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04/05/2007

Wherein we applaud FOF's restraint

by Jeremy Hooper

So this new article from Focus on the Family makes us take pause:

Young People Lobby in Favor of Homosexual Issues
from staff reports

State capitols are the target.

Gay-activist groups are recruiting kids to be the new face of their lobbying campaigns in state houses around the country.

In many state capitols, self-identified gay young people are already working to influence legislators. But Dr. Bill Maier, psychologist in residence at Focus on the Family, said most of the kids are too young to state with confidence that they are gay.

“Several studies indicate that it’s not until at least the end of the teen years or the early 20s that a person really gets a handle on their sexual orientation,” he told Family News in Focus.

They are certainly confused, Maier said, and that makes them east (sic) to manipulate by gay activists.

But what we find surprising about it may not be what you think. We actually sort of agree that while gay folks have inklings that they are "different" from their heterosexual peers at a young age, most don't fully realize their actualities until their teen years. So that's not really the point with which we take exception. Instead, the shocking part to us is that Mr. Maier is actually using the term "sexual orientation" and not "preference" or "choice" to describe one's sexual identity. Furthermore, he seems to also be suggesting that sexual orientation -- be it gay or straight -- is a part of one's being on which they eventually do get a handle. For a Focus on the Family staff member, this would seem to be a major step! We're really not sure that we've ever seen this particular organization talk about sexuality in this manner.

The article goes on to read:

It’s a savvy strategy, and with the growing acceptance of homosexuality among today’s youth, uncertain kids are labeling themselves as gay or lesbian at an earlier age, according to Scott Davis, youth manager of Exodus International.

“The average age right now for a student to identify themselves as gay is around 13," he said, "long before their sexual identity is really set in stone.”

Davis said it’s important for Christian youth to have a godly view of sexuality.

“If we don’t pay attention to the youth, we’re going to simply lose anything that we might protect or gain in this decade," he said. "We’re going to lose it in the next decade or two.”

And again -- sexuality is eventually "set in stone"? This would seem to go against everything for which the "ex-gay"-supporting Focus on the Family and the "ex-gay"-propagating Exodus International stand! And even when Mr. Davis goes on to talk about "a godly view of sexuality," he doesn;t take the usual route of suggesting that this view is one in which gays curb their actualities. In fact, abesd on this one article alone, one could simply interpret this "godly view" as simply monogamous coupling of any variety.

So overlooking the fallacy that gay activists are recruiting these kids -- when in actuality, increased gay visibility and constant discussion of gay issues has just naturally led more and more young folks to come into their own and take a stand for what they feel is right -- we actually are a little bit proud of Focus for not (at least this time) aggressively pushing their "ex-gay" ideas. While they surely still believe that gays can change, it's kind of nice to get a small reprieve from the duplicity.

Young People Lobby in Favor of Homosexual Issues [FOF CitizenLink]

**UPDATE: Bill Maeir, has passed along these thoughts to help clarify his positions:

Hi Jeremy,

My name is Bill Maier and I work for that bastion of the Christian Right, Focus on the Family. I’m writing to thank you for your kind comments about my quotes in the recent “Citizenlink” story on gay teens and political lobbying.

I also wanted to let you know that contrary to popular belief, Focus on the Family does not claim that homosexual individuals “choose” to be gay. Instead, we concur with the American Psychological Association’s position that homosexuality is likely developmental in nature and caused by a “complex interaction of environmental, cognitive and biological factors” (www.apa.org). We would also agree with the American Psychiatric Association when they state “some people believe that sexual orientation is innate and fixed; however, sexual orientation develops across a person’s lifetime” (www.psych.org).

Our perspective is that sexual orientation is not a choice in the sense that a person wakes up one and says “You know, this is as good a morning as ever to be gay.” Every gay (and ex-gay) individual I’ve ever met has told me something like “I can recall feeling different as far back as I can remember.” My guess is that you can relate. But although individuals cannot choose their sexual orientation, we believe they are capable of choosing their sexual behavior. As Christians, we would reject a deterministic view of human beings that claims we are held hostage by our genes or our environment.

Along those lines, I just saw this interesting clip of an interview with Dr. Robert Spitzer on You Tube. The interview was conducted by Dr. Warren Throckmorton, a professor at Grove City College in PA who has published research in the area of sexual orientation and change.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBhW2q11qu8

BTW, I enjoy your posts on Good As You and the “to do” list in your photo made me fall out of my chair. I also think Bosley Hooper-Shulman is one of the cutest dogs I’ve ever seen. If you should ever get out to Colorado, I’d love to meet you and take you on a tour of Focus. You might be surprised at how many things we do that are completely unrelated to the issue of homosexuality.

Cheers,

Bill Maier
Vice-president, Psychologist in Residence
Focus on the Family
(719) 531-3400
http://www.focusonthefamily.com/press/focusvoices/A000000030.cfm

Our response:

Mr. Maier, thank you for writing. I was pretty much aware of the positions as you have clarified them. I still think that this particular article is far more benign than most other ones that FOF has published on such subjects.

As for the Spitzer video, we've had plenty to say on your constant use of his work, including a response to this very video:

http://www.goodasyou.org/good_as_you/2006/10/video_the_one_r.html
http://www.goodasyou.org/good_as_you/2006/07/fof_again_prese.html
http://www.goodasyou.org/good_as_you/2006/06/spitzer_again_d.html
http://www.goodasyou.org/good_as_you/2007/02/video_spitzer_s.html

As for your comments regarding Focus' work, I would never deny that you and other "pro-family" groups do some nice things. In fact, I always say that one of the things that makes me saddest about this political divide is that it prevents us from working together on fighting actual societal ills.

