By now, regular readers of Ex-Gay Watch will know of the controversy surrounding homophobic remarks made by Iris Robinson, a Member of UK Parliament.
Robinson, a health spokesperson and wife of Northern Ireland’s First Minister, said that homosexuality was “vile,” “disgusting,” “nauseating” and “an abomination,” and recommended ex-gay therapy to turn homosexuals heterosexual.
We have already discussed a handful of contrasting reactions, but there are others worth noting. For example, Canadian Exodus ally Wendy Gritter weighs in on Warren Throckmorton’s blog to denounce the invective in no uncertain terms:
Mrs. Robinson’s comments are not consistent with the Christian value that all people are created in the image of God and have inherent worth and dignity. Her comments lack humility, grace and an honouring of our shared humanity.
I think it is tragic.
On the BBC, ex-gay James Parker threw his support behind psychiatrist Paul Miller, describing him as “a prophetic guy of our times.” Parker claims to have successfully reversed his orientation from gay to straight following sessions with Miller. In a bizarre statment that sounded either astoundingly odious or embarrassingly naive (given his generally affable tone, one hopes the latter), he claimed that most gay men had been victims of sexual abuse, based on his own observation that 75-percent of gay men had some same-sex sexual experience before the age of 18.
Warren Throckmorton deconstructed Parker’s claims with surprising candor:
I appreciate James saying that his story is unique but a listen to it reminds me of the typical reparative narrative. The other thing that always strikes me in hearing these narratives is how adult language is imposed on childhood recollections. For instance, Mr. Parker says he did not have a deep heart to heart connection with peers in the early developmental stages of his life. However, not having these connections seems entirely normal and expected. Young children have superficial relationships, at least as compared to adult relationships. How can it be otherwise? Young children cannot go visit their friends when they want to, they cannot spend long hours sharing masculinity. His descriptions seem to be theory talking and not how people talk who have not been influenced by a narrative imposed from outside. It also seems to assume that straight guys have some kind of optimal experience as children.
The sexual abuse statistic is probably not sexual abuse at all. As Nolan points out, using 18 as a cutoff renders the label “sexual abuse” suspicious. Surely, straight kids who engage in consensual sex prior to 18 would not be considered abused. Gay kids are abused more often but the events are often after they become aware of SSA. The best representative studies in the US do not find much effect from sexual abuse on the whole. For people who suffer it, it no doubt creates trauma that should be addressed. No one disputes that. However, it is misleading to quote a 75% figure in the same breath as “sexual abuse.”
Asked by the BBC’s Stephen Nolan to comment on Iris Robinson’s statements, Parker suggested that her view of homosexuality as an abomination was supported by medical research into the “medical consequences” of “living out a homosexual lifestyle.”
On a wider scale, Robinson’s comments have continued to provoke outrage. In Belfast, a gay man is enlisting the help of human rights to sue Iris Robinson for what he views as insulting and threatening speech that could have damaging effects on the broader community.
Meanwhile, the victim of a savage homophobic attack last week has called for Iris Robinson’s resignation. Twenty-seven-year-old Steven Scott was beaten by three men and left for dead, and Mrs Robinson’s remarks were made in the context of a condemnation of the attack. According to the Belfast Telegraph:
Mr Scott said her comments had made him feel worse. He had struggled coming to terms with his sexuality, he said, and had taken an overdose last November, finding it hard to cope.
The police are investigating two formal complaints made against Mrs Robinson but she said she has a right to express her religious beliefs.