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An Introduction to Reparative Therapy

My Egypt - Why I left the EX-GAY Movement by Ben TouseyBy Ben Tousy (The author of numerous books on the ex gay movement)

April 9 2006

It’s the mantra of the Christian and they chant it in their best Jerry Falwell or James Dobson voice. “It’s an abomination. It’s against scripture!” And to prove it, they cite from scripture. Starting with Genesis 1: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”— Or the more modern version: “In the beginning God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve!” But there’s more. There’s Leviticus, 1 Corinthians, and Romans.

Homosexuality has had a troubled past. Nobody understands where it came from, or why, but there is evidence that it has always been with us for a very long time. In the earliest known recorded document, the Epic of Gilgamesh, we read about Gilgamesh and Enkidu and their heroic adventures together. Much later, in the book of 1st Samuel, we read about David and Jonathan and their oh-so-similar tale. But at some point, Biblical writers linked this act with their pagan neighbors, and it became unacceptable in Jewish law… starting with Leviticus. Many years later a man named Saul, later to become Paul, a convert to the new and fledgling cut of Christianity added homosexuality to his list of abominations in Romans and 1st Corinthians. Only he expanded his prohibition to include women (lesbians) as well.

Then enter the Catholic Church, another fledgling cult which would later engulf the world. The Catholic Church took its cue from Paul, and began to persecute and murder anyone they thought guilty of this abomination (alongside various other abominations). At last, though, a new country was discovered where humankind bought into the notion that all men were created equal and endowed with by their creator with certain inalienable rights, including the right to be free from religious oppression: and they almost accomplished this. But fundamentalism was not about to give up its fear of anything different. So in response to the insurgence of gay men and women, they developed what they call “Reparative Therapy.”

Reparative Therapy is also known by many other names: “Conversion Therapy, Differentiation Therapy, or the ‘Healing Heterosexual.’” However you look at it, Reparative Therapy is simply a series of techniques, counseling, and “therapy” aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation from that of homosexual to heterosexual. The expression most often used is “Ex-Gay.” All mainstream scientific communities condemn this as psychologically harmful and emotionally damaging, but there are still those who believe adamantly that the Bible condemns it, and therefore it must be changed at all cost, or the homosexual will be condemned to spend eternity in hell by a loving God who adores them and wants them to suffer forever for their perversion. Proponents of Reparative Therapy view homosexuality as sin, and as Paul put it in Romans, idolatry.

The basic premise of Reparative Therapy is built upon several techniques. First and foremost is turning your life over completely to Jesus Christ and submitting to his law. Then, acknowledging that homosexuality is, according to Paul, idolatry. Other techniques include one-on-one counseling and/or group counseling. This often involves an attempt to heal the individual of parental and familial issues as most of those in the ex-gay movements believe that homosexuality is brought about by problems in the father-son or mother-daughter relationship. But then, do you know anyone… anyone at all… someone whose brother’s sister’s, father-in-law’s son’s college roommate’s best friend’s little brother’s step-dad’s fir dog fluffy’s daughter’s friend… who has had a good relationship with their mother or father?”

Other practices include the “Healing Prayer,” casting out demons, becoming involved in sports programs (for men), learning how to be a “woman” (for lesbians), and involvement in programs such as Living Waters, and Exodus International.

These are the more “benign” of the Reparative Therapy groups. Other groups have been known to “kidnap” (at the parent’s request) young people and hold them prisoner in boot camps while they attempt to “straighten the child out.” They have also kept the young person locked up, used sensory deprivation techniques, and forced physical (though not necessarily sexual) contact with the opposite sex.

The premise behind all of these techniques is based on the idea that God absolutely will not tolerate homosexuality, and therefore it must be changed regardless or the methods. While Reparative Therapy has been condemned by every scientific group, the Christian tradition still hangs on to its bias based on a scripture in 1 Corinthians 6:11 where Paul lists the various sins of the Corinthians, including homosexuals, and then goes on to say “…and that is what some of you were.” It is that scripture that has given the Christian community fodder to continue their invective despite what the scientific evidence turns up.

In 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Counseling Association, American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American Psychological Association, American School Health Association, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Social Workers, and National Education Association developed and endorsed a statement reading:

The most important fact about 'reparative therapy,' also sometimes known as 'conversion' therapy, is that it is based on an understanding of homosexuality that has been rejected by all the major health and mental health professions. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers, together representing more than 477,000 health and mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus there is no need for a 'cure.' and mental health professional organizations do not support efforts to change young people's sexual orientation through 'reparative therapy' and have raised serious concerns about its potential to do harm.

It should also be noted that state licensing boards and federal accreditation boards in the United States have revoked the credentials of counselors, physicians, and psychologists for having engaged in this practice. But unfortunately, these do not deter those who believe that they are doing God’s work and therefore must “fight the good fight.” While the walls are crumbing from within, there is still a strong force that holds on very tightly to this unscientific notion that homosexuality is anything but an natural phenomenon. To that end, it will take the work of many gay men and women standing up to what they know to be true deep in their hearts.

About the Author

Ben Tousey is an established author who left the ex-gay movement and now writes about his experiences and the  fundamental flaws in reparative therapies.

His most recent book My Egypt - why I left the Ex-Gay movement is his own personal acount of the time he spent in these groups and his growth and acceptance of his sexuality.