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Can Sexual Orientation be Changed?
Aired April 15, 2011 - 21:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST: Warning: today`s show about homosexuality is highly controversial. Using prayer to transform someone from gay to straight is a contentious issue.
This show and every show we do is here to help you better understand the human condition, not to hurt anyone. But nothing is taboo. I don`t want to avoid a subject just because it`s difficult. Our goal is to elevate the conversation and to inform.
So let`s get started.
There are estimated to be approximately nine million lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the U.S. Those are the just-released numbers from the Williams Institute at the UCLA`s School of Law. Some people who once identified as gay say they are now straight, and they credit faith-based organizations like Exodus International for this transformation.
So, can sexual orientation be changed? This is a polarizing debate.
Please watch this.
PINSKY (voice-over): On one side, those who say homosexuality is natural.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is an emotional and a psychological issue, not a spiritual or religious issue.
PINSKY: On the other, groups who say it`s a sin. One of those organizations is Exodus International. Its mission, to lead people out of homosexuality.
Exodus president Alan Chambers was having sex with men when he joined the group 20 years ago. Now he believes homosexuality is wrong. He`s been married for 13 years. He and his wife Leslie (ph) have two children. It`s the lifestyle he believes is ideal in God`s eyes, and he says prayer got him there.
PINSKY: Joining me now is Alan Chambers. He is the president of Exodus International and the author of "God`s Grace and the Homosexual Next Door."
Dr. Alicia Salzer is a physician and a psychiatrist. She is deeply opposed to the idea that homosexuality is something that can be changed. She is watching and listening from New York, and I`m going to be hearing from her shortly.
But before we begin, consider this: In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders." This is the primary tool used by psychiatrists, psychologists and physicians to identify mental illnesses, mental disorders, mental conditions. So the medical community says homosexuality is not an illness, not a disease, not a disorder, nothing that needs any sort of treatment or cure.
So my question from Alan is, why you think it is -- or do you think it is?
ALAN CHAMBERS, PRESIDENT, EXODUS INTERNATIONAL: I don`t think it is. I don`t think it`s a mental illness. I don`t think it`s something that we should be seeking "to cure." But there are people who are conflicted because of their faith, and I think there are options out there for them.
PINSKY: Why does not -- why is it not the case that being gay fits into God`s plan?
CHAMBERS: Well, according to the bible, there is a narrow window for what is and what isn`t a part of God`s creative intent. And we adhere to the scriptures literally, that the bible is the inherent word of God, and that it talks about marriage between a man and a woman being the creative intent for human sexuality.
PINSKY: Tell me your story. I mean, what happened to you? How did this evolve? Where did you start? Tell me the story.
CHAMBERS: Well, you know, my story is like anyone`s story.
I grew up in a home. I have a mom and a dad. I came from a Christian family.
And about the age of 9 or 10, I realized I was dealing with something that I had heard a little about, attractions that I didn`t ask for, I didn`t choose. Very clearly, I didn`t choose that. And yet, I was struggling to make those attractions to men, yes.
PINSKY: OK. And then what happened?
CHAMBERS: And I freaked out. As a kid who grew up in church, who knew what I had been taught, knew what I was hearing --
PINSKY: How come you didn`t go to the clergy or your parents?
CHAMBERS: Well, I was afraid.
PINSKY: Afraid you were going to hell?
CHAMBERS: I was afraid I was going to hell. And I was afraid, based upon the climate and the culture that I was living in, that I would be rejected. And I stayed silent like so many people do.
PINSKY: Did you have any other experiences along the way?
CHAMBERS: Experiences with people of the same sex or --
CHAMBERS: Yes. In middle school, that became something that I experimented with, a little bit in high school as well.
PINSKY: I read a biography. I don`t know if this is from you or where it came from, but it talked about you having been sexually abused as a child.
CHAMBERS: That was part of my experience. When I was 9 or 10, there was a neighbor boy --
PINSKY: So, sexual abuse, was that repeated, was it chronic?
CHAMBERS: It was once. One episode in time.
PINSKY: And then you began acting out with males your own age later?
CHAMBERS: Yes. Being sexually abused didn`t make me gay, but it certainly taught me things about sex. And so for me, looking for love, affirmation, acceptance from men, I realized I could get it in a sexual way.
PINSKY: Is there a reason you didn`t step forward to your parents and say something happened with a neighbor kid?
CHAMBERS: That kid said, "This is your fault as well, you`ll get in trouble. We might have AIDS." You know, that was on the news at that point and I was freaked out. I was a little kid.
PINSKY: So, having been an object of sexual trauma, sexual abuse, you were terrorized.
CHAMBERS: I was. It was something that I didn`t understand, I didn`t ask for. But I felt like, hey, maybe I bear some responsibility in this, so I`m not going to share it.
PINSKY: And was there some sort of epiphany when you did change?
CHAMBERS: Related to?
PINSKY: Well, again, I read some material where I guess you were in church as a high school senior and a clergy said something that really resonated with you.
CHAMBERS: Yes. When I was about 18 or 19 years old, I went to a conference. There were 10,000 kids there.
It wasn`t a conference related to homosexuality at all. But in the midst of that, I was given an opportunity to talk to a counselor, someone who said something that transformed my life. And that was, "God loves you."
PINSKY: No matter what?
