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A counter balance to the 'ex-gay' insanity

Singer Jallen Rix went through “conversion therapy” and now campaigns to let people know — it doesn’t work.

Support groups, professionals coordinate to counter Christian activists.

A decade ago, Jallen Rix was a well-known singer and songwriter on the gay pop scene, touring the country behind an album that was nominated for three Gay & Lesbian American Music Awards.

He still performs, but now he is equally as well known — probably better known, in fact — as a gay Christian activist and educator exposing what he says is the damage done to gay men and lesbians by religious and psychological programs that seek to reverse their homosexuality.

Rix knows the effects firsthand. Raised in a Southern Baptist household, he attended an evangelical college and tried what is known as “conversion therapy.” It didn’t work. For the last few years, Rix has been working on a doctorate in sexology and speaking at events like this, a one-day conference organized in suburban Seattle by Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG. Called Love Welcomes All, it was put together in direct response to a much bigger nearby conference put on two weeks earlier by Focus on the Family, the international evangelical ministry led by Dr. James Dobson, who believes homosexuality is largely a learned condition that can be treated.

The article outlines the research and current thinking that may upset Dobson and his crew — acceptance that homosexuality has a biological component and is not something that can be “erased” with therapy, electro-shock treatments or other horrific aversion methods. Actually, it probably doesn’t bother them since they can rely on bogus “science” from Paul Cameron or Jeffrey Satinover to prop up their bigotry.

Supporters of the biological explanation for homosexuality have the weight of science on their side. All of the major medical and psychological professional organizations — from the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association on down — state that sexuality is predominantly determined by chemical, hormonal and genetic conditions in the womb. They are clear in declaring that homosexuality is not a disease or a pathology that can be changed; most go a step further and strongly question whether it is even ethical for a medical professional to help clients try to change their sexuality.

Public opinion appears to be turning their way. In a series of polls by the Gallup organization over the last three decades, the percentage of Americans who agree that homosexuality is not a choice has slowly doubled, to nearly 40 percent. More striking is that acceptance of homosexual behavior is dramatically higher among younger Americans than among their parents: A 2001 survey by Zogby International and Hamilton College found that more than 80 percent of high school seniors nationwide believed that gay men and lesbians should be “accepted by society.”

Still, the power of the ex-gay movement is disturbing. With the AmTaliban riding high, the popularity of these programs is not in dispute.

The ex-gay movement is a “big industry,” said Dr. Doug Haldeman, a psychology professor at the University of Washington who is president of the Association of Practicing Psychologists.

The fact that Focus on the Family was able to draw more than 1,200 people to its conference two weeks ago is troubling, said Haldeman, who co-wrote the American Psychological Association’s Guidelines for Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Clients. So-called conversion therapies are ineffective and dangerous, he said, because “sexual orientation can’t be changed.”

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding