NY Post Publishes Op-Ed Defending "Ex-Gay" Therapy
July 22, 2013 1:04 pm ET by Luke Brinker
The New York Post saw fit to publish an op-ed defending "conversion therapy" for gay people, a practice the American Psychological Association has deemed ineffective and psychologically damaging.
In a July 22 piece, Jeff Bennion, co-founder of the Mormon "ex-gay" organization North Star International, condemned the New Jersey consumer fraud lawsuit against another "ex-gay" organization, Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH). Bennion, who himself claims to have benefitted from "ex-gay" therapy, asserted that, if successful, the Southern Poverty Law Center's (SPLC) lawsuit against JONAH would imperil the "health and happiness" of those seeking to convert to heterosexuality:
It's just the opening shot in a massive legal effort to ban help for gay people — a campaign I take personally. I'm one of those people the SPLC is out to harm — by substituting its judgment about what's good for me for my own.
The client's right to determine the course of his own therapy is a touchstone of modern psychotherapy. So the effort to deny people access to this therapy not only infringes on my right to self-determination, it violates the ethical standards of every major mental-health association.
Officially, it's called Sexual Orientation Change Efforts, or SOCE. Therapists using it were a lifeline to my health and happiness.
SOCE was a revelation to me. It helped me confront my shame, around not only my homosexual feelings but also many other experiences. It taught me that my feelings were innately good, and a natural response to the circumstances I faced. It motivated me to try to repair important family relationships, and helped me learn how to better relate to other men, whom I'd previously ignored or disdained. It's made me much more accepting of myself and of others.
The feelings of "shame" Bennion experienced stemmed, of course, from the bigotry and stigmatization that gays, lesbians, and bisexuals too often confront. "Ex-gay" therapy only reinforces such demonization of LGB individuals. As the SPLC noted in a press release announcing its lawsuit against JONAH, the tactics of "ex-gay" therapy are cruel and degrading:
Customers of JONAH's services typically pay a minimum of $100 for weekly individual counseling sessions and another $60 for group therapy sessions. The lawsuit describes sessions that involved clients undressing in front of a mirror and even a group session where young men were instructed to remove their clothing and stand naked in a circle with the counselor, [Alan] Downing, who was also undressed. Another session involved a subject attempting to wrest away two oranges, which were used to represent testicles, from another individual.
"Sadly, there is no accountability for those who practice conversion therapy," said Michael Ferguson, a conversion therapy survivor and plaintiff in the lawsuit. "They play blindly with deep emotions and create an immense amount of self-doubt for the client. They seize on your personal vulnerability, and tell you that being gay is synonymous with being less of a man. They further misrepresent themselves as having the key to your new orientation."
Downing and other counselors at JONAH also use techniques that leave clients alienated from their families. These techniques encourage clients to blame their parents for being gay. Clients even participate in violent role play exercises where they beat effigies of their mothers.
"These counselors are skilled at manipulating you into believing just about anything," said Benjamin Unger, another plaintiff in the case. "During my time with JONAH, they told me constantly that my mom had made me gay. I was so convinced that I refused to have any contact with her for several months, which caused a great deal of damage to our relationship." [emphasis added]
Alas, the New York Post has no qualms running op-eds defending organizations that employ these techniques as psychologically beneficial and worthy of public support.