THE NOONER: Midland paper promotes ‘ex-gay’ ministry; Perry says we’ve ‘turned away from God’

Gov. Rick Perry

Your lunchtime quickie from Instant Tea:

• Midland newspaper highlights so-called “ex-gay” ministry. “‘We’re not professional counselors. We just want to be helpful and supportive to those who have unwanted same-sex attraction.’”

• GOPProud’s Jimmy LaSalvia says gays need guns, not hate crimes legislation. And the Tyler Morning Telegraph agrees.

• Rick Perry says America has turned away from God.

• Poll finds that more than half of Americans favor national recognition for same-sex marriages: “According to the latest survey conducted by Harris Interactive, more than half (53%) of all U.S. adults agreed that regardless of their own personal views, ‘a same-sex marriage legally granted in one state should be recognized as a legal marriage in all other states in the same way generally that heterosexual marriages are recognized across state lines.’”

• H&M to open second Texas store in Plano.

—  John Wright

HRC calls out Pastor Joel Osteen, who will again promote gay teen suicide on CNN tonight

Above is video of the Houston megachurch pastor’s latest remarks, which are scheduled to air tonight on CNN. And below is a press release that just came across from the Human Rights Campaign:

HRC to Joel Osteen:  Use Your Pulpit for Good, Not Hate

Televangelist’s Hateful Remarks Before a National Audience are Dangerous

WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest civil rights organization dedicated to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality, today called on Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, TX and well-known evangelical preacher with a syndicated television following of over 7 million viewers, to immediate apologize for his remarks on national television that “the Scripture shows that [homosexuality] is a sin.” Osteen made the remarks on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight. The full show will air tonight.

“It’s a real shame that someone of Joel Osteen’s prominence and life experiences would repeat this tired and dangerous statement. It furthers ignorance and discrimination by some Americans and adds a burden to those already struggling to accept their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “One would hope Mr. Osteen would use his pulpit, with an audience of over 7 million people, to tell all human beings that they are loved just the way they are. Instead he chose to send a dangerous and irresponsible message.”

The American Psychological Association and American Psychiatric Association have both concluded that same-sex attraction is normal.

Mr. Osteen’s position does not reflect the views of many religious leaders and denominations. Mainline denominations such at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and the Episcopal Church, see God’s divine presence working across the spectrum of human sexuality. Many Baptists also dispute Mr. Osteen’s stance.

“Joel Osteen is certainly entitled to his opinion, but America needs to know that he doesn’t speak for all Christians, he doesn’t even speak for all Baptists,” said Rev. Dr. Miguel de la Torre, a Baptist minister and member of the HRC Religion Council. “As a Southern Baptist and an ethicist I believe that we can’t follow Jesus’ commandment to love God and our neighbor as our self if we start with the premise that homosexuality is sinful. Starting with the belief that people are sinful doesn’t allow us to get to know them, let alone love them.”

HRC encourages young Baptists who are struggling with their identity to contact the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (AWAB) for resources on the church and sexuality. AWAB’s website is http://www.wabaptists.org/. AWAB partnered with the Human Rights Campaign in 2010 to honor several Washington, DC area Baptist pastors who were instrumental in passing marriage equality legislation in the District of Columbia.

—  John Wright

Born this way

Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why by Simon LeVay Oxford University Press, 2010; $28; 412 pp.

We all have our quirky preferences: Some don’t like it when food touches other food on their plate, or when socks don’t match up. But are our selves shaped by outside influence, or did we enter the world this way? Was our behavior learned or innate? In Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why, you’ll find answers to similar questions of a more intimate sort.

Nearly two decades ago, Simon LeVay published a scientific paper asserting that gay men differed from straight men in their brain structures — specifically, a cluster of nerve cells controlling sex drive in gay men were the same size observed in straight women’s brains. Since publication of that paper, vast amounts of research have probed same-sex attraction and the nature/nurture debate. Here, LeVay takes a deeper look at some of the newer findings.

While some gays and lesbians are surprised later in life by feelings of same-sex attraction, LeVay says that sexual identity, while not always immediately apparent, is present at birth (although women, throughout life, appear to be more fluid). He points to several cases in which male infants were, for one reason or another, “assigned” to live as the opposite sex. In most cases, upon adulthood, the “assignment” turned out to be wrong.

