Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cure the Gay

What the hades, Uganda? You've determined that homosexuality is a psychological problem and that people can choose not to be gay if they work really hard at it. Where in the frilly heck did you get that idea?

Damn. Go Rachel for "..if you believe the debunked unscientific claptrap they're selling." I'm so tired of the fake balance we so often see in news (like having Christians on to discuss what being an atheist is like.)

Richard Cohen sucks. His website sucks. Here's a "testimony" from a dad with my comments.
Stuart Saves Stephen’s Life!

In his own words, Stuart shares how he saved his son’s life. He began implementing this plan when his son Stephen was a junior in high school. It is a remarkable journey that gives hope to all. Today Stephen is flourishing in his masculinity and heterosexuality. This proves without a doubt that people are not born with SSA and change is possible!
Wait, how was his son's life at risk - by being gay? That's not actually an illness, you know, and even quacks like you who say that it is don't usually treat it as life-threatening (just eternity-threatening.) "Masculinity" does NOT equal "heterosexuality". Here's a list of Gay Athletes who are quite virile and manly, I am sure. And Mr. Coehn here is worse than a creationist for claiming subjective experience counts as undeniable proof of anything. Let's get into what the dad says about this "journey that gives hope to all" (except people who support equality and an end to the exploitative cure-the-gay industry.)
When Stephen told me he was gay, I thought that it was not my fault, that genetics was really the problem. I thought I was a good dad. So I didn’t say anything at first. I told my wife what he had said, and for the next few nights she’d cry herself to sleep.
"Fault" and "problem" - you've already got it wrong. Some people are born gay; the majority are born straight. The fact that homosexuality is less common does not mean homosexuality is somehow inferior to heterosexuality.
For most fathers, there are probably several ways to look at the problem: (1) ignore it and believe it will just go away; (2) embrace it and join PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays); (3) kick the child out of the house; or (4) find a way to help your child understand what homosexuality is, how it occurs, and how to work with the problem in a loving and caring manner without losing your child.
Yes, and what the hell is wrong with option 2? Or barring that level of immediate acceptance (and perhaps sadness at the perceived loss of some big wedding or grandchildren, although as we extend full rights of citizenship to gays and lesbians, this becomes less of an issue) how about option 5) Take time, ask questions, be supportive, and reassure your child that you will always love and respect him or her. (My mom went with option 1, but that was her default parenting style.) And finally, a child who is gay doesn't have a problem and is not lost.
Now, several years later, I can say I have seen all of the above. I have spoken with parents in the quiet recesses of empty classrooms and at backyard barbecues, and while sitting on benches watching sons and daughters sing and dance. All of them intrinsically know that homosexuality is not genetic, but they don’t know what to do. I was just like them in the beginning. I am good at one thing, and that is planning. But before I planned, however, my wife and I did some research.
*Facepalm* "All of them intrinsically know that homosexuality is not genetic" has to be one of the most painfully stupid things I have ever heard.

We went to the Internet, we went to the library, and we talked. We decided that we would love our son but would not endorse homosexuality or homosexual practices. I bought every book I could on leaving homosexuality. I book marked every website, and I went to see a psychiatrist. Not Stephen, me. I found a doctor who worked with reparative therapy. Dr. Frank was an older gentleman, with whom I spent three sessions learning to understand my son. He told me what he had counseled other parents to do. He also advised me to deal with my own feelings, which I did.
It's unfortunate that this man "bought every book I could on leaving homosexuality" instead of "joined a PFLAG" or "found an online support group for parents coming to terms with their child's sexuality" or "did not try to tell him what he felt or why, just listened." His entire focus from the outset was on "curing" his son. As for having a reparative therapist quack recommend the snakeoil he sells, I'm not exactly shocked. The dad here says he was "learning to understand my son" but as we can plainly see, he was looking for ways to change his son.
After that, armed with books, pamphlets, printouts, and most of all prayer, I built a plan to help my son.
Since neither those books, pamphlets, printouts nor prayer have ever been proved to work, and in fact have been proven not to work, the plan he built "for" his son was a bad one.
I was a lousy Christian. I had read a ton of books, from C.S. Lewis to Os Guiness, but my faith was weak. So, once again my wife and I began to attend church. We studied the Bible and showed our son that faith and belief were part of being a man and part of being a family.
Skipping church did not make your kid gay. Faith is a useless vice, not a virtue. The more secular your life is, in this country, the safer it is. Faith is stupid and puts you at much greater risk of losing your son than his perfectly natural homosexuality does. Also, having faith and belief are not prerequisites to manhood. (Don't believe me? Check out the Guys of Think Atheist calendar!)
So there I was. I read all the books on SSA that I could get my hands on. I talked things out with my wife. I prayed and thanked God for my wonderful son and family. I spoke with Stephen’s older brother and got his input. I implemented a systematic plan to get my son back. And it worked!
Again, he read SSA books, not credible books on homosexuality, on being the parent of a gay teen, on learning to understand and love his son - rather than trying to make him be straight. Anger and threats aren't the only weaponry a father has at his disposal - there are financial strictures, and emotional and guilt-laden ploys.