CHAMBERS: No matter what. And there`s hope and there`s -- this is not something new.
PINSKY: This is what is confusing to me. If God loves you no matter what, why can`t you be gay and have God love you?
CHAMBERS: Well, God loves you even if you are gay. There is no dispute over that.
PINSKY: And you went through a period where you tried to reconcile these two things, right?
CHAMBERS: I did.
PINSKY: Where you were still a homosexual male, and you thought, God loves you.
CHAMBERS: I knew God loved me.
PINSKY: God loved you. And so why change?
CHAMBERS: Well, because I believed that, regardless of whether God loves us or not, there is a creative intent. There is a standard. And so for human sexuality, if you don`t have the option to fit into that standard of a relationship, a marriage relationship between a man and a woman for a lifetime then --
PINSKY: You have to forgive me. I didn`t quite get that. So, for you as an individual, you had to reproduce in order to feel like --
CHAMBERS: No, but I believe that the bible is very clear. I`m a Christian, and so everything that I do, I live my life through the filter of my faith, and not through the filter of my sexuality.
And we`re all people who deal with sexuality in some way. As a Christian, what we believe is that sexual expression is reserved for a marriage relationship between a man and a woman. And so if you don`t have that option, then you`re called to surrender that. And so whether gay or straight --
PINSKY: And that`s a universal principle in Christianity, or every Christian I speak to is going to say that?
CHAMBERS: Well, probably not every Christian you speak to these days, but it`s --
PINSKY: You are married though?
CHAMBERS: I am married.
CHAMBERS: I`m very happily married.
PINSKY: You have kids?
CHAMBERS: I have two children.
PINSKY: Do you still have urges, desires, intent to be with males?
CHAMBERS: I`ll tell you one thing that has changed for me dramatically that I do not struggle with and have not struggled with in 16 years is to have a relationship with a man. Can I be tempted? Is there someone that I can find attractive? For sure. I don`t know how that can change, but as far as a desire to be with a man, no.
PINSKY: Let me ask you this. We have 30 seconds, but you may be the perfect person to speak to this. There are people out there that believe that having these urges is some sort of a choice. Do you have a choice to feel this way?
CHAMBERS: I did not choose this, absolutely not.
PINSKY: No. Does anybody every choose this?
CHAMBERS: I don`t think anyone ever would or did.
PINSKY: OK. I don`t see how that could be, because it`s attraction, it`s a desire, just like liking chocolate cake or something.
When we come back, Dr. Alicia Salzer, she`s a medical doctor who has been watching and listening in New York. She`s a psychiatrist who has studied what`s called the ex-gay movement. She feels it`s dangerous and in fact maybe deadly.
We`ll hear from her after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When people say once you`re gay, you`re always gay, you can`t break free from that, that`s not true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: That was a clip from "Our America" with Lisa Ling on OWN.
Alan Chambers, he is here with us, and he calls himself an ex-gay. He denounced his homosexuality 20 years ago today. He`s now married and straight, and he`s the president of Exodus International.
Joining us from Minneapolis is Janet Boynes. Like Alan, she says she was once gay. Janet runs Janet Boynes Ministries, dedicated to helping homosexuals reclaim their heterosexuality.
Also with us is Dr. Alicia Salzer from New York. She is a physician and psychiatrist who says that one`s sexuality cannot be changed. She is the author of "Back to Life."
I want to ask her, what is the prevailing opinion of the psychiatric profession on this so-called ex-gay movement?
DR. ALICIA SALZER, PSYCHIATRIST: Well, my concern about reparative therapy is that, Drew, if you had a treatment for cancer, before you offered it you would have to make sure, number one, that it worked, and number two, that the harm that it might cause was justified by the outcome. This, to me, is not a cure for cancer, this is a cure for freckles.
I mean, the American Psychiatric Association took homosexuality of its roster of illnesses when I was 7. This is old news. So, in our opinion, homosexuality is not an illness and it`s not something that`s in need of a cure.
PINSKY: Now to out you about your age, my dear, but let`s be clear. It`s been 40 years since this has been considered --
SALZER: I did it to myself.
PINSKY: -- a disorder. So I have two questions. If there`s no disorder, why is there a treatment? Without a disorder, how can there possibly be a treatment?
But why don`t you explain to people, what is reparative treatment?
SALZER: Well, reparative therapy is any kind of therapy that`s geared towards trying to change someone`s sexual orientation to a heterosexual orientation. It takes many forms. And for the most part, the practitioners of it are coming from a conservative Christian standpoint.
The problem is that, from where I sit as a psychiatrist, I see an enormous amount of harm that comes from it. And I feel like there`s -- we can argue all day about whether it works or doesn`t work, because we`re going to be quoting different research. But whether it causes harm is something that I can speak to very personally, because a few years ago, I made a documentary film called "Abomination" which was about homosexuality and the ex-gay movement, and I had the opportunity to meet hundreds of people who had been through reparative therapy and had really heartbreaking and painful experiences that left them scarred for life.
PINSKY: Janet, if I could go to you, my understanding is you have a faith-based organization. My question is, do they ever use reparative therapies?
JANET BOYNES, JANET BOYNES MINISTRIES: You know, I`m not qualified to do anything with reparative therapy or talk about being a counselor. What I am is an ordained evangelist, and I`m able to give those who come to me spiritual guidance in order to help them in this area. So everything that I do is based on biblical principles.
