Utah school broadcasts "cure" lecture

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com January 15 2003 12:00 AM ET

Despite the concerns of many gay activists, Mormon-run Brigham Young University television stations will air a presentation on helping gay men turn straight.
Psychotherapist Jeff Robinson delivered the presentation at the "Families Under Fire" conference at the BYU campus in Provo, Utah, last fall. Robinson's presentation will air on BYU-TV at 8 p.m. Thursday, January 16; on KBYU at 10 p.m. on February 23; and again on BYU-TV at 8 p.m. on April 20. Nine other "Families Under Fire" presentations will air as well, encompassing such topics as divorce, sexual assault, and abstinence, said KBYU program manager Wendy Thomas.

"These are difficult topics, but we're running them because we think it will help families," Thomas said. However, leaders of some Utah gay groups say Robinson's theories of "curing" homosexuality send the wrong message to people who are attracted to the same sex. "I find that really offensive," said Michael Mitchell, executive director of Unity Utah. "I believe God made us how we are for a reason and God loves us exactly how we are."

In his talk Robinson outlines steps he says can help gay men become attracted to women. The process requires the help of counselors and others and isn't an easy one, he says: "It's like any serious addiction--it's very difficult to overcome. But if a person is really motivated and wants that, change is absolutely possible." Robinson, whose focus is counseling gay men, said he is treating about 40 men in Utah County. He said many young gay men are in emotional turmoil. "I want to reach young men who are feeling hopeless, who are living lives of guilt and shame and secrecy," he said. "It is possible for them to change and not have a life of denial but a life with happiness and fulfillment."

"I find it sad that people think being gay is such a bad thing that we would need to change," said Mitchell. "Gay and lesbian people live full lives. We have families, we go to church, we pay taxes, we do all the things that nongay people do."

Rick Bickmore, director of the Wasatch chapter of Affirmation, a support group for gay and lesbian Mormons, said he can see both sides of the issue. "But just because they could change their behavior, is it something they should do?" he asked, adding that while maybe some gay men could change, the "cure" didn't work for him.