Liberty in the defense of extremism is no vice.
Date: Fri, 14 Jan 94 16:12:38 PST
Subject: Liberty in the defense of extremism is no vice.
From: the Oregonian, 9 January, 1994
A WARM RESPONSE TO A WARM OCA OFFER
By David Sarasohn, Associate Editor, the Oregonian
(reprinted without permission)
As we set off on another year of battling over the Oregon
Citizens Alliance's certainties over who's entitled to
rights, it seems that some OCA members may have gotten the
wrong impression. They may feel that other Oregonians,
resentful over the bitter division of their communities to
thwart a gay conspiracy not previously noticed in Estacada,
don't really try to understand OCA activists as people.
Actually, of course, all we want to do is help.
That's why we need a loving, supportive counseling program
to help people get out of the OCA lifestyle.
Although there's an argument over whether people become OCA
leaders out of choice or by genetic disposition - there's
some thought that it's caused by the wrong kind of high
school phys ed program - they can be helped. With just a
little encouragement, they can be gotten away from those
OCA Pride parades, and led gently away from other people's
bedroom windows. Soon, they could even enter libraries
without the urge to throw out some of the books.
The idea is inspired, of course, by the OCA's recent
heartwarming offer to set up a counseling group for gays,
to help them "escape homosexuality" and provide support for
their families. The project is to be called HOPE - which
stands for Help One Person Escape.
Up to now, the OCA's image has been of not wanting a single
gay Oregonian to get away.
According to OCA chairman Lon Mabon, the program would
answer "those who portray us as a spiteful, mean-spirited
Replying to those people individually would have taken up
a lot of postage.
What's interesting about the OCA's offer to counsel
homosexuals is that it could build on the organization's
experience in dealing with them. Few statewide groups have
had as much direct contact with gays, at least not without
getting a reputation as a spiteful, mean-spirited
In a political fight over Springfield's gay-rights measure,
for example, an OCA spokesman called the head of the city's
human rights commission "a practicing homosexual." As a
result, the commissioner received a large number of harassing
phone calls at home, and his son was taunted at school.
Up to now, there isn't much research on the therapeutic
effects of threatening phone calls. But it gives the new
OCA program something to build on.
It turned out, in fact, that the man in question wasn't gay
- counseling is not an exact science - and OCA leaders
defended themselves in a lawsuit by shrugging that hey,
they'd been wrong.
Still, the experience provides the new program with a useful
tip: Before working with gays, try to find out who they
Over the past year, the OCA has had other experience in
counseling gays. It helped out in a Clackamas County
child-custody case, after joint custody had been awarded to
a gay man and his ex-wife. The OCA distributed a flyer with
the man's HIV-status and his phone number, urging people to
call him and demand that he give up his custody rights.
Telephone calls from strangers seems to be the key to the
OCA's counseling approach. So far, no word from the
American Psychological Association about the therapy.
In fact, that organization, along with the American Medical
Association and the American Psychiatric Association, keeps
saying new things about homosexuality, such as that it isn't
a medical or emotional problem. That kind of thinking now
shapes most of the professionals working with gays, in the
kind of programs that the OCA regularly disdains: How can
you work effectively with gays if you don't think they're
But the new OCA gay-guidance program, HOPE, provides a clear
invitation for a support group to enable OCA leaders to
escape their conflicted lifestyle. In open conversations
with others who have made the same journey, they can deal
with questions such as:
When did they first discover they were unsettled by anybody
different from themselves?
Does direct-mail fund raising work better if you put the
leather-chain picture on the outside or in the inside?
Can I borrow the San Francisco Gay Parade tape after you're
done with it?
Is this better than getting a job, or what?
Veterans of the OCA life can be helped with these questions,
in a sensitive seminar series called GROWUP: Get Rid Of
Weirdnesses about Unknown People.
Weekly, its members could get together and talk about how
many times they'd stayed out of other people's business.
Over time, with some effort, they could even manage to
develop lives of their own - although some of them would be
allowed to keep their mailing lists as a souvenir.
Think of it as a hate-loss program.
© 1994 Peter Langston