Daily Dispatches
A statue of George Mason stands in the heart of George Mason University's Fairfax campus in Fairfax, Va.
Associated Press/Photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta
A statue of George Mason stands in the heart of George Mason University's Fairfax campus in Fairfax, Va.

Virginia university counselors refuse to admit dangers of gay sex

Homosexuality

Counselors at Virginia’s public universities are happy to help students deal with same-sex attraction—as long as they don’t want to get rid of it. In an undercover sting operation this month, two former homosexuals from the ex-gay anti-defamation group Voice of the Voiceless (VoV) met with school counselors and pretended to be wrestling with unwanted, same-sex attraction.

Christopher Doyle, the president of VoV and one of the two involved in the sting, told counselors at “LGTBQ resource centers” he was a conservative Christian conflicted over his same-sex attraction. “What can I do?” he asked.

At all seven state universities in Virginia that Doyle and colleague Chuck Peters visited, counselors gave out incomplete, inaccurate, or biased information. Some warned that seeking therapy to change sexual orientation was harmful, “not valid,” and could cause depression or suicidal tendencies. None warned of the scientifically proven risks of gay sex, such as HIV transmission. Instead, counselors suggested that homosexuality was inborn or genetic.

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“You would think by the way they were talking that being gay was normal, healthy, and natural,” Doyle told me. “No different than heterosexuality. No increased risk.”

At George Mason University, a counselor suggested Doyle begin attending a gay-affirming church, where he might feel less conflict between his Christianity and his attractions. “It’s a gift from God, your sexuality, whatever direction it is,” he said.

The same counselor warned that therapy to change sexual orientation carries potential risks: “What psychiatry, psychology, mental health [experts] say is that these attempts to change somebody actually end up doing much more harm because they add layers of shame. … People end up blaming themselves, feeling even more shame than when they started. It leads to greater depression, greater stress, suicide—it’s a mess.” The counselor added he “wouldn’t stop you from trying it if that’s the path you want to try.”

A counselor at James Madison University even gave out potentially life-threatening advice, claiming that sex among males was safe as long as the partners wore condoms, weren’t drunk, and didn’t use intravenous drugs.

“Beyond that, it’s not really any more risky than sexual activity with a female,” she said. “I mean, if this were the ’80s , then maybe I’d say, yes, the risk of HIV is higher.”

In fact, the Food and Drug Administration warns tha tanal sex carries an increased risk of transmitting diseases, even when a condom is worn. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that 91 to 95 percent of new cases of HIV transmission are linked to male-on-male sex.

Another ex-gay advocacy group, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), has sent ex-gay literature to public universities in Virginia for the past several years. The pamphlets contain information for students struggling with same-sex attraction, point to scientific resources, and state there is no “gay gene” and no genetic basis for same-sex feelings.

LGBTQ resource centers—which sometimes bill themselves as “multicultural” centers—are supposed to be “safe zones,” offering a neutral viewpoint to students, Doyle said. As such, they should display literature from a variety of perspectives, and offer referrals to groups that have approved sexual orientation change therapies, such as the American Association of Christian Counselors and the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.

But no counselors offered referrals to such groups. “They’re saying this therapy is harmful,” said Doyle. “They believe that you’re born this way.” When Doyle specifically asked for ex-gay literature such as that offered by PFOX, only one university provided it (after the counselor dug a pamphlet from the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet). A counselor at a second university claimed he had ex-gay literature on hand, but not enough to give away. 

Doyle and Peters secretly recorded audio and some video of their conversations with counselors, sometimes using a writing pen concealing a hidden camera. VoV will present its findings from the sting operation in an upcoming report that may be released in November. The group, whose mission is to “defend the rights of former homosexuals, individuals with unwanted same-sex attraction, and their families,” will host an ex-gay awareness dinner in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

Daniel James Devine
Daniel James Devine

Daniel is a reporter for WORLD who covers science, technology, and other topics in the Midwest from his home base in Indiana. Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanJamDevine.

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