PINSKY: So I`m a little confused. Do you -- are you of the opinion that people need to change their behavior if they have a certain orientation?
BOYNES: I believe that if you`re living a homosexual life, I don`t believe that`s God`s best for you. I believe that God made us man and women, and I believe that, you know, changing your sexual orientation is not God`s best for your life.
PINSKY: You make me nervous. I`m not sure I`m living God`s best. I don`t know. I`m not sure what that means.
But on the phone with us is Reverend Dr. Neil Thomas. He`s the senior pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church. He counsels those who have been through faith-based reparative therapy.
Reverend, what are you hearing from these people?
REV. DR. NEIL THOMAS, SR. PASTOR, METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CHURCH: Well, first of all, I`m glad that I am living God`s best for me. What I`m hearing, Dr. Drew, is really very disturbing and, quite honestly, very sad.
I`m a practicing Christian. I`m also a pastor. What I get to hear almost daily are the stories of these men and women who are Christian, who love God, and who are being subject to both psychological and spiritual violence that, quite honestly, drives them out of their relationship with God and often into very destructive behaviors, often leading to suicide attempts, to addictions, to grave self-esteem issues that could last well into life, that our therapists are having to pick up for us, because as Christians, we`re not qualified to do such work.
And as a Christian myself, this damage that is caused by the Church and reparative therapy that I`m hearing about here on your show today and have heard for many years, practiced by those who profess to love God, it really must stop. We must bring an end to this.
PINSKY: Alan, we started with you. What do you say to all this now?
CHAMBERS: Well, you know, I think that we have to boil this down to one thing. Reparative therapy isn`t what Exodus does.
We`re not a therapeutic organization. We`re a Christian ministry. And what we`re trying to do is help people who are in conflict with their faith and their sexuality simply have an alternative.
And so when it comes to therapy, like Janet, I`m not qualified to tell someone whether sexual orientation can or can`t be changed, or the point isn`t about going from gay to straight. The point is, for people who have a decision to make based upon their faith, they can make that. And I think that that`s a healthy option for people who want to make it.
PINSKY: What do you do? What is it that you apply? What is the --
CHAMBERS: We`re a Christian ministry.
PINSKY: But what is it? What do you do for folks?
CHAMBERS: Well, we`re a Christian ministry who help people through support means, through accountability, through -- in ways similar -- not likening to Alcoholics Anonymous or something like that, but it`s a support base. Very similar.
PINSKY: Well, it`s funny that you do that, because I almost get the feeling you`re treating sex addiction, which is a really -- it is a disorder, and it`s completely separate from one`s sexual orientation.
But let me sort of ask you this. You had treatment. I read, again, in your biography that you actually went to treatment.
CHAMBERS: I went to counseling, but it wasn`t --
PINSKY: That`s treatment. That`s what professional counselors do.
CHAMBERS: But I didn`t go based upon -- my counselor wasn`t an expert in homosexuality.
PINSKY: You were distressed. I understand. You were distressed and you went and sought a medical professional.
CHAMBERS: I was. Well, I went and saw someone who helped me deal with some of the root issues that I think were far more prominent and important than the ones dealing with my sexuality. But they were linked.
PINSKY: Trauma. The trauma issues?
CHAMBERS: Trauma, yes.
PINSKY: OK. Because, really, in treating trauma -- Dr. Salzer, I`m going to go to you, because in treating trauma, faith-based -- faith is an important concept in treating trauma. But I get confused by this conversation, because it`s not clear what`s being addressed and how -- do you have that same confusion?
SALZER: Drew, I`d love to jump in here if I can.
SALZER: What concerns me is that although Alan says that he`s not a proponent of reparative therapy, if you go to Exodus` Web site, you`ll see books featured such as, at the top of their list, Dr. Nicolosi`s book on reparative therapy for men. And there are referrals to therapists who are reparative therapies.
So I feel like it`s a little bit evasive -- it`s very evasive -- of them to say that they are not supporting reparative therapy, they`re not practicing reparative therapy. And to continue to say that they`re doing something that`s faith-based and based in prayer, when, in fact, if you are really going to suggest to people that the reason that they are gay is because they experienced some kind of abuse -- which may be true for some, but it`s certainly not true for all -- and if you`re going to encourage them to change, then I think what you`re doing is therapy, and that you do have to have the same kind of accountability. Because kids are killing themselves, and they are killing themselves not because of their homosexuality.
They are killing themselves because of the shame that`s being induced by organizations like this and by organizations like the one that Mr. Chambers is in. He himself talked about how painful -- of course he wanted to change, because he grew up in an environment where he was told that he was fundamentally broken, that what he felt was perverted, and that he was an abomination.
And furthermore, if you`re going to tell kids that they can have a normal life, a family life, kids, to be well-adjusted, if you`re going to tell them that to be gay means that you`re going to be addicted, have AIDS, never have a relationship, never have a family, and basically die alone and then go to hell, certainly they are going to want to change.
PINSKY: I think I would be distressed, too, if I got those messages about anything I was doing, for that matter.
But the other thing -- you know, as physicians, our job is to do no harm. So I have two questions for you.
