Thursday, January 31, 2008

Out and About - January 2008

To be honest, I haven’t been “out and about” that much this past month - primarily because of the sub-zero temperatures and the often icy conditions.

Hey, I am an Australian, remember. And even though I’ve lived in Minnesota for fourteen years, I've never really acclimatized to the winters here. I guess you can take the boy out of Australia, but not Australia out of the boy!

One event that did warm me, however, was the wonderful retreat I participated in on Saturday, January 5. It was the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St Paul Province’s third annual Stirring the Fire - A Midwinter Day of Reflection, and it was open to sisters, consociates and consociate candidates of the CSJ order. (I’m one of the latter! To learn what that means, click here.)

This day of retreat and reflection, always placed at the beginning of the New Year, renews a custom of the first sisters. For a more fruitful beginning of the year, the sisters would review the previous year and prepare themselves through prayer and reflection for a renewal of love of God and neighbor.

The context of reflection for this year’s Stirring the Fire retreat was unifying love, “the sacred mystery that embraces us in Communion.” The day included meaningful ritual, inspiring speakers, quiet time for reflection, and small group sharing. At one point, we were all invited to write about the ways we would strive to embody unifying love in 2008.

This prayerful day of reflection was just what I needed as I prepared to face a new year - one that will inevitably bring a range of experiences, both rewarding and challenging.

Above: Sitting (at left) with my friends Michael Douglas and Mike Murphy at a social event for the leadership of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM), Catholic Rainbow Parents, and the editorial team of The Progressive Catholic Voice online journal - Saturday, January 26, 2008.

Above: Catholic Rainbow Parents Rich Kramp, Mary Lynn Murphy, Susan Kramp, Tom White, and Myrna Ohmann - January 26, 2008.

Above: Mary Beckfeld; Theresa O’Brien, CSJ; and Darlene White.

Above: Tom White; Brigid McDonald, CSJ; Tom Murr; and David McCaffrey.

Above: Standing from left: Darlene White, Mary Lynn Murphy, Mary Beckfeld, and Georgia Mueller. Sitting from left: Susan Kramp, Mike Murphy, Ron Ohmann, Rich Kramp, and Michael Douglas.

Above: Theresa O’Brien and CPCSM co-founder David McCaffrey - January 26, 2008.

Above: On the evening of Tuesday, January 29, thirty-five people braved sub-zero temperatures to attend the CPCSM-sponsored program, “The Myth of ‘Conversion Therapy’ and the Pseudo-Science of NARTH,” at the House of the Beloved Disciple in Minneapolis.

The towering puppet in the background is “the Brown Jesus,” which the members of Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ carry with them when they participate in the annual Gay Pride Parade in June. The Brown Jesus is part of the community’s Anti-Racism Initiative, and certainly sends a powerful and beautiful message of welcome, inclusion, and celebration of diversity.

Above: One of the keynote speakers at CPCSM's program, “The Myth of ‘Conversion Therapy’ and the Pseudo-Science of NARTH,” was Jeffry G. Ford, MA, a licensed psychologist and psychotherapist.

Interestingly, Jeff was formerly the executive director of OUTPOST, an “ex-gay” ministry located in Minneapolis. For ten years, Jeff claimed to be a “former homosexual,” and was a national speaker for Exodus International, the governing board and communication hub for most ex-gay ministries.

Today, however, Jeff identifies as a gay man and is a nationally known consultant and speaker on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues. He specializes in addressing the complexities involved with the anti-gay theory known both as “reparative therapy” and “sexual conversion therapy,” which purports to prevent and cure homosexuality. Jeff dedicates his time and energy to challenging the unethical and dangerous use of pseudo-scientific theories associated with the ex-gay movement, a movement that includes the National Association for Research and Treatment of Homosexuality (NARTH).

The story of Jeff’s journey away from the world of “ex-gay” ministry is featured with those of other “ex-gays,” in a publication entitled, Finally Free, complied by the Washington, DC-based Human Rights Campaign.

To be sure, Jeff has a powerful story to share, and he did so eloquently at the House of the Beloved Disciple on January 29. Without doubt, much of this power comes from the fact that Jeff speaks from experience. After all, he studied and practiced reparative therapies for years. Because of this personal and professional experience, he is now able to offer accurate answers and powerful insight into the workings and ideological underpinnings of the “ex-gay” movement.

Also, unlike many so-called “experts” in the pseudo-science of conversion and reparative therapies, Jeff’s writings have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Most recently his article, “Healing Homosexuals: A Psychologist’s Journey Through the Ex-Gay Movement and the Pseudo-Science of Reparative Therapy,” was published in The Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psycohtherapy (Haworth Press, Volume 5, No. 3/4, 2001). It was simultaneously published in the book, Sexual Conversion Therapy.

Above: The second featured speaker at CPCSM’s January 29 “The Myth of ‘Conversion Therapy’ and the Pseudo-Science of NARTH” program was John C. Gonsiorek, PhD, a fellow of American Psychological Association (APA) Division 9 (also called the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues), and Division 12 (the Society of Clinical Psychology).

