Friday, January 28, 2011

Discussing NARTH: An Introduction

I've written before about Andrew Marin and my participation in his blog.  Recently, I've been posting back and forth about NARTH (National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality) with someone named "ChrisZ" on this thread.  ChrisZ is a fan of the organization.  I believe that NARTH is little more than an agendized research organization, established to prove a point or at least to make sure that their point is proven (that point being that homosexuality is a flawed condition and in need of a cure).  Somehow the discussion keeps coming back to three different issues:

1. ChrisZ is concerned that the Church needs to stand for universal truth (that truth being that homosexuality is nurture-driven and can be transformed to heterosexuality).  S/he then cites NARTH (which claims that it is not a religious organization, FWIW) as evidence of this.

2. ChrisZ also wants me to concede that NARTH doesn't believe that homosexuality of "bad" (while citing a website titled "Evils in American Sodomy" and a NARTH-related book report that starts out with the sub-title "Homosexuality is VERY ABNORMAL BEHAVIOR").

3. Finally, ChrisZ doesn't like to hear about the how the ongoing debate on homosexuality in the church and in society actually affects real GLBT people.  That might inspire an emotional response and the Truth rises above emotions.  In other words, keep everything focused on concepts and actively avoid talking about people and families (unless it's convenient to do otherwise).

Given that ChrisZ was jumping around to various different discussion topics in that particular thread and that we were running out of space there, I said that I would eventually discuss the issue here on this blog and link back to Andrew's blog.  Husband Mark doesn't see the point.  And I can see Mark's point.  I'm not sure what specifically ChrisZ wants me to respond to, as s/he has addressed several topics in a short amount of space.  But here are some of the various things that MAY be addressed in this discussion: Is homosexuality biologically determined?  Can gay people change their sexual orientation so that they're no longer gay?  Does NARTH believe that homosexuality is bad?  Does NARTH ever believe that homosexuality can be positive or neutral?  Are gay families the moral equivalent of adulterers and drug addicts?  What about bisexuals and transgender people and polygamists?  Did the APA remove homosexuality from the DSM because its members believe that being gay isn't actually a mental illness or did they do it because of gay activists who'd infiltrated the organization and intimidated the other members?  And, of course, everything jumps back to being divided by truth vs. united by a lie.

So here's the thing.  This is my blog.  I'm game with doing the whole NARTH discussion, but I'm not going to continue it if everything gets jacked around with statements of "don't be emotional" or "don't you love Truth?".  Because, if NARTH truly respects the autonomy of gay people to seek a cure or not, then discussing the positive nature of my life and my family should be respected.  Additionally, it needs to be decided whether we're having a religious discussion (in which case, the NARTH stuff -- by their assertion -- isn't part of this discussion) or if we're having a discussion about NARTH, its history, and its work (in which case, ChrisZ's scriptural references aren't really part of this discussion).

I'll start with the easy stuff first:

1. Is homosexuality biologically determined?  I've already shared my thoughts on that here
Do you think that gays and lesbians are born that way?: I personally don't know and I don't think it matters. My hunch? Yes, no, maybe, and it depends on who we're talking about. I believe that many gay and lesbian people are born with genetic predispositions. I believe that our sexuality is affected by issues like how we're raised and what we're exposed to. And I believe that some people make a decision to be gay or lesbians. And I don't believe that it matters. I don't believe that it would make a difference to many Christians if it was determined that we're born gay and I don't believe that it would alter things for most gay people if it was determined that we are absolutely not born gay.
2. Can gay people change their sexual orientation so that they're no longer gay?  I've already answered that here...:
Can a GLBT person change their sexual orientation?: I believe that we can change our behavior. I don't believe that most GLBT folks are successful with their effort to change from gay or lesbian to het. I believe that most of those gay or lesbian folks who have successfully settled down and married heterosexually still struggle with their own homosexual feelings. And I believe that there are some who successfully make the change. But I also believe that many more people have tried very hard for much of their lives to change from gay to het with no lasting success. And I believe that the Church and its members are not very kind when they tell those people that they don't believe enough in or trust enough in Jesus' transformative power, as evidenced by their lack of change.
... and more recently here:
What about the gays and lesbians who sincerely spend years repenting and fasting and praying to be let go from their homosexual temptations? People make it seem like it’s so easy. Turn to Jesus and he’ll set you free. And then the years click by and they’re not really set free.

The truth is that some gay people can become ex-gay and some gay people were made gay, but the truth is that other gay people aren’t going to become ex-gay no matter how much they try and no matter how much praying, psychotherapy, and holding therapies (they engage in). The truth is that there are gay people who are genuinely happy, content, and safe in their lifestyles, even if that lifestyle is something so vanilla as marriage, kids, and career. And the truth is that they are right with God and they are not addicts or prostitutes or adulterers (though many ex-gay leaders for some reason seem to be former addicts, prostitutes, or adulterers; I’m just sayin’).
3. Are gay families the moral equivalent of adulterers and drug addicts?  I already addressed this here.  In my mind, this is a faulty comparison.  Adultery harms the family through acts of deceit and by risking the introduction of negative outside influence like STDs and illegitimate children.  Drug addition harms people through its various symptoms — inability to maintain employment, inability to care for kids or manage one's household, legal problems, and of course the mental and physical effects of the addiction itself.  Gay families are no more likely to inherently harm those in the family than het families.

4. What about bisexuals?  I already answered this here:
(M)y husband is a bisexual male. What’s your point?
5. What about transgender people?  I answered ChrisZ in the other thread, but really the answer should have been a rephrasing of the bisexual question: "What about them?"

6. What about polygamy?  How far do you want to take this?  I addressed this here:
Polygamy often gets lumped in with GLBT people, but it’s hardly our issue. I dare you to ask most actual Polygamists (who tend to be quite religiously and socially conservative) how much they support the “gay lifestyle”. I will point out that Polygamy has much more of a presence in the Bible than homosexuality does and it tended to be treated in a culturally neutral way, FWIW. At least it’s a step up from adultery, in my mind.
And that's where I'm going to end this discussion tonight.  I plan to address the following issues over the course of this little series: NARTH's origins and purpose; NARTH's anti-gay political and legal activism; and the removal of homosexuality from the DSM (or "is homosexuality a mental illness?")