Saturday, August 1, 2009

Gay Conversion Therapy and Ex-Gays...A Brief History

A few days ago, I read a blog by The Divine Grace. It was an open letter to the gay community about their lackadaisical attitude about gay and lesbian concerns. In the blog, there is an interview between Lady Bunny (organizer of Wigstock) and Larry Kramer (playwright and author of "The Tragedy of Today’s Gays"). I will add a link to the blog at the bottom of the page.

Larry Kramer seems to think that young people today, are passive about lesbian and gay issues. I believe that they are this way, because gays have less stigma attached to them, than in previous years. Although we still have a long way to go, we have not come full-circle. I believe it is necessary to learn from history, because as the saying goes…"Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

It’s important for the younger generation of gays and lesbians to know about their own history. Many of today’s gay and lesbian youths are clueless about topics such as Stonewall, Ex-Gay Ministries, Evelyn Hooker, The Well of Loneliness, Anita Bryant, The Mattachine Society and a myriad of other topics. Although, I have been lazy about current events recently, I want to get back into activism, and teaching gay youth about our history, and what it means to be gay in America. So, I have decided to write at least one blog a week, covering a new topic about gay culture or history.

I would like to begin by telling you, that I have a great appreciation for B-movies and cult films. A lesbian friend of mine, told me to watch the movie "But I’m a Cheerleader". Yesterday, I found the film and watched it last night. It was a very comical film about a cheerleader, who’s parents send her to a gay deprogramming camp. I decided today to do some research on Ex-Gay ministries and their deprogramming centers.

Although the film presented these "camps" in a very funny and exaggerated light, I found through research that even though the film was funny, it wasn’t far from the truth and that is a sad thing. Did you know that an Austrian endocrinologist, named Eugene Steinach thought that men could be cured of homosexuality, by transplanting testicles from a straight male, into a homosexual male? Later, in concentration camps, homosexuals were subjected to experiments, where their testes were replaced with artificial ones that released hormones in prescribed increments to cure them of homosexuality. Steinach’s research was considered to be flawed because most of the patients’ bodies rejected the new organs and was subsequently thought to be ineffective and harmful. Nazi experiments were said to have killed several patients and cured some. However, it is now believed that the homosexuals that did survive, said that they were cured, only in hopes of being released. Sigmund Freud’s beliefs that homosexuality was often the product of early childhood upbringings, was later accepted by the medical community to be the cause of homosexuality.

Much, much later, in 1957, Psychologist Evelyn Hooker published a research paper called "The Adjustment of the Male Overt Homosexual". In her studies, she found that homosexuals who lived an overt homosexual lifestyle, were no different or abnormal than heterosexual males in terms of pathology. She was the first person to say, that perhaps homosexuality is not a sickness at all. And if it’s not a sickness, then why cure it. Eventually, this paper leads the American Psychiatric Association, to omit homosexuality as a disease or disorder from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders in the 1970’s. Critics said that the change was brought about by pressure from gay supporters, but in a referendum vote the APA’s decision was upheld by a 58 percent majority.

Another thing that I found interesting in the movie "But I’m a Cheerleader", was that a lot of the techniques used by the ex-gay camp in the movie, are similar (if not identical) to the techniques used by today’s religious ex-gay ministries. In the movie, participants are encouraged to date other members of the opposite sex, have sex with members of the opposite sex, marry and have children, and shock aversion therapy. In the movie, participants in the camp do funny things like practice gender roles. They have classes for women in the art of scrubbing floors, and changing diapers. For the men they have classes on how to fix cars and play football. They even have a final step, in which members graduate by demonstrating a sexual encounter simulation with opposite sexed members. This all sounds very funny to us and the movie makes it downright comical to think that an institution would actually teach these things, but the irony is this.

During research I found that as late as 1991, a sex therapist named Joseph Nicolosi formed an intervention plan for homosexuals, in which male participants are forced to exhibit the following behaviors in order to condition them for heterosexual transformation.

1. Participate in sports activities.

2. Avoid activities that are of interest to homosexuals, such as art museums, opera, symphonies.

3. Avoid women unless it is for romantic contact.

4. Spend time with heterosexual men, in order to learn to mimic heterosexual male ways of walking, talking and interacting with heterosexual men.