John is also a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Minnesota, and a Past-President of APA Division 44 – also known as the Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Issues. For 25 years, he had an independent practice of clinical and forensic psychology in Minneapolis.

John has published widely in the areas of professional misconduct, sexual orientation and identity, and professional ethics. For many years, he provided expert witness evaluation and testimony regarding impaired clergy and professionals, standards of care, and psychological damages. He has also provided training and consultation to a variety of religious denominations and organizations.

A consulting editor for Professional Psychology: Research & Practice, John is also the author of a number of publications, including: Breach of Trust: Sexual Exploitation by Health Care Professionals and Clergy; Homosexuality: Research Implications for Public Policy (with Weinrich); Male Sexual Abuse: A Trilogy of Intervention Strategies (with Bera and Letourneau), and Homosexuality and Psychotherapy: A Practitioner’s Handbook of Affirmative Models.

NOTE: In a future Wild Reed post I’ll share some of the highlights of both Jeff Ford’s and John Gonsiorek’s presentations at the House of the Beloved Disciple on January 29.

(A special thanks to CPCSM co-founder and vice-president, David McCaffrey, for compiling much of the above biographical information on both Jeff and John.)

Above: Some of the attendees at the CPCSM program, “The Myth of ‘Conversion Therapy’ and the Pseudo-Science of NARTH” - January 29, 2008.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Back in the USA
It Sure Was Cold!
An Energizing and Spirited Weekend
Out and About - April 2007
Out and About - May 2007
Out and About - June 2007
Out and About - July 2007
Out and About - August 2007
Out and About - September 2007
Out and About - October 2007
Out and About - November 2007
Out and About - December 2007

Love is Love is reporting the following news from Spain:

(Madrid) With just over a month before Spain goes to the polls, the Socialist government’s same-sex marriage law is causing barely a ripple in the campaign.

When the law was passed two years ago, the conservative opposition Popular Party joined the [Roman] Catholic Church and condemned the move. At the time the PP said it would use the law to defeat the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

Now there is scant mention of opposition, no doubt the result of polls that show same-sex marriage has broad acceptance.

A public opinion poll released this month by Instituto Opina shows that nearly 75 percent of those questioned said they are fine with the law and it should not be repealed. Only 18 percent favor abolishing the law.

The gay marriage bill was the boldest and most divisive initiative of the liberal social agenda Zapatero has embarked on since taking office in April 2004. . . . Earlier this month when Zapatero called elections for March 9, he said that the same-sex marriage law was one of his greatest achievements.

There could be trouble ahead, however, as the report goes on to say that:

. . . despite public support for the law, [Zapatero’s] left-of-center government is facing stiff competition from the PP. The most recent poll shows the two parties in a dead heat. Spain’s economy, for more than a decade one of the most vibrant in Europe, is cooling off and inflation is running at more than four per cent, so the economy has become a major campaign issue.

Nevertheless, I remain hopeful. For one thing, the acceptance of gay marriage in Spain reminds me of the beautiful words of wisdom and hope that Dutch blogger, Vincent, wrote in December of 2005.

In a commentary on his blogsite, Vincent outlined the history (and pattern) of acceptance of gay marriage throughout Europe and the world. Reading it today, one can see that what’s happening in Spain, also happened in the Netherlands, the “first country in the world that opened civil marriage to same-sex couples, and where any distinction between gay and straight in marriage laws was eliminated.”

For as Vincent notes: “In typical Dutch fashion, the issue was debated for several years and then finally enacted in law without a lot of fanfare. Since then, the subject has disappeared completely from the public agenda. Nobody talks about it anymore. Even the Christian Democrats, who returned to office in 2002 and who opposed ‘gay marriage,’ realize there is no support for reversing the law and they have more or less accepted it as a reality.”

Let’s hope that this same “acceptance of reality” takes place in Spain and elsewhere.

Following is Vincent’s commentary in its entirety. Enjoy!


Love Is Love
By Vincent
It Hit Home
December 28, 2005

What happens when same-sex couples can marry? I’ll tell you a secret: Nothing happens. The heavens don’t fall. There is no uncontrollable hysteria among straight couples to suddenly file for a divorce. There is no dark conspiracy to destroy the family or civilization. Nothing of the kind. All it means is that loving, committed relationships of gay and lesbian couples are protected and legally recognized. I find it all the more appalling to observe there is still so much hostility all over the world towards this simple, humane and ethical idea.

Next spring it will be five years since the first gay couples were united in matrimony in the Amsterdam City Hall on April 1, 2001 by mayor Job Cohen. A few months before, mayor Cohen was the junior minister of Justice in the government and responsible for putting the new marriage and adoption laws through parliament. The Netherlands was the first country in the world that opened civil marriage to same-sex couples, and where any distinction between gay and straight in marriage laws was eliminated. In typical Dutch fashion, the issue was debated for several years and then finally enacted in law without a lot of fanfare. Since then, the subject has disappeared completely from the public agenda. Nobody talks about it anymore. Even the Christian Democrats, who returned to office in 2002 and who opposed ‘gay marriage,’ realize there is no support for reversing the law and they have more or less accepted it as a reality.

