It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that horrendous attitudes, actions and rhetoric towards the LGBT community is still alive and well on planet earth. Yes, it is true that the issue of discrimination toward the LGBT community here in these United States has been steadily declining. An understanding regarding the facts and data regarding human sexuality continues to grow within the general population, as is the acceptance that the LGBT community is, otherwise, no different from any other demographic within our species. Personally, I find this a very positive indication that we are making progress as a society, shaking loose from one of the oldest and most stubbornly clung-to forms of bigotry.
Obviously, there is still a problem…
Much of the problem is exacerbated by the religious right’s most notorious leaders, pastors and televangelists as they stubbornly cling to that old rugged cross, holding tight to prejudices that are largely formed by fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible. We’ve all seen the videos on our social networks of the fundamentalist minister standing behind their bully pulpits, triumphantly waving their bibles and pointing their fingers in condemnation, spewing off their hatred and ignorance.
To many of us, they are a parody unto themselves. This does not change the fact that they are still influencing a lot of people with their bigoted ways, and the belief that the members of he LGBT community deserve the reception of horrible, barbaric rhetoric, acts of violence and blatant discrimination in almost every area of their lives is supported by countless individuals. The whole situation is not only terrifying to the LGBT community, but also horrifying to anyone who has an ounce of understanding about human biology, genetics and the animal kingdom in general.
The Orient Express…
The debate within the scientific community is heavily in favor of a genetic predisposition to homosexuality. While there are still some in the scientific community who support another genesis of human sexuality, it should be understood that within the scientific community, those who are engaged in this aspect of research do so not to justify bigotry or to somehow produce a report that justifies any sort of discrimination, hoping to prove that sexual orientation is a choice so that they can raise a beaker into the air, and shout, “Eureka! It is a choice! Grab your torches, we got some fags to burn!” That is the job of the religious zealot.
It has long been understood that the sexual orientation of any one given individual is not a choice, and presents at very early stages of development before the individual is even sexually aware. The argument that is being put forth regarding “nature or nurture” is generally left between those of us who endeavor to understand the science behind human sexuality and those of us who prefer to thump a bible and shake loose whatever crumbs of ignorance that should happen to fall out – completely failing to understand that, regarding our sexuality, one does not just simply change who they are.
Before I continue, there a two things I should state here. One, it is my firm position that the only bona-fide research into human sexuality comes from the scientific community. Two, it is my personal position that sexual orientation is the product of genetics, that we are born with our inherent sexuality already imprinted on our DNA. The scientific community recognizes that genetics play a significant role in determining sexual orientation. Either way, nobody should ever have to live in fear because of their sexuality.
So, nature or nurture…?
The answer to this question surrounds two variables. Are people born with their sexual orientation, or is their sexuality a product of another set of circumstances? The “nature” argument is based on the latest, most advanced, cutting edge science. The “nurture” argument is based on a twenty-three-hundred-year-old philosophical belief known as Tabula Rosa, which is a treatise put forth by Aristotle. The tabula suggests that personality and behavioral traits are entirely learned and that all of us start off with a blank slate with respect to personality.
What validates the “nature” argument within the scientific community is the ever-increasing evidence that sexual orientation develops before birth. Here are just a few examples of those who support genetic disposition:
- Author and respected geneticist Matt Ridley states that, “Nobody in science now believes that sexual orientation is caused by events in adolescence…Homosexuality is an early, probably prenatal and irreversible preference.“
- The Royal College of Psychiatrists stated, “Despite almost a century of psychoanalytic and psychological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heterosexual or homosexual orientation. It would appear that sexual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of genetic factors and the early uterine environment. Sexual orientation is therefore not a choice”
- Frederick L. Whitam, PhD, Professor in the Department of Sociology at Arizona State University, said, “During the past 30 years, a strong body of evidence has emerged to suggest that sexual orientation is biological. During this same time period, not a single bit of scientific evidence suggests that sexual orientation is learned has appeared.”
- The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance stated, “We recommend following the lead of most physical and mental health professionals, and consider homosexual orientation to be normal, natural, unchosen and fixed.“
- Kenneth M. Cohen, PhD, Lecturer in Human Development at Cornell University, wrote, “Recent scans of the human genome reveal that some gay males share a genetic marker for homosexuality on the X chromosome. One avenue through which genes regulate homo eroticism is by instructing the brain to develop in a sex-atypical manner.”
What invalidates the “nurture” argument is the lack of scientific evidence. This position is derived from religious texts that support a view of homosexuality as aberrant and sinful. It rejects scientific and biological influences for homosexuality, and holds to the belief that sexuality can be changed, altered or suppressed. This has led to the invention of “gay rehabilitation programs” which has been debunked as not only preposterous, but inherently dangerous to the mental health of the individual. These programs have resulted in some horrific “treatments” which include:
- Aversion therapy, whereby gay men are shown pictures of naked men and simultaneously shocked with electricity
- Brain surgery in the form of frontal lobotomies
- Castration, both physical and chemical
- Intravenous infusion of animal-organ extracts
- Intravenous infusion of cocaine, estrogen and testosterone
- Gay men being forced to masturbate and then shown pictures of women just before orgasm
In pre-apartheid South Africa, homosexual men who could not be “cured” were chemically castrated or given sex change operations which resulted in an abundant and excessively extreme rate of fatalities. There are other experimental “therapies,” but the most common is “reparative therapy,” which I will cover in greater detail further on.
The advent of social networking has given us almost unfettered access to information. The plethora of data that streams into our brains in the form of videos, articles, essays, books (both digital and sources for the printed word) from the religious right within the political demographic known as “Conservatism” is enough to make the blood of even the most milquetoasted among us come to a rolling boil.