One is, are we seeing a problem here where science and non-science- based phenomenon are coming together and crossing over and conflicting, number one? And, number two, is the result of that not that just the people that are being treated are being harmed, but there are people out there in the world who are also potentially being affected by this?
Does that make sense?
SALZER: Well, that`s an interesting question. I mean, Alan Chambers and I have one thing in common. We both have a spouse named Leslie (ph) and two kids. Other than that, it pretty much stops at that.
But, you know, I do believe that we have to do no harm. I do believe that it`s hard to talk about science when there`s also junk science that`s being quoted. It`s hard for the viewer out there to make sense out of what is real science and what is not.
And it`s hard to do research when the way you`re finding out if someone is gay is asking them, because there`s kids who have never had a gay experience who identify as gay, and there`s people who are having sex with people who are the same sex who say that they are not. So it`s a real research challenge, number one.
And really, I feel like from where I stand -- and my specialty is in trauma -- I wrote a book called "Back to Life," and it`s about helping people overcome the scars that their life has left on them. And those scars include things like abuse and also include things like racism, and also include things like homophobia. Because in my work, I`ve worked with people who, you know, you can`t grow up being told that you`re fundamentally wrong.
PINSKY: Dr. Salzer, I have to interrupt you because we are out of time.
But this is a very interesting conversation.
You`re staying with me, yes?
CHAMBERS: I am.
PINSKY: OK. I`m going to give you a word after the break.
We`ll be right back.
We`ve been swamped with your questions about the issue. We`ll be answering them as well.
So, if you have something to say, go to CNN.com/DrDrew. Let us hear it. We`ll be back after this.
PINSKY: All right. We`re here now with KC and Larry. They say that they are living proof that ex-gay ministries does not work because, well, that`s where they met and fell in love. They`ve been watching in the green room.
And you guys have something to say. They switched around so you guys could come in here.
Alan (sic), you got something to say?
LARRY JANSSON, MET PARTNER AT "EX-GAY" MINISTRY: Yes. We`re watching in the green room. And we did meet at one of your affiliated ministries, Love in Action, in Memphis, Tennessee. And we`re watching you say it`s not reparative therapy, and we`re watching Dr. Drew say it sounds like, you know, it`s much like the alcohol addiction programs that you`ve been through. And you say no, it`s not like that.
And I have to sit here and say you are absolutely wrong. We went through a 12-step program. They started with us from beginning to end for 12 steps.
It was not just a prayer, and you`re going to come out of it. You know, it was reparative therapy. So, for you to sit here and say it wasn`t just gets under our skin because we`ve lived it from one of your ministries.
So how can you sit up here and say something like that?
CHAMBERS: Well, I said was that it is very akin to something like Alcoholics Anonymous, where there is a support-based ministry or aspect to that program. As far as reparative therapy, Love in Action isn`t a reparative therapy organization.
There is a specific group that does reparative therapy. Love in Action isn`t one of them. I don`t know what your experience is at Love in Action, so I don`t want to refute it. But as far as the support and the type of ministry that Exodus tries to provide, it is a ministry support basis for people who are in conflict with their faith and sexuality.
JANSSON: And I would just have to disagree. Being living proof of going through a program like that, for you to sit here and just say it`s straight ministry-based is absolutely asinine.
PINSKY: Alan (sic), what sent you to the program?
JANSSON: I actually went on my own well-being. I wanted to figure out.
I was told Exodus International -- I actually saw Alan speak at a two- day conference, and was told that this was the only place that had the answer that could really help me come to grips with my sexuality and who God was. And after living it and being through it, I`ve come to understand that it`s not the answer, that I can be exactly who I am, born the way I was born, have a relationship with God, and still be gay.
And -- go ahead.
PINSKY: No, please, finish.
JANSSON: And I just agree that we have to find a way to take these ministries that are doing what you do and telling people that there`s no good in them, that they`re going to go to hell, that God can`t love them, because that`s the message I heard there. That`s the message I`ve heard at your conferences.
And for you to sit here and say that you can overcome, but we don`t promise change, well, your billboards do, your conferences do. And when that doesn`t happen, where do you leave people? Shame and guilt-ridden. And kids nowadays are killing themselves.
And so I just sit here and look at you, and my heart goes out to you. It really does, because I don`t understand how you run this type of ministry and sit up here and say it`s not reparative, sit up here and say that it`s not -- you know, we don`t promise to change you, when that is the message that we heard for six months of a live-in program that we were in.
PINSKY: You were in a residential program?
KC, why did you go?
KC JANSSON, MET PARTNER AT "EX-GAY" MINISTRY: I actually grew up in a Southern Baptist family. And so, growing up, there was always this conflict and always this, I wasn`t sure how I was going to live a gay life and if I could have a monogamous relationship with somebody and have a family, which was very important to me. And so when I graduated high school, it was kind of just the next step in my life to figure out -- they said they had an answer, so I decided to go because of that.
PINSKY: All right.
Alan, any last comments? We have about 20 seconds left before the break.
CHAMBERS: Yes. I mean, to say that we`re out there telling people that we are going to hell is not the case. That wouldn`t be anything that we would ever say to anyone. People who don`t have a relationship with Christ, that is the point of someone going to heaven.
