Wednesday, April 7, 2010

CNN Hits Bottom Hosting Richard Cohen and Search for "Truth" About Homosexuality Cure

I remember when CNN started. As a news junkie, it was remarkable to be able to see national and world news 24/7, in-depth. There was a lot of fluff as the network went through its growing pains and tried to develop content and most of the air time was filled with the same news events recycled over, and over again. Now? CNN is hard at work trying to emulate Fox News and this video demonstrates that. It is of an exchange between Richard Cohen and California Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, hosted by Kyra Phillips discussing an old, forgotten law that Lowenthal is trying to have repealed. The law requires medical researchers to examine the "causes and cures of homosexuality."
Many of the on-air personalities we know now started out on CNN as actual journalists--I can still hear Wolf Blitzer's panic-filled voice as he reported from Baghdad during the first Gulf War, and Greta Von Susteran reporting on the OJ trial before plastic surgery and a bleach job working as an actual legal analyst, using the skills she was trained for. Now? It seems to be all about ratings, and competing with Fox to see how much water they can carry for the right-wing extremists.

This video is appalling in so many ways that it is  hard to know where to begin.

First, the lead. "Homosexuality. Is it a problem in need of a cure?" and its screen icon saying, "Finding a cure for homosexuality? California considers repealing 1950 law.

Actually, this sounds more like the National Inquirer than Fox. Of a headline we might have seen back in the 60's. The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality as a mental disorder back in the 1970's. My copy of the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Revision) has an entire chapter on paraphilias (sexual disorders) and I can assure you, homosexuality is not included (memorizing every disorder, the categories and sub-categories within each disorder and the criteria for each was part of my training). The fact that CNN would host such a show is called desperately grasping for ratings at any cost, in other situations, some might call it ... well, you get the idea.

Most of the 7:32 minute long video is taken up with conversation between Richard Cohen and Kyra Phillips. Assemblywoman Lowenthall is asked why she has put forward a bill repealing this old statute, but other than that, is given little opportunity to offer anything to the discussion. Considering that the focus of the program is not the bill or its repeal, but rather homosexuality itself, its understandable that she wouldn't have much to add.

Cohen is introduced by Phillips as a psychotherapist, and as an expert in this area because he is someone who used to be a homosexual, and thus qualified to discuss the validity of researching a "cure" for homosexuality (never mind that we did not hear about why homosexuality is no longer considered a mental disorder, and why the law is long-forgotten and not enforced).

Phillips either does not know or "forgot" that Cohen is no longer a psychotherapist, even though he said it quite proudly to prove the validity of his claims. [Note: remember The 10 Fallacies and the rule of inappropriate authority. Just because someone has credentials in something, doesn't mean they are an expert in other things.] The American Counseling Association Code of Ethics (and I double checked my copy prior to writing this), includes the rules that members do not seek to meet their own needs at the expense of their clients. They also must not engage in dual relationships with their clients. A dual relationship is one in which you have any kind of relationship with the client outside of that of counselor/client. For example, if you provide any kind of service to me, I can't be your counselor. If I purchase any kind of goods from you, the line becomes less clear, but again, I have to be very careful before I become your counselor. If you own or manage a business but have no personal oversight of my financial transactions (i.e., where I purchase my groceries for example), then as long as the nature of our counseling relationship remained confidential, I could continue to shop at your grocery store. I probably would not, but if it were a small town, I might not have any choice.

Another kind of dual relationship that concerns ethics committees is when counselors use their clients for their own ends or to advance their own agenda. The counselor's own opinions, worldview, political persuasion, religion, or belief system cannot enter the counseling relationship. I do not have to agree with my clients, or like what they do or how they live their life, but I do have to leave my opinion outside the door and give my client unconditional positive regard, support, and empathy. If I cannot do that, if I feel that I have to change who they are, make them into something they aren't, do something they are not comfortable doing, force them to change into something or someone else, or change faster than they are ready to change, then I have committed malpractice and could be sued, and lose (in my case) my certification and those with a license, would lose their license. I would also be kicked out of the American Counseling Association and all the other professional organizations that I belong to, each of which has a very similar code of ethics to follow, not to mention the state law that governs the rules for practice for my profession.

Why so much detail? Richard Cohen was kicked out of the American Counseling Association and is no longer a psychotherapist because he engaged in dual relationships with his clients and forced his own agenda on them (convincing them that homosexuality is "curable" and that he could convert them). Even if the clients came to him because they were unhappy with their sexual orientation, it was his responsibility to help them work through their feelings, not change their life. The counselor's job is to guide the client as they work through their feelings and make any changes that they decide need to be made, if any, in their lives. If, as counseling progresses, the client comes to realize that there are situations in their life that are not working and the counseling process has enabled them to develop the strength to make changes, then it is up to the counselor to support the client in making those changes, not force them to do what the counselor believes is the right thing to do.

In the discussion, Cohen lists as one of his reasons a concern for children and protecting them from child molesters. Many, many people are afraid of homosexuals because of fear for their children's safety. This is not to say that no homosexuals are child predators, but statistics have shown, over and over again, that the majority of child molesters are middle-aged, married, heterosexual men. Of course, parents should be concerned about any adult who is around their children, no matter who it is. Child molesters groom their victims, and their victims include the parents. Grooming includes making the victim comfortable around the molester so that the predator has the opportunity to molest. Molestation takes place in private, so the predator has to create the opportunity to have time alone with the child, and accomplishes this by creating a relationship of trust with the parents, then with the child.

