Michael Brown
Michael Brown offers another anti-LGBT diatribe over proposed California legislation.

Michael Brown has written an OpEd for the Christian Post. It is titled: California’s Shocking ‘You Must Stay Gay’ Bill. The title suggests that sexual orientation is a choice or something that is reversible. However, there is no intervention known to medical science that can make a gay person straight. No gay-to-straight alchemy exists.

Various forms of Pray-Away-The-Gay (some poorly disguised as secular endeavors) are ineffective and potentially toxic according to just about every mainstream professional peer organization. Gay conversion therapy exists to justify discrimination for the sake of religion.

I hate writing about Michael Brown just as I have a dislike for writing about Peter LaBarbera. Brown is a religious zealot — a Christian convert — who is barely distinguishable from the folks who flew airplanes into buildings for their god. Unlike them, Brown is nonviolent. However, like those 9/11 maniacs, Brown substitutes literalist religious belief for logic, science and common sense. Brown, I think, relishes the negative attention and while I say that he is nonviolent he does equivalent violence to LGBT people every day through misinformation.

Brown writes:

In a brazen assault on our most fundamental freedoms, California legislators are considering a bill that would make it illegal for anyone to receive professional help to resolve unwanted same-sex attractions or gender confusion. This would apply to people of all ages. People of all religious and moral convictions. It is an absolute outrage, and it must be opposed vigorously.

The way that paragraph is written, Brown suggests that the hypothetical patient is violating the law. California wishes to make providing conversion therapy illegal.

While we are at it, let’s get rid of the religious language “same-sex attraction” is church-speak for a sexual orientation that they disapprove of. The correct term is “gay” — “homosexual” in clinical context. “Gender confusion” is also religious BS. People with gender dysphoria are not confused. Not at all. They are certain that their gender is different from their natal sex. It is a condition (gender dysphoria) that is well documented in the medical literature. There is no intervention known to medical science that diminishes or eliminates gender dysphoria.

In the final analysis, Michael Brown is an advocate of pseudoscience in order to conform the world to his religious beliefs. It should be noted that Brown sports a PhD in Near Eastern Languages. Obviously, he has no training or work experience relative to human sexuality.

I don’t want to go through this entire verbose polemic but one paragraph that got my attention was this:

This would apply to a 14-year-old girl who was raped by her uncle at the age of 8 and now feels repulsion towards men and attraction towards women. If her parents stood with her and she wanted to meet with a trained counselor to help to get to the root of her attractions, in some states, that would be illegal. No professional counselor or therapist or psychologist would be allowed to help her.

Rape does not turn people gay. There is no peer-reviewed research to support Brown’s preposterous example. At least he did not use Jerry Sandusky to make the claim. The girl in Brown’s example needs therapy. Just not gay conversion quackery.

The following paragraph is no better:

Yet in these same states, if an 8-year-old girl believed she was really a boy and wanted to receive professional help to affirm her female identity, that would be perfectly legal. A counselor could tell her parents to encourage her to dress and identify as a boy. That counselor could also recommend that, at age 10, she start taking hormone blockers, then prepares to “transition” fully to male at age 16, then has sex-change surgery at 18, with hormones prescribed for life.

The first sentence makes no sense in the context of bans on conversion therapy. Brown is terribly confused. Children with gender dysphoria are absolutely and persistently certain of their gender. They insist on being treated according to their gender. Puberty blockers are fully reversible. They give the kid and parents time. If at the age of, say, 14 the child is most comfortable in transition then she (now he) might be offered hormone treatment. He and his parents would make a fully-informed decision. Many transgender people do not opt for surgery. Some do.

But for that same 8-year-old girl to say, “I want to be at home in the body God gave me. I don’t want hormones and surgery. Can anyone help me?” The answer would be, “No. Such help is illegal.”

Sure. That happens every damned day. Brown is obtusely ignoring the certitude of gender. Moreover, no professional is forcing hormones and certainly not surgery on anyone. At this point that 8-year-old is already wearing boys’ clothing and preferring boys’ toys. As far as the kid is concerned he is a boy and wants to be treated as a boy.

You’re a married father of four, but you struggle deeply with gender identity confusion. You set up an appointment with one of the pastors, only to be told, “It is illegal for us to help you.”