PINSKY: All right. We are just getting started. More to be discussed, clearly, after we get back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) * PINSKY: All right. I`m still here with my panel. We have Alan Chambers. We also are joined by KC and Larry Jansson who met at one of these Exodus programs. On satellite, I still have Dr. Alicia Salzer, psychiatrist, and I will becoming to you in just a minute, Alicia, but first, I want to go to Janet, Janet Boynes to see if she has any reaction to the conversation we`ve been having in the room.
JANET BOYNES, FOUNDER, JANET BOYNES MINISTRIES: Hi, Dr. Drew. You know, I think it`s important to, you know, let the viewers out there know that change is possible. And I think my life and Alan`s life is a living example that God can change anybody. This is not about if God loves you or if God doesn`t love you. God loves everybody because God is love, but what I can say for myself and I believe I can say for Alan is that God transformed our lives when we gave our heart to the Lord.
I don`t believe exodus international is out there saying to anybody that you`re going to hell. That`s just not something they do. I`m a very good friend of Alan and Exodus International, and I support them 100 percent, but what I also want people to know that --
PINSKY: Janet, do you think that there are sort of people out there who use these programs as a way to support hateful thinking? Do you think that it contributes to any of that in anyway? Or do you think to make sure that doesn`t happen?
BOYNES: Well, this is the problem that I have here is that these two young men, I can`t see them, but obviously, they went to Exodus International Conference for a reason. My question is, number one, why did they go there? Because Exodus didn`t pull them by the ears and say, you have to come. Most people come to our ministry. We don`t go looking for them and saying, you have to change.
They come to us on the other end of the spectrum and say, hey, I want to change. People are telling me I was born this way, and I don`t want to be that way, and if I have to stay this way, then I`m going to commit suicide. So, I think it`s in our best interest to do everything we can to help them.
PINSKY: Let see what their answer to that, but my fear is that it was your parents or somebody desperate to change you who were not accepting of who you are, and they were demanding you to go. Did either of you have that experience or why did you go?
KC JANSSON, MET PARTNER AT "EX-GAY" MINISTRY: Well, I was raised Southern Baptist and so, you know, it was always a conflict in my household and --
PINSKY: You were going to hell? Is that why you went?
KC JANSSON: Part of it, I felt that, you know, and I know that you guys don`t necessarily say you`re going to hell.
PINSKY: But you felt that -- it scared you?
KC JANSSON: Yes.
KC JANSSON: I was scared of that.
PINSKY: OK. And Larry.
LARRY JANSSON, MET PARTNER AT "EX-GAY" MINISTRY: And I think it`s the shame. You know, one of the things listening to Janet say she -- you know, it drives me crazy. The shame that`s built behind it, the shame and the idea just like she wants people to know change is possible, I want people to know that this is possible because never once in any of those programs did anyone ever say, you can be monogamous, you can be healthy, you can be in love, you can have one partner, and you can have successful jobs.
You can create a life for yourself that is exactly God`s best for you, and I`m living God`s best. And for anyone else to try to assume that they don`t know what God`s best is in our life, you`re not in my heart. You`re not in my soul.
KC JANSSON: And to Exodus does go after people because there`s billboard that says change is possible. And you know, you, guys, don`t necessarily say that you`re going to hell, but on your website I looked at today, it says if somebody is living an open-gay lifestyle, you can question their salvation. Well, if you question my salvation, that means that I`m obviously not a Christian.
PINSKY: OK. I want to go to -- just a second. Is that Janet still?
BOYNES: Yes. Dr. Drew, you know, the fact remains that we`re not out there trying to change people. That`s not for Janet Boynes Ministry is --
BOYNES: That`s what Jesus Christ does. God is the one who changes people. We can`t change you. Only God can do that and he does that from the inside out. And the fact remains, if you don`t want help, then our ministry is not for you. We want to help people that wants help and that`s coming to us.
KC JANSSON: But you`re giving false hope to people.
BOYNES: What I`m saying to you, if that`s the life you want to live, that`s between you and God, but we want to help people who are coming to Janet Boynes Ministry or Exodus International and say, hey, please help me. I don`t want to live this way. And the people that, I believe, we have helped and really want help, their lives have been transformed like mine and Alan Chambers.
KC JANSSON: But you, guys, don`t give the other lifestyle as far as that it`s OK-- you know, you can`t be married. You can`t have a monogamous relationship. I was taught in this program that there was no way I would ever have a monogamous relationship, and I do, and I`m happy.
PINSKY: Hang on, hang on, hang on, hang on. I want to go to Dr. Salzer here, but I want Alan to respond, if you can, briefly. Go ahead. Do you have a respond to give us yet?
ALAN CHAMBERS, PRESIDENT, EXODUS INTERNATIONAL: I mean, the point of exodus isn`t to promote homosexuality. It`s to help people who are in conflict between their faith and their sexuality, people who want a different alternative. And so, if that is not what you`re looking for, then go live the life that you feel is best for you. No one is stopping you, but, to say that it`s dangerous or unhelpful or harmful or anything like that for someone like me --
PINSKY: Do you ever worry -- this is me and him. Do you ever worry, though, that people that are getting these messages from everywhere, that it`s going to -- the people that don`t want to change and are OK with their sexuality are going to be harmed by people thinking this way about them?
