Written By: Dr. David Baker-Hargrove
Last Saturday, my door bell was ringing, yet again, by people walking my neighborhood in the hopes of converting us to their religion. I thought about the irony of this situation: There are several Christian denominations that specifically direct their members to canvass neighborhoods and knock on doors, in the hopes of getting others to join their church. Other denominations, while perhaps less dogmatic about it, still urge parishioners to go out and “witness.” All the while, we in the LGBT have long been accused of trying to convert others to “our way of life.” Indicted for supposedly engaging the very activities they deem standard practice and at the same time call harmful. Imagine if we LGBT’ers actually behaved in similar fashion. KNOCK! KNOCK! “Excuse me; I’d like to talk to you today about the joys of homosexuality and gender transition. I have some nice brochures to leave for you.”
Along this line of irrational thinking is so-called “conversion therapy” or “Pray-away-the-gay.” This treatment modality is not medical or psychological science. It is not endorsed by the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association or the American Psychiatric Association. Additionally, research studies supporting positive outcomes for these therapies do not exist. There is no evidence to support they work. The treatment itself is based upon strict conformation to gender stereotypes. During the treatment, participants are told “males act like this and do these kinds of things,” watch sports or do home repair, while female participants are told “girls should keep house, be subservient to men and enjoy fashion and beauty treatments.” They are also told the way they feel about their sexuality and/or gender identity is inherently wrong and God will turn his back on them unless they pray fervently to be “normal.”
Not only is this destructive, but nowhere else in the realm of psychological and psychiatric science do we think functionality and mental health can be improved by exhibiting stereotypical behavior of any kind. I know thinking about this can make you very angry. I see a lot of anger within my community about the damage that has been done by this practice. We have to be more than angry. We have to be smart. It is not uncommon for anyone to question at some point what it means to be a man or a woman, or have a strong attraction for someone of the same sex. Most people don’t want gender and sexuality to be fluid or ambiguous. They want something they can count on to be constant and never-changing. So, if we can’t rely on gender and sexuality, what have we got? The reaction to that is fear. Fear creates destructive decision-making and irrational thinking leaving people threatened and scared we must be trying to “convert” or “recruit”. When you see that behavior as merely a reflection of unconscious fear it helps us to realize we must not counter fear with anger, but education that comes from a place of knowing. We must be prepared to truly accept our own gender and sexual fluidity and live proud and visible in that space. Our example will show others oneself is nothing to fear.
Dr. David Baker-Hargrove, "Dr. Dave", is a psychotherapist, speaker, and motivational coach. Over the past 15 years, Dr. Baker-Hargrove has presented at international, national, state, and regional conferences and has provided presentations and/or consulted for local and regional law enforcement in Orange, Seminole, and Osceola Counties. He has counseled over 100 people in gender transition. His practice is located in Orlando. Click here to visit his website.