Wednesday, October 12, 2016

New Living Ways Ministry SA Seeks Human Rights For 'Ex-Gays'

This morning I found an item in my mailbox from Andre' Bekker, a representative of "New Living Way Ministry" - an 'ex-gay' group in South Africa. It was headed "An Open Letter to the Gay Community and Activists", and its content can be read right at the bottom of this article. I have no idea who else has received a copy of this letter, but since it was headed 'an open letter', I presume it was meant for the whole LGBT community in South Africa, and of course activists such as myself.

I don't often reply to provocative letters from organizations of that caliber. It's not normally worth the aggravation. It's obvious though, that Mr. Bekker wanted a response of some sort, so I sat at my PC a little longer than I really wanted to, and read through the whole thing. Suitably provoked after a time, I typed out my reply, included below:



Dear Mr. Bekker,

I certainly agree with the broad gist of your 'Open Letter to the Gay Community and Activists' - but only in the context that I believe ALL human beings deserve human rights!

In that, you are certainly correct! 

In your letter, you plead for better treatment of 'former homosexuals' in society - presumably at the hands of the LGBT community and activists for LGBT human rights and equality - arguing that this hypothetical group of people deserve the same level of dignity and human rights as LGBT people. To this, I can ultimately agree!

I said 'hypothetical' because, considering that there is no such thing as a 'former homosexual' - only people who have been taught, perhaps by groups such as yours, or by people such as yourself - that it is more acceptable in their conservative religious views to deny their own existence, their very nature, and the core of their being - all in order to satisfy a puritanical religious obsession! 

This movement is, and always has been, a farce - its adherents claim to be 'former homosexuals' - being 'cured' by 'prayer', by 'God' or by some other farcical means. Meanwhile, you know just as well as I do that you are every bit as gay as any other gay man who has accepted themselves and who has moved on to live a happy, fulfilled life while being at peace - and most importantly, being honest about it.

Further, I point out the many 'ex-gay' pastors, activists and movement founders who have tumbled out of the closet over the years - still gay, been gay all along - and just stopped denying it, stopped fighting their inborn nature. By now I'm sure there are so many of them, they could fill a stage and put on a Broadway show.

The 'ex-gay' movement is built on lies and deceit - the lie that it is possible to change a donkey into an elephant, or in Christian terms, to straighten out what 'God' has bent. It strips people of their divine right to live life to the fullest extent, to find happiness, fulfillment and love. Most damaging of all, it inflicts this harm on vulnerable young impressionable people and children!

So-called 'ministries' which advocate 'conversion therapy' indulge in a range of human rights abuses in the name of bigoted and perverse religion, inflicting self-hatred, low self-esteem and other abuses on their victims. Ironically, 'ex-gay' groups are little more than playground bullies, breaking people down until they themselves believe they are as bad as the haters think they are. 

Groups advocating that LGBT people should not accept themselves contribute immeasurably to LGBT suicides around the world. Where is your concern about their human rights and dignity, Mr. Bekker?

The irony, as my reasoning above implies - is that if 'former homosexuals' feel marginalized or maligned by the LGBT community and activists - or feel left out, or unaccepted by either gay or straight communities, then it is the 'ex-gay' movement itself - and 'former homosexual' activists, perhaps such as yourself, who are actually to blame for that. 

As for human rights, Mr. Bekker - you will find that 'ex-gays' already have exactly the same human rights as every other human in South Africa under the Constitution. That is, we are all as protected and safe as any poor black gay person at risk of assault, 'corrective rape' or murder in a location, regardless of whether they are gay and happy, or gay and hip-deep in denial.

In that case, Mr. Bekker, in order to reach your goal of achieving dignity, self-worth, and human rights for 'former homosexuals' such as yourself, I suggest you stop forcing your internalized homophobia and medieval religious piety on your own good self - and on others as well - since those are the very things which deprive people of self-worth and dignity.

