Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
By John Corvino
It’s nice to know that, amidst the caprices of everyday life, there are some things one can always count on, such as death, taxes, and Jerry Falwell’s saying stupid things.
I don’t like to spend time picking on Falwell, because frankly, it’s too easy. I’d much rather use my column to reflect on more difficult questions, such as “What are the responsibilities of gay public figures to be out-of-the-closet?” Such columns are more likely to provoke criticism (including the self-refuting claim that gay people should stop criticizing one another, embedded in letters which, with unwitting irony, criticize me). But I’d much rather engage in that sort of rigorous dialogue than spill ink stating the obvious.
Still, sometimes the pretensions of the pompous must be punctured, which is a fancy way of saying that Falwell needs to be brought down a peg or two (or five) when he makes outrageous claims. The latest came at a conference of Exodus International, which promotes “Freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ.” Speaking at the conference, Falwell endorsed the practice of so-called “reparative therapy” to “cure” homosexuality.
According to Southern Voice, an Atlanta gay newsweekly, “Falwell compared allowing a child to identify as gay with allowing children to play on the interstate and dismissed psychologists’ claims that consent is fundamental to a healthy counseling relationship and that parents should not force their gay kids into therapy.”
Now, sometimes Falwell’s pronouncements are just silly, as when he advised parents against allowing their children to watch the Teletubbies because Tinky-Winky seemed gay. (I’m surprised he hasn’t caught on to the thinly veiled butch-femme relationship between Peppermint Patty and Marcie in Peanuts. Think about it: the short haircut; the Birkenstocks; the fact that Marcie calls Patty “sir.” And then there’s Schroeder, who in response to Lucy’s advances, absorbs himself in piano-playing-a familiar gay sublimation tactic. But I digress.)
Sometimes Falwell’s pronouncements are not merely silly, but deeply offensive, as when he blamed gays (among others) for the September 11th attacks. Speaking on the Christian television program “The 700 Club” just two days after the tragedy, Falwell stated, “I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.'”
But Falwell’s Exodus comments (like his September 11th comments), are not merely ignorant and offensive: they’re dangerous. Most of all they endanger gay youth, who face enough challenges without having religious leaders give their parents bad psychological advice.
Note that the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers have all rejected “reparative therapy” as not merely ineffective, but harmful.
For instance, the American Academy of Pediatrics, in its policy statement on Homosexuality and Adolescence, states: “Therapy directed specifically at changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.” The American Psychiatric Association, in its position statement on Psychiatric Treatment and Sexual Orientation, states: “The potential risks of ‘reparative therapy’ are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.”
Yet Falwell, despite his record of foolish and dangerous statements, continues to enjoy prominence. For example, in a move that should have provoked outrage (but barely elicited a squeak), President Bush allegedly asked his advice regarding Supreme Court nominees.
There is, however, a grain of truth in Falwell’s September 11 remarks relevant to the current story. Falwell’s premise was that the moral tone of a culture can contribute to further wrongs. And recognizing that the perpetrators of those wrongs are directly responsible does not prevent one from recognizing that others are indirectly responsible, by allowing, encouraging, or creating favorable conditions for the wrongs to take place.
To suggest that gays and feminists are in any way responsible for the September 11th attacks is just dumb. But to suggest that Falwell and his ilk are indirectly (and sometimes directly) responsible for much of the pain and anguish suffered by gays is quite plausible.
And so when I hear stories of fag-bashings, or of gay youth kicked out of their homes, I want to say: I point the finger at you, Jerry. You helped this happen.
And yes, Jerry, being a gay youth is kind of like playing on the interstate. If only you recognized that you are the traffic.