Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A horror story for June

The LDS Church speaks of the immorality of same-sex love. Their arguments are either of an abstract, theological nature ("God is displeased"), self-directed ("You won't be happy") or xenophobic ("Your existence 'threatens the family'").

This video, on the other hand, shows immorality of a more concrete nature. This is immorality that directly harms a young, vulnerable person. It is the immorality of the LDS Church's own actions-- pushing a young man into medically unethical aversion therapy and providing religious justification for a young man's parents to disown him. If the young person in this film had taken his life, as he nearly did, his blood would have been on the LDS Church's hands.

I am sick to death of sanctimony when grotesque, flagrant abuse, as witnessed by this young man's testimony, is quietly shoved under the rug.

We must not be silent. If you are gay, come out to your friends and family. If you are a parent or relative of a gay person, come out to your extended family and community. If you are a straight person who sees this injustice for what it is, don't be silent the next time you hear bigoted remarks. You don't have to be an activist. Just being visible in our own circle is the best tool we have to put the kind of cruelty shown in this video to rest forever.

Update:This video clip is part of a television program that aired on MTV in 2004. The abuse described in the video took place at BYU in 1995. The young man interviewed in the film, Jayce Cox, is now a suicide prevention coordinator working for a public health department in Helena, MT. We wish him well.


Scot said...

ouch and amen.

Abelard Enigma said...

Watching that video made me cry.

MoHoHawaii said...

Scot-- I think we're on the same page here.

Abelard-- I cried too, and the video made me very, very angry.

I've noticed as I've grown older that I have protective feelings toward young people, even young people who are not my own offspring. I wonder if you've experienced the same feeling, since you work with young people in your ward.

Maybe my true ambition in life is to be a program director a gay LDS youth group. I really want our next generation to have it better than we did.

J G-W said...


First: I didn't know that electro-shock aversion therapy was being practiced at BYU in the 1990s... I thought it was discontinued in the 1970s.

Second: What he described was essentially religiously sanctioned torture. It doesn't get much more evil than that.

But it almost sounds as if they were practicing it secretly. I wonder, are BYU's Board of Trustees aware what was going on? Were they operating within the bounds of Church/BYU policy? Within the bounds of the law? If not, will they be brought to justice?

If yes, then I guess the only recourse is to spread that story far and wide until people demand justice.

MoHoHawaii said...

The most amazing (and frightening) part of this story is that it happened in 1995, at least 15 or 20 years after the Church says that electroshock aversion therapy had been discontinued.

One thing we do not know is how many people were affected and to what level of approval was provided by BYU and/or the Church itself. One imagines that the numbers were small by 1995, but this is just speculation.

I think it would be very difficult to get to the bottom of this affair, since the Church is generally as open to self-criticism and investigation as, say, the Kremlin.

J G-W said...

Well, yes, that's what I meant...

It was bizarre and frightening that they made him promise to keep everything completely secret from everyone, which leads you to believe that they almost had some kind of renegade operation going that they knew they needed to keep hush-hush. One even wonders if the Evergreen representative who referred him completely knew what was going on...

But if that's the case, the Church owes it to itself to perform a complete investigation and report the individuals involved to the authorities.

It just makes you sick.

Juditude said...

Thank you for sharing this powerful and emotional video. This is the very type of thing that pushed me to leave the LDS church. Well, that and many other things, but that's a different story.

As a sister of a gay man who died in my bed of AIDS quite a few years ago, a best friend of a gay man and friend to many other gays and lesbians, this makes me sick. And it's not news to me, by any means.

I agree that we MUST speak out every chance we get. I am SO irritated at the church's decision to get in the middle of the CA marriage issue...separation of church and state? Whatever.

So...thank you for putting these things on your blog and keeping us strong in our desires to change things for the better. Bless you!

Abelard Enigma said...

I thought aversion therapy was disproved years ago - not just for curing homosexuality, but also for alcoholism, and a host of other ills it was once purported to cure. So, it is shocking to think that it might still be going on in this supposedly 'enlightened' day and age.