Your argument that "full and proper diversity must include 'former homosexuals'" is contradictory to the reality - which is that so-called 'former homosexuals' are merely homosexuals in denial that they are homosexual. You are consequently not a distinct or 'special' group. Sexual orientation is already a protected class under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. You are already part of a diverse society - and ironically, it is a diversity which you despise not only in that society, but also in yourselves.

What you are looking for by this initiative, I think, is to twist human rights law to gain public or legal affirmation and approval to commit human rights abuses and atrocities against yourselves and others in order to placate a conservative religious bias.

Your argument is further invalidated - in fact, ham-strung - by your comment regarding 'organizational intolerance' for 'ex-gay therapy' (or 'Sexual Orientation Change Effort Therapy' as you put it), in which you assert that this harmful practice central to your 'identity' should be respected and protected by the Constitution!

You should already be aware that every reputable medical and psychiatric body on Earth dismisses the notion that a persons sexual orientation can be altered by practices such as this as 'junk-science'! Groups such as NARTH and its many offshoots and successors have NO credibility! None! Links and references to articles or statements by these groups, which you provide in your letter, are therefore devoid of any sense, value or meaning.

Further, medical or psychiatric practitioners who dabble in this harmful pseudo-science are liable to be reported and struck from their professional registries - which is why, frequently, the only people offering this 'service' are quacks, charlatans and 'religious counselors'.

This pseudo-science, a documented fraud, is categorized clearly as harmful to those it is intended to 'help', since it leads to isolation, and instills shame and guilt in its victims for something they have no control over, leading to depression, self-loathing, and self-harm. I can't believe that you could be so insulated as to not be aware of these facts, so I must assume that you have chosen to deny them. 

There are a great many articles written about these facts, and I'm sure you are very capable of finding them yourself using Google or another search engine, but here are a few for your benefit:
20120519 Psychiatry Giant Sorry for Backing Gay ‘Cure’ (Psychiatrist Dr. L. Spitzer, who once offered a study on reparative therapy, has since denounced the practice and has apologized for endorsing the practice.) 

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/19/health/dr-robert-l-spitzer-noted-psychiatrist-apologizes-for-study-on-gay-cure.html?_r=2&

Scientific/Medical argument against “ex-gay” “therapy” (PFLAG.org “”Ex-Gay” Ministries and “Reparative Therapy”: Ex-gay ministries use out-of-date and scientifically disproved medical theories to justify trying to “cure” lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) peoples’ natural sexual orientation or gender identity. Originally, these ministries were a small group of religious people who were virtually unknown. However, because of high-profile ad campaigns and conferences sponsored by the religious right these ministries have become a political tool in the ongoing fight to deny LGBT civil rights.

http://community.pflag.org/Page.aspx?pid=503

Research on the Impacts of Reparative Therapy, Harms Caused by Societal Prejudice (In 2007, a task force of the American Psychological Association undertook a thorough review of the existing research on the efficacy of reparative therapy. Their report noted that there was very little methodologically sound research on sexual orientation change efforts (SOCEs) and that the “results of scientifically valid research indicate that it is unlikely that individuals will be able to reduce same-sex attractions or increase other-sex sexual attractions through SOCE.)

http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/therapeutic-response.pdf

The APA Says ‘No Evidence’ In Support of Ex-Gay Therapy (Truth Wins Out – There is “no evidence that sexual orientation change efforts work.” This was the American Psychological Association’ verdict on “ex-gay” therapy after an appointed task force of experts studied the issue for two years. The APA deserves credit for taking ex-gay therapists to task for twisting the truth and holding them accountable for their scare tactics, such as claiming that there are no happy gay people. “The limited published literature on these programs suggests that many do not present accurate scientific information regarding same-sex sexual orientations to youth and families, are excessively fear-based and have the potential to increase sexual stigma,” said the APA report, “Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation.”)

