Laura Haynes
Conversion Therapy Crackpot Laura Haynes

via Laura Haynes website

Laura Haynes poses the rhetorical question: Are Religious Californians Really Harming the Mental Health of People Who Identify as LGBTQ? The outlet for this intellectually dishonest treatise is Witherspoon Institute’s pseudo-intellectual blog.

Aside from the BS inherent in rhetorical questions Ms. Haynes is incapable of writing “LGBTQ people.” She is pretending that LGBTQ people do not exist. Her substitute is “People who identify as LGBTQ.” How can she answer a question about people whom she does not believe even exist? Not very well, as it turns out.

Laura Haynes is a retired California Christian psychologist. Haynes is, and always has been, a professional Christian. She has been associated with NARTH (now Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity) and specialized in conversion therapy. She has personally harmed LGBTQ people with interventions that are both ineffective and harmful according to every mainstream medical and counseling professional organization.

On her website Haynes (now retired) refers people to the expected providers: Focus on the Family, NARTH, Restored Hope Network  and the Courage Ministry.

Haynes’ current piece is extremely verbose. I will only quote selected passages.

A declaration in California’s Assembly Concurrent Resolution 99 (ACR-99) claims that “groups in society, including therapists and religious groups,” create stigma and have “caused disproportionately high rates of suicide, attempted suicide, depression, rejection, and isolation” in sexual and gender minorities. These politicians claim that LGBTQ-affirming beliefs will lead to better mental health outcomes.

Why not simply quote from the (nonbinding) resolution? It reads:

The stigma associated with being LGBTQ often created by groups in society, including therapists and religious groups, has caused disproportionately high rates of suicide, attempted suicide, depression, rejection, and isolation amongst LGBTQ and questioning individuals.

Haynes attempts to reframe the issue with the idea that the resolution seeks to have “LGBTQ-affirming beliefs.” She is suggesting that the resolution wants her and others to do certain things. That is incorrect and manipulative.

The correct inference from the resolution is stop doing certain bigoted things. A cesation could improve the collective mental health of LGBTQ people, particularly that of children. Of particular concern is the damage that believers might do to their own LGBTQ kids. Christianity, Inc. reinforces those pernicious beliefs.

The GLSEN survey found that religious schools did not have LGBTQ-affirming curricula, clubs, website access, library resources, textbooks, teachers, administrators, or policies.…

However, the survey actually found that religious schools ranked among the safest for LGBTQ students, with fewer anti-LGBTQ remarks among students than in public schools, and the least victimization and bullying of any schools.

The differences are not dramatic and private schools are better in some areas. One reason for that is the fact that the few LGBTQ kids attending religious schools are far more likely to be in the closet because they are far more likely to have unsupportive parents. Thus they experience less discrimination, bullying and harassment. In contrast, a supportive parent would probably not send their LGBTQ kid to a religious school. So, in summary:

  1. There are, as a percentage, fewer LGBTQ children in religious schools and;
  2. LGBTQ children attending religious schools are more likely to hide their sexuality than their peers in public schools, which means;
  3. The statistics observed by Haynes do not support the idea that religious people are kinder to LGBTQ children and;
  4. We are well aware of quite the opposite. Imagine the plight of a transgender or gender nonconforming child attempting to attend a Christian school.

Meanwhile, religious teachers and students are experiencing harm in GLSEN-style schools.

Always the damn victim. What the hell is a “GLSEN-style school?”

If the state or schools enforce compliance with mandated LGBTQ affirmation, it will mean compelling students’ and teachers’ speech to promote ideas and to use pronouns that violate their deeply held religious beliefs and First Amendment rights.

I will refer Haynes to Garcetti v. Ceballos. Government employers have an unfettered right to control the speech of employees as it relates to the workplace. In the one federal case we have seen, Meriwether v. Hartop, a federal magistrate has obliterated objections over pronouns.

And what does this self-manufactured victimization have to do with whether or not conservative Christians are doing harm to LGBTQ people? Attempting to reverse the argument is a dismal failure and dishonest.

Barringer and Gay (2017) conducted what may be the first sociological examination of how religious affiliation and attendance at religious services affect self-reported happiness in LGBT adults.

Observant LGBTQ people will attend religious services, often at an affirming house of worship. That is entirely irrelevant to whether or not conservative Christians are harming LGBTQ people. She keeps trying to change the subject.

Are Counselors Causing Disproportionate Mental Health Disparities?

If those counselors are practicing conversion therapy? Yes, according to the American Psychological Association and others.

Activists frequently and grotesquely mischaracterize therapy that helps clients—who are often religious—explore alternatives to unwanted same-sex attraction or behavior, incongruent gender identity, or nonconforming gender expression. Yet change-allowing therapists use well-established, non-aversive, evidence-based treatments for trauma and sexual addictions that are used by therapists around the world. An American Psychological Association task force report (2009) found that change-allowing therapists haven’t used methods—aversive or otherwise—that just try to shape or condition behavior since the late 1970s. These therapists do not tell people they can change just by “choosing” to feel differently.

