Many are familiar with Ryan Kendall’s story because of his testimony during the Proposition 8 trial. When his parents found out he was gay, they sent the teen to shame-driven ex-gay therapy, constantly rejecting him by telling him he’d burn in hell, that he was disgusting, and that he was hated. The “therapy,” performed by NARTH founder Joseph Nicolosi, drove him “to the brink of suicide,” leading to a decade of struggles with depression, homelessness, and drug abuse after he declared independence from his unaccepting family.
Kendall has since become an outspoken advocate against ex-gay therapy. When he agreed to discuss the topic with Dr. Drew on his HLN show yesterday, it was on the condition that he not have to appear with David Pickup, a NARTH spokesperson who claims homosexuality is caused by sexual abuse and who is part of a suit to overturn California’s ban on ex-gay therapy for minors (SB 1172). Unfortunately, Dr. Drew put them on together anyway, and Kendall in turn held no punches in decrying Pickup’s harmful distortions of reality:
KENDALL: Mr. Pickup is clearly lying, right? I mean, I did an interview on CBC radio where Mr. Pickup followed me and he said that homosexuality is caused by an emotional trauma… He’s also saying, “I’m not saying you can cure this, I’m not saying that it’s a mental illness,” but he’s framing it in that language. Something else I should point out: by saying that, as Mr. Pickup does, that this bill, SB 1172, will prevent the victims of pedophiles like those of Jerry Sandusky — which is exactly the words you’ve used sir — from getting appropriate mental health treatment, that goes back to a long line of LGBT people as a threat to children that has its roots in Anita Bryant and the Briggs Initiative.
Watch the first part of the segment:
During the second segment, Pickup claimed there is “credible evidence” that people have successfully changed their orientation, but his only citation was an ex-gay website with testimonies, not research.
Dr. Drew’s segment is problematic in numerous ways. First, it was inappropriate to invite Kendall onto a segment under circumstances that were then betrayed. Second, there is no justifiable reason to provide Pickup with unfettered airtime when the entire medical community has disavowed his methods as ineffective, his beliefs as unscientific, and his intentions as harmful. If that weren’t enough, Dr. Drew then treated the issue of ex-gay therapy as if it is still controversial, describing it as “something that science does not yet substantiate,” implying there someday may be a way to change a person’s orientation. This is journalistic malpractice — particularly for a television personality who identifies as a doctor with expertise — on par with inviting practitioners of blood-letting to discuss health policy.
Kendall should be applauded for creating visibility for ex-gay survivors, even when forced into situations of “false balance” on a question that isn’t up for debate.