Thursday, August 05, 2010

Ex-gay movement as genocide

The Broken Image by Christine Bakke
Mixed Media, 2007

The ex-gay movement fits the definition of genocide as outlined by the United Nations, according to startling new scholarship that may help prevent mass murder.

Most people think of genocide as mass murder of a group, but the “social death” inflicted on LGBT people by the ex-gay movement is a form of genocide that can lead to mass murder, according to professors Sue E. Spivey and Christine M. Robinson of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Their groundbreaking article “Genocidal Intentions: Social Death and the Ex-Gay Movement” appears in the April 2010 issue of the scholarly journal “Genocide Studies and Prevention.”

Using UN documents, they present genocide as a continuum of oppression, with social death at one end and mass murder at the other. The UN definition of genocide includes “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.”

If causing serious MENTAL harm is genocide, then the ex-gay movement is clearly genocidal. Art by ex-gay survivors shows the serious mental harm inflicted by ex-gay conversion therapies. These therapies can break the spirit and shatter lives.

The damage is made visible in powerful art by ex-gay survivors appearing with this blog post and at More ex-gay art may be viewed online at:

Spivey and Robinson explain that the ex-gay movement is “predominantly an evangelical Christian Right social movement which aims to purge society of homosexuality and transgenderism.” The movement promotes the belief that “same-sex attraction” is a sinful disorder that can be cured through “reparative” and “conversion” therapies. The professors do an excellent job of analyzing the genocidal intentions expressed by ex-gay movement entrepreneurs and organizations such as Exodus International and Focus on the Family.

The UN definition of genocide also includes “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group” and “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” As Spivey and Robinson point out, “ex-gay organizations seek to deny reproductive technologies and adoption rights for homosexuals, and support policies and court decisions that have forcibly removed children from the custody of their parents solely based on their homosexuality.”

The conclusion is clear. “The ex-gay movement is actively pursuing public policies that would, if implemented, constitute state-sponsored genocidal practices in the United States and globally,” Spivey and Robinson say in the article. Uganda’s notorious 2009 Anti-Homosexuality Bill is given as an example.

The authors admit that the original UN definition of genocide did not include social or political groups and was not applied to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. However, they noted that the recent International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda established a precedent by broadening the definition of possible genocide victims as any group sharing a common culture. The UN has also begun to formally recognize human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The new understanding of genocide can benefit people beyond the GLBT community. Seeing genocide as a continuum enables people to recognize its early stages, thus predicting and preventing mass murder.

Meanwhile, genocide or not, those who have survived ex-gay experiences are joining together to heal, thrive and create art. Two artists from the exhibit, Christine Bakke and Jason Ingram, agreed to share their work here at the Jesus in Love Blog.

Bakke takes the title of her artwork from the classic ex-gay book “The Broken Image.” Bakke explains, “For those of you who read ‘The Broken Image’ by Leanne Payne, or who were fed the notion that our sexuality or gender identity were broken, this piece of art is for you. For all those years that you were taught to see a broken image....perhaps it was only the mirror that was broken.”

Many thanks to the artists, the scholars and to Jallen Rix, author of “Ex-Gay No Way,” whose Advocate article first alerted me to the “Genocidal Intentions” scholarship.

Broken by Jason Ingram
Mixed media

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“Save Me” is the story of a young gay man who undergoes ex-gay therapy, but ends up finding romance with a guy he meets at the ex-gay retreat center. Told with compassion for both gays AND conservative Christians.


Jendi said...

Thanks for publicizing this important research! I had the privilege of hearing Prof. Robinson present this paper last winter at the Soulforce Anti-Heterosexism Conference, where Jallen Rix also spoke. I hope these ideas gain wider currency.

Great artwork, as always :)

Trudie said...

This is a profoundly important article. My only question is, based on who ELSE Hitler's extermination camps targeted, why has it taken our culture so long to twig to the genocidal aspects of the oppression of homosexuals?

Turtle Woman said...

Trudie, very good point. I must admit that I was really shocked when I read about these academic definitions of genocide, and what it really meant for gays and lesbians. Nor was I all that familiar with the ex-gay movement and how it really grew in the 90s.
The deal for the right wing idiots who could shame gay people, was also profitable-- all that "therapy" pays good money, workshops, tapes etc.-- it's all an industry to the right wing.

But the implications of "social death" were staggering to me. I realize that every day, I deal with this social ostracism-- mostly in subtle form now, but it is there.
And when Prop 8 was defeated the other day in the court in CA, not one straight person ever congratulated me, or acknowledged this landmark decision. Only a gay man spoke to me about it. I think that really tells me a lot about straight people, and their complete lack of empathy for lesbians and gays, even when we are the number 1 news story of the day. Social death indeed!

Kittredge Cherry said...

Indeed this research was shocking to me, too. It took me a long time (months) to digest and write about the genocide research, social death and the ex-gay movement. I was stunned to realize that the UN definition of genocide included killing the spirit, and I felt that I had to share this info on the blog in order to stop all kinds of genocide in the early stages.

Jendi, I’m glad to hear that this research was presented at a Soulforce conference. While I was reading the new scholarship, I kept thinking of the powerful warnings that Soulforce has made denouncing the religious right.

Trudie, thanks for your affirmations here and on your Facebook page. I appreciate how you said there that killing the spirit of the Native Americans may have been worse than the physical damage.

Turtle Woman, keep on resisting social death as a lesbian! May you be blessed with social life.

Kittredge Cherry said...

Over on my Facebook page somebody pointed out that conservatives are claiming that same-sex marriage is genocide that could wipe out the human race.

I am tired of the fear-mongering on both sides, with terms like “genocide” getting thrown around simply for shock value. I chose to promote this article because it seriously examines the definition of genocide. Even I was surprised to see how well it fits a specific manifestation of homophobia (ex-gay movement).

I also liked this scholarship because it isn’t just single-issue stuff aimed at promoting LGBT rights, but its stated goal is to identify ALL forms of genocide at an early stage.