CHAMBERS: Well, you know, I think that`s where you have to be very, very careful with what your message is. And our message isn`t that you go from gay to straight or that you should do this or you shouldn`t do that. Everybody has a decision to make. And so, for people like me, people who are in conflict, they checked it out. It wasn`t for them.
PINSKY: It was for you.
CHAMBERS: But it was for me.
PINSKY: OK. Dr. Salzer. This is back to you now. This is physician to physician here. Dr. Salzer, to reintroduce her, is psychiatrist, and you`ve worked with these programs. You work with people that have come out of these programs. My question is this. When I started hearing that 12- step is being applied, which is a therapeutic instrument of sorts, let`s be fair, for a non-addictive process, I got a little uncomfortable. Do you have any reaction to that?
DR. ALICIA SALZER, PSYCHIATRIST: What concerns me is that reparative therapy can be any number of things, from electroshock aversion therapy to try to --
SALZER: Not have same-sex attraction to 12-step. There`s an enormous spectrum of things that fall under what`s called reparative therapy, but I know that for -- in my documentary, there was a woman named Mary Lou Walner (ph) whose daughter killed herself, and Mary Lou says I learned from organizations like focus on the family, Christian organizations that taught me how to parent, I learned how to shame my daughter and reject her in a way that I don`t think Christ ever would.
And Mary Lou feels that she has blood on her hands and feels similarly about the organizations that are telling young people that they`re not OK and teaching their families to reject them. I see divorce. I see people cheating because they`re trying to be straight and they can`t. And it`s horrible for their lives and for their kids.
It`s horrible for the families when they`re talk to reject and shame their kids, and the kinds wind up leaving home. One guy said to me once, it`s ironic that it`s called Exodus because there`s an exodus from the Christian community. When you find that there`s no place in it for you, you lose your church, your God, your family, and you have no choice but to leave.
PINSKY: You mentioned that you`re married to a lesbian also. Yes?
SALZER: I am.
PINSKY: Is that a male or female?
SALZER: It`s a female living to it (ph). She`s not going to forgive me for that. We`ve been together for 12 years. We have two beautiful kids and a very traditional family.
PINSKY: Did you ever have any experience with any of this stuff or any personal specifically, you know, did you come running into this as an individual yourself?
SALZER: My experiences with reparative therapy come from having done a documentary about it which gave me the opportunity to meet hundreds of people. I am not a theologian. I am not a religious scholar. I am not even a Christian. So, I did not have to suffer with the kind of guilt and shame that a lot of the people that I`ve met had where they grew up in a family where -- when you grow up in a town where there`s bill boards that say change is possible and people keep showing you wedding pictures of the beautiful families that they now have because now they`re straight.
But they`re not showing you is the pictures of all of the people who`ve gotten divorced or scandalized themselves. The very founders of Exodus wound up leaving their wives and marrying each other. There`s a lot of -- you`ve got to ask, where is the leader that was there before the one that`s there now. There are -- for every ex-gay, you find what they call Dos Equis. Someone who`s an ex ex-gay.
PINSKY: Gentlemen, anybody, respond to that?
CHAMBERS: Well, you know, I think you can look at any program whether it`s Alcoholics Anonymous or Exodus or you name it and see people who don`t make it or who go back or who choose a different path for their life. And so, to say that that is -- that it`s dangerous for all or not good for all, I think it`s damaging, and for someone to say that we should not have this option, leads people to kill themselves, as well. I think we can tell stories on both sides of the debate to scare people off, but I think it`s still important to note that there are people who make it, people who want that alternative, and it should be available for them.
LARRY JANSSON: People who deny themselves and change their behaviors, and then lately (ph), leave who they are in order to belong to your population.
CHAMBERS: But your experience cannot be placed upon me and mine can`t either. So, I`m not going to say anything about your relationship or the life that you live. But your experience hasn`t been mine, and this has been my experience for 20 years.
PINSKY: All right. We got a lot more to talk about, and we`re coming back. So, stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KC JANSSON: Internally, I knew that I loved this guy. There`s no doubt in my heart that from the moment I met him, that first day when our (INAUDIBLE) together and our parents got out and walked us to the door, there was some sort of a connection. But I was being told that there`s no way that connection could be anything more because I would be a homosexual, and there`s four or five verses in the bible that call you a sinner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: That was KC and Larry speaking to others about their sexuality, and we have a debate raging in the room here and via satellite. Can prayer turn a gay person straight? Alan Chambers and Jane Boynes say yes. Both themselves are former homosexuals. Strongly opposing that point of view is psychiatrist, Alicia Salzer with conductive research on ex-gay ministries and KC and Larry say they are a living proof that these ex-gay ministries do not work because that`s where they met and fell in love, and I guess, you`re feeling better since?
KC JANSSON: Absolutely.
LARRY JANSSON: Definitely.
LARRY JANSSON: World`s better. You know, we say it`s the best $10,000 we`ve ever spent.
PINSKY: So, it was a good outcome? Good outcome.
KC JANSSON: You know, but the sad thing is our story is not everybody`s story, and we have lots of friends that went and went into other programs and it`s kind of detrimental the way that things they`ve had to do now to help the things they, you know?
PINSKY: Have your families of origins embraced you enthusiastically?
LARRY JANSSON: Absolutely. We had a huge, what we call our big day Dallas wedding, you know, 14-member wedding party. We did the whole thing because we really needed to solidify and wanted everything that every other couple in America gets in love and we, you know, no one can take that away from us. So, my family was there. They loved us.
We had some of KC`s family there, and they have. The nice thing is, we want other young individuals out there to know there is another option, and this is. You can have true love. You can be gay and have a relationship with God, and you know, we go to one of the largest gay affirming churches in Dallas, and we have a strong relationship with Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
PINSKY: And Alan, you would say? Wait, Janet is something to say. Janet wants to jump on you. Go ahead, Janet.
BOYNES: Hi, Alan. Love you. Hey, I do have to make a comment about that, but you know, accepting Christ is not the end of the story. It`s the beginning of the journey. And if you`re going to accept CHRIST, you`ve got to live out the terms, just like a lease. And the terms are that you need to live your life according to the word of God. You can`t just choose some of the bible and not all of the bible.
Of course, Jesus was tinted (ph) without sin. And so, when you have this temptations, I mean, the bible doesn`t say accepting Christ that we`re not going to be subjected to temptations because we`re always going to be tempted, but when you decide to act out those temptations, then, obviously, you made a choice to go out there and live a life as a homosexual. What I`m saying here is that -- let me finish. Let me finish. I let you finish.
You guys have been talking quite a bit. What I`m saying is that the bible, we`re either going to live part of it or all of it. I`ve heard people say, well, there`s only eight verses in the bible that talking about homosexuality. Well, if you`re going to serve God, I only need to hear one, and that`s going to change my life because, see, I`m not accountable to you. I`m accountable to God.
KC JANSSON: Janet, are you head of a church right now?
BOYNES: Excuse me?
LARRY JANSSON: Are you an ordained minister? Because according to --
KC JANSSON: Are you an ordained minister? Because according to the bible, you aren`t supposed to be head of men.
BOYNES: I am ordained.
KC JANSSON: OK. Well, according to the bible, that`s not supposed to happen.
LARRY JANSSON: The biblical law says you`re not supposed to be ordained and oversee men. So, if you want to take all of the bible and not --
BOYNES: I think you might want to check your commentary.
LARRY JANSSON: Let`s do it as well. I think you should check yours as well. I`m not going to get into that --
PINSKY: We`ve got a call. Hang on, ladies and gentlemen. Call from Tricia. She`s calling from Pennsylvania. Tricia, what you got for us?
TRICIA, PENNSYLVANIA: Hi, Dr. Drew. First, I`d just like to say, you inspire me.
PINSKY: Thank you.
TRICIA: Second of all, I was raised in a family where there was the saying, it was Adam and eve, not Adam and Steve. And then now to this world (ph) and it`s totally different. Is it normal to be confused?
PINSKY: How would we answer that? Is it normal to have some confusion about this?
KC JANSSON: I would think so, especially if you`re raised in a Christian family, you know? I think you`d have more confusion. But I think, too, society confuses you because, you know, I think, now, it`s getting better, but there is a fine line of, is it right, is it wrong? You know, what -- how do you live your life?
CHAMBERS: I think the debate is age old, and it`s going to rage on for years and years to come way beyond our lifetime. Their story isn`t -- my story isn`t dependent on their story being right or wrong. My story is my story. And is there an alternative? Is the alternative that they sought out there for people? It is. Is my alternative out there? It is. And I think that we have to be careful and responsible in sharing hour stories, but share our stories, nonetheless.
PINSKY: I agree and my fear is -- and I have no business, you know, bringing politics into this. My fear is, though, that a minority is going to have (INAUDIBLE) by a majority because of all this cantankerous stuff. I`m just saying that that`s my fear. What do you guys do for a living?
LARRY JANSSON: I`m actually a real estate agent and I teach dance.
KC JANSSON: And I`m a student and work at a salon.
PINSKY: OK. Let`s go to -- this is a Facebook question. Cheryl M. wants to know, "Who would ever willfully choose to be hated and discriminated against?" I think, Alan, you kind of addressed that early on when you and I were just talking together that these things aren`t choices.
CHAMBERS: No one chooses this.
PINSKY: OK. I would like to get another Facebook question, a Twitter question up there, if we could. This is now Katie M. who wants to know -- this is a good one. Let`s see where you, guys, want to take this one. "Can`t you be both Christian and gay and would that include having to abstain from the physical lifestyle of homosexuality?" There`s a lot packed into that question. So, let`s deal with the first part of it. We`ve established (ph) that you can be Christian and gay. Everyone agrees?
LARRY JANSSON: Uh-huh.
PINSKY: There`s no disagreement about that.
KC JANSSON: Nothing.
PINSKY: Now, what if you feel gay deeply and yet you abstain from certain behaviors? Is that God`s best? Do you see why I`m confused?
CHAMBERS: I think when you look at sexuality as a whole, and I think we far too often in the church, especially boil this all down to homosexuality and nothing else and we overlook a multitude of sins in the church that we should not overlook. Is there a standard for human sexuality when you read the bible? Yes. For many people of faith, they take what the bible says very literally.
I think it applies to heterosexuality. I think it applies to homosexuality. It`s that God`s best? Well, it`s not hurting me to be in a life beyond the one that I used to live. It was a good thing for me. And so, is it possible? But is it possible for someone to live a gay Christian life?
