However, the recent news story about a man who underwent extensive "sissy-boy" "therapy" (more like a failed, abusive attempt at brainwashing) and went on to become a lonely, unfulfilled adult who committed suicide at the age of 38 serves as prime evidence that this shit is not just theoretical. "Therapy" programs and "retraining" camps and religious programs that try to pray the gay away often inflict real trauma on the individuals who suffer through them. Profound, lasting trauma that damages them for life.
Every time I'm confronted with this version of extremely conservative, no-holds-barred gender essentialism and sexuality policing I have the same questions, and there never seems to be a consistent way to answer them:
- If gender identity and gender roles are innate, then why is there any need for the extensive socialization, and the corrective measures that are so often taken when an individual's development doesn't appear to be following an acceptable script? Why is there even a need for "therapy" programs like this if biology is destiny? Why the plethora of books telling you how to reprogram your child's gender expression and sexuality?
- How can anyone believe that living a non-conforming life when it comes to gender performance could be worse than the trauma that's inflicted on children through these kinds of corrective programs? Would you honestly prefer to beat your child to the point of leaving welts on his body every day rather than watch him grow up to be gay or trans or genderqueer or whatever? Seriously?
- Whose definition of "normal" is driving "therapy" programs like this? In the case of programs that are connected to churches and religious institutions it's clear, and at least there's no pretense that it's grounded in some kind of objective scientific framework. But in this particular case, you have an extremely socially conservative, religious individual who was using taxpayer dollars to run a "therapy" program designed to force children to conform to gender roles that came from his personal religious beliefs. Very, very problematic.
- How is it that parents in these kinds of cases have such blind faith in the religious or therapeutic system involved that they willingly partake in the abuse of their children even when the signs of trauma are unavoidably clear right in front of their faces? And how do they overcome their protective instincts to the point where they can participate in the abuse of their child, regardless of what longterm results the program promises?
- How many other people are there who went through this kind of coercive reprogramming and don't kill themselves, but live a life of quiet desperation and never manage to establish fulfilling relationships, or to really flourish in life? How many of them end up with serious addictions or troubling mental illnesses as a result of the abuse? For sure, we see the most extreme cases, but think of all the cases where the "therapy" is ostensibly successful but the individual is permanently traumatized.