Also, with the level of secrecy he was urged to maintain (not even talk to his Bishop) - I doubt this was being done with the knowledge of the church or BYU officials. We don't know anything about the guy administering it - it could have been a rogue graduate student working totally on his own.

But, that's not the part that made me cry. As vulgar as it sounds, the young man was a consenting adult - not some impressionable teenager. And, being told to not even talk to his Bishop should have been a red flag. (when have we ever heard of someone legitimately being told to keep something secret from their bishop?)

What made me cry was when he said his father gave him two weeks to move out and then learning that he hasn't spoken to his parents in two years. The true evil here is not the church, or BYU, or even the therapist - but it's the parents - whom, I believe, will have to answer to God for rejecting their son.

I know some like to place the blame on the church for such attitudes in parents; but, I'm a parent in the LDS church, and I've never been taught that it's acceptable to reject my children in certain cases - I've been taught to love my children unconditionally. I've been taught that God will forgive whom he will forgive, but it is my duty to forgive everyone. Anyone twisting the teachings of the church to suggest otherwise is no better than the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus' time.

Abelard Enigma said...

Here is an interesting related article titled Aversion Therapy from the Las Vegas Bugle.

In there Jayce Cox states:

A family in Provo -- they lead what we call Family Fellowship, which is a Mormon version of PFLAG -- they've been sending me photos of people who they think may have been the perpetrator. So far I have not been able to identify him, but they're very adamant that we do and I feel that we should.

So it appears that there are efforts to expose this turpitude.

MoHoHawaii said...

Hey Juditude!

Thanks for being there.


I'm guessing that by 1995 any program of aversion therapy at BYU would have to be pretty much underground. Still, one can hardly imagine this existing in a secular university, underground or not. The facilities and medical equipment have to come out of someone's budget. You have to schedule the room with the department secretary. Graduate students have supervisors. Etc.

Still, I'm pretty much willing to withhold judgment because we do not have any information about whether or if this abuse was officially sanctioned. The 'rogue operation' theory may well be true. We just don't know.

In 1995.

However, it is well documented that the Church did push people into abusive aversion therapy for a number of years with devastating results for a large group of men. To date there has been no apology or recognition of error.

As for whether the Church bears any responsibility for the behavior of the Jayce's father, the issue is complex. The Church does next to nothing to combat anti-gay animus. I myself have heard a General Authority give the line about preferring a child to die rather than lose virtue. The Church's fight-to-the-death stance against marriage equality sends a pretty strong message.

You can look at this post as an example of the Church's role in parental rejection of gay children. Clark's mom is fairly mainstream.

If Jayce's and Clark's experience were just isolated incidents I could buy the Pharisee defense. It seems more systemic to me than that.

Abelard Enigma said...

If Jayce's and Clark's experience were just isolated incidents I could buy the Pharisee defense.

Well, the Pharisees and Sadducees were the institutionalized leadership of the day.

I do agree that the church could do more to counter such attitudes. The problem, as I see it, isn't that the church teaches it's members to be intolerant - it's that the church really doesn't say much at all, leaving members to come up with their own interpretations of doctrine and policies. For example, in my ward, homosexuality is just not talked about - ever! Even last year when it was addressed specifically in a priesthood lesson, when the instructor got to that part of the lesson, he commented that it is a topic he isn't comfortable with so we could just read it on our own. He then moved onto the next topic in the lesson. With everything going on in California, I've not heard it mentioned at all, either formally in a lesson or in hallway conversations. It's this shameful secret that we sweep under the rug and only talk about in hushed tones - we really need to move past that, it's a fact of life.

And, please do not misunderstand, I am not excusing those who participate in any way in Aversion therapy. It is a barbaric practice that needs to be exposed and stopped.

I just think as members of the church, we need to understand that we have free agency and, therefore, have personal responsibility for our actions - regardless of who might have said what.

Jayce Cox said...

I google myself every once and awhile. It is interesting to see the thread on this blog. I am living in Helena Montana now and practice Reform Mormonism. My relationship with my parents is still very strained but several of my siblings have come around.
Thanks for the support!
Jayce Cox
Helena, Montana