Those who oppose ‘gay marriage’ for religious reasons often soften their thinking when they realize no church, mosque and synagogue is forced to marry or even accept gay couples. Or vice versa: some Christian denominations have performed ceremonies for same-sex couples since the 1980’s, but these ceremonies have no legal validity whatsoever outside civil marriage. The separation of church and state and the freedom of religion guarantee no one is forced to do anything he doesn’t want to. It is also important to note that the legal arrangements which are in effect in the Netherlands are not any kind of ‘gay marriage’ at all. There is only one civil marriage, and it’s open for opposite-sex and same-sex couples (the law making same-sex marriage possible is called ‘the Act on the Opening up of Marriage’ or ‘Wet Openstelling Huwelijk’). No specific arrangements have been made for homosexual couples, the law grants full equality.

Around the world, many countries are coming to terms with how to treat homosexual couples in a legal sense. The worldwide trend is towards more freedom and equality, either through civil unions or gay marriage. All over the world more and more gay and lesbian people are visible and out: they want to live in openness, honesty and authenticity. Our love is as valuable, a mystery as wonderful. We exist, and our relationships and our lives together deserve equal protection under the law. It’s a matter of fairness, justice and common sense.

Denmark was the first country in the world to establish civil unions in 1989, followed by Norway (1993), Israel (1994) and Sweden (1996). France and Germany have had civil union laws since 2000. In Portugal, gay couples who live together long enough receive the same benefits as heterosexuals under common law unions. In Buenos Aires, gay couples can register for a civil union. In 2003, Belgium was the second country in the world legalizing same-sex marriage. In May 2004, the state of Massachusetts was the first in the US to recognize same-sex marriage.

The year 2005 has been a good one for relationship recognition and full equality for gay and lesbian couples. The most sensational breakthrough was half a year ago in Spain when the Zapatero government legalized marriage for same-sex couples. A month later, Canada followed. The UK Civil Partnership Act took effect this December. It grants legal rights virtually identical to those enjoyed by married couples. Registration will only be available to same-sex couples and not as an alternative to heterosexual marriage.

Earlier this month the South-African Constitutional Court decided in a landmark ruling that it is unconstitutional to prohibit gays from marrying. It gave Parliament a year to make the necessary legal changes. The ruling clears the way for the country to become the first to legalize same-sex unions on a continent where homosexuality remains in most countries illegal and same-sex unions unthinkable. South Africa recognized the rights of gay people in the post-apartheid constitution of 1994.

The list grows longer and longer each year. And that’s a good thing. We’re all people: we’re not the same, but we’re all united in our humanity. The continuing effort to dehumanize homosexuals as degenerated perverts incapable of love is doomed to fail. Each and every gay person is living proof of the nonsense of hateful and violent anti-gay propaganda, so fashionable these days with people claiming to be interested in ‘moral values’. Love is love is love. There simply is nothing more to it.

Image: Pedro Zerolo, of the Socialist Workers’ party executive board, kisses his boyfriend in Madrid after the Spanish government’s 2005 vote on gay marriage. Photograph: Andrea Comas/Reuters.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
New Studies: Gay Couples as Committed as Straight Couples
Separate is Not Equal
The Changing Face of “Traditional Marriage”
The Real Gay Agenda
Grandma Knows Best
Vermont Mother Tells It Like It Is
Naming and Confronting Bigotry
“Mainstream Voice” of “Dear Abbey” Supports Gay Marriage
What Scientists in the UK are Saying About Homosexuality
The Many Manifestations of God’s Loving Embrace
And Love is Lord of All

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The "Real Gay Cowboy" Remembers His Friend, Heath Ledger

A January 25 article in the Sydney Morning Herald features recollections by gay Australian cowboy, Adam Sutton, on his recently deceased friend, actor Heath Ledger.

Sutton (pictured above) is often referred to in the Australian media as Ledger’s inspiration for his portrayal of gay ranch hand, Ennis Del Mar, in the award-winning film, Brokeback Mountain.

As journalist Neil McMahon noted in 2006: “It was the script that changed Heath Ledger’s life – and when he read Brokeback Mountain he knew he had a friend reflected in its pages. I’ve just read this script, Ledger later told his mate, Adam Sutton, and it sounds a lot like you. It was a film about a gay cowboy, and the actor was right; Sutton knew more than a bit about that.”

The two young men first met on the set of Ned Kelly. Ledger was playing the lead role of the famed Australian bushranger, while Sutton was working as a wrangler. They soon became fast friends.

Above: Adam Sutton (centre) with Heath Ledger (right)
and Orlando Bloom (left) on the set of Ned Kelly.