Where does this idea that he needs to "get [his] son back" come from? Why it's the Bible, the religious wrong, Rebiblicans, "reparative therapy" programs and "ex-gay" ministries: people who profit off the systemic marginalization of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Americans (and Ugandans.)
After two years of implementing my plan, I now have a son who no longer spends thirty minutes in front of the mirror or has to have clothes from a particular shop. He now clomps around and acts like a male adolescent seeking his own independence and not like a sulky, sullen kid. He also plays catch with his male friends and dates girls. Real dates, not shopping with the girls, as he used to. He even gets irritated with girls and says, “I don’t get her. She acts so weird.” He also helps around the house, mows the lawn, changes oil in the car, helps hang shelves, and barbecues with me.

For two years this dad was concentrating his efforts on changing who his son was. That is simply brainwashing and cult indoctrination. I don't see how it could not be. His son has successfully changed his identity in order to gain the approval of his father. Also, it's a shame that the qualities he seems to praise in his son now include slovenliness and irritation with girls. Gay men (and straight and gay women) are all able to mow the lawn, change the oil, hang shelves, or barbecue. In fact, I've done the first three, and my sister has done three of those as well. Or moving beyond my family, Christopher Freaking Lowell* has definitely hung shelves.

Cohen claimed in his interview with Rachel Maddow that the focus of his program was on acceptance and tolerance of those who "chose to lead a homosexual life" while offering "solutions" to people with "unwanted sexual attractions" (gayness). Instead I see ridiculous stereotyping of "appropriate" male and female gender roles. My brother is a much better cook than I am (much better). I have a very analytical thinking style, and have generally had more male than female friends. I know gay men who are in no way effeminate - guys who listen to black metal and work in construction or law enforcement or as teachers or professors. There is no one way that a straight man acts and no one way a gay man acts. Not every lesbian drives a pickup truck (like Rachel Maddow). Despite what a recent Christian commenter left on this ATAT post, I am pretty darn femme in a lot of ways (especially how I choose to look) but also pretty masculine in others. I grew up in a family of all woman and we didn't have the ridiculous gender roles of the Victorian era in our home, even in a fundamentalist Christian cult.
How did we do it? The plan we put into practice was based on a few things:My wife had to go into the background and defer to me. That was probably the hardest part of the plan, because she is strong and willful. She was the head of the household but was willing to abdicate her throne. Easier said than done. But she started saying things like, “Talk to your father first. If he says OK, then it is OK.” She supported my decisions. When I used to say “no,” Stephen would go talk to his mom and she would say “yes.” Well, that became, “If Dad said ‘no,’ well then he’s got his reasons. Did you ask him why he said ‘no’?” And so Stephen would have to come talk to me, and my word would be held up. “No” became “no,” and “yes” became “yes.” In time, when Stephen wanted to do something he would ask me, explain his reasons, and we’d talk. I most often said “yes,” because he was responsible. But I always knew where he was and who he was with.
Ah yes, your son is gay because your wife has access to equal liberties and rights that you are entitled to. That must be it! So far we've got SSA literature, faith and church, and now early-stage misogyny. Remember Anteaters, our politicians and religious leaders support this agenda and they are exporting it to Africa. While the threat of an actual death penalty or life imprisonment for homosexuality has been lifted (at this juncture), this psuedoscience is going to lead to violence against homosexuals in Uganda (a country already torn apart by ritual child sacrifice.) I'm not saying anything against consistency in parenting, but total deferment to her husband just because he is male is practically Quiverfull. Separate but equal is never really equal.
I asked Stephen to forgive me for not including him in the things I did, and for leaving him out. He forgave me in a very tearful scene. Not easy. I am a workaholic, and I also like to find quiet time away from everything. I really like to be outdoors. But I cut my work schedule back from 60 hours to 45 hours a week and cut my activities. And I got Stephen a job at the company I worked with so that I could spend time with him on the way back and forth to work. For two years, in the summer, we went to work together ... and we just had regular chats.
Those sound like changes Stephen's dad needed to make - to put more time and care into his relationship with his son. That's a wonderful impulse; if only it hadn't been coupled with a manipulative attempt to change another person's nature.
I spoon-fed information to Stephen in order to counter the GSA influence and the “innate, immutable” lie. I started by saying, “You know, being gay isn’t genetic. It’s environmental.” Then I would recommend a website to him. Later I would ask, “What do you think?” Usually I’d get, “Well, it was interesting.” And then he’d add, “Well, do you think that change is possible?” I told him, “Yes,” and referred him to websites that contained research that documented change.
