I was interviewed by the BBC for an article posted today on their website about Bishop Gene Robinson’s invitation to speak at Greenbelt. I commented that it is not appropriate to invite the “Ex-Gay” movement to present an alternative perspective to Bishop Gene. The “Ex-gay” organisations are on the fringe of the church whereas Gene Robinson is a bishop, elected by and in good standing with his church. I said there’s a lot of evidence that trying to make somebody ex-gay doesn’t work and can be abusive.
Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream says he is concerned that no opposing viewpoint on human sexuality will be aired at Greenbelt. It’s a sign of prejudice that they haven’t invited other speakers. He would like to hear from organisations who say they can either change same-sex attraction or enable gay men and women to remain happily celibate. Chris told me at the General Synod meeting in York that he doesn’t believe I am innately gay – there is no such thing as ‘being gay’.
Phelim McIntyre has reacted to my comments in a post on the Anglican Mainstream website. He accuses me of being economical with the truth. Phelim describes himself as an ex-gay who has counselled others who have left the “homosexual lifestyle”. Other conservatives I have spoken with are reluctant to use any of these categories to describe themselves (which is fine – I respect their self-identity).
Conservatives are not of one mind in their understanding of homosexuals and homosexuality. There are people who engage in a “homosexual lifestyle”; people who are ex-gay (were gay and now are heterosexual); people who thought they were gay and identified as such but now believe they were heterosexual all the time; people who believe they are homosexual but choose to be celibate because they believe God forbids same-sex activity. One leading American I met claims to be ex-gay and is now happily married with children but confessed to periods of troubling gay fantasies.
The problem for Mainstream and their supporters is – are there or are there not people who are innately gay? I believe there are people who are innately gay – that is my self-understanding. If, as Chris Sugden and other’s believe, no-one is really gay, then no-one can be ex-gay and the ex-gay movement is dealing with a different category of sexual identity – men and women who were mistaken about themselves but for a period of their lives enjoyed or engaged in sexual activity with other men or women (The ex-gay movement seems to be absorbed with gay men and less interested in lesbians).
In support of his argument that I am being economical with the truth Phelim refers to over 40 studies which show that therapy can help people. He says the only evidence for harm caused by such therapy are testimonies which have not been put through proper academic examination. He says it is a lie to state that reparative therapy is abusive. I have met many men who have been through ex-gay therapies and programmes and described them as abusive.
Phelim refers to “pro-gay therapy” and “gay affirmative therapy” which “is done with no recognised diagnostic criteria and with no research into its safety and effectiveness.” Professional psychotherapists do not engage in “pro-gay therapy”. They respect the client’s presentation of his or her crisis, dilemma or problem without making assumptions about what is best for the client.
So-called “reparative therapy” is conducted by therapists with an agenda, usually informed by involvement with a conservative Christian or other faith community. The majority of gay men and lesbians have no need of therapy in the UK now that we are increasingly integrated into society and can be open about our sexuality and our partners.
Organisations such as Anglican Mainstream are responding to a small minority of Christians who read the Bible literally and hold fundamentalist beliefs about gender and sexuality. The majority of lesbian and gay Christians have no difficulty integrating their faith and sexuality – any neuroses or problems we have arise from the attitudes espoused by conservative Christians who campaign against our full integration into the church.
Phelim concludes with an unwarranted judgement of Gene Robinson. He describes him as “a performer who loves attention and the spotlight, but otherwise did not come across to me as caring or even that nice a person. Greenbelt have invited a ‘persona’, not a person …” Phelim dehumanises Bishop Gene by categorising him as a ‘persona’ and not a ‘person’ vividly demonstrating the abuse visited by conservatives on faithful, loving partnered lesbian and gay Christians.
I object to the request that Greenbelt should invite an ‘ex-gay’ advocate to speak to balance the presence of Bishop Gene Robinson for three reasons:
Conservatives disagree as to whether anyone is innately gay.
There is a broad spectrum of conservative opinion about gay people, from those who don’t think we really exist to those who think we do but must be celibate – no single group or person can represent such a disparate set of opinions.
They are a tiny minority compared with the numbers of Christians who identify positively as lesbian and gay.