Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Ex-Gay Myth, by John Stossel

Via Randy's blog, I just read that Bill O'Reilly had John Stossel as a guest on his show promoting his new book, Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity : Get Out the Shovel--Why Everything You Know is Wrong. And, wouldn't you know it, one of the myths he mentions in the book is that gay people can change.

Randy rightfully questions the personal research Stossel mentions on the show, which consisted of interviewing one ex-gay that he found to be rather unconvincing. However, I'm not sure what sort of research Stossel's book uses (perhaps policy statements from any of the major medical organizations in the country stating that they see no evidence that reparative therapy works, or the lack of any tracking by ex-gay groups to see if their clients do actually change, or even the vague definition of change given by ex-gay groups), but I hope he at least addressed some of the issues about ex-gay therapy.

While I agree with Randy on his first point, I found other parts of Randy's criticism to be a bit lacking. If Exodus is upset that people claim their efforts are ineffective, why not prove them wrong with a longitudinal study of some sort? We really could put this whole issue to rest with some sort of peer-reviewed study that follows clients before during and several years after therapy.

Randy went on to address Stossel's citation of the John Paulk incident by claiming that Paulk is not gay, and that he had one slip up several years ago that he has since repented for. Stossel could have just as easily brought up Michael Johnston (who very surely was gay when he was claiming publicly to have changed), and there are certainly many other former ex-gays out there, even if Stossel didn't use the absolute best example (but I feel his example was adequate to make his point).

It may be true to say that Paulk is not gay, if by gay Randy means he is no longer having sexual contact with men. There hasn't been any indication to the contrary on that. But it'd be a hard leap to say that Paulk was not still attracted to males when he went into Mr. P's (a gay bar), and to discount that any attraction existed after decades as ex-gay is unfair to those wanting to know what "change" really means.

So yes, Stossel could have made his argument better, and he certainly could have gone further into the issue (but then again, this was just one myth of many in the book). But, the irony is that Stossel was going off of anecdotal evidence, just like Exodus and other ex-gay groups use (although Stossel was also going off of policy statements from every major medical group in the nation, I'd assume). So while I am sure it is personally offensive for Randy to hear someone dismiss the change he has found in his life, Stossel is using the same anectdotal evidence that Exodus uses, which aims to tell the public that gays can change (meaning my dad thinks I can change), in spite of a serious lack of evidence that it actually happens.

Stossel may be being dismissive, but Exodus' PR activities cause the public (and especially conservatives) to be equally dismissive of gays like me.

9 Comments:

At 11/5/06 9:47 AM, Anonymous Steve Boese said...

Stossel has taken pride on shrill, shallow reporting, regardless of the topic, for a long time. I saw the teasers for his piece yesterday and was a bit curious, but I just can't bear to watch him.

 
At 11/5/06 1:26 PM, Blogger E said...

If Exodus is upset that people claim their efforts are ineffective, why not prove them wrong with a longitudinal study of some sort?

About a year and a half ago, Alan Chambers mentioned on the Bridges Across boards that Exodus was nearly finished with a long-term study they'd been compiling on a number of their participants.

Some time later he mentioned that the release of the study had been delayed, and I haven't heard anything about it since. Whether that means it's just tied up somewhere in their pipeline or they were unhappy with the results, I can only speculate.

 
At 11/5/06 2:16 PM, Blogger Brett said...

If, as they claim, the number of phone calls Exodus fields in a year is sufficient evidence that people can change, then John Paulk's visit to a gay bar is more than proof that he's still a big homo.

 
At 11/5/06 3:12 PM, Blogger Brady said...

Steve- I agree with you about Stossel. I'll admit to finding his "gvie me a break" segments entertaining many times, receiving news is not why people should be watching him.

E- Very interesting. I hadn't realized Alan had been commenting on BA that recently and was completely unaware of that study. I'd be very interested to see it. Although, as an upfront defense for Exodus, I can imagine that they will get quick detractors simply because they released the study, so they certainly are in a hard position.

Brett- good point, playing right off the same ponit Dan made from Melissa Fryear's email at ex-gay watch today.

 
At 12/5/06 11:49 AM, Blogger EL said...

I was really hoping you'd write some response to this, Brady, and here I mosey over here and find it- how utterly satisfying!

Sorry, nothing of substance to add.

 
At 13/5/06 1:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

John Stossel is great! He just gets under your skin, because you don't agree with him. I suspect that if he shared your prejudices you'd be a big fan.
"Can't bear to watch him...."
Give me a break. Only liberals are that intolerant of others.

 
At 13/5/06 9:00 AM, Blogger Brady said...

El- happy to help ;-) How fun to hear that...

Anonymous- I'm not sure your statement of liberals is fair, but thanks for the comment.

 
At 13/5/06 10:33 AM, Blogger grantdale said...

Rightfully so, it would be offensive if someone was to opine that Randy had not gone from being a promiscuous drug taker and drinker to being a drug-and alcohol free and celibate same-sex attracted man.

He says he has, and I don't recall anyone as having contradicted that, fortunately.

Alas, it's also offensive for Randy to present this as a change in sexual orientation. It's not.

Or, for Randy to present his previous life as that typical of gay men. It's not.

 
At 15/5/06 8:26 AM, Blogger Brady said...

Hey Grantdale,

You know, I could be wrong, but I think Randy has said that his attractions have changed from gay to straight, but I could be wrong.

And, if that's what he says, I'd like to take his word for it. But, at the same time, it is problematic for me to hear Exodus or other organizations or even individuals claim or imply that it can happen to everyone, especially with any supporting evidence absent.

 

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