Two years later, at the time of Brokeback Mountain’s release in Australia, Sutton was the subject of an installment of the TV program, Australian Story, and of a widely-read article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Neil McMahon entitled, Meet Heath’s Mate, the Real Gay Cowboy.

Following is a brief excerpt from that 2006 article:

“[Brokeback Mountain] put me at ease in a way,” says Sutton, a knockabout horseman from the Hunter Valley who was on set for part of the filming. “And I hope it puts a lot of people at ease, and takes the burden off a lot of country people’s shoulders – to know that they are not alone with that thought. It does happen. As tough as it is, it does happen.”

He’s talking about being a gay man, being in the bush and being alone – and not knowing what to do with any of it, an anguish Ledger captures in his painfully constricted performance.

Sutton cried watching it, as well he might. There was pain and anger on screen, aggression, and love embraced, then denied and nearly destroyed. He understands them all.

In his world – the world of cowboys and rodeos, of stereotypes scarred in the earth and not to be trampled on – you couldn’t be gay, and if you were, there was punishment. It could take the form of violence, of the kind that claims a character in the film, or it could be crippling self-hatred and denial.

Ledger died unexpectedly last Tuesday, January 22. His death is thought to have been caused by an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. Earlier this week, Sutton was in Los Angeles where “the media lined up to capture his recollections.” Following is that part of Neil McMahon and Gabriella Coslovich’s January 25 Sydney Morning Herald story that describes Sutton’s response to media questions about his friend, Heath Ledger.


Ledger, his friend Adam Sutton said this week, “didn’t want to be a blockbuster person. He was an actor, not a celebrity.”

To those who knew him, that fight between Heath the man and Heath the Star, with the capital letter, was always apparent, and it was a brawl Ledger did little to conceal from anyone. He hated it.

Sutton was in Los Angeles by accident, for the first time since he visited Ledger in 2004. This time, in the wake of unexpected tragedy, the entertainment media lined up to capture his recollections. Entertainment Tonight wanted his thoughts on sleeping pills and drug use; Access Hollywood wanted insights about Michelle Williams, Ledger’s former partner. They wanted to know only about Heath the Star. Ledger, the serious actor, seemed to have status only by dint of the torment it may have caused him.

But Sutton wanted to talk about Ledger the bloke, his mate, and Ledger the actor, who would sit about, a beer in hand, and engage his company by going in and out of whatever character he was immersed in at the time.

He wasn’t annoying, or being a smart-arse. He was just being Heath, fully involved in his script but also ever ready to crack wise, make a joke, draw a laugh from whoever was present. At the same time, the wall was up: he was guarded, Sutton says. You could never be quite sure what would come next or what he was thinking. There was Ledger the Unpredictable.

Ledger went to Hollywood not to seek fame, but to prove himself as an actor. He spoke once of his responsibility to investigate all the characters he was given, sounding as though he wanted to grasp the full range of humanity. The fact that he sought Hollywood because of his love of the craft may have made him all the more ill-equipped to deal with his consequent fame. For Ledger, fame and visibility were an unnecessary burden, not a means of boosting his marketability.

To read Neil McMahon and Gabriella Coslovich's story in its entirety, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
Heath Ledger, 1979-2008

Recommended Off-site Links:
When Neil Met Adam Sydney Star Observer, August 3, 2006.
Transcript of Australian Story episode featuring Adam Sutton
Cowboy Will Carry on Legacy – Neil McMahon, Sydney Morning Herald, January 24, 2008.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Former “Ex-Gay” Shares His Experience of NARTH

In the lead up to tomorrow night’s CPCSM-sponsored event, “The Myth of ‘Conversion Therapy’ and the Pseudo-Science of NARTH,” I’d like to share with you a very informative and insightful testimony by Daniel Gonzales (pictured above), a young gay man who attempted to change his sexual orientation under the “guidance” of Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, founder of the National Association for Research and Therapy on Homosexuality (NARTH).

As has been noted previously on The Wild Reed, Coadjutor Archbishop John Nienstedt, the incoming archbishop of the St. Paul/Minneapolis Archdiocese, is a supporter of both Nicolosi and NARTH. For this reason, he has been invited to tomorrow night’s presentation. He has yet to respond to CPCSM’s invitation.

NARTH is also endorsed by
Courage, the only “support” group for homosexual people that is officially sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church.

For me, the most insightful aspect of Gonzales’ five minute-long testimony is when he highlights the “two biggest lies” that drive people into any form of “ex-gay” therapy. These “lies” are that a person cannot live their life as a gay person and be a good Christian, and that being gay is not a viable or fulfilling way to live one’s life.

The saddest part of Gonzales’ story is how his experience of the ex-gay movement and thus reparative (or conversion) therapy, contributed to the loss of his faith.