PINSKY: It`s a kind of you in a way. You said you still have some urges and stuff.
CHAMBERS: Well, I mean, to say that I would never be attracted to a man again is ridiculous.
CHAMBERS: This is really an important point that I think that we, as Christians, need to address. Can these two men be people who love Jesus and serve him? Well, they just said they were. So, why would I ever argue with that?
LARRY JANSSON: And that we`ll believe. You know, I think this goes back to that behavioral question. I think that`s a lot of what we were taught in this ex-gay program was that if you change your behaviors and pray hard enough, you will overcome this homosexual lifestyle.
And so, by changing those behaviors and holding back the urges to go to a gay bar or holding back the urges to make out with a guy, you`re changing those behaviors and that`s what we were taught so much of these ministries and camps was if you just stop doing those things, then maybe, just maybe, you will find a way to overcome it. And maybe that`s --
CHAMBERS: I think it`s bigger than behavior and bigger than feelings.
CHAMBERS: That is what I teach.
KC JANSSON: It was distracting me from, you know, my thoughts and my thinking, and so, I wasn`t allowed to do that.
CHAMBERS: You`ve given many he a lot of information that I don`t know.
LARRY JANSSON: It`s on the inside. Love and action is a supportive ministry --
CHAMBERS: It doesn`t say on the website that they teach you not to play the piano.
LARRY JANSSON: Well, maybe, you should do some research --
KC JANSSON: And I think going back to the question when people say that, you know, you`re not supposed to have sex outside of marriage. Well, it`s hard for gay people to get married, and so, you know, we don`t even have that option sometimes. Luckily, we are starting to have that in some of the states, but I think you can be a gay Christian and be in a relationship --
PINSKY: I`ve got to interrupt you, guys, and say to my listeners, I think you`ll understand now why I prayed before I did this program.
PINSKY: So, when we come back, some thoughts about what we heard here tonight.
PINSKY: Well, we started this conversation with Alan and Dr. Salzer. I`m going to give them last words. Alan, first to you.
CHAMBERS: Well, you know, Dr. Drew, I think I`ve heard some things tonight that remind me of what I heard from the Christian community 20, 30 years ago, some of that polarizing debate. I think we`re at a place in our culture and our society where we can have a healthy conversation. We can allow people to live their lives the way they see fit and make their decisions, and I think that that is the important outcome of all of this that my story is valid. That it doesn`t depend on the failure of their relationship but on the success of my own.
PINSKY: If that is true, my prayers will have been answered. Dr. Salzer, how about to you? We have very brief at a time here. You got about one minute.
SALZER: Alan keeps saying that everyone deserves a choice, and it reminds me of mixed race people who can passes white and choose to do so because it makes life easier. I think it costs you a piece of your soul and your identity, and it robs you of something special about life when you make that choice to deny a part of who you are.
PINSKY: OK. Well said. And I want to thank Alan Chambers, KC and Larry Jansson, very courageous for you, guys, to come forward, Janet Boynes in Minnesota. Janet, thank you for ringing in here. We appreciate it. And, of course, Dr. Alicia Salzer in New York. And to all of you who had so many questions and comments. I must tell you, this was a show that got a lot of energy on the internet, and I think you can see from watching this conversation there`s a lot of emotion attached it. A lot of energy.
And if we have successfully created an open and elevated conversation, indeed, I think we have succeeded here tonight. This is a difficult thing to address. My hope is, you know, the aphorism for the show is that no topic is taboo. I hope we can live up to that standard, but as a result, we have to go to topics that are difficult, and I accused my producers today of sending me out on the Ho Chi Minh trail that is got --
PINSKY: Because this is a topic that is fraught with landmines, and I didn`t want to step on anybody`s landmines and just to get this conversation continue it, to avoid it, I think makes things worse. And as you see, it`s a tough thing to address in a way that`s meaningful. And I want you to know that these guys in the room here were having very productive conversations off the air during the commercial break.
PINSKY: So we should -- I feel really good that even though they come from different sides of the table, very different experiences, there`s opportunity for us to get together. Do you want to comment about that, the conversations that you were having off the air? I`ve got one minute left?
LARRY JANSSON: Absolutely. And I think, you know, to say to Alan that, you know, you just said to us off the air that, you know, you would love to look into a little bit more of what our experience was like, and if it was negative, make the necessary changes and look into what your ministry supports. And at the end of the day, that`s really my prayer for Exodus and for everyone else out there that follows this type of pattern. That you will truly look into, in my opinion, our opinion, the harm and damage that it is doing to so many young kids out there.
PINSKY: And my hope -- you want to respond to that?
CHAMBERS: Well, you know, I just think we did have a very positive discussion, and there are things that we can always look at, and I`m grateful for their input.
PINSKY: And my hope is that those of us in the clinical community can really do the research so there actually is science to substantiate best practices. I can`t speak for what`s best for God, but I can speak for its best practices clinically and that come from scientific research, and I hope we have the opportunity to do that without causing anyone any harm and that is the big problem here.
You can`t tell when the research isn`t there whether you helped or hurt more until you actually get the numbers. So, our hope is, Alicia, Dr. Salzer, I know you feel the same way that I do that one day we can have that research so we can figure out what best practices are for this community and others.
Thank all of you for watching, and we will see you next time.