-Jeremy

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Your thoughts

Jeremy:

Just a correction; the video link provided by Dr. Maier is a new, seven minute segment where Bob Spitzer describes the purpose of his study, why he believed his participants and what he thinks about change. This video provides much more context and explanation that any of the other clips currently available.

Best regards, Warren Throckmorton
www.wthrockmorton.com

Posted by: Warren Throckmorton | Apr 5, 2007 4:56:03 PM

OMG! We should ALL take Mr. Maier's advice and visit FOF! That would be AWESOME! Yay!

Posted by: Dash | Apr 5, 2007 4:59:51 PM

What are you talking about, Warren? It's the exact same video that we talked about here:
http://www.goodasyou.org/good_as_you/2006/10/video_the_one_r.html

You have simply edited it in a different way. We linked to the full transcript in our initial post, so people can see the full interview without your editing. You still leave out some pertinent info, as well as Spitzer's later comments saying that he regrets doing the video at all.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Apr 5, 2007 5:06:36 PM

Geeesh! How many gay sites do you pop-up on Warren?

Posted by: Franc | Apr 5, 2007 5:58:34 PM


'...Focus on the Family does not claim that homosexual individuals “choose” to be gay. Instead, we concur with the American Psychological Association’s position that homosexuality is likely developmental in nature and caused by a “complex interaction of environmental, cognitive and biological factors” (www.apa.org).'

But of course, neither the APA nor anyone else has ever been able to show which particular combination or combinations of those factors cause homosexuality, and the odds are overwhelming that they will never be able to do that. The explanation of this is at least as likely to be that homosexuality is in some sense a choice as that the subject is just too complex for science. Too many arguable assumptions and subjective interpretations of evidence are involved in declarations that homosexuality cannot be a choice for them to be taken entirely seriously. I'd go with choice any day, personally.

Posted by: raot | Apr 5, 2007 6:22:50 PM

Jesus Camp anyone? That's youth getting programmed. Hey, I was at a screening of a new movie last night called God & Gays: Bridging the Gap (www.godandgaysthemovie.com). If you haven't heard of it, check it out. It blew me away with its compassion, humor (believe it or not!) and heart. Would love to learn more about the movie if you guys do an article on them or something. They are doing a conference and have free calls with people in the movie and other big leaders from HRC and PFLAG. They seem to really be doing great work, like you guys! Woo hoo!

Posted by: Misha | Apr 5, 2007 7:26:39 PM

Jeremy - This segment is longer and includes Bob's full descriptions of the purpose of his study and why he believed his participants. It also includes his thoughts about change being infrequent. This longer segment is from the same hour long interview but it is not the three minute clip you refer to above. I think we might be saying the same thing here but I want to point out that I have only released this material in print form and this is the video.

Posted by: Warren Throckmorton | Apr 5, 2007 8:07:19 PM

"You might be surprised at how many things we do that are completely unrelated to the issue of homosexuality."

Yeah, other things... like hijacking God's name to push their so-called "family values" agenda that would leave women without access to important medical options such as abortion, leave kids and teens without realistic and essential information about sex and contraception, and perpetuate the idea of kids having an authoritarian, disciplining father and a passive, nurturing mother as the only correct, acceptable family structure. Gay or straight-- Focus on the Family would like you to know that your family is not good or acceptable!
(especially if you're feminist or progressive in any way)

Posted by: angie | Apr 5, 2007 8:37:12 PM

But Warren, the point is that this video is from the same interview, it's just another part of it. If you really want it all to come out more like Spitzer intended, why don;t you just present his thoughts in their unedited form? When I originally tackled you 3-minute clip, I provided a link to the full transcript. I just don't at all understand the point of releasing yet another edit of the same interview, especially when the interview subject himself regrets his participation and has clarified his points several times over!

Also Warren, please approve the comments that I left several hours ago on the post that you wrote about me on your own site. It's important that your readers also get my clarification!

Posted by: G-A-Y | Apr 5, 2007 9:56:12 PM

I found your comments, Jeremy, they had somehow gone to the spam file. The point of releasing this is that Bob provides more context for his views in this longer clip. Eventually, I hope to release the whole thing. As far as his participation goes, I also clarified that on my blog here:

http://wthrockmorton.com/2006/02/07/video-clip-of-dr-robert-spitzer-discussing-sexual-orientation-research

He emailed me yesterday to say that he liked this clip and felt it provided good context for his views.

As for what I think is your primary point, this video comes from the same interview as all other clips I have from Bob. This clip is only minimally edited.

Posted by: Warren Throckmorton | Apr 6, 2007 3:55:49 PM

Warren, maybe Jeremy's responses to you here are getting lost in the spam file of your brain. Let me see if I can get to you.

WE DON'T GIVE A DAMN IF THIS C-L-I-P IS LONGER THAN THE OTHER ONE. STOP PLAYING C-L-I-P-S AND PLAY THE W-H-O-L-E DAMNED THING.

Jeremy has said that like three times now and you keep coming back with the same, "this is a longer CLIP".

You, like Dobson and the compassion troll Bill Maiers are con artists and snake oil salesmen. Every time you comment that becomes more clear.

One other thing: Does you clip also contain Spitzer's admonition of Dobson and people LIKE YOU who continually misrepresent his study for your own anti-gay agenda?

Do you tell people that Spitzer himself has talked, publicly about how you people drive him nuts?

Full disclosure Warren, full disclosure.

If you really believe in what you're selling then why do you have to misrepresent people's work and why do you have to edit clips where the complete interview and transcript are available and why do you not tell people that the person, who's work you use to make your point, is angry and frustrated with your misuse of his work and has said that he wished he had never done the interview?

Why don't you get a life and leave other people the hell alone? If you want to be miserable, that's fine, but don't try to drag others down with you.

Good night and good riddance.

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