See also the related Wild Reed posts:
“Conversion Therapy” and the Pseudo-Science of NARTH
Far from “Innocuous”
From Rome to Minneapolis, Dialogue is What’s Needed
Archbishop Nienstedt’s “Learning Curve”: A Suggested Trajectory
The Many Forms of Courage
Be Not Afraid: You Can Be Happy and Gay
The Many Manifestations of God’s Loving Embrace
Trusting God’s Generous Invitation
Sons of the Church: The Witnessing of Catholic Gay Men – A Discussion Guide
The Triumph of Love: An Easter Reflection
What Scientists in the UK are Saying About Homosexuality
New Studies: Gay Couples as Committed as Straight Couples
“Gaydar,” “Gendermaps,” and the “Fundamentally Social Purpose” of Homosexuality
When Quackery Goes Mainstream

Friday, January 25, 2008

"Conversion Therapy" and the Pseudo-Science of NARTH

Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM) co-founder and current Board Vice-President, David McCaffrey, has recently been communicating with counselors, spiritual directors, local Catholic high school teachers, and various other pastoral professionals of the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis, informing them of an important upcoming CPCSM-sponsored event.

Entitled “The Myth of Conversion Therapy and the Pseudo-Science of NARTH,” this event will take place from 7:00-9:00 p.m. this Tuesday, January 29, at The House of the Beloved Disciple (2930 13th Ave. S., Minneapolis), a recently established center for Catholics “dedicated to preserving Catholicism in the Spirit of Jesus.”

Tuesday’s program will feature presentations by Jeffry G. Ford, MA, Licensed Psychologist, and John C. Gonsiorek, PhD, Clinical Psychologist. (For more information about both presenters, click here.)

Following is an informative commentary that David McCaffrey recently wrote for the CPCSM website, in which he details the “background and need for” Tuesday’s program.


In the November 8 issue of The Catholic Spirit, Fr. Jim Livingston of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis claimed that the Church’s teaching on the immorality of “homosexual activity” can be scientifically supported by the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH).

When serving as bishop in Detroit, Coadjutor Archbishop Nienstedt invited NARTH co-founder Joseph Nicolosi to speak as an “expert” on the issue of homosexuality at a conference for priests of the Detroit Archdiocese.

Furthermore, for more than 25 years, the local archdiocese provided competent and compassionate pastoral ministry with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons and their families in many of its parishes and most of its high schools and colleges. This primarily was the result of the committed work of CPCSM, which over that period provided training and consultation services to virtually all of the offices of the archdiocese during the administration of Archbishop John Roach. In some parishes and schools, this ministry was advertised publicly in weekly bulletins and on websites during that time and as recently as last year.

This statement by Archbishop Roach that appeared in The Catholic Bulletin –forerunner to The Catholic Spirit – on September 26, 1991, sums up his commitment to the quality of the LGBT pastoral ministry that occurred during his administration.)

Unfortunately, due to the conservative direction that the archdiocese has taken since Archbishop Roach’s retirement, especially concerning issues of human sexuality, the competent and compassionate ministry once enjoyed by local LGBT Catholics and their families has virtually disappeared.

Today, if an interested LGBT person, family member, or other ally calls the archdiocesan offices or views its website, he or she finds only the recommendation for a program called Faith in Action, which is the local name for the ex-gay group Courage and its sister group for families and friends, known as Encourage.

Yet what exactly is NARTH and what are Courage and Encourage?

How credible are these groups and how is their work viewed in the wider scientific community?

What do these groups teach about homosexuality (or, to use their terminology, “same-sex attraction”) and about conversion therapy – changing one’s sexual orientation through psychotherapy, which they advocates?

What do Courage and Encourage recommend for their members? Is it competent and compassionate pastoral care?

And what do the professional medical and mental health scientific communities have to say about these groups and about the nature and effectiveness of conversion therapy?

To learn the answers to these and other questions, join us for this special presentation sponsored by the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities featuring two outstanding national professional experts on these issues.

In the meantime, for an excellent summary about NARTH and Courage/Encourage and other “ex-gay” ministry organizations, from a mainstream professional point of view, see the following pages on the website of the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance: (about NARTH). (about Courage and other “ex-gay” ministries).

For more information, call 612-201-4534.

David J. McCaffrey
January 23, 2008

Above: CPCSM co-founder, David McCaffrey (right),
with me at a March 2006 meeting of the
Faith Family Fairness Alliance


As I mentioned in a previous Wild Reed post, the CPCSM board of directors has extended an invitation to Archbishop Nienstedt to attend “The Myth of Conversion Therapy and the Pseudo-Science of NARTH.” After all, he did say last April, upon his appointment as Coadjutor Archbishop, that: “I see myself as a learner. I’ll come here, I’ll listen, I’ll talk to people . . . This next year will be a sharp learning curve for me.”

Accordingly, part of CPCSM’s invitation to the Archbishop to “come,” “listen,” “talk,” and “learn” reads as follows:

It is our understanding that while serving as bishop in Detroit, you invited Joseph Nicolosi, co-founder of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), to speak as an “expert” on the issue of homosexuality. We have serious concerns about the credibility of NARTH, especially in terms of its advocacy of “conversion therapy” for gay people.