That same task force concluded that sexual orientation change efforts were ineffective and harmful. At best they teach a gay person how to pretend to be straight. Just because it is not aversive does not mean that it is acceptable. And they have been doing some rather bizarre things long after the 1970s. Think Richard Cohen and his tennis racket punishing the upholstery. The premise with kids is that their parents made them gay. Very healthy approach.

LGBTQ Affirmation May Lead to Health Disparities

Professional organizations and abundant, rigorous studies now say LGBTQ feelings may change through life experience, are not inborn or simply biologically caused like skin color, and do result from psychological and social influences.

She makes a reference to a passage from five years ago in an APA Handbook. The source is NARTH. I have no way of knowing whether it is accurate or in context. I am not about to spend $395 on the handbook. I believe that this is something that Lisa Diamond wrote that has been taken out of context.

The fluidity of sexual orientation or gender identity tends to be over a very narrow range. Again, there is a significant genetic component to sexual orientation. Fluidity does not mean that these changes can be influenced by others. What does this have to do with whether or not conservative Christians do harm to LGBTQ people? It seems that she is selling conversion therapy; something that does harm LGBTQ people, particularly children.

Further, the APA Handbook of Sexuality and Psychology (2014) says childhood sexual abuse has “associative and potentially causal links” to having same-sex partners for some. It would be astonishing, if not miraculous, if every aspect of human development could be influenced by trauma or family experiences except sexual orientation and gender identity.

The same 2014 publication as reported by NARTH. Science has conclusively determined that there is no causal relationship between childhood sexual abuse and sexual orientation.

… because the sequencing of maltreatment and emerging sexuality is difficult to ascertain. Nascent same-sex orientation may increase risk of maltreatment …

Again, this dreadful woman is marketing conversion therapy. She is out to prove that her life’s work did not harm people contrary to the findings of her own former professional organization.

The “Standards of Care” of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health acknowledges gender dysphoria may be “secondary to or better accounted for by other diagnoses.” In that case, WPATH does not recommend body-altering procedures. Censoring talk therapy—speech—that is open to resolving gender dysphoria, as ACR-99 solicits pastors and therapists to do, leaves sufferers limited options.

That is grossly out of context.

evaluation may result in no diagnosis, in a formal diagnosis related to gender dysphoria, and/or in
other diagnoses that describe aspects of the client’s health and psychosocial adjustment. The role
of mental health professionals includes making reasonably sure that the gender dysphoria is not
secondary to, or better accounted for, by other diagnoses.

In other words, treat the cause of gender dysphoria if it stems from another condition (which is probably very rare). Haynes’ intent is to assert that gender dysphoria is caused by other conditions and can be cured by finding out what those conditions are. To “cure” gender dysphoria one would have to convert an individual’s gender identity to align with their natal sex.

To put it more simply, if psychiatrists are following the WPATH guidelines then all of the people receiving hormone blockers, hormones and surgery have been fully evaluated and determined not to have a secondary condition contributing to GD. WPATH emphasizes the team approach to diagnosis and care.

How would a comparatively novice Christian practitioner who is not part of a specialty team at a research hospital fare better than experts in this area? Haynes makes no sense.

Sexual and gender minorities were not “born that way.” They have a right to heal—a right to client-directed treatment for underlying wounds or trauma that may, as a byproduct, result in decrease or change in sexual attractions, gender identity, or behaviors victims don’t want.

Science tells us many things. According to recent research, genetics play a significant role in sexual orientation. According to very recent research out of Harvard Medical School, any efforts to convert someone’s gender identity will lead to a life of misery. Haynes is substituting faith-based religious belief for evidence based science and using selective observation in an effort to prove what cannot be proved.

Concluding with more self-serving BS

Tell students and therapy clients who have LGBTQ experiences the falsehood that they were born that way, and they will believe they can never change and are without hope. Turn them away from their faith, religious community, and family, and they will be isolated and lose the resilience that comes from religious faith. Refuse to acknowledge the trauma that can underlie LGBTQ feelings, and they will be left living with that secret pain. Do all this, and then punish anyone who tries to treat those wounds, and you will create a recipe for suicide.

Who is causing mental health disparities again?

Absent from this very verbose diatribe is something very obvious. Laura Haynes cannot cite a single article concluding that conversion therapy is safe and effective published to a respected academic journal which subjects submissions to rigorous peer review.

Conversion therapy is pseudoscience lacking any scientific foundation. The persistence defense of conversion therapy exists for only one reason. It is an attempt to assert that sexual orientation and gender identity are not immutable and, thus, not deserving of nondiscrimination protections.

There are enough LGBT affirming Catholic and Protestant denominations that no one should feel compelled by religious dogma to convert their sexuality. Doing so is futile and harmful. Any parent who would subject their child to conversion therapy is committing child abuse.

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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.