Scroll To Top

“Ex-Gay” Movement = Genocide?

“Ex-Gay” Movement = Genocide?


I am fascinated by the steps people take to go from speaking hateful things about LGBT people to committing hateful and violent acts against the same group. Of course, I see the connection, but I am amazed what enables ordinary people to do horrific things and how their words and beliefs feed into these acts. I am especially sensitive to this topic in terms of the rhetoric and tactics of reparative therapies and "ex-gay ministries" since I fell prey to these cult-like organizations when I first began to deal with my own sexuality. Truly, the things these groups said and taught in the name of "Jesus' healing" ended up making the vast majority of their participants hate themselves ... often to the extreme of suicide.

This is why I was captivated by Sue E. Spivey and Christine M. Robinson's new study in the April edition of the journal Genocide Studies and Prevention called "Genocidal Intentions: Social Death and the Ex-Gay Movement." Not only do they outline word-action connections, but they clearly show how the "ex-gay" movement fits several of the United Nations definitions of genocide, and they do this using the ex-gay leadership's own words and literature.

Sounds severe? Read on.

When we hear a newscaster use the word "genocide," we probably know what it means -- mass murder, ethnic cleansing, etc. In some ways the downside to this definition is that it is usually used in hindsight. This definition is only useful to define what has already happened without it giving us any predictors to prevent regular people and societies from committing unspeakable acts of violence against a whole group of people.

This is why the U.N.'s definition of genocide is larger than a simple "mass murder" description. The 1948 Untied Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, articles II(b)-(e) outlined a number of ways genocide can be framed for the purpose of prediction and prevention. For example, here are just two points: (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; and (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Sound familiar?

Over a dozen psychological, educational and medical organizations have denounced reparative therapy on the basis that, not only is it ineffective, but it can cause harm to the participants. Paul Cameron, who was expelled from the American Psychological Association for resisting an ethics investigation into his work (though the ex-gay movement still quotes his discredited research as gospel) has said, "States should prohibit homosexuals, prostitutes, and drug addicts from adopting children, being foster-care parents, and having custody of children."

To further connect the dots, Spivey and Robinson have used the work of James Waller, who "synthesized a large body of social and psychological scholarship, organized as a general model, to explain how ordinary people commit extraordinary acts of brutality." Some of the processes are "Us Verses Them Thinking," "Moral Disengagement," and "Blaming the Victim." For example, "Ex-gay leaders socially distance themselves from their victims ... they do this by defining homosexuality as behaviors, attractions, identities, or more insidiously, as a sinful 'lifestyle,' a mental illness, or a menacing social 'agenda,' thus denying the personhood, indeed the existence -- and the victimization of gay and lesbian people." As Joseph Nicolosi, one of the most outspoken reparative therapists (he coined the label), has said about a gay teen who had the courage to come out of the closet, "He is designed for a woman. ... He is heterosexual but he may have a homosexual problem."

You probably can guess that this is the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of quotes that Spivey and Robinson use, point for point, that illustrate how the ex-gay movement is speaking the rhetoric of genocidal intentions. This sobering, thorough, and outstanding research is going to shine a very conspicuous magnifying glass on the ex-gay movement like never before. As a sexologist and an ex-gay survivor myself, I humbly thank these two professors at James Madison University for their fine work. Please tell me a book is forthcoming.
Advocate Magazine - Gio BenitezAdvocate Channel Promotion

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories