An advocacy organization for former gays and lesbians published a report Sunday accusing LGBTQ counselors at Virginia universities of giving out information that was medically inaccurate, biased, or incomplete.
The 86-page report from Voice of the Voiceless (VoV) describes the findings of two investigators, both former homosexuals, who visited the schools last year posing as students conflicted over same-sex attractions. VoV has teamed up with Liberty Counsel to urge schools to make their resources more affirming to students with unwanted same-sex attractions before the new school year begins.
Liberty Counsel has written to six of the schools spotlighted in the report, urging them to “include viewpoints from the ex-gay community” to avoid legal liability for viewpoint discrimination.
Because the universities are publicly funded, they must offer literature from ex-gay groups as well as gay-affirming groups, said Liberty Counsel in a letter sent to George Mason University last year and included in the report. “When a government opens a forum for literature distribution, it must treat all persons and groups seeking to use the forum equally, regardless of their viewpoint,” the letter stated. Liberty Counsel sent similar letters to James Madison University, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, Old Dominion University, and the College of William & Mary.
At the LGBTQ resource centers of the seven publicly funded universities the investigators visited, the lack of ex-gay resources amounted to discrimination, said Christopher Doyle, one of the two investigators and the president of VoV. Only one school—George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.—offered literature from an ex-gay organization supportive of students who wanted to identify with their biological gender.
“I had to beg the counselor at George Mason to give me that literature. And it was buried in a filing cabinet all the way at the bottom,” Doyle said. Other universities didn’t offer the literature and tried to steer Doyle and his colleague away from therapies that attempt to change one’s sexual orientation. They did offer gay-affirming resources.
VoV, which is based in Bristow, Virginia, calls itself “the only anti-defamation league for former homosexuals, individuals with unwanted same-sex attractions, and their families.”
Doyle said his organization has been working with the Virginia attorney general’s office since last year to remedy the situation at Virginia universities, though progress has slowed since Mark Herring, who supports same-sex marriage, became the new attorney general in January.
Beyond viewpoint discrimination, some counselors simply gave out biased advice. At George Mason University, a counselor suggested Doyle visit a gay-affirming church and warned that sexual-orientation change therapy could cause him harm. The National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, however, notes that no studies demonstrate such therapy carries exceptionally greater risks than other types of psychological intervention.
The advice at James Madison University in Harrisburg, Virginia, was outright dangerous: A counselor said sex among males was relatively safe as long as the partners wore condoms, weren’t drunk, and didn’t use intravenous drugs.
Until recently, the Food and Drug Administration website called anal intercourse “very risky” because of the risk of transmitting diseases, and quoted former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop calling it “too dangerous to practice.” The FDA has removed that warning, along with the Koop reference, but still provides a notice explaining a condom is more likely to tear during homosexual activity.
In the report, VoV recommended schools provide their staff “tolerance and sensitivity training” to understand the needs of students questioning their sexual identity or experiencing unwanted same-sex attraction. It recommended neutral administrators periodically check to see that LGBTQ Resource Centers are prominently displaying resources intended for such students.
“There needs to be education and a different option for students who want something different than a gay identity,” said Doyle.
James Madison University and the University of Virginia, both named in the VoV report, did not immediately return requests for comment.