This is information control and propaganda. This man "spoon-fed information" that was factually incorrect (totally & completely wrong) to his son in order to change him. He caused his son to think his sexuality was a choice and something he could and should change. The Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) is a wonderful, supportive environment. I was part of a student effort to get a GSA chapter started at my high school during Freshman year and I'm still immensely proud of that.
I would have these types of conversations with him a couple times a month, but not every day. In other words, “being gay” was not the only point of conversation. I was trying to rebuild my relationship with my son.
If you had left it at rebuilding a relationship, I'd wholeheartedly approve.
I also went along with my son to his voice lessons, and he would have to pick me up at the fly fishing shop where I spent an hour or so. I have a great friend there whom I told about Stephen’s SSA and he agreed to help me. So when Stephen came in, this bear of a man would clasp Stephen about the shoulder and ask how his singing went. He, too, used to sing a lot. At first Stephen was a bit uncomfortable, but my friend never relented and in fact, had Stephen baby-sit for his son. He was the first adult male to give Stephen a swat in the butt, I think for good grades.
This is odd, sexual harrassment, and homo-erotic. His friend "never relenting" in being a "big bear of a man" touching his son seems an odd point for him to boast.
I also enrolled Stephen’s brother, who started to call and talk to him. Usually just guy stuff. He also started taking him places like batting cages and rollerblading. This was all part of my plan to incorporate trusted friends and family to help my son. In the beginning Stephen used to hang out with kids from the GSA. When they called, I would not tell him. (So I’m a big meanie here, but Stephen had a lot of schoolwork, outside obligations, and a job as well. We encouraged him to continue to keep his platter full. He still does to this day.) I did not say he could not hang out with these kids. Peer groups can be funny things, and I knew that if I said, “These kids are bad for you,” he’d probably continue to hang with them. So I would answer the phone and tell them he wasn’t home.
Let me get this "straight," Stuart. You lied to your son and his friends, monitored and manipulated his social outlets, kept him too busy to see gay friends, and spoon-fed him misinformation and lies, in a passive-aggressive assault on his sexuality. Am I getting that straight?
A physical relationship was also in order. I began to give him a hug and a kiss as I dropped him off at school. I used Coming Out Straight as a guide for what was appropriate and when it was appropriate. At first Stephen was a little stand-offish. Now he’s hugging a lot of guys when he says good-bye, and these are straight guys. He has also gotten comfortable playing catch, and while I’d like it if he’d take up fishing, I can wait (I’m an avid fisherman)
Because nothing screams completely heterosexual like a man hug. And after all, if you've "cured" your son of being gay in just two years, making him an angler won't take long - you "can wait" to change him even more to your liking.
Nowadays, he seeks me out to give me a hug and a kiss goodnight. It’s like he needs to be reassured that this is OK between father and son. I also crack his back, and we rough-house from time to time. He and his brother also wrestle when the older brother is home. All in good fun. But all important. So I yell at them and tell them to knock it off before they tear up the living room. Or to take it outside if they’re going to do that stuff. My wife sits quietly by during these times and later will express her displeasure over these things but knows that they are important.
Diminishing your wife's role in the home, with the goal of causing rough-housing, is the worst "make your kid straight" plan I've heard since the last stupid "ex-gay" claptrap. (Thanks for that word, Rachel!)
One day my wife said to me that Stephen felt I was crowding him, so she asked me to back off. I told her that he’d have to tell me that. To this date he has not said that I’m encroaching on his territory.
"My wife told me something, but I completely ignored her so I could continue having the same perception. I also give my son a confusing mix of love-bombing and expressed disapproval of his sexuality and support of changing it. Now he feels compelled to keep having a close relationship with me, and doesn't know how to tell me to back off. I am a douche nozzle."
He does include me in his chats, his feelings, to a degree. My family is not big on discussing feelings, but we do talk about moral choices. About God’s absolute rules. We do discuss issues, and we talk about making good choices.
Wow, real loving family that. They talk about God's "absolute rules" in lieu of feelings. How tragic.
These were not easy things to do: Asking my wife to take a backseat, cutting my hours, committing time to my son, rebuilding a relationship, and confiding in friends to help.
Not with the goal of loving his son more, or of becoming closer to him before college started, or of showing him compassion. He was willing to make this effort and sacrifice if the prize was a straight "manly" son.
