Darius Lee makes remarkably dishonest and poorly reasoned arguments in support of the pseudoscience of conversion therapy
Darius Lee makes remarkably dishonest and poorly reasoned arguments in support of the pseudoscience of conversion therapy ! Image via Witherspoon Inst.

Why do people promote a process that is both futile and toxic?

Darius Lee, a Singapore lawyer, has written an exceedingly lengthy essay for Witherspoon Institute. The title of his polemic is: Conversion Therapy Bans: Enforcing a Faulty Anthropology on Sex and Gender. “Anthropology,” in this context, is an expression of fundamentalist Catholic belief. Ryan T. Anderson uses the same terminology.

Witherspoon Institute’s pseudo-intellectual blog is the perfect outlet for this nonsense. Witherspoon is an ultra-conservative Catholic organization founded by Robert P. George and Luis Tellez. Tellez, an Opus Dei numerary, remains as president of the organization.

This thing is nearly 2,000 words from which I will quote sparingly. We begin with the bloated subtitle:

A growing number of jurisdictions have taken steps to pass bans on “conversion therapy,” a term referring to efforts or interventions to change or suppress the sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI) of persons. These bans enforce a message of expressive individualism—that the only acceptable response is to “affirm” a person’s SOGI—and rest on a faulty anthropology on sex and gender. They infringe upon aspects of individual and group autonomy, and they negatively impact public order, health, and moral considerations.

My take is admittedly crude: Back the fuck up!

The first part of the paragraph about the “only acceptable response” is not very original. It is standard Christian rhetoric. Lee proposes alternatives that do not exist because there is no menu of choices.

“Response” indicates a choice by others rather than the individual whose sexuality presents a issue for the person. No “response” is solicited from others. None is warranted. Mr. Lee is confusion response with approval.

People like Lee insist that LGBTQ people seek his approval. He may very well believe that his approval is required.

The alternative exists, not for the hypothetical others, as presented, but for the individual. He or she has different choices.

  1. Submit to conversion therapy.
  2. Seek no therapy at all.
  3. Accept one’s sexuality and seek therapy to help in doing so.

“If there is a ‘deeply harmful moral dogma on sex and gender,’ then it is one that promotes bigotry.”

The last part of that paragraph is outright bigotry dependent upon baseless beliefs. Lee is claiming that the existence of LGBTQ people “negatively impact(s) public order, health, and moral considerations.”

As I said: “Back the fuck up!” Furthermore, precisely who appointed Darius Lee an arbiter of morality? Morality and being a fundamentalist adherent to religious doma are two entirely different things.

The average Taliban is equally pious and he is willing to kill people who do not share his faith. He subjugates women while living in a medieval fantasy. What makes Mr. Lee think that he is any better than that?

All that from just the subheading. Darius Lee is not off to a very good start. I said that I would quote sparingly. Quoted material is not of succeeding text and might be out of context.

Repeating an utterly false premise:

While concerns about violent, coercive, fraudulent or manipulative conduct are legitimate, these are already prohibited under existing laws across all liberal democracies. Instead, by imposing “affirmation” as the only acceptable approach to sexual orientation and gender identity, conversion therapy bans go beyond merely prohibiting harmful conduct to enshrine and enforce a new—and deeply harmful—moral dogma on sex and gender.

Conversion therapy bans are not based on the potential for violent and other malignant conduct. They exist mainly to protect minors who are usually pushed by religious parents into a process that is both futile and harmful under the best of circumstances.

Again there is no “acceptable alternative.” Even at face value anyone who practices conversion therapy is in conflict with their own professional organization. It is improbable that a conversionist is capable of providing anything else of value. Choices rest with the individual (see above) not with others and not with would-be therapists.

“In other words, Darius Lee is not just a religious extremist. Darius Lee is a liar.”

If there is a “deeply harmful moral dogma on sex and gender,” then it is one that promotes bigotry. The vast majority of Christians believe that our sexual orientation and gender identity are “god-given” attributes. Mr. Lee is a fanatical extremist.

Selective observation and mischaracterization as an artform:

Proponents of conversion therapy bans claim that such interventions are both harmful and ineffective. Yet the American Psychological Association Task Force has reported that some people reported “perceptions of relief, happiness, improved relationships with God, and perceived improvement in mental health status” after participating in sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE). …

Lee claims that the APA reiterated the same thing in a recent amicus brief. However, his link (and mine preceding this sentence) is to a motion to file a brief as amici curiae.

Part of the actual brief reads as follows (emphasis added — I cannot link to Pacer):

…the APA Task Force conducted a comprehensive multi-year survey of the scientific literature on SOCE. The Report reached two key conclusions. First, it found that SOCE is unlikely to be effective. At the time of the Report—and continuing through the present—there is a scientific consensus that SOCE is unlikely to reduce same-sex attractions. With respect to minors specifically, there is no scientific evidence that any form of childhood therapy can alter adult sexual orientation. Second, the Report concluded that SOCE poses a risk of harm to patients. Multiple scientific studies suggest that SOCE may lead to depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, substance abuse, impotence and sexual dysfunction, nightmares, gastric distress, dehydration, social isolation, deterioration of relationships with friends and family, and an increase in high-risk sexual behaviors, as well as a number of indirect harms such as loss of time and money. In the absence of data showing that SOCE is safe for children and adolescents, the potential for psychological risks of SOCE for minors are especially concerning.

“One moment please while I activate the horseshit to English app on my tablet.”