The influence that these politicians have over many of their constituents continue to stir the pot of hatred, bigotry and discrimination that already exists within the uber-religious community. These political leaders spout rhetoric which serves to incite their most ardent supporters into a feeding frenzy against the LGBT community, and range from the blatant to the thinly veiled.
The results of these powerful and influential people can be seen by the prevalence of crimes against the LGBT community, which has been well documented by the US Government. According to FBI hate crime statistics, there were 7,163 reported hate crimes in 2005. 14.2% of them were based on sexual orientation. Most were violent in nature. In the US, 75% of students have no state laws to protect them from sexual harassment and discrimination in school. In public high schools, 97% of students report regularly hearing homophobic remarks from their peers.
For almost thirty years mental health practitioners and researchers have recognized that homosexuality is not a mental illness. Moreover, they are highly critical of attempts to change sexual orientation. These professional associations include:
- The American Academy of Pediatrics
- The American Counseling Association
- The American Psychiatric Association
- The American Psychological Association
- The National Association of School Psychologists
- The National Association of Social Workers.
These are not fringe groups. They represent about half-million health and mental health professionals that have collectively agreed that homosexuality is not a mental disorder. The American Psychiatric Association specifically rejected reparative therapy as ineffective and destructive, risking depression, anxiety and destructive behavior.
As I stated earlier, one of the most dangerous “treatments” for homosexuality is known as “reparative therapy,” which is the ridiculous notion that homosexuality can be cured. This, of course, is not based on science, but religious dogma. The reported success rates of the conversion of homosexuals to heterosexual orientation prove false under close scrutiny. These reports are from an ideological perspective on sexual orientation, not from the scientific perspective of genetics, biology and real mental health researchers. It does more harm than good, and any attempt at orientation conversion should be ethically questioned
Reparative therapy is “practiced” primarily by fundamental Christian counselors, who are sometimes referred to as “Neuthetic Counselors” in an attempt to further bury their status as purveyors of snake-oil. Based on the premise that homosexuality is an unnatural disease or disorder, these programs run the gamut from lengthily structured sessions in a clinical atmosphere which include immersion in prayer, bible study and repetitive mantras to unstructured programs involving a call to “repent,” or suffer a cure that has a very familiar “final solution” ring.
One of the most high-profile among these charlatans are the Michele and Marcus Bachmann, who run counseling centers called “Bachmann & Associates.” Their clinics have been so successful that the income derived from their bigotry was the primary source of income for their family when Michele left her law practice to move into politics. An ABC News story reported that,
“The Bachmann & Associates counseling centers appear to offer a wide range of services to people in emotional distress and are clearly billed on the clinic’s website as a religious-based approach to mental health treatment.”
There have been enough stories regarding ardent anti-gay bigots being caught in homosexual relationships that cause many people to speculate that a portion of the reparative therapies are by actual homosexuals who are in denial of who and what they are. However, this is not just speculation. I was personally involved in a major and well-known ministry that focused on reparative therapy. I started off as a “counselor” for men who were convinced they were addicted to pornography as a result of demon possession or oppression. I was so successful that I was added to the staff of their reparative therapy department, and eventually was promoted to a position that can best be described as sort of a supervisor of a number of counselors in both departments.
Here’s how it worked. As a counselor, I would receive “patients” through a referral system and guide them through a program that lasted many weeks and included various steps for recovery that were modeled somewhat after a twelve-step program. Once the program was completed and the “patient” was cured, they had an option of training as a counselor. Once they were certified as a counselor, they were assigned to a moderator (like myself), who was in charge of overseeing their case loads and, of course, acting as an accountability partner.
Thus, the reparative therapy department was staffed almost completely by homosexual men who were under the erroneous impression that they were “cured” of their “illness,” and were now “curing” others like them. So, it is not uncommon for religious homosexuals to be homophobic themselves, and I have found through personal interaction with these “counselors” that they are among the most unhappy and mentally confused people I’ve ever met.
Back To Science…
As I have pointed out, science does not yet fully understand how a particular sexual orientation presents in any individual, but there are many hypotheses being studied, including genetic or inborn hormonal factors and complex interactions of biological and psychological factors. What we do know is that sexual orientation is not a choice. It emerges for most people in early adolescence without any prior sexual experience, and psychologists do not consider sexual orientation to be a conscious choice nor associated with any emotional or social problems.
There have also been many comparative studies between homosexual parents and heterosexual parents that reveal no developmental differences between the two groups of children in their intelligence, psychological adjustment, social adjustment, popularity with friends or their sexual orientation. In fact, it has been shown in many cases where children of homosexual parents have fared better in several areas of development.
The reported success rates of the conversion of homosexuals to heterosexual orientation proves false under close scrutiny. These reports are from an ideological perspective on sexual orientation, not from the scientific perspective of real mental health researchers. Their treatments are poorly documented and the post-treatment follow-up time is too short.
The ignorance of science is a cornerstone of the fundamentalist church, offering to cure an imaginary illness that they have invented. Homosexuals are not broken, and do not need repair. Homosexuals who ignore the science behind their sexual orientation end up emotionally wounded by religion and a life saddled with guilt and despair. Homosexuals deserve unreserved participation in all aspects of life, including federal recognition of same-sex marriage.
Science needs to be the standard-bearer regarding human sexuality, and religious doctrines that spew hatred and intolerance toward homosexuality should be treated just as those doctrines that advocate slavery. Those who openly preach for the denigration and biblical murder of homosexuals should be arrested and imprisoned.