5. Attend church and join a men’s church group.

6. Attend a reparative therapy group to discuss progress or slips back to homosexuality.

7. Become more assertive with women through dating and flirting.

8. Begin heterosexual dating.

9. Have heterosexual intercourse.

10. Enter into heterosexual marriage.

11. Father children.

Seems a lot like the movie if you ask me. The sad thing is that these people are serious and the movie is not. Some gay youths today, do not understand that this was and is a very real thing for some people.

For centuries, doctors and religious groups have tried to "cure" homosexuality. Everything from showing male patients pictures of naked men and shocking their genitals (shock therapy), to doctors using vibrators and dildos on women to cure them of lesbianism and sexual frustration. Homosexual people have been raped, maimed, and sometimes killed, in attempts to change their sexuality, simply because society frowns upon it.

Thankfully, due to the works of Evelyn Hooker, many accredited institutions frown on aversion or reparative therapies and programs designed to change one’s sexuality.
The American Psychiatric association has gone so far as to say that, these therapies are ineffective and harmful. American Psychological Association says that the conversion therapies are "certainly discredited" Out of all participants it has only been found that success stories offer only patients that have abstained from homosexual urges, but are still attracted to the same sex. Other accredited agencies who denounce conversion therapy...

American Medical Association
American Psychiatric Association
American Psychological Association
American Counseling Association
National Association of Social Workers
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Association of School Administrators
American Federation of Teachers
National Association of School Psychologists
American Academy of Physician’s Assistants
National Education Association

Interesting Facts about Ex Gay Ministries and Conversion Therapies…

Did you know that...

Ex-gay leaders Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper (co-founders of Exodus International) came out of the closet and got married in 1974. They quit the group and along with other Exodus leaders came out as gay and issued a formal public apology for their roles in the Exodus Ministries in 2007.

In 1962 one of the cures for homosexuality was giving the patient vomit inducing drugs, while playing audio tapes of men having sex and surrounding the patient with glasses of urine. The theory was, that gay men would be so sickened by homosexuality, that they would turn to women for relief.

A cure from the 1970’s, involves doctors suggesting that their patients masturbate intensely to homosexual images, and at the point of ejaculation, switching the images to heterosexual images.

Link to the Divine Grace Blog...Click Here!

Stonewall, A Brief History

The Stonewall Riots were a turning point in Gay History. Many Gay people, don't know their own history. I was telling someone the other day, that when I was 26 or 27 years old, I worked in a restaurant in a small southern town. A gay male couple walked into the restaurant. I had waited on them before. They were in their early 50's. One of them asked me if I knew what Stonewall was. I said yes and he asked me..."What is it?". This kind of shocked me, because I was expecting him to give me a lesson in gay history. Turns out, he didn't know, and was asking me if I knew. I find this sad, that people don't know about the history and organizations that have brought us where we are today. Some people have an idea about what Stonewall was, but are clueless on some of the details about why it was so important, and what effect it has on today's gay population.To understand the significance of Stonewall, we have to know a little about what times were like pre-Stonewall.

The movement towards gay and lesbian liberation, follows on the coattails of several other movements that were already in progress. Late in the summer of 1969, people were already acting up in ways that they hadn‘t before. The Civil Rights Movement, Women‘s Rights Movement, Protests against Vietnam and The Counterculture of the 1960‘s were already in full swing. Other than a handful of organizations at the time (Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis), gay and lesbian people had few outlets to meet others like themselves. The bar scene was the most obvious hang-out spot. Although, the bar scene came with it‘s own obstacles.

In the 1960‘s gay bars were under attack. Most gay bars had their liquor licenses revoked in an effort to "clean up the city" before the 1964 Worlds Fair. Bars suspected of being gay meeting places, were often frequented by undercover cops, pretending to be gay men, in order to entrap suspects and arrest them. At the time, there was no law against serving homosexuals, however the courts gave the SLA (New York State Liquor Authority) the sole discretion in revoking liquor licenses of those establishments that it deemed "disorderly". One of the things that the SLA deemed "disorderly" was any bar that allowed homosexuals to "congregate". None of the bars frequented by gay people, prior to the Stonewall riots, were owned by gay people. Most of them were owned by the Mafia and organized crime groups. These bars often operated with no liquor license and paid-off police officers to leave them alone. Those that didn‘t were subject to police raids. During a police raid, men in drag could be taken to the back of the bar to be searched to find out if they were indeed men, because of laws that prohibited cross-dressing. Women had to wear at least 3 articles of "feminine" clothing in order to escape prosecution during a raid. Many bars, had lights that would be turned up by the owners to let people in the bar know, that the bar was about to be raided. These lights warned their patrons to stop dancing and touching each other. A simple hand on another man‘s arm could be enough to get you arrested.