In other words, Darius Lee is not just a religious extremist. Darius Lee is a liar.

A convoluted effort to claim that sexual orientation and gender identity are not immutable:

… a dogma rooted in a philosophically dualist view of the body and self, where the subjective “self” or “person” is viewed as being constituted in an inviolable spirit, mind, or psyche, whereas one’s body is a merely material vehicle and thus irrelevant to one’s “true” identity, conduct or relationships.

One moment please while I activate the horseshit to English app on my tablet. What this idiot is trying to say is that gender identity and sexual orientation are imaginary constructs. Within that gibberish is a link to a 2016 Robert P. George essay at First Things, an ultra-conservative Catholic outlet.

I better keep that app handy:

… the concept of SOGI is vague and unclear. The term “sexual orientation” has been variously used in literature to refer to short-term or long-term sexual attraction, one-off sexual encounters or long-term relationships, and inclinations or conduct; the same individual’s sexual orientation may be classified differently under each of these definitions. “Gender identity,” on the other hand, is wholly subjective, being based entirely on a person’s self-concept of one’s gender.

First of all, there is nothing ambiguous about sexual orientation. It is the romantic attraction to men, women, both or none. There is a cite in Lee’s paragraph to one paper published 24 years ago.

Furthermore, Lee is making a false analogy (logical fallacy) with respect to gender identity. Gender identity is one’s self-perceived sense of gender, just as Lee says. However, that does not mean gender identity is “wholly subjective.”

Feelings and subjectivity are not mutually exclusive.

Mr. Lee has concocted an incoherent stew of theology, philosophy, misinformation, selectively observed science and falsehoods. Speaking of logical fallacies:

Moreover, claims about the alleged “immutability” of SOGI lack sufficient scientific basis. Research has not proven the existence of a “gay gene.” The American Psychological Association has stated that “most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation,” leaving open the possibility that some people may experience a sense of choice over such matters.

The existence of a gay gene is irrelevant with regards to whether or not sexual orientation is a choice. According to recent research: Not one but many genes influence sexual orientation.

Even if we accept the premise that it is possible for some people to have a sense of choice (which is highly doubtful) that does not mean that some intervention can change someone’s sexuality. Moreover, it is not choice but a sense of choice. If one considers that they might have made a choice that does not mean that they actually did make a choice.

Again, that same bullshit alternative that does not exist:

Through conversion therapy bans, governments unjustifiably intrude into the immensely profound and private matters surrounding sex and gender by mandating the “affirmation” of SOGI, at odds with classical viewpoints emphasizing the value of biology to human nature, and thereby undermining aspects of personal and group autonomy. They infringe on the privacy of individuals who seek assistance on these intimate matters, as well as the freedom of speech and religion of therapists, religious leaders and counsellors who provide such assistance. Where children are involved, such bans also curtail parental rights.

Government is not “mandating” anything and no one gives a rat’s ass about “classical viewpoints.” That translates to “religious teachings from ancient texts.”

Furthermore, conversion therapy bans protect children (not adults). Kids are unable to provide informed consent. Bans protect children from irreparable harm done at the request of ignorant religious parents. Parental rights do not include a right to fuck up a child.

Speaking of argumentum ad ignorantiam:

Additionally, conversion therapy bans negatively affect public order, health, and moral considerations. Since “sexual orientation” is often defined to extend beyond identities and attractions to include behaviors, conversion therapy bans may deter therapists or other trusted persons from addressing and advising against illegal, immoral, or unhealthy sexual behavior for fear of being accused of engaging in “conversion therapy.”

The above defines crackpot drivel. Meanwhile this schmuck is busy repeating every moronic talking point that exists throughout Christendom:

The inherent bias of SOGI bans toward “gender-affirmative” treatments deters professionals from adopting more cautious “wait-and-see” approaches when addressing gender dysphoria, or advising on health risks involved in treatments, such as the use of cross-sex hormones and surgical interventions, which have long-term or irreversible consequences. The risks of harm are heightened where children and adolescents are involved, due to their reduced capacity to give informed consent.

Gender-affirming care is the model expressed in the clinical practice standards of the American Academy of Pediatrics. That model is based upon a mountain of research.

Moreover, “wait-and-see” is not a medical approach. It is the concocted alternative of religious zealots who want to prevent children from transitioning. Furthermore preventing kids from gender-affirming care is based entirely on scripture and not the best interests of children.

Silly me. I trust medical science over religious zealots and crackpots.

This thing finally concludes with a reiteration of the nonsensical and fraudulent arguments that Darius Lee thinks are authoritative:

It is a faulty view of human nature, based on subjective self-definition, even as the bans impose objective public consequences, including mandating that only “gender-affirming” treatments be carried out on children and adolescents who are still navigating the complexities of identity formation, sexual development and moral growth. The harms caused by such bans may well be long-lasting and irreversible.

Firstly, this is all about religion and creating arguments to support erroneous religious teachings. The objective truth is that gay people are not “objectively disordered” and transgender people really do exist. Secondly, remove the invalid religious arguments and conversion therapy disappears.

There is no evidence that conversion therapy is safe and effective. Conversion therapy is pseudoscience. Bans rightly protect children from crackpottery.

This is starkly reminiscent of the battle for marriage equality. Take their god out of the equation and there is no reason to oppose same-sex marriage. Their response is that you cannot take our god out of the equation.

Yes, you can take God out of the equation. I have.

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.