Accordingly, we invite you to join us on the evening of January 29 as we seek to understand the most current thinking of the scientific community on this particular issue. There will, of course, be an opportunity for you to share your perspective on this issue and to dialogue with other faithful seekers about their experiences and insights related to this particular matter.

I hope the Archbishop accepts CPCSM’s invitation.

One final point: the “The Myth of Conversion Therapy and the Pseudo-Science of NARTH” program has been approved by the Minnesota Board of Psychology for 2.0 continuing education hours (CEUs).

For more of David McCaffrey’s writings on The Wild Reed, see:
Far from “Innocuous”
CPCSM Co-founder Responds to “Not Catholic” Assertion

See also the related Wild Reed posts:
Former “Ex-Gay” Shares His Experience of NARTH
From Rome to Minneapolis, Dialogue is What’s Needed
What Scientists in the UK are Saying About Homosexuality
New Studies: Gay Couples as Committed as Straight Couples
“Gaydar,” “Gendermaps,” and the “Fundamentally Social Purpose” of Homosexuality
When Quackery Goes Mainstream
CPCSM’s Year in Review (2007)
CPCSM’s Year in Review (2006)

Recommended Off-Site Links:
Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Fixing Frank

Everything Will Flow

Tonight’s Wild Reed Friday music night is dedicated to my friend Franco, who celebrates his birthday today!

Happy Birthday, Franco!

For the listening pleasure of Franco and all visitors to The Wild Reed, I share this evening the music video of one of my all-time favorite songs - Suede’s “Everything Will Flow” (from the band’s 1999 album Head Music).

Although the actual video clip doesn’t do the music justice (it looks as though it should accompany a song entitled “Everything Will Splash”), I hope you'll still appreciate and enjoy what I consider to be a great song.

The neon lights in the night tonight
will say, Everything will flow.
The stars that shine in the open sky
will say, Everything will flow.
The lovers kiss with an openness

that says, Everything will flow . . .

For more music by Suede on The Wild Reed, visit:
Saturday Night
The Wild Ones

And for other musical artists, see the previous Wild Reed posts:
Engelbert Humperdinck: Not That Easy to Forget
Yeah, Baby, Yeah!
Rules and Regulations – Rufus Style
The Man I Love
Fleetwood Mac’s “Seven Wonders” – My Theme Song for 1987
Crackerjack Man
All at Sea
The Beauty and Wisdom of Rosanne Cash
Callas Remembered
Actually, I Do Feel Like Dancing
“And A Pitcher to Go”
Classic Dusty
Remembering a Great Soul Singer
Soul Deep

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New Studies: Gay Couples as Committed as Straight Couples

[The notion that committed same-sex relationships
are] atypical, psychologically immature,
or malevolent contexts
of development
was not supported by our findings.

Glenn I. Roisman, PhD
American Psychological Association media release
January 22, 2008

The Reuters news agency is reporting on the results of two recent studies concerning same-sex relationships. These results make for interesting reading - though, really, is anyone that surprised? I mean, the upshot is that gay couples are just as capable of being committed as straight couples. It all seems rather obvious to me.

Still, I guess that while ever we have uniformed and discriminatory attitudes and beliefs negatively influencing people’s behavior, society’s laws, and the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, studies like these are important.

Anyway, see what you think, as following are excerpts from Reuters’ report on the findings of these two studies:

Gay and lesbian couples are just as committed in their relationships as heterosexuals and the legal status of their union doesn’t impact their happiness, according to new research. In two new studies that compared same-sex and heterosexual couples using different factors and methods to assess their happiness, scientists found few differences.

“Among the committed couples, there were very few differences that we were able to identify either in terms of how satisfied these couples were, how effectively they interacted with one another or how their bodies responded physiologically while they were interacting with one another,” Glenn I. Roisman, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne, said in an interview.

They found that regardless of sexual orientation, as the level of commitment increased, so did the ability to resolve conflict – debunking the myth that same-sex relationships are not built on the same level of commitment as heterosexual ones.

In the second study . . . the researchers from the University of Washington, San Diego State University and the University of Vermont found that same-sex couples, regardless of their legal status, were more satisfied with their relationships and reported more positive feelings toward their partners and less conflict than heterosexual married couples.

But gay and lesbian couples not in civil unions were more likely than same-sex couples in civil unions or heterosexuals who were married to end their relationships, according to the study.

Both studies were published in the journal Developmental Psychology.

“My personal view is that I think it’s very hard to make the case as has been made that these same-sex relationships are fundamentally different from opposite-sex relationships in the presence of data like these and other data in the developmental literature,” said Roisman.

For the media release from the American Psychological Association on these findings, click here.

Image: “Family Ties” (1998) by Steve Walker.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
And Love is Lord of All
The Many Manifestations of God's Loving Embrace
Separate is Not Equal
The Changing Face of “Traditional Marriage”
The Real Gay Agenda
Grandma Knows Best
Vermont Mother Tells It Like It Is
Naming and Confronting Bigotry
“Mainstream Voice” of “Dear Abbey” Supports Gay Marriage
What Scientists in the UK are Saying About Homosexuality

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Heath Ledger, 1979-2008

Sad news today out of New York City: the young and talented Australian actor Heath Ledger was found dead this afternoon in his apartment. His death is believed to be related to a drug overdose of some kind – possibly involving medication he was taking for pneumonia. For the latest, click here.

Ledger is probably best known for his acclaimed role in director Ang Lee’s 2005 film, Brokeback Mountain. Described as an “epic American love story,” Brokeback Mountain features Ledger as Wyoming ranch hand Ennis Del Mar, who, from 1963 to the early 1980s, has a clandestine relationship with an aspiring rodeo rider named Jack Twist (played by Jake Gyllenhaal).

Above: Heath Ledger (left) as Ennis Del Mar and
Jake Gyllenhaal as Jack Twist in Brokeback Mountain.

In bringing the deeply closeted character of Del Mar to life, Ledger devised a jaw-clenched way of speaking that powerfully conveyed, not only the character’s repressed state, but his struggle to come to terms with, and articulate, his true self. It’s an incredible performance, and one that resonates with anyone - gay or straight - familiar with how secrecy and the inability to accept oneself diminishes and devastates one’s life and the lives of others.

As Neil G. Giuliano, president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation,
says: “[Ledger’s] powerful portrayal changed hearts and minds in immeasurable ways.”

Responding to news of Ledger’s death, Brokeback Mountain director, Ang Lee,
noted how Ledger “brought to the role of Ennis more than any of us could have imagined - a thirst for life, for love, and for truth, and a vulnerability that made everyone who knew him love him.”

His performance in Brokeback Mountain also garnered for Ledger numerous accolades from the film world – including “Best Actor of 2005” from both the New York Film Critics Circle and the San Francisco Film Critics Circle. He was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance.

Of Ledger’s portrayal of Ennis Del Mar, New York Times film critic Stephen Holden wrote:

Mr. Ledger magically and mysteriously disappears beneath the skin of his lean, sinewy character. It is a screen performance as good as the best of Marlon Brando and Sean Penn.

While in Rolling Stone’s review of Brokeback Mountain, Peter Travers observed that:

Ledger’s magnificent performance is an acting miracle. He seems to tear it from his insides. Ledger doesn’t just know how Ennis moves, speaks and listens; he knows how he breathes. To see him inhale the scent of a shirt hanging in Jack’s closet is to take measure of the pain of love lost.

In a 2005 article in Newsweek, Ledger insightfully discussed the discomfort some straight men feel at the idea of a film about cowboys in love:

I suspect it’s a fear that they are going to enjoy it. They don’t understand that you are not going to become sexually attracted to men by recognizing the beauty of a love story between two men.

Born in 1979 in Perth, Western Australia, Ledger’s first acting role was at age 10 when he played Peter Pan in a local theatre company production. After relocating to Sydney as a teenager, he began acting in independent films and, at 16, played a young gay cyclist hoping to land a spot on an Olympic team in the 1996 TV drama, Sweat.

His “breakthrough” came when, at age 19, Ledger moved to Los Angeles and starred opposite Julia Stiles in the teen comedy, 10 Things I Hate About You, a reworking of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.

One thing I admired about Heath Ledger was the fact that despite the numerous (and, no doubt, lucrative) offers to do other teen-oriented movies, he turned them down, opting instead to pursue more challenging roles.

“It wasn’t a hard decision for me,” Ledger told the Associated Press in 2001. “It was hard for everyone else around me to understand. Agents were like, ‘You’re crazy,’ my parents were like, ‘Come on, you have to eat.’”

Yet Ledger stayed true to his own vision of himself as an actor, and, in time, his profile as a serious actor steadily increased – culminating with his Academy Award “Best Actor” nomination for Brokeback Mountain.

In the few television interviews I saw of Ledger over the years, he always came across as a very down-to-earth and friendly guy. I could well imagine sitting down with him over a cold beer or two and talking freely about a range of topics.

I particularly appreciated Ledger’s relaxed and progressive views on gender and sexuality. He was, after all, a straight man totally at ease with his own sexuality and with the sexuality of those who are gay or bisexual. My sense is that the majority of people Ledger’s age embrace this “live and let live” attitude. I find that hopeful.

Also, like
many of his generation, Ledger was wary of rigidly labeling people and experiences. Shortly after his role in Brokeback Mountain, for instance, he remarked that the labels of gay and straight were too strict, that they marginalized people who may have attractions to both sexes: “I don’t think it’s that black-and-white,” he said. “And I think because we label [sexuality] so harshly, there’s just a lot of confused people running around thinking, Oh, fuck, which side am I on?”

In the aftermath of Heath’s untimely death, his family and friends are undoubtedly going through a
very difficult time. My thoughts and prayers are with them. May they, and all who have lost a loved one, know God’s loving and strengthening presence - deep within themselves and mediated to them through the caring words, the understanding silences, and the comforting embraces of those around them.