I did make a mistake by asking a girl whom Stephen had told that he was gay if she would talk to me about the issue, because I believed that she could help him become straight. She said that she would never help someone go from gay to straight, because it would harm them, that she supported all forms of human sexuality.1 To which I replied, rather callously, “Does that include pedophilia, bestiality, and all other abnormal sexual behaviors?” I then apologized and said that I would not talk to her about it again. I also told Stephen what had happened and apologized, asking for his forgiveness. It is something I caution all parents against. Be aware of who you talk to, and if possible, never mention this to other teenagers. It is not recommended unless there is some kid that you can trust implicitly.
Is anybody else crying for Stephen yet? This is the kind of friend his dad stopped him from talking to and spending time with - because she accepted him for who he was, instead of trying to change him.
So at the end of two and half years, what has happened? Stephen is not gay. He has said so. All the gay literature is gone from the house. No gay friends call. He has actually decided not to be in plays and shows, saying he doesn’t need to.
Stephen is gay, and all alone.
He also said that he feels that he likes girls, but not like his friend Tim likes them. Tim has a very steady relationship with a girl, and they are probably sexually active. Stephen has a girl that he likes quite a bit, but he doesn’t want to get too involved. He knows what a morally correct, Christian relationship is, and we encourage him not to get too involved.
Right, wouldn't want Stephen to be close to anyone outside the cure-the-gay strategy team.
He is no longer effeminate. He wears ratty blue jeans, swears on occasion, and lost the girly walk. He calls the GSA group a dangerous crowd, and he’s doing well in school. His older brother says, “Don’t worry, Dad. The plan is working. ... He’s going to be all right.” His brother has come to visit him at school, calls him regularly, and sends him a gift from time to time. Stephen is involved at church, and at school he leads retreats and his new roommates are all jocks of some sort. From basketball to rowing, he’s got three straight guys who whack him on the shoulder, and he whacks them back. His old buddies hang out at the house, and Stephen plays catch with them or goes out to do stuff with them.
Again, masculinity does not equal heterosexuality. There are gay professional athletes in individual and team sports. There are gay and lesbian Americans in our military, but we kick them out if their sexuality is discovered. No one should even have their sexuality investigated - there is nothing WRONG with being gay.
My wife likes me to be in charge of things now. I like it, too. Things became more complete when we put the plan into place. It is not easy. It takes love and dedication, and you feel like you’re pouring all of yourself into this child. But in reality, you’re giving this child what they need: a dad, a male presence, a sense of order, a sense of masculinity. You’re helping to make a new man, and it changes you as a person.
Why make a new man instead of accepting the man he is? Even if homosexuality was a choice, so what? What is actually wrong with homosexuality, in the real world and not Leviticus? (*crickets*) That's what I thought.
Some of their “sweetness” rubs off on you, and your maleness flows into them.
Dude, that just sounds gay.
I must admit that Stephen is a different person from two and a half years ago. He lounges on the furniture, he gives off the attitude of being the dominant male in the household, he is not so sweet and nice, and in all honesty ... well, at times I miss the “nice, sweet” kid. His mother wants to swat him from time to time, and he and I have our disagreements. He gets kind of lazy about his room and clothes, and things get flung around now. He threw a ball at me from the living room to the dining room, he dresses like a refugee from a thrift shop, and he never wears shoes if he can help it. Instead he prefers a pair of ratty flip-flops. He leaves wet towels lying around, and sits around in his boxers watching Saturday morning cartoons or playing video games.
Hey man, you wrote the role. He's just filling it.
Yes, it’s been an interesting time - a great time for Mom and Dad. And now I’ve got my son.
No. You had your son (and apparently a "great time".) Now you have a simulacrum, a doppelganger, a changeling.
God blessed this family as we kept God in the forefront of all we did with daily prayers and hopes and also asking others to pray for Stephen. I know that there are miracles, and this is one of them. God answers prayers in a lot of ways, but I believe that He honors hard work, a changed heart, and a loving family.
You can deny you are a "pray the gay away" organization all you want, Richard Cohen, but as long as you put false promises like this on your site, it's obvious: in the end you expect god to fix the kid, if only everyone will put in a good team effort.

When I found out I was having a boy, I was enormously relieved. I knew a boy was statistically less likely to have an eating disorder, like I do. I wondered if he'd be healthy, if he'd smart, and yes, if he would be gay. I wouldn't be surprised if he came out to me one day, because bisexuality does run in my family, and sexual orientation does appear to be genetic. And I realized I don't actually care if he's gay or straight or transgendered. For his sake, I hope that whatever his sexuality is, he makes good choices, surrounds himself with positive people, and has a strong ethical grounding. It's not up to me who he will love someday.

I don't often use profanity on the blog, but all I can say Richard Cohen, is Fuck You.

* The original queer eye for the straight home.