flowers to a same-sex couple.  Gay people can be prevented from eating at restaurants, renting apartments, buying merchandise, etc. We are not told, however, the means by which the owner determines the sexual orientation of the rejected patron.  And I have to ask: if a person’s religious faith opposes people of other faiths, will they also be allowed to refuse service to them?

6. By aligning in support of “reparative therapy,” T-GOP is going against every major medical and mental health professional organization that has rejected the idea of reparative therapy, along the belief that sexual orientation and (or should) be changed. This list includes:

American Psychological Association
American Medical Association
American Psychiatric Association
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Counseling Association
American School Health Association
National Association of Social Workers

7. According to news sources, the insertion of this language was pushed through by an even “fringier” group in the fringe GOP—the Eagle Forum, and past chairwoman, Cathie Adams. The section was brought up for debate to the general assembly. Adams said that it was proposed by a man who said he was helped by this kind of therapy. “He knows what he’s talking about. He is one of those who has benefited,” Adams said.

And therein lies the key problem…but the primary marketing tool…of “ex-gay” program—the results are based on self-reporting, and cannot be scientifically verified.  
A man says he was benefited?

How was he benefited?
What methods were used to treat him?
What are the credentials of the person treating him?
How long has he been successful?
Is he “cured” or just modifying his behavior?
If it works, why are the professional organizations opposed?

8. The wording includes an obvious attempt to pre-empt the kind of legislation recently enacted in California and New Jersey, which makes it illegal to force minors to undergo reparative therapy. “No laws or executive orders shall be imposed to limit or restrict access to this type of therapy.”

This is not much more than a tactic designed to raise fear and money; most reputable professional therapists don’t practice such treatments. The vast majority of these programs are operated as conservative/Fundamentalist ministries, and those who "counsel" are not always professional therapists. These groups (regrettably) would not be impacted by a law that restricted access. (I think it should be outlawed for everyone. Period!)

9. By employing the key phrase supporting those who are seeking escape,” T-GOP is  appealing to the fallacy of a patient's right to requested treatment. It is a common argument—if someone wants treatment, isn’t that their right?

No!
Consider this analogy:

I'm an anorexic runway model (Yes, I know it's a stretch). I hate the way I look, and feel the need to be skinnier, so I go to a doctor to help me. It's my right to seek weight loss treatment. But is it RIGHT for the doctor to help me with something that’s proven to be harmful? Certainly the doctor should not be allowed to promote a weight loss treatment to anorexic people, further harming them. And those who are anorexic must not be allowed to be presented as role models for others with similar self-image issues. What we need is to confront (and change) the causes of destructive body image problems, so people don’t feel the need to harm themselves in this manner. 

In the same way, people can certainly seek the ex-gay treatment, but we should go after the reason they feel the need to change.  And we must continue to expose those who promise they can help, when it’s been proven to be ineffective…and harmful!

10. The T-GOP has made a definitive assertion about the success of programs and treatments. “We recognize the legitimacy and value of counseling which offers reparative therapy…” This vague statement is contrary to the evidence of research and studies over many years.

I was involved with these “ex-gay” groups, serving as Executive Director of a ministry that offered to help those who “struggle” with unwanted same-sex attractions. I, myself, tried for years to overcome my own desires. In addition, many of the original founders and leaders have left, and are now renouncing the practices. The overall consensus is that sexual orientation does not change. These programs do not work!
Last year, Exodus International, at the time the largest “ex-gay” organization in the country, ceased operation. This was after their President admitted earlier to a Christian conference that 99.9 percent of those who enroll in such program don’t change their orientation.

For the past 20+ years, having left the program and offered an apology for my involvement, I’ve worked with those who were harmed by these programs. By seeking to make this treatment available, T-GOP is ignoring or denying (or unconcerned about) the proven harm and damage that can be caused by such programs.

The American Psychological Association has condemned gay conversion therapies, and said young people should not take part in them because they can cause serious psychological damage. "The most important fact about these 'therapies' is that they are based on a view of homosexuality [i.e., it is sin and/or choice] that has been rejected by all the major mental health professions.  To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation ... is safe or effective."

Author’s Note: Please notice that the APA mentioned there is no “scientifically adequate research.” Most of what is put forth by proponents of reparative therapy is self-reported improvement. I go into more detail in the Bubble“How to Listen to an ‘Ex-Gay’ Testimony."

If someone says they can “heal” gay people, they are lying.
If someone asserts they have “healed” gay people, they are exaggerating (at best)
If you hear someone say they are no longer gay, listen carefully. They are overstating. (They may not be acting on their desires, but they are still gay!)

Sexual orientation is innate; it’s part of who we are and is unchangeable.

 

Our country has some serious problems that need to be fixed—poverty, homelessness, hunger, the plight of our brave veterans, sensible gun laws, access to medical care, education, etc.

But instead of addressing those issues, Texas Republicans want to “fix” me!
Rather than seeking to change things that are hurting this country, they want to “change” me!

So if that is their new purpose, I can only shrug my shoulders, and perhaps offer them this as their new campaign song:

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