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.
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.”
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.”
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.