Some theorize that childhood abuse has influenced gayness, but survivors deny it as a factor. Some theories claim that older siblings or domineering parents hold sway. And as for “choice,” LeVay cites several quasi-claims of “conversions” in which therapy reportedly changed sexual preference.

Overall, LeVay says, nothing is cut-and-dried, but the probable reason that someone is gay has to do with genetics, hormones and stress that individuals receive in utero. Studies show, for instance, that mice are influenced by chemicals secreted by their mothers and by littermates. Humans, likewise, are affected in similar ways, which could lay to rest many questions. And one of the hints may literally be at your fingertips.

While there’s no doubt Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why is an intriguing book that makes sense on several levels, there’s one big problem with it: you almost need a Ph.D. to follow much of what LeVay says. It’s steeped in medical lingo, and while LeVay includes a glossary and substantial notes to explain the scientific terms and acronyms, this book is a challenge.

But if you’re up for that challenge, you’ll be rewarded with a thought-provoking examination of a private subject that has a very public focus. LeVay leaves no hypothesis unexamined, which leaves readers satisfied that every corner of this argument has been thoroughly dusted off.

Give yourself some time if you decide to tackle this book, because it’s nowhere near light reading, but it is fascinating — and ultimately a plea for tolerance.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Mormon church says HRC statement about its stance on homosexuality ‘can’t be taken seriously’

Earlier today the Human Rights Campaign issued a press release suggesting that the Mormon church no longer considers same-sex attraction sinful.

But the Mormon church swiftly responded by saying HRC’s statement “mischaracterizes the church’s position” and “can’t be taken seriously.”

The HRC press release came in response to recent changes to the Church Handbook of Instructions. The handbook contains guidelines used by leaders in dealing with members, and the new version softened language related to gays.

The headline of HRC’s press release said, “Mormon Church: Same-Sex Attraction is Normal,” followed by a sub-headline saying, “New Church policy removes same-sex attraction from ‘list of sins.’” The HRC press release went on to suggest that recent advocacy by HRC and other LGBT groups was partly responsible for the changes.

The Mormon church responded by saying, “The HRC press release mischaracterizes the Church’s position and can’t be taken seriously,” according to Steve Rothhaus at The Miami Herald.

The statement about HRC’s press release followed an earlier blog post in which the church slammed a Salt Lake City TV station for its report about the changes to the handbook. The church suggested that the TV station’s report was an example of the type of irresponsible journalism that’s becoming more common because of changes brought on by the Internet.

So here now is Instant Tea’s official, on-the-record response:

“The Mormon church says HRC can’t be taken seriously, and while we’re not here to defend HRC, we’d like to warn LGBT youth that the Mormon church should never, ever be taken seriously. It’s like a really bad joke. And while the church laments changes in journalism, we’re busy lamenting the church’s total disregard for the constitutional principle of separation between church and state.”

Let’s see if they respond.

—  John Wright

Yet another gay teen suicide?

Alec Henriksen

Another teen who may have been gay has taken his own life — and this time he was from Utah, where a Mormon apostle just a few days ago called same-sex attraction “unnatural” and “impure” and said it can be changed.

We’ve long been saying on this blog that those in positions of power who spew homophobia have the blood of gay teen suicide victims on their hands — and we can only hope the reality of this will finally take hold in the mainstream.

PrideInUtah.com reports that 18-year-old Alec Henriksen, a Utah native who was a student at Earlham College in Indiana, was found dead on Sept. 30:

Alec Henriksen was a brilliant young computer programmer. And while suicide is always a terrible idea, I want to use his death as a call-to-action for anyone who cares for these young people. Please, help them. Love them for who they are. Put them in touch with the Trevor Project if possible.

PrideInUtah.com adds that the website from which it obtained the information about Henriksen’s suicide — and presumably about his sexual orientation — has since been taken down.

However, Instant Tea found this statement on the Earlham College website confirming Henriksen’s death. The statement says his body was found on property belonging to Earlham Cemetery, and that no foul play is suspected. We also found Henriksen’s obituary in the Salt Lake Tribune.

If it turns out that Henriksen was not gay, our point remains. And if he was gay but someone is trying to cover it up, it would be typical of how Mormon culture deals with gay teen suicide — which is a big problem in Utah.

If Henriksen was gay, his death would bring to at least six the number of gay teen suicides that have been reported nationwide in recent weeks. Of course, it’s safe to say the real number is considerably higher.