http://www.truthwinsout.org/blog/2009/08/3706/

Most damaging of all, the 'study' upon which the whole 'ex-gay' industry was built, was exposed as a complete fraud:

Masters & Johnson’s Notorious ‘Ex-Gay’ Study Debunked (In his groundbreaking new book, “Masters of Sex”, author Thomas Maier discovered through investigative reporting that the results of Masters & Johnson’s study were entirely fabricated. Virginia Johnson acknowledged that the results were fake. She had actually argued in 1978 that book should never have seen the light of day – but it was already to late in the publishing process to undo the damage. One can not overstate the importance of Maier’s findings. They undo the very underpinnings of the so-called “ex-gay” therapy movement, further showing that there is no scientific evidence or data to support the outdated idea that gay people can become heterosexual through therapy. Indeed, many people who have undergone such “treatment” claim the experience was harmful and that they were psychologically damaged. The American Psychiatric Association says that attempts to change sexual orientation can lead to “anxiety, depression and self-destructive behavior.”)

http://www.truthwinsout.org/pressrelease/2009/06/3112/

You will probably already know that this barbaric cult-like practice (which is in my view little better than water-boarding) has recently been banned in several states in the USA and in other countries around the world. Hopefully soon this will be the case in South Africa as well.

You have the legal and natural right to be gay, Mr. Bekker - and to enjoy it freely - and you also have the legal right to deny your own sexuality if you choose to do so, no matter how that may hurt you in the end. 

In either case, you are as fully deserving of equal human rights and dignity as anyone else is.

But what you are not entitled to, Mr. Bekker - is to enshrine in law the right to abuse, cause harm to, bully and torture others in order to force them to accept your delusions, religious or otherwise as their own - to try and make it seem socially acceptable, laudable or praiseworthy, and even ethical - and to then claim it is your 'human right' to do so!

In simple language, Mr. Bekker - NO! You are asking for human rights law to embrace, defend and promote an entity and a practice which actively promotes the violation of human rights! You are asking a diverse society to embrace an element which seeks to make society less diverse by means of erradication or transmutation! 

Human rights and violations of human rights are opposites, Mr. Bekker - they are not meant to be one and the same thing!

Your argument is non sequitur, Mr. Bekker. It does not make sense.

Sincerely,

Christina Engela

Below is the letter sent to me by "New Living Ways Ministry":
"An Open letter to the Gay Community and Activists,

Peter Tatchell, a human rights campaigner from the UK, and a member of the queer rights group OutRage!, once made this statement:

“Surely we merit human rights because we are human beings? The cause of our homosexuality is irrelevant to our quest for justice. We are entitled to dignity and respect, regardless of whether we are born queer or made queer, and irrespective of whether our homosexuality is something beyond our control or something freely chosen.”[1]

This statement stroked a cord and resonated with my former homosexual heart. Its message translated as:

“Surely former homosexuals merit human rights because we are human beings? The cause of our former homosexual identity is irrelevant to our quest for justice. We are entitled to dignity and respect, regardless of where we find ourselves in the proses of change, and irrespective if change takes place spontaneously, by means of religious practices, by intervention of a therapist or any combination of these.”

Former homosexuals have the right to bodily and psychological integrity. It includes at least the following elements: 1) the notion of an ‘inner circle’ in which the individual may live their own personal life as they choose;  2) the right to freely establish and develop relationships with other human beings; and 3) the right to enjoy a shared culture, practice a shared religion and use a person’s own language. Examples, applicable to former homosexuals, of issues that fall within this concept include personal autonomy, personal identity and freedom of religion.

The decision by a person, not to be identified as gay is one only an individual himself can make. However, there are those in society – most often the gay community and their supporters - who refuse to respect individual self-determination. The hallmark of a constitutional democracy is freedom of association and choice, and it has been my experience and many of my kind, that certain lobby groups are hard at work to take away or deny our right to this sexual identity, as if it is not allowed or does not exist. Consequently, former homosexuals are often reviled simply because they dare to exist, or identify as such.