Richard Cohen claimed that the American College of Peditricians had recently sent out a Fact Sheet about homosexuality that "proves" what he is saying. In this "Fact Sheet," we are told that homosexuality is a result of a combination of familial, environmental, social, and biological influences, and that 85% of youths who experience same sex attractions eventually end up as heterosexuals. Unfortunately, this is a marvelous way of dressing up the truth to look like a lie to look like a lie.

Note how they tucked in biological at the end of the list of reasons for homosexuality? It is the last of their four reasons, and I am sure they consider familial and environmental factors key (the old blame the domineering mother most likely), but as they have no answer as to why several children can grow up in the same family with theoretically the same environmental factors, they had to throw in biological factors. What they did not understand is that no two children in the same family experience the same environment. The parents are in different places, they react to each child differently, the child has different experiences outside the home, different friends, teachers, events, and reactions to those events. Even how they experience the family will be different, which goes a long way towards explaining why children from the same family grow up to be completely different people. I digress, however. Their complete lack of understanding of sociological concepts and counseling theory is as clear as their misunderstanding of scientific research.

During the developmental process, many children feel attractions to others of the same sex, and to the other sex. Does this mean they are homosexual? Or bisexual? No. It means they are normal. If they act on these feelings, will they become one or the other? No. They will become who they are. Is someone who has sex with someone of the same sex a homosexual? No, of course not. If that were true, then 80% of our prison populations are really homosexual, and all the heterosexual men (frequently married) caught in public restrooms engaging in inappropriate behavior with other men would really be homosexual. All the middle-aged, heterosexual men who molest children of both sexes would really be homosexual if their preferred target happened to be boys (and, child predators can be broken up into two categories, those who molest by type, and those who molest by opportunity - if by opportunity, gender and age do not matter, if by type, it does). So, in a way, most children who have attractions to others of the same sex end up as heterosexual, but the way this "Fact Sheet" frames it leads the reader to believe that it is simply a matter of environment.

Additionally, this "Fact Sheet" also states that homosexuality can be dangerous to men. Of course it can if the world is filled with people like this. Until our society understands that homosexuality is not a lifestyle choice but simply who someone is, it will be dangerous for anyone homosexual. It states that reorientation therapy works, and that pro-homosexual programs that validate this lifestyle (pretty loaded framing) are not appropriate. As long as we continue to use the language of "lifestyle choice," then people will continue to believe that homosexuality is something bad that should be treated.
 The two biggest concerns I have with the stated facts, are;
  • "Regardless of an individual's sexual orientation, sexual activity is a conscious choice."
  • "...It is not the school's role to diagnose and treat any student's medical condition..."
First of all, homosexuality is not about activity. Homosexuality is about how you perceive yourself. It is how you interact with the world, and how you see yourself in relation to others. Imagine if you will, if you were told (assuming you are heterosexual), that you must choose a life partner of the same sex. That you must kiss them, hug them, be intimate with them, and have sex with them. What if you were told that your sexual urges were wrong, and that your desire to make yourself attractive to others was wrong. How would you feel? Could you be intimate with someone you felt no sexual desire for? Or someone you actually were repulsed by? How would you feel if all of your friends, family, and neighbors all had a significant other, someone to do couple things with, talk over problems with, have families with, be with, and you could not, because the person that you wanted to be with was not allowed? How would you feel if you were asked, regularly, when you were going to get married? Have children? Settle down? Or had your friends and family try to set you up on blind dates? Or your buddies told dirty jokes, or talked about their dates or sexual matters and you couldn't participate?

The second? This is a group of pediatricians (not psychologists or geneticists) talking about homosexuality as a familial and environmental problem on the one hand, and then saying the schools have no right to discuss medical problems on the other. Which is it? And, all of this being discuss by an expert who claims his expertise because he is a psychotherapist, somehow implying that it is thus a mental illness. So, family upbringing or environment (bring on the sociologists!), medical problem, or mental illness. Which? Do they even proofread their own materials? Dig a little deeper into their website, and you'll find that at heart, this is a narrow-minded group of Christian right ideologues trying to force their agenda on everyone else. Just because this group can put M.D. after their names gives them no greater voice in this issue than any other.

I feel badly sometimes that I am grateful that I am heterosexual and have not had to experience these difficulties. I have been married for what seems like forever and have raised my children without too much trauma. I don't know these things from first-hand experience, but I do know these things from talking to friends and family and clients. I do know these things because as a counselor, the required element to do my job is empathy, and having it, I can often relate too well to those around me. If you don't know or can't relate, then take a moment and stop and think. Just think.

I stopped watching CNN regularly a long time ago, but I do occasionally watch some programs. Wolf Blitzer sold out long ago. I completely gave up when John King had the White House beat because of his pandering to the Bush Administration, but I never thought I would see them sink as far as they have with hiring Erick Erickson, and now this.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

1 comment:

  1. Kyra, the problem is that the mental health profession is forbidden from helping patients who wish to change. It's tragic. People like mr. cohen are silenced even though their views aren't that crazy if you view them in an unbiased manner.