Following are images of Heath Ledger
in some of his film roles.

Above: Heath Ledger in the 2001
action/comedy film,
A Knight’s Tale.

Above: As Harry Faversham in
the 2002 film,
The Four Feathers.

Above: Ledger’s portrayal of famed Australian bushranger Ned Kelly,
in director Gregor Jordan’s 2003 film,
Ned Kelly, ensured he was
nominated for an Australian Film Institute (AFI) award
for “Best Actor in a Leading Role.”

Above: Ledger as a renegade priest
in the 2003 thriller, The Order.

(For fellow blogger Crystal’s thoughts on Heath’s passing
and on the film The Order, click here.)

Above: As the notorious Venetian libertine,
Giacomo Casanova, in the 2005 film, Casanova.

I first saw Casanova as an in-flight movie on a Los Angeles-Sydney
QANTAS flight in May of 2006. I’d recently read Hans Küng’s
The Catholic Church: A Short History, and was intrigued by
the film’s depiction of a papal inquisitor (played by Jeremy Irons)
sent to Venice to arrest the “fornicator,” Casanova. I later wrote a
Wild Reed commentary entitled
Casanova-Inspired Reflections
on Papal Power – at 30,000 Ft

Above: Ledger as Ennis Del Mar in the award-winning film,
Brokeback Mountain.

Of Ledger’s character and performance in Brokeback Mountain, Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly notes:

Stung by childhood memories of a rancher who lived with a man and got bashed for it, [Ennis] fears that exposure could kill [him and Jack]. In the classic Westerns, the cowboys were often men of few words, but Heath Ledger speaks in tones so low and gruff and raspy his words just about scrape ground, and he doesn’t string a whole lot of those words together. Ennis’ inexpressiveness is truly . . . inexpressive, yet ironically eloquent for that very reason, as tiny glimmers of soul escape his rigid facade. Ennis says nothing he doesn’t mean; he’s incapable of guile, yet he erupts in tantrums — the anger of a man who can’t be what he is and doesn’t realize the quandary is eating him alive. Ledger, with beady eyes and pursed lips, gives a performance of extraordinary, gnarled tenderness.

Above: With co-star Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain.

Above: Ledger as the poet and heroin addict, Dan, in the 2006 Australian
Candy. Directed by Neil Armfield and co-starring Abbie Cornish
and Geoffrey Rush, the film is an adaptation of Luke Davies’
novel, Candy: A Novel of Love and Addiction.

Above: In what will now be his last role, Ledger plays the
Joker in the soon-to-be released film, The Dark Knight,
a sequel to 2005’s Batman Begins.

Above: Possibly the last photograph of Heath Ledger while
he was alive, taken on Saturday night on the London set of the film,
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
. It has yet to be announced
how Ledger’s death will
affect production of this film.

Heathcliff Andrew Ledger

Fear no more the heat of the sun,
Nor the furious winters’ rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages.
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this and come to dust.

Fear no more the frown of the great;
Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke.
Care no more to clothe and eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak.

All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee and come to dust.

William Shakespeare

Recommended Off-site Links:
Australians Mourn Actor Heath Ledger - Associated Press, January 22, 2008.
Heath Ledger Left an Intense Legacy - Wesley Morris, The Boston Globe, January 22, 2008.
An Untimely Death - Ramin Setoodeh, Newsweek, January 22, 2008.

Heath Ledger - Short Career, Lasting Images - Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle, January 23, 2008.
A Private Guy, An Urban Dad, A Huge Talent: Ledger’s Death Strikes Sad Chord for Many - Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press, January 23, 2008.
Actor Would Not Be Stereotyped - Richard Jinman, Sydney Morning Herald, January 24, 2008.
Vulnerable Male: Actor Redefined What It Means to be Masculine - Reed Johnson, Los Angeles Times, January 24, 2008.
Heath Ledger’s Death Triggers Internet Meltdown - Asher Moses, Sydney Morning Herald, January 24, 2008.
Working with Ledger One of the Purest Joys: Ang Lee - Sydney Morning Herald, January 24, 2008.
Ledger’s Death Puts Last Films in Bind - CNN, January 24, 2008.
Heath’s Family Writes of Heartache - Lisa Pendrill,, January 25, 2008.
Perth Burial for Ledger - Australian Associated Press, January 25, 2008.
Heath, We Hardly Knew You - Neil McMahon and Gabriella Coslovich, Sydney Morning Herald, January 26, 2008.
Private Funeral for Ledger - Australian Associated Press, February 4, 2008.
Accidental Pill Overdose Killed Ledger - Amy Westfeldt, Associated Press, February 6, 2008.

See also: Tale of an Untrained Homeboy - Janet Hawley, Sydney Morning Herald, April 8, 2006.

See also the related Wild Reed posts:
The “Real Gay Cowboy” Remembers His Friend, Heath Ledger
Christian Draz’s Critique of Brokeback Mountain