The End of Reparative Therapy

50 Great Myths of Human Sexuality
50 Great Myths of Human Sexuality

With the removal of homosexuality as a mental illness in the 1970’s came a change in how therapists treated gay, lesbian, and bisexual patients. Instead of attempting to change a patient’s sexual orientation, experts were told to help them understand it and learn to cope in what was still a very homophobic society.
When mental health professionals changed, however, religious organizations picked up the mantle and started ministries dedicated to “reparative” therapy. Their members—who were sometimes referred to as ex-gays—went through programs that varied from independent bible study to aversion therapy, which involved administering electric shocks every time a patient became aroused by gay pornography.
These groups were very vocal for a few decades and lent their support to efforts to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals; they argued against teaching about sexual orientation in schools, fought the formation of gay-straight alliances, opposed marriage equality, and worked to prevent LGBTQ individuals from adopting children.
Their arguments were all grounded in the idea that sexual orientation could change, that people didn’t have to be gay. Ex-gays were paraded around as success stories—such as in a 1998 ad that insisted men could “pray away the gay.”
And then the truth began to come out. Some leaders of this movement were caught having homosexual affairs, visiting gay bars, or meeting men online. Others stepped forward to admit they were wrong, that they are still gay, and that sexual orientation does not change. In 2013, Exodus International—one of the largest and at one point most powerful, ex-gay ministries—shut its doors.
Now, in the United States at least, it looks like the time of reparative therapy has passed. The courts have held up laws in two states banning the practice for minors. The White House came out against it. And two Democratic Senators recently introduced a resolution condemning it.
But probably the best sign that its days are numbered come in the apologies from those who once sang its praises. Like these words from Exodus’ last president Alan Chambers: “I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change….  I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse.”

Martha Kempner, 2015.
Martha Kempner is co-author with Pepper Schwartz of 50 Great Myths of Human Sexuality published 2015 by Wiley

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Contextualizing the LGBT Patient in the Health Care System

clinician and medical recordsThe Institute of Medicine (IOM) in its report, The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding, recommends that data on sexual orientation and gender identify be collected and included among other demographic information  routinely stored in patients’ electronic health records. The intent of the IOM recommendation is to improve clinical care and to facilitate research that can address health inequalities among LGBT persons. The reality is that many LGBT persons remain reluctant to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity, or have that information documented in the electronic health record – even when sexual orientation or gender identity is material to a medical  diagnosis or treatment. This reluctance should be contextualized within the backdrop of a health care system where many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered persons have had negative, invalidating or discriminatory experiences when attempting to access health care, during their care or treatment, or during the care and treatment of a same-sex partner. As the Institute of Medicine observed, it is necessary to create a care environment in which individuals who have historically been stigmatized and discriminated against feel safe providing this information.  What steps can health care organizations take to demonstrate trustworthiness with respect to the collection and use of information related to sexual orientation or gender identify? Should clinicians’ elicit this information as a routine part of clinical care?

Mary Beth Foglia PhD MA

Department of Bioethics and Humanities, School of Medicine

University of Washington – Seattle

Editor and author for The Hastings Center Report

Peter Singer in NYT on rationing health care

PeterSinger(cropped)Check it out here.  Will Wilkinson excerpts this part:

If the Department of Transportation [followed the principle that it was impossible to put a dollar value on human life] it would exhaust its entire budget on road safety. Fortunately the department sets a limit on how much it is willing to pay to save one human life. Continue reading “Peter Singer in NYT on rationing health care”