I try to avoid giving energy to things that I think are undeserving of attention, but felt I needed to make an exception in the case of the recent news from Exodus International, the oldest and largest Christian ministry created to “repair” the homosexual. Exodus International President, Alan Chambers, apologized to the gay community and announced that Exodus would discontinue its practice of trying to repair and mold the homosexual into a “God-intended” heterosexual identity.
At PERSAD Center we avoid giving energy to any notion of reparative therapy for fear it might legitimize a practice of intimidation and abuse as actual therapy. This was never therapy, this was a religious intervention to address what some believe is the sin of homosexuality.
The American Psychological Association (APA) declared in a resolution in 1997, “Homosexuality is not a mental disorder and the APA opposes all portrayals of lesbian, gay and bisexual people as mentally ill and in need of treatment due to their sexual orientation”. Over the years, counseling organizations, like PERSAD and others, have had to combat any notion that reparative therapy is a legitimate counseling choice in the field of mental health treatment. For families with religious conflicts about homosexuality, a “reparative” therapy may have seemed like a miracle choice — but one that unfortunately led to prolonged family conflict and often the hopeless suicidal reaction of adolescents who saw no way out. Ever having called this inhumane approach “therapy” has been the biggest lie.
Mr. Chambers’ comments were welcomed by the gay community, and much of what he said suggested that he might have come to a new revelation that homosexuality is a real and unchangeable aspect of humanity. He apologized to “the gay community for years of undue suffering and judgment at the hands of the organization and the Church as a whole.” That we accept. And in fairness, he has come a far piece on his journey. He does understand that using aversion techniques to try to change someone’s sexual orientation is not a good idea. But he still has a long way to go.
Let’s be careful to not celebrate too soon. Mr. Chambers and his group still believe that homosexuality is a sin and intend to focus the group’s efforts on helping homosexuals to be celibate rather than helping them change. So, we can stay a homosexual now, but we can’t have sex?! Sounds like a new package for an old product. And it sounds like he’s really not finished doing damage to gay people.
We are glad there is an exodus from reparative therapy, but we would rather celebrate the many enlightened faith communities who have come to understand, affirm and embrace sexuality as an integral part of spiritual life.