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    I’m not like you


    Early last month, a Love in Action administrator said that two male teens in the program were both enrolled for six-week stints in the “ex-gay” camp, and last week in an interview broadcast on the Christian Broadcasting Network, Zach’s father, Joe Stark confirmed his son’s identity as one of Love in Action’s clients.

    “We felt good about Zach coming here … to let him see for himself the destructive lifestyle, what he has to face in the future, and to give him some options that society doesn’t give him today,” Stark said.

    “Until he turns 18 and he’s an adult in the state of Tennessee, I’m responsible for him, and I’m going to see to it that he has all options available to him.” [These are the statements to CBN that were quoted a week or two ago.–SRK]

    A Los Angeles-based psychologist [Ruh-roh!–SRK] took issue with the father’s statement.

    “It appears that both Mr. Stark and the LIA director’s public comments are highly defensive and indicate that their concern is less for the child’s well-being and more for their own purposes,” said Paul Chimubulo said via e-mail.

    “The sort of homophobia they espouse has been shown to be rooted in anxiety and a feeling of threat. … The gay child’s expressions are recognized and interpreted as injurious to the parent’s sense of self. With the publicity this has gathered, the father’s internal anxiety and feelings of threat over his son’s gay identity must really be ratcheted up.”

    I have no doubt that Joe Stark is doing quite a bit of hard thinking about his own performance as a father and how it might have “made” Zach gay, but can we please remember that people have convictions, too? It is perfectly possible–likely, as far as I’m concerned–that the Starks, at least, are genuinely acting as they think is best for their son, based on religious and other beliefs. That those beliefs are fed by factoids that play on confirmation bias doesn’t make them less real, though it should make them easier to argue against.

    My sense is that the wording Joe Stark used is probably the result of heavy-duty coaching–the focus on Zach’s coming adult independence and the characterizing of LIA as showing “options” distract attention from the coercion involved so shrewdly that I find it hard to imagine their coming spontaneously from a distraught parent. But that doesn’t mean he can be dismissed as acting out of a neurotic attempt to preserve his “sense of self.” The word homophobia, paradoxically enough, could conceivably be justified here–for once, we’re not just talking about anti-gay sentiment but about a real attempt to erase homosexuality in someone. But it’s not a judgment call we can really make, and crappy reasoning is just as bad coming from our side as from the opposition. Couldn’t the Washington Blade have found someone more level-headed to cite as an authority?

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