The Stonewall riots are named after the bar where they occurred (The Stonewall Inn). It was owned by the Genovese Mafia family and was subject to many raids. In the wee hours of the morning on June 28th, 1969, the bar became the subject of one such raid. It‘s said that the bar contained around 200 patrons that night and the police lined people up to check their ID‘s. Eventually, some of the drag queens refused to go to the back of the bar to be identified as men, and eventually, other patrons started refusing to show their ID‘s. The police then decided to take everyone downtown and sort them out there. Some of the patrons who were not arrested were allowed to leave, but they stood outside and watched the proceedings. Eventually, a crowd began to form. No one is quite sure who threw the first punch, but random scuffling between the police officers and the patrons being dragged out of the bar to the police wagons, began to infuriate onlookers (straight and gay alike). Crowds shouted anti-police sentiment. There were rumors of police beating patrons inside the bar. Eventually, pennies started being thrown because it was said that the bar was under attack because they had not paid-off the police that month. People started shouting " Let‘s pay them off now!" and people started throwing pennies at the police cars and vans. All of the sudden, pennies turned into beer cans and trash, and the trash turned into bricks. Reports say that the police were outnumbered by 500 to 600 people. Also police officers had barricaded themselves into the bar, along with detainees, for their own safety. People began throwing bricks into the bar windows, uprooting parking meters, and overturning police vehicles. Crowds began hurling lit garbage and spraying lighter fluid to burn the building down. Eventually, the Tactical Police force had to be called in, to clear the streets.

The next night, Christopher St. was in riot again, when people from the first night were joined by others who turned out to support the cause. Cars and busses arriving onto Christopher St. were harassed unless they admitted their support. All of Christopher St. was blocked and the Tactical Police Force had to be called in again.

The importance of the Stonewall riots, was that for the first time in modern history, gay people had taken a stand against their oppressors. Gay people began to realize that there is strength in numbers. Stonewall was not a "planned" event. It was the same spark that had incited other modern movements. They had simply had enough. Although a few other pro-gay groups had existed since the 50‘s, between 1969 and 1975, New York began to see an onslaught of new radical gay groups emerging. At the forefront was the Gay Liberation Front. Unlike earlier gay groups (Mattachine and Daughters of Bilitis), Gay Liberation Front proposed a more radical way of bringing gays and lesbians into the mainstream. They thought that groups like The Mattachine and Daughters of Bilitis were too soft and even accused them of using names that were obscure, in order to mask their intentions, instead of using the word "gay" in their namesake. They thought that earlier gay groups were too subtle and subdued. Inspired, by the riots, they did things never thought of before. They held all gay dances and public demonstrations., that were similar to anti-war demonstrations of the time, unlike their quiet predecessors before them. The problem with Gay Liberation Front was that their meetings lacked organization. Soon enough, because of their outspoken attitude, other groups started to emerge, like Gay Activists Alliance and Salsa Soul Sistas.

The greatest impact of the Stonewall riots, is that it took being gay out of dark alleys and shameful closets. It brought about a generation that would no longer put up with archaic stereotypes and old moral codes. It brought about a change that would allow us to live our lives in public, without the harassment of police. We found that we did not have to put up with other people‘s opinions about how to live our lives. Thank God for Stonewall!

Did you know….

Most Gay Pride parades and celebrations are held towards the end of June, to mark the anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

The most liberal newspaper at the time „The Village Voice" refused to print the word „gay" in Gay Liberation Front advertisements seeking new members.

Early gay bars were run in the same fashion that most speakeasies did, during prohibition. Having to know someone or using a password to get in, was common practice for owners of so-called „gay bars".

The FBI kept a list of known homosexuals in the 1950‘s and 1960‘s and the US Post Office tracked addresses to which homosexual publications were sent.

Those who got caught during police raids on gay bars, would have their names and pictures printed in the newspaper. Many lost their jobs after being discovered in the newspaper by their employers, even if they were not prosecuted.