In his prior (unquoted) paragraph Brown claims that the counseling services are offered to tithing members of the church creating a financial transaction. It is far-fetched. What the hell is “gender identity confusion?” Why can’t Brown simply state gender dysphoria? He is obsessed with using church-speak. And what on earth does he think a pastor can do to address gender dysphoria? This is crazy-world.

Or you’re reading the Bible, which strictly forbids homosexual relationships, and you want help with unwanted same-sex attractions. … You try to set up that counseling appointment with your pastor, only to be told, “It is illegal for us to help you.”

Again, that is based on the notion that routine donations to the church creates a financial transaction which is absurd. Furthermore, the simple truth is that, if someone is gay or bisexual, there is nothing a pastor — or a psychiatrist for that matter — can do to alter their sexuality. This is where the application of faith becomes superstition. The religious disapproval of gay people does not mean that sexual orientation can be changed. The notion that sexual orientation can be changed exists to justify the disapproval of gay people. That sounds illogical because it is illogical.

What makes this even more outrageous is that: 1) there are thousands of ex-gays who can personally testify to their own transformation; 2) there are gay and lesbian psychologists who argue against the myth that homosexuality is innate and immutable; and 3) most children who identify as transgender no longer do so after puberty.

We are aware of a handful of people who claim to be ex-gay and they all seem to have a financial interest in claiming to be ex-gay. There is no research published to a respected peer-reviewed journal affirming that sexual orientation is changeable. The second point cites one psychologist, Lisa Diamond, who says that sexual orientation is fluid and can change. I agree with Dr. Diamond. As a bisexual (most comfortable as a gay man) my orientation changes from time to time.

However, once again Brown is confused. The fact that, for some people, sexual orientation is fluid does not mean that there exists anything that can influence that fluidity. I have had a good laugh with my therapist about “straight conversion therapy.” I usually compare this to outdoor temperature. It changes throughout the day but there isn’t much that we can do to alter those changes.

The third point is just plain incorrect. Many children who experience gender dysphoria see it dissipate. However, when the severity of the condition requires a transition to mitigate the extreme distress, that child is very unlikely to change. That is what the peer-reviewed research has determined. It’s worth quoting from an article written by Dr. Jack Turban at Yale who works with gender nonconforming children routinely:

[Ten years ago] The hope was that early treatment would “diminish the risk of a continuation of gender identity disorder into adulthood” — in other words, make children stop being transgender. Transgender youth during this time suffered high rates of depression and anxiety. By young adulthood, nearly half had attempted suicide. … Researchers at the University of Washington published a study based on 63 transgender youth who were allowed to socially transition. They found that their levels of anxiety and depression were just about indistinguishable from their non-transgender peers. … Once transgender youth hit puberty, their gender identity is unlikely to change.

I don’t know about you but I am more likely to believe a specialist with “MD” after his name than some religious crazy with a PhD in literature. I am skipping past a mountain of manure but this warrants attention:

In fact, during my radio broadcast, Ann Paulk, an ex-lesbian herself, said that positive counseling outcomes for people dealing with unwanted same-sex attractions are higher than positive outcomes for those dealing with alcoholism. Yet no one in their right mind would seek to ban professional counseling or therapy for alcoholics.

Paulk’s former husband is ex-ex-gay and if Paulk was a lesbian she remains a lesbian who chooses not to live as a lesbian. Where, exactly, is the peer-reviewed research to support Paulk’s preposterous claim about the effectiveness of gay conversion therapy? Moreover, sexual orientation is not comparable to alcoholism or drug addiction or anything else that they try to convey with the term “same-sex attraction.” It is just more bullshit on top of a pile of bullshit.

Christians seem to be capable of raising piles of money. One would would think that, by now, they would be able to get some peer-reviewed research to support their claims about ex-gays and gay conversion therapy. The best that the Catholic Church’s Courage Ministry can manage is an article written by a guy with a doctorate in pharmacy published in the journal of the Catholic Medical Association. Very impressive. I am sure that they can come up with some additional crackpots. What they cannot produce, with all the money in the world, is real research published to a respected scholarly academic journal. They cannot seem to buy even a Mark Regnerus.

If Michael Brown knows of more compelling research, he has not cited it. He has failed to make any meaningful argument in support of conversion therapy. Promoting the existence of this mythical approach only creates prejudice and discrimination. It serves no useful purpose. Come to think of it, Michael Brown serves no useful purpose. It is a cheap shot but the guy rails against LGBT people all day, every day. Maybe he needs a new hobby.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.