California’s new law banning ex-gay therapy for minors is raising new media conversations about the validity of ex-gay therapy — of which there is none. CNN’s Brooke Baldwin and Elizabeth Cohen invited ex-gay therapist David Pickup on the air to discuss the treatment he and others at NARTH offer, as well as the fact the ex-gay professional organization plans to challenge the law. Pickup spewed many dangerous lies, in particular that homosexuality can be “caused” by life events like sexual trauma:
PICKUP: The parent asks for, first of all, what fits for the child? The parent says that the child is distressed, usually because he’s had something happen in his life that has caused his homosexual feelings. And the child, who is the client, most importantly, confirms that, and says he needs help because he’s distressed over homosexual feelings. [...]
There many thousands of people all over the world, probably multiple of thousands, who believe for them, there is a cause-and-effect nature of homosexuality, and usually it happens because of a severe gender identity inferiority, lack of emotional unmet needs from the time one is a child — from usually the same-sex parent, and there’s a lot of inner wounds we discover in therapy. The short version is: when those wounds get healed, the homosexual feelings — we don’t force them away, they naturally, spontaneously dissipate.
The level of psychological manipulation taking place with this approach is insidious. A victim of sexual abuse or neglect is particularly vulnerable, and if that young person might happen to have same-sex attractions, it’s true that a lot of associated trauma anxiety might be par for the course. But this harmful, stigmatizing therapy takes advantage of that vulnerability by reinforcing “distress over homosexual feelings,” creating a connection where there is none and offering a solution that only further stigmatizes.
There is no scientific evidence to back up any of the spurious claims Pickup makes about homosexuality, and quite a bit to rebut it. Baldwin and Cohen did their best to push back against his quackery, but the better choice would have been not to give him or any ex-gay therapist airtime at all. As the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple responded yesterday, “The public has heard enough of their garbage.”