Middle-school students in Maryland have been learning their three Rs: reading, writing and reparative therapy. The Washington City Paper reports that, as part of an anti-bullying campaign, seventh-grade health classes in Prince George’s County public schools have been viewing a 21-minute video promoting conversion therapy.
The idea being, we suppose, if you can’t beat em, join ’em.
The video, called “Acception,” at first appears to promote the acceptance of gay children. In the video, four students are assigned a project on homophobic bullying, with the group splitting up to study the issues of bullying and the origins of homosexuality. Two of the students encounter a cavemen parable about the origins of bullying, but the teens researching same-sex attraction soon find themselves in a different kind of scientifically dicey territory.
While the video initially explores gay teenagers being bullied and a young man coming out to his parents, it soon features a student talking about how his once-lesbian cousin used therapy to become attracted to men.
Then, the students in the video “watch” an interview with a gay-to-straight therapist.
“If someone wants to live a gay life, I respect that, and if someone wants to change from gay to straight and choose a different path, I respect that too,” says the character, played by an actress.
The success of “reparative therapy” is touted elsewhere in the video: In a portion of the video you can watch on YouTube, a woman who once felt attracted to other women says that growing closer to her mother and female friends—a trope of sexual orientation-switching theory—helped her become attracted to men.
Discussion questions provided to teachers using “Acception” feature scenarios in which sexual orientation is changed through therapy.
At the very least, reparative therapy is quackery—dismissed by every reputable medical organization, including the Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the American Psychological Association. More troubling is the message it sends—that being gay is being damaged, and if you “try hard enough,” you can turn straight. Studies have linked it to increased risks for depression and suicide.
When the City Paper inquired about the “Acception” video—which, by the way, has cheaper production values than a third-rate telenovela—administrators quickly pulled it from classrooms.
But Richard A. Cohen, who championed the video’s inclusion in area schools, is still a member of the district’s Health Council—as well as the founder of the International Healing Foundation (IHF), which offers reparative therapy to minors.
Cohen, the author of Coming Out Straight and Gay Children, Straight Parents: A Plan for Family Healing, was expelled from the American Counseling Association. But he still gets to shape impressionable young minds in Maryland schools
The “Acception” campaign itself the handiwork of one of Cohen’s protegees, Christopher J. Doyle. In an op-ed on the Christian Post last year, Doyle explained his program:
“Acception” is a new groundbreaking, national campaign featuring a solutions-based educational film and classroom curriculum. Our mission is to help educators provide solutions to the nation’s bullying epidemic while empowering students to become change agents so they can step up and “Be A Hero” in their own schools to prevent bullying.
Of course, the Acception website is filled with links to “Resources for Questioning and/or Youth with Unwanted Same-Sex Attraction.”
Honestly, we never thought we’d pine for Tennessee’s “Don’t Say Gay” policy.