—  John Wright

Eddie Long, black gay men, and a call to action

Linus “Buster” Spiller

LINUS “BUSTER” SPILLER
busterspiller@gmail.com

With the recent allegations of sexual coercion and abuse by Bishop Eddie Long, pastor of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church of Atlanta, toward four young men in his congregation, I have found myself dealing with a plethora of emotions, including a deep-seeded dislike of the Black church, along with my own history of childhood sexual abuse.

I know my Christian faith calls for forgiveness but this one is too close to home, in ways I won’t even discuss in this column.

The one thing that BOILS my blood is the responses of people in the Black church, who act like this thing doesn’t happen, that if we concentrate hard enough or attempt to pray it out of our consciousness, it will somehow go away. And it does go away.

The problem is, for the victims, it doesn’t go away. You go to your grave with the scars. You may learn to cope, adapt, and move on but everything you do as an adult is shaped by that abuse. It affects how you interact with males (or females, if your abuse came from them). It affects how you interact in intimate relationships with friends and family. Its affects how you function within a committed relationship or marriage. It affects how you interact with others on your job. The abuse shapes everything.

My own abuse, which happened over two years with one adult, and then happened AGAIN as a teenager the same age as these boys were by ANOTHER adult, makes me angry because as the man that I am today, I understand the emotional fallout.

Many people are not aware of this but I am also a three-time suicide survivor, the first attempt coming because I was successful as a child at suppressing the abuse memories and erasing them. But as a developing young college student, those memories returned and I couldn’t handle them, with a 1st suicide attempt as a result.

Then another suicide attempt occurred 5 years later when my growing same-sex attraction started to hover over me with a vengeance. And it happened once more, three years later. With three stints in therapy, I was finally able to make peace with it and with my parents for not protecting me. They didn’t know about the abuse but I still blamed them, common with child abuse victims.

I had the unfortunate pleasure of running into my first abuser completely by accident when visiting Detroit when I was 33 years old. I had always said if I ever ran into him, I would kill him. But guess what happened? I reverted back mentally to that young boy who was abused and all I could say to him was “you’re not as tall as I thought you were” (we were the same height by that time). He said “I’ve always been this tall” and I replied back “but when you’re a little boy looking up, you seemed like a giant.”

I also had the misfortune of being in the same predicament as the four young men as a teenager with a significantly older community advisor/chaperone like Mr. Long, who I attended oratorical contests with out of the city and state. He was also a predator who used to park outside of my house when we weren’t at these events. And I told no one out of fear.

Hopefully this situation sparks a dialogue in the Black community about sex in general, healthy sexuality, and how to discuss and address touchy issues like rape, domestic violence, sexual assault and child sexual assault. The Black community seems to function within the paradigm that sex is this “great power” we have no control over. We do. And we have to be responsible for use of that sexuality. God gave it to us as a gift and we have to stop treating it as “voodoo” that we’re completely powerless over.

My greatest wish is that black gay men will place themselves in the forefront of this dialogue because our lives are at stake. No longer can we sit in these churches silently, pay tithes, and have verbal whipping after verbal whipping heaped upon us as though we are not worthy of basic human decency, even if we have deep family ties within that church community. No longer can we freely give our time and talents in support of religious institutions that don’t extend respect in return. And no longer should we tolerate hypocritical biblical teachings by those like Long, who feel comfortable leading efforts such as his infamous 2006 march against gay marriage, yet allegedly violated the marriage covenant with his own wife according to Christian doctrine.

No more. Black gay man, are you willing to stand? Or will you be a willing participant in your own demise? The choice is yours.

Linus “Buster” Spiller is a community activist and former president of The Men’s Gathering-Dallas, a social/support organization for LBGTQ men.

—  John Wright

Minn. pastor back in pulpit after gay report

PATRICK CONDON  |  Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — A Lutheran pastor in Minneapolis who opposes homosexuals being allowed to lead congregations says he is attracted to men but says he’s not a hypocrite because he never acted on his urges.

The Rev. Tom Brock told The Associated Press on Monday, Aug. 2 that he has known for many years that he is attracted to men. He says he is still a virgin at age 57 and doesn’t consider himself gay because he hasn’t acted on his attraction.

Brock’s sexuality became an issue after a gay magazine reported on his membership in a support group for Christians battling same-sex attraction. Brock was put on leave while a task force at Hope Lutheran Church looked into the matter.

Hope Lutheran’s executive pastor says the task force found Brock credible, and he was back in the pulpit on Sunday.

—  John Wright