The most distinguishing characteristics of former homosexuals, is the belief that a person’s sexual orientation is not inborn and that it can change. This believe is not unfounded as it is a well established fact that sexual orientation is fluid.[2] Some former homosexuals change spontaneously. For others the intervention of a therapist is needed while others change through religious practices or a combination of these. For many former homosexuals it is an insult to be called gay, lesbian or bi-sexual, and no doubt a constitutional democracy provides for these differences and the freedom to associate with different social, religious or cultural groups without fear of being victimised for being different or believing differently.

A significant number of former homosexuals are devoted believers and have strong religious conviction as a result. The documentary “Such were some of you,” (available from CUM Books) shows the importance of religion to a significant number of former homosexuals. People of faith have the right to teach their ethics, morals and beliefs as it is observed in their religions. This must be honored as a foundational constitutional right. However, when former homosexuals live out their convictions, I find that they are often accused of stirring hate and hostility against the gay community. They are made out to be “bigots” and are on the receiving end of intolerance, harassment, abuse and hatred.

Former homosexuals and their supporters live in an increasingly hostile society where they are labelled as perpetrators of hate against gays simply because they advocate for, or live out a different view of homosexuality. I am therefore compelled  to draw your attention to Diamond and Rosky’s claims:

We make three specific claims .... First, arguments based on the immutability of sexual orientation are unscientific, given that scientific research does not indicate that sexual orientation is uniformly biologically determined at birth or that patterns of same-sex and other-sex attractions remain fixed over the life course. Second, arguments based on the immutability of sexual orientation are unnecessary, in light of two decades of U.S. legal decisions—including the most recent Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage—in which courts have used grounds other than immutability to protect the rights of sexual minorities. Third, arguments about the immutability of sexual orientation are unjust, ... because they privilege sexual minorities who experience their sexuality as fixed over those who experience their sexuality as fluid.[3]

It is my position that full and proper diversity must include former homosexuals of all ages and persuasions. If not, their fundamental human rights stand to be violated. Organizational intolerance and discrimination, for instance regarding Sexual Orientation Change Effort therapy and the denial of the existence of former homosexuals, is a gross violation of the human rights of former homosexuals as recognised, by our own Bill of Rights, and also by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR),[4] and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRD),[5] outlined below:[6]
“These include the rights of adults, as well as children, to:  (1) Freedom for the full development of one’s human personality (UDHR, Article # 26; cf., CRD, # 18); (2) Medical care and necessary social services (UDHR  # 25; cf. CRD # 3); (3) Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion (UDHR # 18; cf., CRD # 14); (4) Freedom of opinion and expression, which includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media (UDHR, # 19; cf., CRD, # 12, 13 & 17); and, (5) The protection of the law against arbitrary interference with one’s privacy or family and attacks on one’s honor and reputation (UDHR, Article 12; cf., CRD # Articles 4 & 5).”

Former homosexual members of society should be afforded the same respect, dignity and freedoms as gay people have so vocally campaigned for. A quote from Mr. Mandela is very apt:

“To be free is not merely to cast of one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Yours Sincerely,

André Bekker
Mobile: +27 (0)71 326 8034
Advocating for the Constitutional Rights of Former Homosexuals
Ministering to People with Unwanted Same-sex Attraction, Families and Loved Ones


[1] “Homosexuality: It isn’t natural,” “Spiked,” Tuesday 24 June 2008 (http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/article/5375/).
[2] American Psychological Association Makes New Statement About Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, Is Silent About Important Research; http://www.aoiusa.org/american-psychological-association-course-correction-sexualorientation-and-gender-identity-not-fixed-after-all/   
[3] Diamond, L. M., & Rosky, C. (2016). Scrutinizing immutability: Research on sexual orientation and its role in U. S. legal advocacy for the rights of sexual minorities. The Journal of Sex Research. Advance online publication. doi: 10:1080/00224499.2016.1139665



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